snowy mountain peaks near river and evergreen forest

I wrote this piece as a Conservation Contributor with Hunt To Eat. It was originally published on the Hunt To Eat blog.


The hunting story I was told has been somewhat incomplete. More accurately, if hunting stories are the ones that we tell friends and family about our own experiences, the hunting narrative is the collective history we tell as a broader hunting community. We can tell our hunting stories however we want, inflating the size of the fish or the antlers on the one that got away with each retelling. But what are our obligations to a hunting narrative? How can a collective hunting story give us a sense of pride and advance our long-term goals for hunting and conservation?

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Last month, I posted about the new Agreement for the conservation and recovery of the Woodland Caribou in Alberta signed between the Canada and Alberta governments. One of the themes in the history of caribou conservation across Canada is the federal and provincial governments failing to follow the timelines and requirements of Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA). As I’ll explain, while SARA establishes shared federal and provincial responsibility for species at risk conservation in Canada, provinces have the bulk of responsibility for managing threatened and endangered species. However, in cases where the provincial governments do not fulfill their responsibilities, SARA provides a mechanism that allows the federal government to intervene with what is called an emergency order to protect species and their habitat. But what is an emergency order, why didn’t it work to protect caribou, and what is the potential of this component of our species at risk legislation to prevent species extinctions?

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I started this blog five years ago as a space for personal reflection, intellectual exploration, and, hopefully, to connect more meaningfully with a community of other hunter-conservationists. I wanted a space where I could communicate some of the things I was learning about hunting and conservation and what I was learning about my place in that world. I began in 2015 with a post titled Setting the Stage: My Position as a Hunter-Conservationist. In that post, I tried to frame my thinking about what it meant to be a hunter and a conservationist and how I understood that role at the time.

Now, as the year comes to a close five years later, I want to re-visit that original post and reflect on my initial frame of mind and what I have learned about hunting, conservation, and my position as a hunter-conservationist in that time.

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An Examination of the Hurdles Created by Differing Conservation Legislation in the U.S. and Canada

Casey Pelzl and I collaborated on this piece as Conservation Contributors with Hunt To Eat. It was originally published on the Hunt To Eat blog.


Some of us are familiar with Aldo Leopold’s appreciation for Canada geese when he mused that, “One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.” Many of us know the heartwarming excitement at hearing the first honk of the fall as geese start their southward migration. The really fortunate among us know the calm anticipation of sitting in a cold blind at sunrise and seeing the specks of a flock of geese grow larger from the horizon as they come into our decoys amidst a frantic chorus of calls. Canada geese (Branta canadensis), in addition to Aldo Leopold’s seasonal muse, are also among North American conservation successes. 

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I wrote this piece as a Conservation Contributor with Hunt To Eat. It was originally published on the Hunt To Eat blog.


Squirrel hunting might be where small game meets big game hunting. Squirrels have a fascinating ecology, offer amazing hunting opportunities, and make delicious table fare. I can remember occasions while hunting whitetail deer when I chose to swap out my deer rifle for a .22 and switch my deer hunt into a squirrel hunt. Squirrels are just that charismatic and squirrel hunting is just that fun.

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Despite being listed as threatened under the federal Species At Risk Act (SARA) in 2003, the Alberta government has made very little progress on woodland caribou protection or recovery. The Canadian and Alberta governments recently signed a new collaborative agreement to work towards caribou conservation. The agreement has some strengths and promising features but also leaves a lot of space for further delays by the Alberta government.

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This is Part 2 of an exchange of letters between two good friends of mine (see Part 1 here). Jon Gattozzi lives in Ontario, is a fish and wildlife technician, works with Ontario Parks, and is a hunter, angler, and trapper. Eric Lede is a great friend of mine from Australia. He has worked with communities in Arctic Canada, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. Both have a wealth of insightful perspectives that interweave with one another in thought-provoking ways and an inspiring desire for meaningful discourse.


Eric and Jon,

I want to dig a little deeper into the question of where our ethics come from and where we anchor our notions of what is right. I am also fascinated by how we conceptualize the relationship between what is right and what is natural – does one equal or at least logically connect to the other?

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This is Part 1 of a new exchange of letters between myself and two good friends of mine. Jon Gattozzi lives in Ontario, is a fish and wildlife technician, works with Ontario Parks, and is a hunter, angler, and trapper. Eric Lede is a great friend of mine from Australia. He has worked with communities in Arctic Canada, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. Both have a wealth of insightful perspectives that interweave with one another in thought-provoking ways and an inspiring desire for meaningful discourse.


Paul and Eric,

I address this letter to old friends and new ones.

It’s morning now, the weather is cold and rainy. I sit here with Charlie-girl tucked under my right arm, as I type, and Gus across the room on his chair. I imagine our routine will stay the same and in the afternoon, whether it is still raining or not, we will be out training. 

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Hunting is wonderfully complex. It is a social activity that brings us together with friends and family. Hunting is also deeply embedded in conservation politics. Regulated hunting is an important tool of wildlife managers and hunting organizations play an important role in lobbying for conservation outcomes.

Therefore, hunting is also a social-political act. When we hunt, we are an embodied expression of that social-political act. What political statements do we make through the companies we support?

Hunting and fishing exist in a complicated social-political fabric. The choices we make as hunters and anglers shape our individual expression of the social-political act we engage in when we go into the field. It is worth reflecting on how we express our ethics through hunting and the people we surround ourselves with.

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This is not a repudiation of animal rights. The purpose of this discussion is not to diminish the history of the animal rights movement or demonize its proponents.

We sometimes see the conservation movement as a linear thread through history on which we trace the growth of ideas and key figures in a neat and tidy narrative.

In reality, the story of the conservation movement is as beautifully tangled and intricately complex as the issues it works to address. Conservation has always involved alliances and collaborations between a wide variety of actors with diverse motivations and priorities. It is the cross-pollination of ideas brought on by the creative interaction of diverse perspectives that have achieved the many monumental conservation successes we celebrate.

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