‘An Environmentalist With a Gun’: Inside Steven Rinella’s Hunting Empire

“I still have that HATE shirt in my closet to remind me,” Rinella told me. We are sitting in his backyard at the home he shares with his wife, Katie, and their three young children in an upscale neighborhood in Bozeman. The leaves on the poplar tree ahead were golden, and the branches were decorated with dozens of antlers and animal bones strung together like Christmas tree decorations. Rinella is away from home a lot, after seasons of hunting as some sort of migratory superhero, often accompanied by cameramen. In November, he hunted black-tailed deer and shrimp in Alaska and then white-tailed deer in Nebraska; In December, he shot ducks in Louisiana. January means Coues deer hunting in Mexico; February, the javelina breed in Arizona; March, fishing for Osceola turkeys and cobia in Florida; April, wild turkeys in Mexico, Wisconsin and Michigan; In May, the black bear returned to Montana. Summer means bowling and fishing in Florida and Louisiana; Fall means moose in Alaska and moose in Colorado. His fans keep stopping him at airports.

After graduating from high school, Rinella began working as a commercial fur trapper, selling pellets of muskrats, beavers, mink, foxes, and raccoons to make fur coats and hats. But things didn’t go as planned. Fur prices are falling. He supplemented his meager income by chopping and selling firewood and scavenging the cemetery at a nearby green bean processing factory. He then received an MFA in creative non-fiction writing at the University of Montana and realized that his experiences as a stupid, working-class kid wanted nothing more than to be outside. gave him a unique voice as a narrator, on the page and ultimately on the screen. But in the years after high school, he remained a fledgling fur trap as he fell into debt. One day, one of his brothers – both lifelong hunters who were then studying wildlife in college – gave him an ear-shaped paperback copy. Aldo Leopold’s dog “A Sand County Almanac”. “That was the beginning of my conservation awakening,” Rinella told me.

Most people read Leopold as belonging to the population of American environmental writers, with the likes of Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson and John Muir. Rinella reads that Leopold is a fellow hunter. Leopold, his wife, and children all hunted, often with bows and arrows, and he gained much insight into the natural world and man’s place in it from hunting. “A Sand County Almanac” was published in 1949 and has since sold more than two million copies and been translated into 14 languages. In one of the book’s essays, “Thinking Like a Mountain,” Leopold describes shooting a wolf and its cubs in Arizona’s Apache National Forest when he was a 22-year-old ranger, a standard practice at a busy government time. Try to eradicate wolves and other predators. Leopold looked at the wolf dumbfounded. “I was young and itchy then,” he wrote. “I think because fewer wolves means more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after watching the blue flame die, I feel that neither the wolf nor the mountain agree with such a view.” Watching the wolf die certainly didn’t stop Leopold from hunting. And reading about it didn’t stop Rinella from hunting, but it did force him to grapple with America’s wretched past of slaughtering its wildlife. “I didn’t know that we killed all the deer and elk and turkey and duck and brought them back,” he told me. “Without all that, I never thought to apply any form of reverence to wildlife; it’s just there. “

When European settlers arrived in the New World, they quickly embarked on a similar prodigal slaughter of animals. They hunted for food, fur, hides and, in the case of buffalo, part of a genocidal strategy to starve indigenous populations and reclaim their land. Before the whites landed, about 50 million bison roamed North America; By 1889, only 1,000 remained.

The pre-colonial white-tailed deer population has dropped from about 62 million to 300,000. The Canadian goose almost completely disappeared. Wealthy hunters noticed a decline in the species they wanted to hunt and, interested in maintaining free-roaming prey, began working to protect these animals and their landscapes. In 1887, more than a decade before Theodore Roosevelt became president, he founded the Boone & Crockett Club, America’s first conservation organization. Membership was limited to 100 men, who each shot at least three different megafaunas from a list that included bears, bison, reindeer, cougars, and elk. These elite athletes were instrumental in the passage of the nation’s first wildlife protection legislation, beginning with the Lacey Act of 1900, which made the illegal wildlife trade between state becomes a federal crime.

As president, Roosevelt went on to designate 230 million acres as public land, creating 150 national forests, 51 bird sanctuaries, and 5 national parks, in no small part because of his love of hunting. grandfather. In 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt, influenced by the earlier conservation work of his cousin whom he admired, signed the Federal Assistance in Wildlife Rehabilitation Act, also known as the Pittman Act. -Robertson, a federal tax on guns and ammunition. A similar federal tax was subsequently imposed on fishing equipment. For more than 80 years, that money has made up the bulk of states’ conservation budgets, supplemented by the sale of hunting and fishing permits. Spend any amount of time with hunters, or even state wildlife biologists, and you’re sure to hear the claim that “hunting is conservation.”

Tony Wasley, president of the Fish & Wildlife Service and Director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, explained to me what that really means. “We had to take care of the 895 species that commonly occur in Nevada based on funding that came from people’s desire to entertain 8% of those species,” he said. His email signature: “Supporting Nevada’s Wildlife… Buy a Hunting and Fishing Permit.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/02/magazine/meateater-netflix-steve-rinella.html ‘An Environmentalist With a Gun’: Inside Steven Rinella’s Hunting Empire

Fry Electronics Team

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