“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
That quote from Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities” reflects how I feel about 2020 on a personal level as well as simply being a human on Planet Earth at this very moment.
COVID-19’s impact on our world has been nothing short of historic and there is more to come. I wish I could give a prediction of a quick deliverance from this pestilence along with its human and economic cost but I would be lying.
Early into the pandemic, I explained how it would impact wildlife with everything from poaching running rampant in Africa where science-based, legal hunting and ecotourism were shut down to important wildlife surveys in America being cancelled.
All of that has happened and we will continue our coverage on that topic in 2021.
The business that I work in, the hunting/fishing/wildlife media industry has been ravaged by COVID-19’s economic impact. I’m putting my trust in God for finances going into a new year because things are not looking bright otherwise.
And I knew this would happen the moment I read the word “pandemic” in a World Health Organization Report.
That inspired action.
I don’t do what I do professionally for the great money, because I could make more elsewhere. I don’t do it for the accolades, nor for the fringe benefits of wildlife recreation access although that at times has been abundant.
I do it because I believe in it. Wildlife has been a passion of mine since childhood. A couple of years back my mother found a report from my fourth grade where I said I wanted to be someone who helps endangered wildlife when I grew up.
This is in me.
And it is why me and my wife Lisa founded Higher Calling Wildlife this year. I needed something that could function under a business model of low cost and high effectiveness.
By using investigative journalism and cutting-edge educational strategies, the mission of Higher Calling Wildlife is to raise awareness to mountain and forest wildlife conservation and stream fisheries. It’s free to join (and you can do that by clicking here) and it involves young people.
Me and my wife Lisa have a ministry called Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center and its offshoot the Wild Wishes program. Wild Wishes grants wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness or loss of a parent or sibling. To date we’ve granted 112 wishes ranging from encounters with wolves to giraffes and special days at our small zoological facility.
Teens from the Wild Wishes program who have an interest in conservation are mentored in media and have an opportunity to contribute to the conservation cause through our Higher Calling magazine, e-newsletter and other media platforms.
In our first year, we have put out two of these e-magazines, Issue 1 and our Wildlife of Israel special edition and started our Sheep Scrapbook Project that raises awareness to wild sheep dying of pneumonia exposure from domestic sheep. We are giving out collector’s coins for those who submit photos they have taken of wild sheep in North America.
We posted on four Facebook pages related to hunting and parks and had such a great response we ran out of coins! The second bunch should arrive this week.
There were also some other positives from this year.
My “New Life For New Mexico’s Bighorns” article that was posted here won 1st place in the Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association Excellence In Craft awards for the blog category. We also took 1st in the independent blog category for the Press Club of Southeast Texas along with receiving a total of 13 awards for writing, radio and photography in both media competitions.
Our Turkey Revolution project entered its second year with unprecedented media coverage in publications ranging from Texas Fish & Game to Hunter’s Horn. This year’s goal of photographing an elusive eastern turkey in East Texas happened in April and was documented here.
Here at the end of of 2020, put my faith in Christ, my focus on prayer and hard work and moving forward with the best of my abilities.
There is healing of soul in the mountains, forests and waterways of our world. There is no bad news where eagles soar, trout swim and turkeys gobble.
I have been doing this locally, spending time fishing in a stream near my home and some private ponds at a friend’s property. It has allowed me to clear my head when the news of the day has been frustrating.
I have gotten back into flyfishing this year and have challenged myself to catch a five-pound bass on fly gear. I haven’t hit that mark yet but did get my best flyfishing bass ever-a four pounder.
Talk about fun!
And that’s something we will continue to cover here. Yes, we will have true news as it relates to wildlife but it will be balanced with fun challenges and interesting stories that hopefully inspire as well as educate.
Henry David Thoreau wrote that, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
I don’t know about the world, but it certain helps preserve my enthusiasm for life.
Stay safe. Stay healthy and venture beyond the pavement into the wild. Great things can still happen there.
Higher Calling Wildlife founder Chester Moore won big at the Southeast Texas Press Club awards held Sat. Nov. 13
He won first place for an individual blog for this blog“Higher Calling Wildlife” in a category rarely that included blogs from many genres ranging from news to art.
The awards which recognize media based out of Southeast Texas is a prestigious organization covering all facets of electronic, print, and broadcast media.
Moore won first place in radio talk show for “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI for his interview with “Wild America” creator and host Marty Stauffer.
Moore also won for investigative radio program for his special program on human dangers in the woods including examining the “Missing Texas 40” cases around the Sam Houston National Forest that aired on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI.
Additionally, he took first place for radio public service announcements for his ongoing “Wildlife Journalist Chronicles”.
He took second place for specialty publications for his “Turkey Revolution” tabloid and his “Higher Calling Wildlife” story in the Pet Gazette for the news release category as well as taking third in social media for his work on Instagram.
“It’s an honor to be a member of the Press Club of Southeast Texas, much less win these awards. It’s always exciting to be recognized for the hard work I put into my wildlife journalism career. This year’s entries were especially important to me as I have been on a certain trajectory with mountain and forest wildlife, turkey, and the whole human dangers in the outdoors topics,” Moore said.
“It’s such a privilege to see my name popping up alongside other great journalists and media professionals in these awards. There are some truly great people in this profession in Southeast Texas and I’m blessed to be able to live and work in that area.”
Last year Moore won the “Adovcatus Magni” award for his work with wild turkeys from the National Wild Turkey Federation-Texas and in 2017 was given the Mossy Oak Outdoors Legacy Award for his work with wildlife and children.
Higher Calling Wildlife founder and award-winning wildlife journalist got his first honors for wildlife conservation work when he was 19 years old.
The Sportsman’s Conservationists of Texas honored him with their “Youth Conservationist Of The Year” award and the following year he became the group’s first and only back to back winner when he won their prestigious “Conservation Communicator Of The Year”.
Since then he has been honored by Field & Stream magazine as a “Hero Of Conservation” and in 2020 was presented with the “Advocatus Magni” award from the National Wild Turkey Federation-Texas for his work with wild turkeys.
Moore who spends much of his time working with you who have critical illnesses, have experienced traumatic loss or are in the foster system has decided to start his own conservation outreach.
“We’re calling it Higher Calling Wildlife and it’s centered on forest and mountain wildlife and stream fisheries,” he said.
“It’s free to join and the concept is simple. By using investigative journalism we uncover issues with conservation in these particular fields of interest and empower you to use this information to raise awareness,” he said.
All blog subscribers will get the download option monthly. You can subscribe at the top right of this page or by , emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and putting “membership” in the subject line.
Members will get a bi-monthly e-magazine that is produced by Chester and young people in his Wild Wishes® program as well as special access to Moore and his team.
“Wild Wishes® grants wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness or loss of a parent or sibling. We’ve granted 110 of these so far and over the course of six years some of the kids as they’ve gotten older want to work in conservation so we are mentoring them. The first issue of Higher Calling has three of the articles as well as some artwork done by these young people. As we go along the goal is for me to do one piece per issue and them do the rest. We are not giving lip service to raising up young people. We are actually doing it,” Moore said.
Moore said one of the keys to this is Texas Fish & Game owner’s Roy and Ardia Neve’s desire to give back and help and willingness to support their kids’s outreach by distributing through fishgame.com and their e-newsletter.
“They have been amazing giving me space to push the envelope on conservation but also give me a chance to talk about some of the wishes we’ve granted and things we’ve been able to accomplish by God’s grace. And it has been amazing seeing that happen and then the young people wanting to get deeply into conservation. Working for the Neves and TF&G is an honor,” Moore said.
One of the young ladies, Reannah Hollaway shares her story in the first issue as the Texas Tech student got to participate in a desert bighorn capture at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
Anyone who signs up this month gets an additional free e-mag special edition called The Wildlife Of Israel that gives a unique look into the abundant wildlife in the Holy Land.
“We’re small and grass roots,” said Reannah Hollaway.
“But we’re passionate and excited to do something unique for wildlife conservation.”
There is nothing more majestic than a bighorn ram navigating its mountain domain where the air is thin and the scenery stunning.
As me and my wife Lisa photographed a gorgeous Rocky Mountain bighorn ram enjoying a natural mineral lick at 12,000 feet in Colorado, another ram appeared.
Popping its head up over what looked like a sheer cliff from our angle, the younger ram carefully made it’s away toward the lick, cautiously approaching the older and larger animal.
I thanked God for the moment because I knew it was He that put me and Lisa on this path.
Six months earlier the Holy Spirit whispered the words “Higher Calling” into my spirit and put me on a trajectory that led me on a path of deeper purpose and of elevated expectations.
As COVID-19 continues to shake the world and people debate everything from wearing masks to rioting, there is no doubt times are confusing.
In his letter to the church in Phillip, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
And that’s what seeing the great animals of the high country reminds me of-God, His Creation and divine purpose.
There was a reason these rams had a mineral lick in their alpine habitat and they instinctively knew they needed it.
When the universe was flung into Creation, those purposes were built into the Earth and the sheep and here we were witnessing it.
There is something pure about mountain air and special about the creatures that thrive in these environments.
Wild sheep don’t always live in the highest altitudes though. They will move down into valleys and fields to feed. And when they do, they are often in grave danger.
There has been a pandemic of sorts ongoing with wild sheep in North America since the 1800s when domestic sheep entered their landscape. Carrying bacterial pneumonia, they transfer it to their wild cousins and the results have been catastrophic.
From two million wild sheep on the continent when Lewis and Clark set out on their expedition to 25,000 or so in 1900 it was brutal.
Hunter-conservationists and concenred fish and game agencies stepped in and through translocation and careful management have brought numbers up to around 175,000 but the threat still exists. And wild sheep still die when the co-mingle with domestics.
Maybe there’a s lesson here for us.
Co-mingling with those infected can only bring trouble.
The coronavirus is one aspect but I am talking about all of the infection of the hateful, vicious fighting over issues that will only truly be settled when the Lord returns. I am talking about the abandonment of honor for fellow humans.
At 12,000 fee that day there were no political debates, election ads, controversies of social issues or division thereof.
It was just me, my wife, what ended up being three Rocky Mountain bighorn rams and a tangible sense of God’s presence.
If I had not heeded the words “Higher Calling”, we would not have experienced this and many things in my life would be different.
This blog would not even exist.
There is something to this whole “Higher Calling” thing and that is for each of us to discover and I believe those who purpose it in their hearts will do so in 2020.
And I am soon heading back to the mountains to do just that.
(Houston, TX- June 24, 2020) Houston Safari Club Foundation (HSCF) and “Hunting Matters” welcome Chester Moore, an award-winning wildlife journalist, and conservationist and Editor-In-Chief of Texas Fish & Game. Moore will appear on the program 6-7 a.m. Saturday, June 27 on KPRC AM 950.
Chester is Editor-In-Chief of Texas Fish & Game magazine and contributes to Sports Afield, Hunter’s Horn, Deer & Deer Hunting, Tide, The Lakecaster, and many others. He is the host of “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and of The Higher Calling podcast. Chester has authored 15 books including Hog Wild: Hog Hunting Facts, Tips & Strategies, Texas Waterfowl, and Flounder Fever. He is a lifelong hunter and angler who enjoys everything from bowhunting wild turkeys to surf fishing for sharks to fly fishing for rainbow trout.
His heart is for conservation and youth. He was awarded the Advocatus Magni award in 2020 from the National Wild Turkey Federation for his work with wild turkeys, the Mossy Oak Outdoors Legacy award in 2017 for his work with children and wildlife, and was named a “Hero Of Conservation” by Field & Stream magazine. Altogether he has won more than 150 awards for conservation, writing, radio, and photography. He and his wife Lisa operate the Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center® and Wild Wishes® programs which give wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness, in the foster system or who have lost a parent or sibling. Their latest project is Higher Calling Wild Wishes Expeditions which takes teens from those programs into the forest and mountains to mentor them in using photography and video to raise awareness and funds for wildlife conservation.
His favorite animals are wild sheep and his most amazing wildlife encounter was cage diving with great white sharks in the Pacific. His most important roles however are as a follower of Christ, husband, father, and mentor.
“Hunting Matters” airs each Saturday from 6 am-7 am CST on KPRC AM 950 – Real Texas, Real Talk, a Houston iHeartMedia station, and Houston’s longest-running radio station. Listen live online here. You may also listen to each episode as a podcast, following live airing, by downloading the SPREAKER app to any of your devices! Or, listen online, at spreaker.com/show/hunting-matters.
About Houston Safari Club Foundation
Houston Safari Club Foundation (HSCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve the sport of hunting through education, conservation, and the promotion of our hunting heritage. HSCF has awarded 550 scholarships totaling $2.5 million dollars. HSCF conducts youth outdoor education programs, career training, hunter education, and field experiences throughout the year. HSCF has provided over $4 million in grants for hunter-funded wildlife, habitat, and various conservation initiatives. HSCF is an independent organization, is not affiliated with Safari Club International (SCI) or its affiliates and is not a chapter or affiliate of any other organization. Visit our website at wehuntwegive.org or call 713.623.8844 for more information. HSCF. We Hunt. We Give
Oh beautiful for spacious skies for amber waves of grain.
I’ll never forget sitting alone on a rock on a distant hill in South Dakota watching the northern lights as a pack of coyotes sang in the distance. The skies were truly spacious and grain plentiful as I ended a long day of pheasant hunting with friends.
For purple mountain’s majesty. Above the fruited plain.
Just as the sun rose above the Montana mountains, I could finally understand the lyric “purple mountain’s majesty” as one of the peaks in the distance had a light purple hue. It was a special moment because in the plain below, just in front of me were two pronghorn bucks in an intense battle, almost as if to say, “I’ll be the king of this majestic scene.”
Oh, America how God truly shed His grace on thee, even before anyone other than the Creator Himself set foot here you were special.
And I have been exceedingly blessed to see so much of your beauty.
From the incredible pink dolphin that graced our presence on the Louisiana coastline to the hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese I have seen in those marshes.
From the Rocky Mountain bighorn I photographed at 12,000 feet in Colorado to the big eastern gobbler I bagged in the rolling hills of New York.
And Texas, our Texas, oh hail my home state.
From the big bucks of the Pineywoods to the ocelots in the valley to the clear streams of the Hill Country and the mule deer of the west. You are incredible.
America was not chosen by First Nations people or European settlers because it was a big chunk of land. It was because of abundant timber, water and wildlife. America’s very greatness is tied to its wildness.
Naturalist Henry David Thoreau wrote that, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
And while the exact intent of Thoreau’s quote has been debated since he wrote it, there is no question America without wilderness is not America at all.
And the further we get from the roots our ancestors planted, the further off track we’ve become. There are agendas on top of agendas for destruction of this nation. To plunder it To control it. To manipulate it and confuse.
There are so many voices demanding our attention, it is crucial that all hunters, anglers, hikers, campers and wildlife lovers go out into the wild for clarity.
I just returned from a remote area of Texas and at one point found myself in crystal clear water, surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs and there was no one around. Even my fishing partners were about 1/2 mile away and it was just me, God and His creation.
There was no one telling me who to be angry with. There was no one demanding political affiliation, holding a sign or fighting.
America looked quite beautiful from here and I suspect on my coming trip to Alaska it will be just as majestic. As I seek to photograph Dall sheep, the only intent will be to capture one of the Lord’s finest creations to share with the world so others can care about their existence.
When I have been on wild turkey releases, bighorn captures, bay cleanups and stream enhancement projects there has been only one true agenda. To keep America wild and ensure what our forefathers no matter where they came from first marveled over when reaching the country remains.
Don’t let anyone tell you America is not beautiful anymore.
Don’t let anyone tell the nation is not worthy of adoration. I have ventured from sea to shining sea and feel blessed I was born here to experience the wild things that inhabit our woodlands, waterways, mountains, prairies, marshes, deserts and tundra.
Politics and media manipulation enter the woods only if you bring it.
It’s time to go beyond the pavement, into the wild and thank God for shining His most creative blessings on the United States of America and its wild lands.
In January 2019, I had an incredible experience while praying.
The Lord impressed two words upon me-“Higher Calling”.
I could feel the weight and depth of it in my bones as I knew a significant shift was coming to my life. It was one of those few times where I knew the Lord had a message for me to unravel.
Some say He no longer communicates with people but Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice”. (John 10:27)
And in this case, the significance of sheep cannot be overstated.
That prayer time began a journey of soul-searching and a path back toward the very beginnings of my career as a wildlife journalist and even younger.
For starters I knew the Lord wanted me to dedicate more time to Him, studying His word and praying. That was first.
But there was more.
I love pretty much all aspects of fishing, hunting, and wildlife but if someone had given me a chance to do anything I wanted at 19 years of age when this journey began I would have pursued the wildlife of the mountains and forests.
I’ve always written about it but when paying opportunities came in other areas of the outdoors industry, I went where chances to make a living came.
Very much of that for me was in the Gulf coast fishing boom of the 1990s and early 2000s. I have loved coastal fishing my whole life so it was natural for me.
But my deepest love has always been mountain and forest wildlife.
So, last year I decided to put all career time outside of what I do at Texas Fish & Game toward writing about and advancing the cause of the conservation of mountain and forest wildlife. That is why this blog exists and the Higher Calling podcast and it has expanded into articles in numerous national and regional publications.
By discerning the two words “Higher Calling”, a new purpose was birthed into my writing and broadcasting and an epic year ensued.
I went from having never photographed bighorn sheep to photographing them in four different states. I went having only hunted and photographed Rio Grande turkeys to photographing the Grand Slam of the four major subspecies all in 2019.
And I managed to bag a big eastern gobbler in New York in the process.
In the fall of last year, we started a new outreach of our ministry called Higher Calling Wild Wishes Expeditions which has the goal of taking kids in our Wild Wishes program into mountain regions to train them to be wildlife conservationists. Wild Wishes grants wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness or loss of a parent or sibling.
Plans were on tap for Central Texas, Colorado, and Montana.
Then COVID-19 came.
The Colorado trip has been at the very least postponed.
Montana is still up in the air and we will probably pull off the Texas trip. But it has been disheartening as we had some special teens lined up for some incredible opportunities that are shaky at best now.
People can say what they want about the coronavirus but at the time of this writing there were more than 60,000 people dead from it in the United States alone and economic depression looms like vultures circling a carcass.
It’s pretty ugly out there.
But I remain hopeful.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ. That means I believe in His virgin birth, death, burial, and resurrection.
And although I fail more often than I would like to admit, I try to follow his teachings and example. It’s why Lisa and I work so hard to help children going through illness and trauma.
And since I believe in a supernatural God, I believe supernatural things can happen. I believe in healings. I believe in deliverance and I believe in hope that we can have great lives despite the chaos.
I was a little boy from a lower-middle-income home who grew up in the oil industry bust of the late 70s/early 80s. We could barely afford to hunt in East Texas near our home much less pursue the great wildlife of the mountains.
My Dad and I would cut our favorite photos out of old Sports Afield,Field & Stream and Outdoor Life magazines and paste them in scrapbooks. We would dream of hunting around the country together and in our 700 square foot home in Orange, TX we were the best hunting team in the world.
Dad died of natural causes on a hunting trip with me in South Texas in 2014 at age 71. He just shot the second biggest buck of life, topped only by the one he shot on the same ranch the year before. A connection I made in the industry became a friend and let me and Dad live out our deer hunting dreams on his ranch.
I am eternally grateful for that.
I hated to lose Dad but there is no better way or place he could have made his trip to Heaven.
I almost quit hunting after that.
For a couple of years there it just wasn’t the same. Dad was my hunting partner and it felt so strange to be in the field without him. I would always support hunting but two years ago, I had plans no one knew about to go bury Dad’s deer rifle on the ranch he died on and walk away from hunting.
It was just too hard emotionally.
But my friend Josh Slone who came into my life through our Wild Wishes program had been inspiring me to keep at it. Every time we got around each other the conversation was hunting and it often ended up being about our mutual dream of sheep hunting.
You see right after I got the words “Higher Calling”, I found those old scrapbooks in one of my mom’s storage bins.
Opening them up again was like opening up my childhood and being back in Dad’s lap.
And as I looked at the pages I was blown away that the majority of photos were of wild sheep and wild turkeys in that order. And those were the first two things I felt I needed to pursue on the career and conservation side of a higher calling.
The Lord had taken me back to the beginning of my life and a deep, profound love of wild sheep and wild turkeys that was rekindled like a wildfire.
In the ancient Book of Pslams, the Psalmist writes “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
I look back at 2019 and had more desires of my heart fulfilled than I have in 10 years before that from wildlife and career perspective.
And although 2020 has been scary for all of us, I have been able to photograph desert bighorns in Nevada and capture a very rare photo of an eastern turkey in East Texas as part of the Turkey Revolution project.
I had a great hunting season and feel as alive in the woods bow hunting and turkey hunting as I did as a young man.
I am no one special.
But I get to do special things because I put my relationship with Christ first and work extremely hard on the vision of wildlife conservation and helping hurting children receive peace through wildlife encounters.
That is the true higher calling.
Without those two words, I felt in my spirit because I took time to pray, my life would look very different this year.
I am extremely concerned about the status of the outdoors industry that I have made a living in for 28 years. Like most Americans, I don’t know what is next. In this process, I have fears that need to be conquered as a man, provider, and conservationist.
But I am placing my trust in God and realizing I have a cause that is greater than the desire for even commerce.
I would continue using my God-given talent of communication on wildlife’s behalf even if there was no paycheck. I’m going to do everything I can, of course, to make sure the paychecks keep coming but that’s how much I believe in what I do.
This blog doesn’t pay. The podcast doesn’t either. These are things I do because I followed the Lord’s direction on “Higher Calling” and to keep the cause of conservation of mountain and forest wildlife front and center.
Lisa and I have never received a dime for our work with children. All of the money in our nonprofit goes to the cause and we are believing donors will continue to support what we do.
I can’t help but think about Jesus’ quote that His sheep hear his voice.
As His follower, I am one of those sheep and it blows my mind that because of hearing “Higher Calling” and doing something about it, He has led me to the wild sheep He created in the beginning and to childhood dreams never realized.
I thought seriously about this as I photographed a gorgeous desert bighorn in Nevada that actually walked down toward me after I climbed a treacherous mountainside. The beautiful ram essentially posed in perfect sunlight!
In this case, which sheep heard his voice?
Was it me who followed the call?
Or was it the ram?
Perhaps the Lord brought it down to let me know He was there with me when Dad and I were cutting out pictures of rams and putting them in a scrapbook when I was six.
And He was there with me 40 years later on the mountain.
I can’t describe what that feels like.
Sometimes it’s hard to feel truly loved in this crazy, often dark world but as I knew the Lord brought me and that ram together. the Creator’s love was tangible.
I praise Him for the opportunity and for the higher calling.
His love for all of us is astounding. We just have to pray and listen.
Remember, His sheep hear His voice.
And I am living proof He still speaks to His flock.
COVID-19-the coronavirus has caused historic lockdowns of access to countries, states and communities around the world.
And while the human risk should be the first priority, there is huge concern for an impact on wildlife. This is the first in a series of podcasts on this topic as we see how the loss of hunting and ecotourism dollars in Africa could spell disaster for rhinos, elephants and many other species.
Please share this message. It needs to get out there.
This podcast is a must listen and so is this series. More to come…
Join The Wildlife Journalist® and award-wining conservationist Chester Moore as he discusses the connection between what we are experiencing in this pandemic setting and what nearly wiped out wild sheep in America in the 1800s.