What does conservation and hunting have in common? According to this week’s guest, JJ Hinton, everything. JJ leads the Mule Deer Foundation, a Utah-based organization that advocates for the preservation of Mule Deer. An avid hunter, JJ loves the outdoors for the solitude and food it offers.
Listen to this week’s episode for an honest exchange of ideas and understanding as Amy, a non-hunter, learns from JJ’s perspective on what makes the outdoors special to him, and how we can all meet in the middle.
Mentioned in the show:
Game vest. JJ’s favorite is no longer made, but he says this one is comparable: https://www.alpsbrands.com/alpsoutdoorz/products/extreme/upland-game-vest-x
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Amy Bushatz: When we talk about heading outside, it’s easy to think about it as just using our bodies, having adventures, soaking in nature. For me, of course, being outside is a human powered thing. But for many outdoor users, heading outside includes something else – hunting, fishing, or being a quote, outdoorsman. Sometimes those things can seem at odds with each other, especially if you live somewhere that hunting isn’t a cultural norm. But today’s guest knows all about both of those types of uses and has a unique perspective on how conservation plays into the subject. JJ Hinton, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast.
JJ Hinton: Thanks for having me.
AB: So JJ, we like to start each show imagining ourselves chatting at our guest’s favorite outdoor space. So can you tell us where we’re talking to you today?
JH: You know, I’d love to say I’m somewhere beautiful, having fun, but I’m in snowy Minnesota staring out at the seventh day of clouds and no sun. So, gloominess here in Minnesota.
AB: Well, if we were to pretend we were somewhere great, where would we be with you? Because pretending is encouraged.
JH: Okay, well, we’re gonna pretend that it’s, obviously for me, being a big hunter, just being out somewhere – fields and forests. So you know, I tend to be a big upland hunter, chasing grouse and pheasants and sharp tails and chucker and all sorts of things. So generally, if I had my choice to be chasing my drahthaar pup around somewhere with a shotgun in hand.
AB: And we can hear said pup in the background there. How old is this guy?
JH: Yogger the draht is 10 months old. He’s a Deutsch Drahtaar, so for people that aren’t familiar with breeds, that’s German wirehaired pointer, just from the German breed spectrum, so just a pointing dog. Got a nice little beard on him and he’s turned into a heck of a little pointing dog for me.
AB: Awesome! Dogs that are companions and also serve a purpose are extra special. Another thing I think everybody can agree on.
JH: Yeah, working dogs are awesome. Doesn’t matter if they’re hunting if they’re out herding cattle. You know, there’s a lot of different things that dogs are useful for. And man I love all of them.
AB: You’ve been involved in the outdoor industry from a hunting perspective for about a decade, you worked for a company, Vista Outdoors that manages a lot of different outdoor brands that we’re all familiar with like Camelback, but also hunting and firearms related like Millett. But now you’ve recently switched gears and are at a really cool nonprofit, the Mule Deer Foundation, which marries this idea of responsible use and conservation with hunting. Can you tell us about the organization and what mule deer are, as opposed to other species of deer? Fill us in. Think about it as if we don’t know anything about the deer subject.
JH: Absolutely. At the Mule Deer Foundation, we’re an organization that’s really focused on the conservation and enhancement of habitat for the mule deer and the black-tailed deer, which is a subspecies of the mule deer. For those that aren’t familiar with what mule deer are, they’re a uniquely Western breed of deer that really only occurs from the Mississippi River going west, and really even more Rocky Mountains going west, so we get some transition over into the Dakotas, Kansas, and Nebraska. But for the most part, it’s a mountain-based breed. Mule deer are extremely unique in that they have very large ears and they’re very distinctive when you see them moving. Instead of running at a lope, they hop like they’re on a pogo stick.
AB: I guess I’m picturing sort of like a gazelle move.
JH: Yeah, I guess I think most people would compare them more to the way rabbits hop and just a really, you know, feet close together, hopping up and down, hopping as I go forward. It’s very unique to the deer species.
AB: Why are they endangered or in need of conservation?
JH: Yeah, we’ve got a lot of you know, habitat constraints that affect the mule deer population. And as we see more expansion into the west, we see a problem with urbanization. Mule deer is a really interesting species in the fact that it’s the largest land based mammal that actually does a migration. So we have deer that migrate out of Idaho down into the Ruby Desert and in Wyoming that do about 150 miles a year, transitioning from their summer mountain habitat to their winter valley habitat. And particularly in the western landscape, we see a lot of people moving out there into those mountain valleys that are in those spaces. So that’s one really big area of concern. We also see issues to come from Juniper pines encroaching on those spaces that are traditional in their habitat. You know, a lot of that abatement of those Juniper pines was naturally dealt with by wildfires. But as we suppressed wildfires, we have more and more problems with that competing with other you know, forbs and and feed sources for them. So we’re constantly looking at ways to manage that. So those are a couple of the issues in the last 30-40 years, but really in the last 10 years, we’ve started to really notice and learn more about a disease called Chronic Wasting Disease that is very closely related to Mad Cow Disease that occurs and ungulates. So, you know, there’s a myriad of different concerns that affect the mule deer in its natural habitat range.
AB: And mule deer are hunted. It’s a hunted animal.
JH: Yes, it’s a species that the vast majority of our membership pursue and hunt. We have a lot of different folks inside the hunting community that come from different perspectives about hunting as well. You know, we have some folks that want to climb the tallest mountain and shoot the biggest buck they can. And then we have folks that are a little more like me that I’m more concerned about putting meat in my freezer so I don’t have to go buy you know, red meat from the grocery store.
AB: Right, hunting and conservation can seem like things that are at odds with each other. Why does the pairing make sense?
JH: Well, I would argue that hunting and conservation, particularly in North America, are definitely things that aren’t at odds. If we really look at the the North American model of wildlife management and habitat, it’s really hunters that have carried the day and and saved many, many species. Here in North America, if we look at the turn of the century, and coming out of the Industrial Revolution here in the in the 48, in the United States in North America, you know, we have historical declines and many of our benchmark species, white tailed deer, mule deer, antelope, waterfowl, wild turkeys, all of those were at historic low levels due to you know, market factors. So at that point in time, market hunting was still very, very common. So you had professional hunters that went out harvested wild game for sale and bring in game and food markets. But once we saw those historic declines, that really drove us to figure out a funding mechanism to be able to support wildlife habitat and conservation. And that really birthed the idea of what we call the Pittman Robertson Act, which was instituted in 1937, which funds, depending on the metric that you look at, between 60 and 80% of all wildlife conservation in North America.
AB: I’m thinking about folks like Teddy Roosevelt, President Teddy Roosevelt, who were really instrumental in setting up a lot of the institutions that we think of today as being conservation related, right? Even national parks, right? But Teddy Roosevelt was a trophy hunter. That’s something that we today look at as being sort of politically incorrect, but he was also responsible for today’s conservation system.
JH: Absolutely. And you know, you look at a guy like Teddy Roosevelt, he very much feels that that role of that alpha hunter that wants to shoot the biggest shoot, the most. But at the same point in time, each and every hunter that I know enjoys more than just the the bloodsport side of it. You know, most of us spend an enormous amount of time offseason out and about in the wild doing different things, doing habitat work, spending time hiking, you know, fishing, doing all sorts of things. So, for the most part, I would say that the vast majority of hunters, you know, even trophy hunters, really are focused on wildlife. The things that we do to support the game species that we tend to pursue also have an effect that works downstream and helps hundreds upon hundreds of other species that share that habitat.
AB: Why is this something that’s a passion for you personally?
JH: Yeah. You know, I was born and raised hunting. That meant something to me. That’s been paramount to you know, my existence as a whole for me. It was very, very much a family-based activity. I grew up hunting with my dad and my brother and a couple of my cousins and uncles. I look at my uncles as being more like my grandfather and me in a more traditional parental unit setup and my cousins are, in many cases, closer to me than my actual brother is. So that was, a lot of times, our recreation. Our time together as a family was spent, you know, out hunting or fishing.
AB: It’s funny, you mentioned sort of the word blood or the term bloodsport just a second ago. And it has me thinking about this sort of relationship we have as outdoor-minded people with eating meat, right? So you know, I’m sure some of my audience is vegetarian or vegan. I am not. I eat meat. I would tell you that I am not a hunter, right? Although I’ve nothing against hunting; we will get back to that in a couple of minutes here. But I, I would say that I’m maybe not entirely comfortable personally with hunting. I’ve never done it. I’m not that familiar with doing it. There’s a lot of things that sort of make me like — Oh, you know, maybe I wouldn’t like shooting an animal, right? But at the same time, I have absolutely no problem cooking my chicken or eating my beef or, you know, eating my moose up here in Alaska, right? So do you think that this is just sort of like this cultural disconnect between what is really like a natural process of how we source our food and you said, you fill your freezer this way, right? So you’re not out there simply because, you know, not to be flippant — I love killing, right? It’s really for a purpose. And it’s, in fact, the most natural way you could possibly eat meat. And then I’m going to the grocery store, and I’m doing essentially the opposite, right? But at the same time, I was like — Oh, I’m not comfortable with hunting. What creates this cultural disconnect that is making me sound like a crazy person right now?
JH: Well, I wouldn’t say it may sound like a crazy person. It’s just a disconnect of where our food actually comes from. You know, I think a lot of people that were perfectly comfortable walking down to Walmart and buying, you know, chicken breasts in a bag, have no idea what those living conditions are for those animals. You know, how they’re raised, how they’re fed, how they’re bred; every step of the process, it’s very much, mechanical and manufacturing setting. As opposed to, you know, hunters like myself that are getting the most free range organic food available to us. And I can know that the animals I’m eating are not being fed GMO corn by the bushel. I understand every part, when I break down an animal, when I butcher and I process where that goes, where that all comes from. And, you know, it’s not just for me; I’ve got two hunting dogs. And so when we shoot deer, once we’re done doing all our butchering, I’ll get the saws all out and I’ll break down the carcass all the rib bones and leg bones and all that; they go on my smoker. And I feed those to the dogs as treats throughout the year. And any of our trimmings that we’re not going to use for burgers or sausage, I’ll actually boil all that down and then I feed that to my dogs as well as a supplement to their food. So in that way, it kind of helps me cut some costs. But I’ll never say that hunting is a way to save money on meat.
AB: What mostly what I just took away from what you said was I should come over to your house for dinner.
JH: You’d be more than welcome. It’s something about that the vast majority of us that do hunt, we love to share what we do with people. And I think there’s a certain perception that people are a little bit spooked from time to time about talking about our pursuits, because there’s a general concept that the general public is opposed to our way of life. But, you know, we look at actual data and parse that out a little bit. There was just a recent study that came out this fall that said, you know, nationwide, in the United States, that hunting has about an 80% approval rate among the general population and certain areas like the Midwest, that’s well up into the 90s. So, generally, I think most people aren’t opposed to what we do, but I think a lot of people just don’t understand what we do.
AB: I want to talk about something that comes up a lot in my circles, without making you the spokesman for hunters everywhere, by the way. So I on the one side, I do want to say up here in Alaska, hunting isn’t just a cultural thing. Of course, it’s literally how, like yourself, a huge number of people, most people I would even venture to say, fill their freezer every year with moose. It’s just, it’s very, very normal. Everyone hunts. I’m the outlier because I haven’t hunted. You know, we can blame that on me not having lived here very long. Although I did take a skinning and hide prep class. So I can do it. I just don’t want to.
But we have a societal understanding of not just how important hunting is because you’d like to eat dinner, but how it fits into this life cycle and natural pattern of life because it’s just what Alaska is. We still do those things and that’s still a part of our society. But in the lower 48, as you mentioned earlier, it can seem like an embattled thing, even though as you also mentioned, the approval ratings are actually very, very high. But nonetheless, there seems to be sort of a clash, if you will, between the outdoorsman quote, unquote crowd, right, and the skiers, hikers, backpacker, non-consumptive users or dirtbags. We like to call ourselves that sometimes, right? It’s a loving term, it’s a loving term.I’m wondering why that is. What causes that?
JH: You know, that’s a very real question that I wish I had an answer for. It really blows my mind that we’re all users that all share the same space. At the end of the day, we have the same general ideas and goals, you know, the wildlife habitat that supports a robust, you know, population of mule deer is also going to result in and benefits for other wildlife as I mentioned previously. But you know, it’s even more so than that. It’s making sure that the habitat projects that we do are responsible and help filter water and that that filtration process of good habitat good vegetation filters out nitrates and all the bad stuff that can come off the farm fields and things like that. We have a lot of the same shared ideas and and I think a lot of it just comes down to – particularly with hunting – we just do a bad job of sharing what we do. We tend to be a little bit protective of our resources. You know, I’ll be honest. The perfect day for me hunting is getting out some more where I’d never see another hunter in my space hunting the game that I’m hunting. And that’s for a multitude of reasons. Some of those are obvious, the very obvious side of it, which would be, you know, the increased harvest potential for me not having competition. But some of it’s just from almost a mental health perspective. I love being out in the fields, in the forests, and just enjoying nature around us. I find it extremely interesting that we do have a, you know, competition or, you know, issues between non-consumptive users and consumptive users of the same shared spaces.
AB: You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody that I know who enjoys the outdoors who’s going to argue with you about the benefit of that solitude you just mentioned. You’d also be hard-pressed to find anybody in either community who is willing to tell you their best berry picking spot. You will pry the berry picking location out of their cold dead hands.
JH: Anybody where my morel spots or my chicken of the woods hunting spots are either I mean that’s something that’s that’s very sacred to me. I spent a lot of time you know, researching being out there and in pursuing so from that side of it. Yeah, I’m pretty tight lipped.
AB: Yeah, it’s funny. Ironically I think we have some Facebook pages I see – Berry Picking in Alaska, I think is one of them. And you know, people love to brag about their haul right? Oh, look at the berries I got today. The berries are out. This is great. But God forbid you ask where they got them, or how to get there, or where the good berry picking spots are. You will not be told; you will be you will be cast out into the darkness.
JH: Yes, you will be a social pariah if you ask that question specifically. Now it’s much different when you say well, what kind of habitat were you in? What should I look for? I think the vast majority of us are happy to share those sorts of insights. But yeah, when it comes down to you know, giving out that GPS coordinate, it’s a cold dead hands argument.
AB: That’s a that’s a hard no. But like you said earlier, you would love to have us over for dinner. My berry picking friends who will never ever, ever, ever tell me where they go. And, you know, take a different route there every time so they can’t be followed. Not quite, but almost. They would love to share with me their jam or their jelly. Right? But they have enough of that, but there’s no no going with them. And I think that comes back to that solitude piece. Right?
JH: Absolutely, absolutely. And, you know, that’s something and our industry of hunting, shooting sports and the like, we have long term concerns. If we look at the demographic data behind our pursuits that we actually see that, you know, we’re losing a share of population when we compare ourselves against the overall population. And as our hunter numbers decline, we’re going to see less and less voice at the ballot box as well, which is going to cause issues for us in the long term.
AB: How do you think that we can work to put these communities in state, because you mentioned the ballot box? And while many outdoor users, you know, people who don’t hunt right might not see firearm rights as being something that they care about or interested in protecting, we all are all interested in this idea of access and conservation and resource management, and being wise about that and protecting what we have and then being able to use what we have. These are things that we can all get together on for sure. How do we build these bridges? What do we do to create this understanding? How can we do it?
JH: Well, I could tell you if I knew the exact answer that I’d be making a lot more money as a consultant than I am right now. So I’ll start off with that. But, you know, I think the biggest thing is to actually just start having open and honest discussions about how we accomplish shared goals. Here in the North American model, you know, when we look at hunting and fishing, on the hunting side, we have the Pittman-Robertson Act and on fishing we have the Dingell-Johnson Act. Those are federal excise taxes paid by manufacturers on equipment and that money goes into a federal coffer based on hunting license sales that dictates the distribution of funds to the individual states to support habitat. Really when we look down at the statistics of it, you know, if it’s not for people buying guns and ammunition and archery equipment and fishing, tackling fishing rods, our whole funding model would fall apart in North America. There wouldn’t be funds to go around and support wildlife habitat as a whol.e You know, that’s something that I know on the hunting side, the hunting community takes great issue with because we see some of the non-consumptive communities that aren’t willing to, you know, participate. I can use the Outdoor Industry Alliance recently came out, I think as recently as 2016 or 2017, in opposition of the so called “Backpack Tax” to help use equipment sales for non-consumptive use to help support wildlife models. So until we start to have real discussions about how we all come together and how we fund this together and how we work together in shared spaces, we’re never going to make any headway. We’re just going to be at a gridlock.
AB: We’ve got a fundraiser here in my area for our local avalanche forecasting center. And I was just talking to the people who run it and sort of mulling over the fact that I know that I can go to the avalanche center’s annual fundraiser or their annual rescue day where they have a sort of clinic on avalanche rescue. And this is one of the only places I can think of to find in one room or one location all of the people who use this outdoor space, whether they be trappers or snow machiners (what we call snowmobiling up here in Alaska land), or hikers, or skiers, right? These groups of people who do not normally hang out together at all, are all at the avalanche center fundraiser because none of them want to get caught in an avalanche! All of them want to use this space safely. All of them want to be able to access the space, we all have the same shared goal of safety, right? And we recognize that staying away from an avalanche is a very important part of that, and that the avalanche center is who helps us do that. It’s just such a good example to me of this very simple thing that brings us all together. It’s not controversial. Avalanches, bad; outdoors, good, right? But it creates sort of this bond where we can get together and everyone shares a beer and has a great time. And I just, I think there’s got to be a way for us to do that on other subjects around this outdoor space.
JH: Yeah. And I think that, particularly from our industry, we’re working hard, both on the NGO side, the governmental side, as well as manufacturers, to really start supporting our three initiatives. I don’t know if you’re familiar with R3 and our space, what that looks like or what it refers to, and that would be recruitment, retention and reactivation. It’s really a model about getting people involved in the outdoors and getting involved in hunting particularly, but we appreciate conservationists that have shared goals as us as well. And so what you’re seeing is groups, like I will use the the Quality Deer Management Association, introducing programs. Their Field to Fork program – they went out and started serving venison at farmers markets and having discussions with people that are non-traditional that might have interest in hunting about — Hey, this is organic, free range meat. This is how you can go about getting it. We can help mentor you to get a start and try it out if you’re interested in it. That’s part of the role that I’m doing with Mule Deer Foundation as well, I’m going to be building a similar program that we can get folks out and and get them some experience about who we are and what we do and understand that, you know, our way of life isn’t just about the the kill. It’s about so much more than that. There’s nothing sweeter to me than the acrid smell of an alkali swamp when I’m duck hunting in the morning at sunrise. It’s something that, you know, most people probably couldn’t recognize and look at us something that’s beautiful, but when you’re out there first time and you set your decoys up and you get to see the Northern Lights for the first time at 4:30 in the morning on a prairie pothole in middle of North Dakota, that’s that’s a unique and amazing experience that can never be taken away from you.
So we just need to be better on our side, and I think both sides of the coin, talking to each other and communicating and understanding that we all enjoy the spaces, we all enjoy sound wildlife habitat and wildlife populations. They’re good for many, many reasons. And you know, the sooner we start having conversations with each other instead of focusing on the areas we disagree, the sooner we can actually start to make headway at something positive.
AB: Now I love what you just said about that getting that comfort level with hunting or with this, you know, for many people, a new use of the outdoors. I think that transcends so well to all uses of the outdoors, right? Every new thing outside is scary, or different, or hard to do until you have somebody who can show you how to do it. We see that a lot up here in Alaska, where, you know, as someone told me before we moved here, no matter where you are in Alaska, you’re still in Alaska. Right? So, which is to say that there are bears walking down the street, the end, right? And you always have to know what you’re doing no matter where you are. But for many people that can be very scary, right? So you don’t want to get out. You don’t want to go hiking alone or even in a small group. Because what if you meet a bear, then what are you going to do? Do you know how to use the bear spray? Now you’ve sprayed yourself in the eye, you know, now you’re getting eaten by a bear because you bear sprayed yourself and, whatever is the fear cycle that goes through your mind, right? It keeps you from getting out there and trying something new, unless you have somebody to kind of come alongside and say — Hey, this is a little nerve wracking. I get that. Here’s how to overcome that.
JH: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I encourage anybody that even has a moderate interest in hunting, if they want to do it for themselves, or if they just want to learn more what it’s all about, you know, start to look at some of your local NGOs, your conservation organizations. Down here, if you live in the Midwest, here like I am in Minnesota, talk to the folks that run a group like Pheasants Forever or Ducks Unlimited, or Whitetails Unlimited. Or, you know, in a Western space, obviously, Mule Deer Foundation and the Sharp Tailed Grouse Society and some of the other groups. Start to think about attending a banquet, go meet some people that operate and hang out in that space. And I think that you’d find that we’re tremendously open minded to new people and the people asking us questions, as long as they’re coming from an honest place and they’re not loaded. And I think it’s something again, that we chatted about earlier, something we all in our heart, really want to share with each other, but we tend to maybe not be the best at doing that. And so sometimes that takes, you know, somebody coming to us specifically rather than us running out into the town square saying, rah, rah, I’m a hunter, come talk to me.
AB: Man, JJ, we should try and take this advice and spread it to everybody about all the things in the world. Because if people have this kind of conversation about every single issue, any controversy with authenticity, and just like — Hey, I’m seeking understanding I’m seeking to know more about you. I mean, whether that’s just interpersonally at your office to like major global issues, right? How much better off would we be if we had these conversations?!
JH: Just spending five minutes to talk to somebody that thinks differently than us and acts differently than some being open minded about that, maybe my way isn’t the right way. And it’s amazing what you can learn if you walk into those conversations with an open mind. If we continue to paint ourselves into corners and refuse to be open and honest about that there are other ideas and perspectives out there, then nobody’s going to benefit at the end of the day.
AB: Man, I’ll tell you where is a great place to have these conversations – other than our Humans Outside Podcast, obviously – is go backpacking or go outside with somebody, right? Just spend some time outside – maybe hunting is not the best time to do that because you’re trying to not scare away all the animals with your talk. But you know, go outside, go backpacking, do something, go on a ski – something with other people and just you know, chat about hard stuff while you’re moving. For whatever reason, that just really solves a lot of problems. You know, I’ve had some of my best conversations with people whose experiences are very different from mine, while doing one of those activities – mountain running, right? My friends make fun of me because I’ve been known on very long runs to say — okay, so tell me about your life start with when you were born, because we have a very long time, right? But I’ve learned so much about people and they’ve learned so much about me and I’ve gotten windows into their experiences and things that I don’t understand. The outdoors is just so good for that. I just love it.
JH: Yeah, I think it’s a uniquely spiritual experience for each and every person that’s out there. And, you know, you mentioned that maybe hunting isn’t the right time to be able to do that, to have those conversations, but I’d argue that it is. I mean, particularly look at when the hunting seasons are. It’s fall. The days are getting shorter, so our actual time in the field is not all that long. So we end up with a lot of time sitting around the campfire at night talking with each other and shooting the breeze, making dinner and and those things. There are certain types of hunting that are just more conducive to overall conversation. If we’re looking at whitetail deer hunting or mule deer hunting and a solitary environment or we’re trying to sneak up or sit still and let game walk right up to us then yes, you know, being quiet is paramount. But you know certain activities, upland hunting and waterfowl hunting are two that come to my mind immediately, are great opportunities. You spend a lot of time just shooting in the bull while you’re walking. It’s not uncommon for me when I’m out on a pheasant hunt to do you know, 8 to 15 miles a day of hiking, chasing a bird dog. Well, you get two or three people together, you have a lot of time to converse and solve the world’s problems while you’re, you know, tromping around the prairies.
AB: Absolutely, may I recommend you ask them to tell them about their lives and start when they were born?
JH: I will consider that. Yes, that’s good advice.
AB: So JJ, we’ve come to the part of our show where we just talk about some things that I want to ask but maybe never had a chance to. I call it the leftovers round, some call it the lightning round, but it’s, it’s something I really love. So here’s a couple questions for you.
What is your favorite outdoor gear?
JH: You know, for me it is my 15 year old Mother brand upland game vest. When I’m not hunting, we do a lot of time doing dog training and it’s got a backpack built into it so we can carry some first aid gear and those things, water bottles, that sort of thing. So I tend to wear my upland vest a lot of times when I just go on shorter day hikes and things of that nature, which probably makes me look a little Elmer Fudd-ish when I’m hiking along a trail during the middle of July, but it is my one piece of equipment that that has been indispensable. Sadly that company’s no longer in business and it’s starting to fall apart. So it’s really heartbreaking for me after about 15 years to use, I have to try and find a new one.
AB: Oh man, burn. Yeah, what is your most essential outdoor gear?
JH: Merino wool base layers. Hands down, it doesn’t matter if you’re hot, they help you breathe. If it’s wet, they keep you warm. If it’s cold, obviously they keep you warm as well. Merino base layers are the singular best investment for people heading outdoors, period, if you’re going to be out in any sort of inclement weather.
AB: No bad weather, just bad clothing.
JH: Yes, very much.
AB: And finally, talk to us about your favorite outdoor moment. If you think about your love for being outside and close your eyes, what is a favorite moment you see? Take us there.
JH: You know, that’s a really hard one. There’s been so many of them and it can be seasonal for me. It can be a lot of things. So I guess I have to parse it down to two experiences I’ve had. Last year, I got the first chance ever to go hiking in Hell’s Canyon in Idaho. And, just getting out there, my wife and I did a relatively short, just a day hike. I think we’re about six and a half, seven miles and seven miles out. But that was a landscape that was so foreign to me growing up in the flatlands of Minnesota, and such a desolate place in many ways. But also understanding that it’s, you know, the greatest population of bighorn sheep in North America, some of the highest populations of chucker in North America. You know, so there’s the elk and mule deer that survive in that space. And, you know, here’s this deepest gorge in North America and it’s literally teeming with wildlife. That was a surprisingly cool experience. I can’t wait for a chance to get back in and actually bring the backpack and spend a couple days in Hell’s Canyon. The other would be an experience I had in South Dakota, pheasant hunting about 10 years ago, where everything kind of came together. It was the peak of the pheasant population in my lifetime and we got into a field. There were about eight of us in the group that set up a hunt and if anything less than 10,000 pheasants came out, I’d be shocked. The skies were literally turning black with pheasants flushing and having to step aside to let deer take off and get away and get out of the area. And the sharp tailed grouse we ran into and you know, our dogs just having so much scent in their noses that they didn’t know what to do, just going absolutely crazy. That’s something that I don’t ever believe I’ll replicate in my life, but it’s something, to me, that is absolutely irreplaceable and I’m just so thankful I was able to experience that once in my life.
AB: This time has absolutely flown by. Thank you so much for being on the Humans Outside Podcast today.
JH: Well, thanks for having me. For anybody that’s interested about hunting and wants to learn more, I encourage them to spend a little time and talk to some of their local conservation organizations. You can check us out if you’re interested in mule deer and mule deer habitat at muledeer.org. But take a moment and check out any of the hunting organizations that are out there and the things that we’re doing to influence and help habitat. It’s a small step for people that aren’t familiar with what we do, but I think it’ll be enlightening for everybody.