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News about or concerning Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.

What is a Western Wilderness Hunt Really Worth?

If more sportsmen and sportsmen groups don’t engage in the wolf wars, then western states’ big game hunting will become a mere shadow of what it has been for the past 50 years. Some sportsmen are starting to realize this fact, and I will share what we are beginning to do about it, and what more needs to be done in the wolf wars. Interwoven in this story about my son’s Wyoming wilderness deer hunt in 2009, where we saw the dramatic negative effects of wolves up close and personal. I will share with you why I have fought so hard to get wolves delisted, and now moving forward, how to keep wolves at minimum numbers.

Suffice it to say, thanks to the members of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife (SFW), I was able to meet with President Bush, VP Cheney, and several US Senators, finally resulting in wolves being delisted so states could manage them. Since the delisting, SFW has also been in court – both in Wyoming and Montana – fighting the anti-hunters who want no wolf management. When the dust settles, I will write a tell-all book about what event really led to the delisting of wolves. It is an interesting piece of history, and this significant event would not have happened if left to Washington DC bureaucrats.

What do we really want to leave our children? A large bank account that provides for their every need yet robs them of the passion, desire, hard work and heartache that yields the sweet satisfaction of climbing their personal Mount Everest mostly on their own?

To my fellow 50-year0old+ sportsmen, we have enjoyed some incredible wilderness hunting experiences, from catching a salmon and hunting grizzly bear in Alaska’s wild places, to bugling bulls in the Selway-Bitterroot of Idaho and Montana, to bighorn rams in the Absoroka’s of Wyoming, and monster mule deer bucks in the Gros Ventre of Wyoming and the rugged and remote Arizona Strip.

I have had a unique life. Growing up poor as hell, I never left the county I grew up in until I was out of high school. I worked like crazy, saved and invested, took some calculated risks and have since been to many of the world’s most beautiful and spectacular places. From the Oval Office of the White House with the most powerful people on earth to partying with some of Entertainment’s and Sporting’s biggest stars, I have seen a lot.

The experiences I value most are those I have had with my common working-man friends and family hunting elk, bighorn sheep, moose, bison, mule deer, antelope, bear, cougar and wild turkey on our GREAT PUBLIC LANDS of the Western United States: wild things in wild places. It is extremely rewarding to hear thousands of sportsmen say thanks when they take their monster buck, bull or ram. And know that our team helped produce that opportunity of a lifetime!

To many of us, passing on abundant game herds to our children and grand children – to hunt if they so choose – is one the greatest American freedoms we possess.

SFW has done the impossible: won anti-hunting battles in numerous statewide ballot initiatives and political fights, helped restore millions of acres of public lands, helped create tens of thousands of additional game herd animals of multiple species, and changed the public and leaders in industry and politics to know that hunters are the good guys in the white hats that create jobs in renewable resource industries, and teach our family values. SFW has proven that we can do the impossible. Give me a handful of motivated sportsmen warriors and we can move mountains and create more wildlife.

Last fall’s hunt up in the big, wonderful Wyoming high country wilderness with my son and good friends Lee and Becky Francis is one of my most meaningful and important life experiences, and one I will always deeply cherish. I grew up finishing concrete and hauling hay. Your children and mine live in today’s modern world of sports and academics – they work hard, but are the mentally and physically tough enough?

After our great physically demanding Wyoming hunt, I can say I was so proud of my 15-year-old son Kyle. It was a great experience in a wild place with wild things. In order to get back to school, the morning started at 4 a.m. and after hiking and packing out a deer all day into the late evening, we drove home into the wee hours of the next day. After a successful long shot, and a long grueling pack out, as we neared the truck, my son who did not complain one word, said, “Dad, am I ready to go to Arctic Red and hunt sheep?” I was so proud, this hunt proved many things to a father about his son.

My fellow sportsmen, if we want abundant herds in the future on our great public lands we must ALL get involved in the effort to keep wolf numbers to a minimum. If not, there will be a 60 – 80% reduction in game herds, and with all those compounding factors, hunting and conservation programs will collapse, and the greatest freedoms we can experience as American’s will be lost.

Please join us at www.biggameforever.org. I promise you our unrelenting pursuit, total passion, all our brainpower to win the wolf wars. It is a legacy for our children that is worth fighting for. And to all our 30-year-old hunter friends, please get involved so you can live the same dreams we have shared on our great public lands of the west.

Don Peay

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