Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Meeting the Visionaries Face-to-Face

I’ve had Charlie Decker and Bob Munson’s picture (The Visionaries by Larry Zabel) hanging on the wall of my den for the last six years. I feel like I know them, though until this weekend, we had never met.

Charlie is leaning with a knife over a fallen bull elk and Bob has his eye on another herd far across one of those beautiful high-mountain Montana valleys that you can only access by horseback. There is a handsome mule ground-tied and standing patiently in the background. She steals the show from the hunters and the elk in a manner that only those of us who love a good saddle mule can truly appreciate. 

I suppose I enjoy the print most because of that mule. Or perhaps it is the setting and the mood of camaraderie shown on the faces of the hunters that all remind me of why I hunt. Then again there is the hypnotic beauty of northern Montana where my daughter Maggie was born. She and I shared our first hunts together there near Kalispell as she quietly stared out in awe from her baby carrier through long walks in those forests.

I’ve donated a hunt to the Denver Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for seven years now and when I heard that Charlie and Bob would be attending the banquet I decided to take my print. They along with Dan Bull and Bill Munson founded the RMEF. It is amazing what has been accomplished over the last thirty years and I thought I might have a chance to have these two of the original founders take a minute to sign that work of art that they inspired. 

Deadwood’s own David Allen is president of the RMEF and also was in attendance. He shared a few stories about the struggles associated with founding an organization entirely on the backs and bank accounts of four individuals. They pooled their savings and mortgaged their houses and businesses for that first mailing of 43,000 brochures. It garnered them only 233 initial members. When the first copy of the foundation’s flag ship magazine, Bugle, came out, the quality was so low that they doubted that anyone would ever by it. At Saturday’s banquet, I saw a single signed copy of that initial magazine sell for over $300.00. 

Most inspiring is the scope of the RMEF’s success. They have enhanced or protected from development over a square mile of habitat for wildlife for every single day of the last thirty years. Thousands of volunteers have been inspired by the idea that we all might be able to leave something better for our children and the future. South Dakota alone has garnered $35.2 million in accumulated benefits in more than 215 individual projects to save and enhance our environment here at home.

This year’s Northern Hills Chapter banquet was the first I’ve missed in over twenty years, but three of my children were there and volunteered in my absence. My father was a volunteer. So many grandfathers have been inspired by the RMEF’s vision that it is now common for the grandchildren of members to receive a life membership as one of their first birthday gifts. The association’s commitment has over 90% of monies raised being used specifically for missions that enhance or protect wild places. 

As Charlie and Bob took time to sign the back of my painting, I was struck by their appreciation for all of the efforts of the more than 700 people who attended the auction and dinner in Denver. Because of the success of their dream, hunting, hunters, and the environment have a brighter future.

Bob Speirs is a columnist and proud RMEF member-outfitter from Sprearfish, South Dakota
Bob Munson (left) with Bob Speirs

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