What you just heard, or watched, is a promo clip from my friends at Montana Wild of their new video called, “The Outlier.” It’s a great video and we talk about it a little on today’s episode of Gritty Bowmen. But the conversation drifts into heavier and more controversial topics as we discuss the subject of game violations, ethics, and poaching.
First off, I want to make sure it’s very clear that I have tremendous respect for Law Enforcement agencies and for our Fish and Wildlife Officers across the Nation. In fact, some of my closest and dearest friends are police and fish and wildlife officers. Furthermore, I would count these men among the best human beings I know. That said, not all human beings are created equal--not all law enforcement personnel do a good job.
Let me ask you, when confronted by the following situation, what do you do? You’re out deer hunting. You see a great 3x3 buck and you take a shot at it. The buck runs behind some cover--it disappears for a moment. And then you see him, he’s standing just beyond the point where you took the first shot. You take aim--and this time you drop him where he’s standing. As you walk over to tag your deer, to your utter shock and dismay, you realize you accidentally shot two deer. You thought they were the same deer but they weren’t--you have broken the law--committed a game violation. It was an honest mistake--a complete accident. What do you do? Do you call your State’s wildlife division and report yourself? Do you tag one of the deer and pretend nothing happened? Do you take both deer so as not to waste the meat but don’t report your violation?
And let’s say you report yourself to local Wildlife Officials. Do they give you warning and say it was an honest mistake? Or do you get the maximum fine and lose your hunting privileges for 3-5 years?
We’ve all heard stories like this that end well and that end badly depending on how you look at it.
In 2013, Montana Wild set out to make a fly fishing film for Bull Trout in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. This decision and subsequent actions would lead to a long and drawn-out investigation of Montana Wild and would result in a series of game violations that would eventually be settled outside of court.
There’s always two sides to every story. I’m fully aware of this. On this episode of Gritty Bowmen we talk about the Montana Wild side of this story--something that Zach and Travis, the owners of Montana Wild have not hitherto publicly discussed in a forum like this. I applaud them for doing this podcast with me. A close friend of mine asked me why I would did this podcast with Zach and Travis. Why would I talk about this subject? Why not just stick to a discussion about their awesome new video, The Outliers, and leave it at that?
First of all, I don’t like ignoring the elephant in the room--it feels fake. The entire time we talk about the new video there’ll be people out there calling them poachers under their breath. And that’s another reason I wanted to talk about this--it bothers me the way individuals hang people out to dry for poaching allegations before any convictions are made. What happened to 2-sides to every story? Or innocent until proven guilty? Or, let him without fault cast the first stone? And it annoys me the way people blow violations out of proportion--the way some people act you’d think that someone who shot a squirrel out of season is the equivalent of a child rapist. Let’s keep things in perspective.
The thing is… I appreciate the sincere effort and skill that goes into the production of Montana Wild films. I truly feel, whether they made mistakes or not, that they have a sincere love of the outdoors and a passion for presenting a positive message about hunting to the world at large. You can see it in their films. And frankly, I feel a responsibility to share their side of the story because I’m not perfect. Aron Snyder isn’t perfect. We’ve all done stupid and ignorant things--and I’d like to think that someone would give me the chance to share my story if the roles were reversed.
And I think that it’s an important discussion to have. If I’m being completely and totally honest I harbor a natural wariness and a minor lack of trust for law enforcement personnel that I don’t personally know--and it’s not because I’m guilty of something--it’s primarily due to the imbalance of power. I think it’s good to talk about these things.
In the end, I want there to be trust and respect between fish and wildlife personnel and hunters at large. I never want to see an “us” vs. “them” mentality at play. I want to see mutual trust, shared goals and genuine appreciation between all of us.
Take a listen to this podcast and let me know what you think. And if you’re interested, and want to see some good elk hunting film go and buy Montana Wild’s new video, “The Outliers.”