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New Wyoming Hunting Group Takes The Old Guard To Task

Mountain Pursuit, founded by former journalist and fifth-generation Wyomingite Rob Shaul, expresses outrage over, among other things, brutal treatment of coyotes and decline of fair chase in hunting

Rob Shaul wants to ensure that fair chase is returned front and center to the national conversation around hunting.

Shaul lives on the edge of the Gros Ventre Wilderness in the southern half of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. A 5th-generation Wyomingite, hunter, angler and avid outdoorsperson, this graduate of the Coast Guard Academy worked for years as a journalist, publishing and editing the Pinedale Roundup newspaper. That put him on the front lines of massive natural gas development in the Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline that has negatively affected mule deer, pronghorn and Greater sage-grouse. 

In recent years, Shaul went from being an observer to wildlife advocate, founding a non-profit hunting advocacy group.  A guru within the fitness world, whose training methods have been mentioned in several national magazines, he also leads a company called Mountain Tactical Institute that trains law enforcement and public safety employees—as well as outdoor athletes— to be healthier and more mindful.

 
Rob Shaul
Rob Shaul
Mountain Pursuit is devoted to not only safeguarding the habitat of game species but promoting ethics and fair chase in hunting.  Living today in the Hoback south of Jackson Hole, Shaul and Mountain Journal had the conversation below following our story titled “A Death Of Ethics: Is Hunting Destroying Itself" that ran in December 2018 and has been one of the most widely read since MoJo was launched in August 2017.  It gained national attention for featuring a video that has been posted on youtube of two men from the Pinedale area who mercilessly chased down coyotes with their snowmobiles and ran them over.  

While the men claimed that they were hunters, many in the hunting community responded with condemnation and, in fact, bills were introduced in both the Wyoming and Montana legislature to have it outlawed yet they went down in defeat.  In the interview, belowShaul does not call out specific hunting organizations by name but he is very critical of groups purporting to represent the best interests of hunters.

Here is MoJo's interview with Rob Shaul: 

Mountain Journal: We exchanged emails after Mountain Journal published an expose about ethics in hunting and people were shocked to learn it’s legal in Wyoming to run down coyotes with snowmobiles and kill them without having to fire a shot.  We cited numerous other examples of dubious human conduct with regard to hunting. Todd Wilkinson, MoJo founder, grew up hunting and fishing.  How did the story land with you?

ROB SHAUL: We had most of our ethical positions stamped out prior to reading your piece, but had overlooked predators, especially as it relates to fair chase and public perception. Your piece forced us to consider bear baiting, and predator hunting in general. 

Mountain Journal: What kinds of conversations are people having in the hunting circles you're involved with?

SHAUL: Many hunters are disgusted like us with the way some hunters treat predators as a lower class of prey. As hunters, we too, are predators, and at Mountain Pursuit we admire these animals. But to be clear, we are not against hunting predators. 
"Many hunters are disgusted like us with the way some hunters treat predators as a lower class of prey. As hunters, we too, are predators, and at Mountain Pursuit we admire these animals. But to be clear, we are not against hunting predators."  —Rob Shaul
Mountain Journal:  Spell that out for us

SHAULSpecifically, when it comes to predator hunting, we are against: 

•  Running down coyotes, wolves or any other wild animal with ATVs, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, or vehicles of any type. 

•  Bear baiting – our opposition based on the principle of Fair Chase

•  Using electronic predator calls. 

Mountain Journal:  There is a lucrative product industry built around electronic predator calls and dozens of videos on social media showing bears being shot from hunters standing in trees and in blinds, waiting for food-habituated bears to wander into feeding stations. They're presented as great hunting adventures. But you are critical. And, with regard to coyotes, you are going to a place where many hunting organizations fear to tread—saying coyotes deserve to be treated better, not as targets of hatred or throwaway native species.  

SHAUL: Yes, we are alone of any hunting advocacy nonprofit in having ethical standards for coyote hunting and we spell them out.

Mountain Journal: What are they?

SHAUL:  1. Coyotes should be classified as "predators" in state regulations in relation to coyote hunting for sport, meaning not being placed in a legal/cultural realm of being considered worthless.

2. A new form of "predator hunting license" should be required for resident and nonresident sport coyote hunters. Requirements for general big game hunting such as required hunter's safety courses and conservation stamp purchases should also be required for coyote hunting. 

3. Running down coyotes with ATVs, snowmobiles or any other vehicle should be considered a wildlife violation, and outlawed.

4. Shooting coyotes from an aircraft should not  be allowed.

5. Electronic calls should not be allowed.

6. Baiting should not be allowed. 

7. Use of artificial lights (spotlighting) to hunt coyotes should not be allowed. Hunting at night is allowable, but not with the use of artificial light which makes it awfully difficult to do. 

8. A maximum firearm shot distance of 400 yards should be set and enforced. This shot distance restriction works to keep the fair chase balance between hunter and prey. More on that here.

9. Coyote hunting weapons should be limited to firearms with caliber of .22 or greater including shotguns, archery gear including crossbows, and black powder weapons. Airguns should not be allowed..

10. A daily bag limit of five coyotes should be set and enforced. This daily bag limit should also be applied to all coyote hunting contests. 

11. These standards apply to both private and public lands for coyote hunting for sport.

Mountain Journal: Wildlife advocates reading this will surely embrace your stance of demanding that coyotes deserve more respect and should be managed as a game species but we'll guess many will also say you don't go far enough—that a coyote "bag limit" of five a day is too much, especially since no one eats coyotes. And those same wildlife advocates will say coyote hunting contests should be abolished. Groups like the  Boone & Crockett Club say that killing wildlife in order to rack up money or prizes violates the spirit of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation that condemns the commercialization of hunting.  How do your proposed regulations comport with existing code in a state like Wyoming?

SHAUL:  The above restrictions do not apply to coyote population control operations set by local or state predator control boards and/or state and federal wildlife agencies to protect game species and agricultural operations. They also do not apply to coyote trapping for fur. State regulations should clearly separate coyote hunting for sport from coyote trapping for furbearing. Coyote trapping for fur should be covered by applicable trapping regulations.

Mountain Journal:  States like Montana ban bear baiting because they say it violates ethics and fair chase. Wyoming does not. What kind of response have you received from hunters in Wyoming?

SHAUL: We have received some blow back from biologists concerning bear baiting. The argument there is because hunter success is higher, bear baiting makes it easier to manage bear numbers. This was unexpected. 
Mountain Pursuit believes baiting of black bears should be banned because it violates the ethical code of fair chase.  Bear-baiting is banned in Montana, but allowed in Wyoming.  Photos courtesy NPS
Mountain Pursuit believes baiting of black bears should be banned because it violates the ethical code of fair chase. Bear-baiting is banned in Montana, but allowed in Wyoming. Photos courtesy NPS
Mountain Journal: What are the foundational principles of Mountain Pursuit?
 is Mountain Pursuit and why did you found the organization?

SHAUL: We champion hunting ethics and fair chase. We are advocates for subsistence-based hunting, i.e. you eat what you kill. We think states should give a significant license preference to resident hunters over out of state hunters. We are devoted to conservation that achieves strong, healthy wildlife populations and habitat. We believe in hunter education and doing more to advance hunter recruitment. And we are dedicated to protecting, preserving and enhancing the western tradition of hunting.

Mountain Journal: Based on our own conversations, we know there is a widely held perception out there today that many hunting organizations and media entities have become captive to commercial product manufacturers, natural resource extraction industries and private property owners who want to limit public access. What prompted you to start your own organization?

SHAUL: My decision to found Mountain Pursuit grew out of three catalytic events:  a hunting experience, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department effort to increase non-resident elk tags in order to generate more revenue at the expense of hunters in states, and disappointment with the current hunting advocacy nonprofits.

Mountain Journal: When you say you had a “hunting experience,” to what are you referring?

SHAUL: it happened on the first day of bow season in 2017. I was up high in an alpine basin about three miles from the nearest road. I had scouted the basin earlier in the summer and was completely alone. But on this opening morning of bow season there were between eight and 10 other bowhunters out there—all from out of state. It was what I call "combat" bowhunting. This indicated to me how effective the national backcountry hunting media, industry and hunting non-profits had been in glamorizing and popularizing the activity and that things had gotten out of hand. 

Mountain Journal: You also mention a correlation to what Wyoming Game and Fish was doing.

SHAUL:  In 2018, Game and Fish proposed to change—increase— the number of non-resident full priced elk tags. Two options were presented: keep it the same, or increase it. The lack of a third option—decrease it, struck me as biased against resident hunters. The option to increase nonresident tags was greatly supported by Wyoming outfitters. Eventually, because of pushback, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission killed the proposal. 

Mountain Journal:  That's a clash happening in neighboring states, too. You believe in the public trust doctrine of wildlife management—that wildlife is a public resource that belongs to citizens. So describe some of your frustrations with hunting organizations where we assume you've been a member.

SHAUL: When I started looking the existing hunting non-profits, I was significantly disappointed. None represent western-state resident subsistence hunters—those who hunt to feed themselves and their families—when it comes to license allocation. All are also weak on fair chase and hunting ethics, and the ideal of subsistence-based hunting.

None that I investigated advocate forcefully for wildlife and habitat, especially when compared to the established environmental groups. In the hard fights for wildlife, hunting groups have been AWOL, and the green groups do the heavy lifting, especially when it comes to litigation.
"None [of the sportsman's groups] that I investigated advocate forcefully for wildlife and habitat, especially when compared to the established environmental groups. In the hard fights for wildlife, hunting groups have been AWOL, and the green groups do the heavy lifting, especially when it comes to litigation."  —Shaul
Mountain Journal:  What are you saying?

SHAUL: In my opinion, so many of the hunting groups are too corporate and focused on raising money, memberships, generating positive media, and developing gear company partnerships to help them sell products. In addition, all are too cozy with the various Game and Fish commissions, with many receiving money from state wildlife departments via commissioners or the governor who appointed or nominated them, thus selling their independence and oversight authority.

Mountain Journal: When you look at the structure of the groups you are criticizing what do you see?

SHAUL: Staffing is dominated not by dominated by marketing, operations, communications, media and merchandising positions, with few, if any, policy, habitat, ecological, biology and wildlife management positions. Staffing advertises their priorities. 

Mountain Journal: What about leadership?

SHAUL: Executive salaries in these hunting non-profits are embarrassingly high and if you look, few hunting advocacy group nonprofit staff members and board members are western state natives. This is what led me to start Mountain Pursuit.

Mountain Journal: You are a fifth-generation Wyomingite and you know you live in a state where organizations or individuals who dare challenge the status quo will come under fire. Especially on topics like predators and calling attention to the relationships between politicians and hunting organizations.  What gives you the courage to speak up?

SHAUL: I disagree with your premise that somehow it's more difficult to be politically courageous in Wyoming as compared to other states. I've witnessed numerous examples of political courage much more difficult than what we're doing with Mountain Pursuit. Indeed, being a 5th-generation Wyomingite makes it easier for me as I can't be discounted as a newcomer or move-in. 

Mountain Journal:  How you explain the fact that representatives of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, who are trained in professional resource management and admit personally that it’s wrong, will not openly condemn the practice of running down coyotes with snowmobiles for sport?  They won't go there, even as the practitioners claim it is a virtuous form of sport hunting to help eliminate predators from the landscape.  If a young person were taking a state hunter’s safety course and asked a state official whether it was right to run down coyotes or wolves with snowmobiles, what would the Wyoming Game and Fish Department say? If their answer is that it’s wrong, why wouldn’t they speak out and advocate for getting the law changed?

SHAUL:You could ask the same question when it comes to many wildlife habitat and population protection issues—specifically, why isn’t the department’s professional staff more forceful in advocating for wildlife and hunting ethics? I don’t have a good answer for you. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is all political appointees made by the Governor, and many of the senior G & F staff - including the director, biology and wildlife heads, are political appointees by the governor. Off record, or often after retirement, you’ll see many current and former professional G & F staff speak out more forcefully, but they remain silent when serving in their official capacity. 
Rob Shaul, founder of Mountain Pursuit, believes coyotes need to be treated as a game animal, not a vermin.   Shaul also strongly condemns the fact that coyotes legally can be run down and killed with snowmobiles.  Photo courtesy NPS
Rob Shaul, founder of Mountain Pursuit, believes coyotes need to be treated as a game animal, not a vermin. Shaul also strongly condemns the fact that coyotes legally can be run down and killed with snowmobiles. Photo courtesy NPS
Mountain Journal: You’ve been both a news publisher and a journalist.  How does that background help inform your thinking with Mountain Pursuit?

SHAUL: The research skills I developed as a journalist, as well as working in an adversarial relationship with government, helped prepare me for the oversight and research work we have begun and hope to continue at Mountain Pursuit. I was not always liked as a journalist, but was always respected. With the decline in the media in general—fewer newspapers, etc., non-profits like us need to pick up that oversight role. 
"...why isn’t the department’s professional staff more forceful in advocating for wildlife and hunting ethics? I don’t have a good answer for you. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is all political appointees."  —Shaul
Mountain Journal: What did having a front-row seat writing about the gas drilling boom in the Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline teach you? Drilling in those areas outside of Pinedale along the western face of the Wind River Mountains became a national flashpoint before the rise of the Bakken and the mega-plays happening in the Permian Basin of New Mexico and Texas. Today, studies confirm that gas drilling in southwest Wyoming has had huge impacts on mule deer, Greater sage-grouse and pronghorn.

SHAUL: When those projects were first proposed I was all for them, but in the craziness that followed— the boom— I saw the impact to Pinedale’s community character, local air quality, and impact to the vast expanses of sagebrush steppes south of town. At the end of my tenure, I actually came out officially opposed to any more oil and gas projects in Sublette County. 

Mountain Journal: What is the role of the media and where is it falling down?  

SHAUL: The traditional hook and bullet media, and local/state newspapers, have all suffered staffing and resource shortages with the move to online news sources and new types of media. In the past, our report on the serious issues with the current Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioner Complimentary License system would have been sniffed out  by a responsible newspaper journalist long before we did the report. But decreasing staffing and other issues have significantly limited the ability of traditional press to fulfill its government oversight rule. 

Mountain Journal: There’s a growing criticism that many of the outdoor media entities, especially those rooted in social media or paying to air programs on local TV, is driven by manufacturers using the shows as a cover to sell their products or the perspective of a political party. Is it valid?

SHAUL: On the hunting ethics side, within the world especially of western state backcountry hunting, an entire media ecosystem of hunting videos/movies, commercial mapping and tag research websites, hunting-related forums, celebrity hunters, gear/clothing manufacturer blogs/movies, and hunting nonprofit sites has evolved and grown rapidly since 2014. For the most part, this backcountry media ecosystem is a circle jerk where a celebrity hunter will interview a clothing company product manager who happens to sponsor the hunter, who will then write a blog post about a hunting nonprofit, who will then do a podcast with a hunting-oriented podcast, who will push then do a podcast interviewing the original celebrity hunter. 

This has created an echo chamber, and the business relationships which drive the circle jerk means tough issues like fair chase and extreme range hunting ethics are avoided or sidestepped, or worse, given quiet approval - to the detriment of the future of the hunting tradition. 
"For the most part, this backcountry media ecosystem is a circle jerk where a celebrity hunter will interview a clothing company product manager who happens to sponsor the hunter, who will then write a blog post about a hunting nonprofit, who will then do a podcast with a hunting-oriented podcast, who will push then do a podcast interviewing the original celebrity hunter. This has created an echo chamber."  —Shaul 
As a concrete example, Mountain Pursuit was interviewed by two hunting industry podcasts in December - the Exo Mountain Gear Hunt Backcountry podcast, and the Right to Roam hunting podcast - and both Exo and Right to Roam spiked the interviews. They won’t air them. 

Mountain Journal:  Were you surprised by the resistance you’ve received?

Mountain Pursuit does not call for an end to coyote derbies. They do, however, believe hunters should be limited to a bag limit of five coyotes per day.   Photo courtesy Wyoming Untrapped Facebook page
Mountain Pursuit does not call for an end to coyote derbies. They do, however, believe hunters should be limited to a bag limit of five coyotes per day. Photo courtesy Wyoming Untrapped Facebook page
SHAUL
: We had no idea that speaking up for fair chase, and fighting for western state resident hunters, would be so disruptive.  Too much of the hunting media is deaf and blind to the public image issues hunting is facing. Television shows, slick youtube videos, and gear industry-sponsored, hunting-specific movies, social media pages and even ads show too much blood, focus too much on trophy hunting, and too often feature over the top, in-your-face hunting hosts and characters. I'm a hunter and a lot of this imagery makes me uneasy to see and watch - imagine how the non-hunting public must feel seeing this stuff.

Mountain Journal: Is the hunting community more receptive to hearing criticism from one of its own versus lambasting that comes from animal rights groups?

SHAUL: Hunters must begin policing ourselves or face the inevitable political backlash. We’ve been accused of “dividing hunters,” but hunters are already divided. Mountain Pursuit will be a home for those who feel strongly about fair chase, advocate hard for wildlife, and care about the future of hunting. And we’ll police the hunting industry as needed. In February we conducted a study and graded the Instagram Accounts of 19 hunting industry brands and non-profits from the perspective of the non-hunter, and based on that study, developed hunting industry social media image guidelines. 
"Hunters must begin policing ourselves or face the inevitable political backlash. We’ve been accused of 'dividing hunters,' but hunters are already divided. Mountain Pursuit will be a home for those who feel strongly about fair chase, advocate hard for wildlife, and care about the future of hunting. And we’ll police the hunting industry as needed." —Shaul
Mountain Journal: A common refrain from a certain segment of the political spectrum is that the media is biased whenever it reports something that runs in contrast to the agenda of the political status quo and the culture that arises around it.  The science of climate change and documented impacts on the ground, for instance.  A high profile controversy is the artificial feeding of elk on 23 feedgrounds in Wyoming and the science being clear on the dangers of disease spread.  Both of those issues have implications for the future of hunting because they relate to big game habitat and animal health.  Your thoughts?

SHAUL: I disagree with your premise. Often the media is biased, including Mountain Journal. Specifically concerning elk feedgrounds. Many environmental groups were arguing for their closure long before the threat of CWD evolved. Now CWD is here and the groups are using that to intensify the push. I'm not too sure why they want to see elk starve - but I've yet to see a reporter ask about that obvious outcome of immediately closing feedgrounds like Alkali. 

From Mountain Pursuit’s perspective, it's important for our success to stay in our lane. We've got work to do on immediate battles and challenges in the Rocky Mountain West—CWD, declining big game populations, increasing hunting pressure, conflicts with recreation and industry, hunting ethics, and introducing new hunters to the sport. We're in no position to take on global warming. 

To be clear, we like elk and support the feedgrounds. Concerning CWD, we trust and support the Wyoming Game and Fish professional biologists to lead us through this incredible challenge. It is important to note that CWD has been in Wyoming and other western states for several years, with as yet no significant affect on elk populations - despite the feedgrounds.
Shaul’s perspective was awakened when he watched oil and gas proliferate in the Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline of Wyoming.  Photo courtesy Ecoflight
Shaul’s perspective was awakened when he watched oil and gas proliferate in the Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline of Wyoming. Photo courtesy Ecoflight
Mountain Journal:  Who doesn’t like having healthy elk herds. Indeed, you could indeed argue that Mountain Journal is biased and we agree with you, in the sense that there is no neutrality when reporting the truth. And the truth is that wildlife health professionals are universally concerned. CWD is having a population level impact on elk in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and studies by researchers affiliated with Wyoming Game and Fish have created models, scrutinized via the peer-review process, that project elk herds with genotypes could become extinct over the next century if CWD takes hold and the slow mortal progression plays out.

SHAUL: Close the feedgrounds and thousands of elk will die—they’ll simply starve. This happened way back in the early 1900s - which is exactly why the National Elk Refuge began in 1912 … and since then any migration south the elk had done would have to be re-learned, somehow. More likely, back then the elk wintered in the valleys, but there’s been a hell of a lot of real estate development since 1912 and much of that open space is gone. CWD is certainly a menace, and we’re not ignorant to the greater transmission possibility created by the feedgrounds, but we’re all still learning how CWD transmits and specifically how it impacts elk. Will CWD devastate the elk on the feedgrounds? Perhaps. Will closing the feedgrounds devastate the western Wyoming elk populations? Absolutely.  

Mountain Journal:  There is widespread debate—disagreement— over whether elk herds would massively starve to death, particularly with a gradual phase out of feeding as proposed. Yes, there would likely be fewer numbers of animals because they wouldn’t be artificially inflated with artificial feed, but there are many areas in the West where elk herds in similar terrain are not fed. And, it should be noted, every major professional wildlife management society in the country says that artificial feeding of wildlife is a bad idea, including the former chief of animal health for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Would you call those assessments a “bias”?

SHAUL:  We still have not specifically observed how and if CWD will effect feedground elk. A mule deer with CWD was found on the National Elk Refuge this year, but as yet no impact to the elk. 

Mountain Journal: Describe a few of the most memorable days you've ever had as a Wyoming hunter and what must happen so that those who come after us can have similar experiences?

SHAUL: By far, my favorite game to bow hunt is the pronghorn antelope. I’ve never actually harvested an antelope with a bow. Quite the opposite - by my count, I’ve had 60-plus failed bowhunting stalks on pronghorn antelope over three years of hard work. 

In all those stalks I’ve taken just two shots— both wide misses. “So why?” I hear you asking, “are antelope your favorite?”

Bowhunting antelope, more than deer or elk, have accelerated my education and skills as a hunter, and pushed me rapidly through measuring success by a harvest, to measuring success simply by the chase, experience and challenge. 

Mountain Journal: How?

SHAUL: Multiple stalking opportunities. With deer and elk, you’re lucky to get in one stalk a day, either in the morning or evening, and getting in two stalks per day is a bonanza of action. 

With antelope, however, I’ve managed five-plus failed stalks per long hunting day multiple times. Often, with more than one stalk on the same animal. Unlike deer and elk, who retreat to the timber during the heart of the day, antelope are in the open all time - so easy to spot, and plan out the stalk. 

Most of my stalks on the antelope fail because the animals "bust" me. They have incredible vision and a "6th" sense I've yet to overcome. 

On the few times I have been able to get within bow range, I've made the mistake. Last fail I was so focused on finding this one bedded doe antelope my tunnel vision prevented me from seeing the other three does 20 yards to my left standing there watching me creep forward on all fours. When I turned toward these three does, they exploded away, taking the bedded doe with them.

When I began hunting antelope, I would "explode" into a hissy fit of my own at these failures, disappointed in myself, mad at the antelope, and wallowing in the seeming hopelessness of the endeavor. It took a couple dozen failed stalks for me to grow past this immaturity. Now, I laughed at my mistake, and stand in awe, humbled again by these animals and the subtle, sophisticated art of bow hunting.

Last year I didn’t draw an antelope tag, and sorely missed being humbled time and again. But the lessons stalking antelope taught me about the true meaning and gift of hunting.

Mountain Journal:  It seems that we in the interior West live in an isolated geographical bubble. Nationwide, hunter numbers are declining at the same time that numbers of game animals around us are at their highest point in generations.  How do you see the future of hunting playing out, with huge demographic shifts underway in America?

SHAUL: The Mountain West is not in a "bubble" when it comes to hunting. Based on nonresident hunting tag applications for western-state hunting, and the huge growth in the backcountry hunting industry and media, national interest in western state big game hunting is exploding.  

For Wyoming residents, elk tag sales are up 8.6 percent from 2008-2017, and deer tag sales up just 1 percent for the same period. In 2017, approximately 10 percent of Wyoming residents purchased an elk tag. 

As a comparison, in 2017 for Pennsylvania, 875,632 general hunting licenses were sold, which is 7% of that state's 12.8 million population. I was surprised at that number. We know from US Fish & Wildlife statistics that the overall numbers of hunters in the US declined by 2 million from 2011-2016, when it stood at 11.5 million, so this this is somewhat troubling.

Hunting is traditionally a rural activity, and my assumption is this decline reflects the decline of rural America - as more and more people move to the cities. As well, and perhaps just as important, the learning curve to go from an urban non-hunter to a hunter is steep and intimidating especially for someone who has never shot a rifle and doesn't even own one - let alone the task of finding the game and field dressing it. For the most part, I'm a self-taught hunter, so I know first-hand the challenge. 

Mountain Journal: Every day, more people are leaving rural and semi-rural areas and re-settling in cities or the suburbs. And, in so doing, new generations are being raised neither with the daily contact with nature nor parental and mentor figures who are teaching how to hunt and interact ethically and respectfully with the natural world.

SHAUL: Mountain Pursuit is driven to make this learning curve as frictionless as possible. This includes researching different hunting education processes from the various states to see if we can make getting a hunting education certificate easier. Offering focused practical courses on rifle shooting, finding game, and field dressing. Developing a rifle loaner program of some type so new hunters can try out hunting to see if it's for them before spending to purchase a rifle.

One encouraging sign for new hunter recruitment I've seen here in Jackson is the "local food" movement, and more and more "granola" athletes who have moved to Jackson to ski or climb, become interested in hunting. Many of the pro mountain athletes I've worked with over the years are now pounding the hills chasing elk in October. 

This is a growth opportunity for the hunting and I'm sure similar interest is found in growing places like Bozeman, the Front Range, Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc. 

Finally, Mountain Pursuit’s stand on fair chase and ethics also has a premier role in us protecting the hunting heritage tradition. Statistics show that the non-hunting public in America currently overwhelmingly supports subsistence-based, fair Chase/ethical hunting. Taking a strong stand on these issues is not only the right thing to do, but also is key to protecting hunting from political backlash and restrictions into the future. 
Screenshot via Mountain Pursuit
Screenshot via Mountain Pursuit
Mountain Journal: What, from your perspective, are the major challenges facing hunting in the future?

SHAUL: I see three primary challenges. 

First is an image challenge. The current hunting industry is simply blind and deaf to common sense political realities. Too many celebrity hunters and hunting movies/TV programs show the extremes of the sport - trophy hunting, graphic kills, multiple kills, outlandish characters, etc. 

Witness the ignorance of the Idaho Game and Fish Commissioner forced to resign last year after emailing images of himself with a family of dead baboons he'd shot in Africa. Setting aside for a moment why anyone would want to kill a family of baboons, that he didn't think it wrong for his and hunting's image to email the photos demonstrated a striking lack of political awareness. This awareness deficit is poisoning hunting's image with the non-hunting public.

Mountain Pursuit is working to change this, governed by the ethic of fair chase, and simple common sense image awareness. We've already challenged the Wild Sheep Foundation, one of the most venerable hunting nonprofits in America, to stop sponsoring an extreme-range rifle hunting TV program because long distance shots violate fair chase. 

We’ve already developed common hunting image media guidelines for the industry, which we will hammer home with "Hunting Image Black Eye" awards for those in the industry who highlight too much killing, violate fair chase, or show too many grip and grin carcass/trophy shots. 
"We’ve already developed common hunting image media guidelines for the industry, which we will hammer home with "Hunting Image Black Eye" awards for those in the industry who highlight too much killing, violate fair chase, or show too many grip and grin carcass/trophy shots."  —Shaul
We'll also hand out hunting Image "at-a-boy“ awards for companies, podcasts, videos, etc. who highlight the respectful, conservation side of hunting and show the sport in a respectful, manner. 

Mountain Journal: What’s the second challenge?

SHAUL: Recruiting new hunters.  Mountain Pursuit is a western states hunting advocacy group, but even in the West, our rural towns and rural way of life is shrinking. As I stated earlier, the learning curve to learn to hunt big game is steep and intimidating. We have work to do to make this curve friendlier. 

Mountain Journal: And the third?

SHAUL: It’s the conservation challenge.  From a conservation perspective, western-state elk populations are healthy. But many moose, bighorn sheep, antelope and mule deer herd populations are in long-term decline. Issues include oil and gas development, habitat loss due to residential development, and increasing pressure on wildlife from New West recreation—especially mountain biking. We just sent a letter to the Bridger-Teton National Forest, calling it our for allowing mountain biking to happen illegally in the Palisades and Shoal Creek wilderness study areas. There are hard fights ahead.


EDITOR'S NOTE:  For further reading, Mountain Journal's story A Death Of Ethics: Is Hunting Destroying Itself?
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