Tag Archives: chester moore

COVID-19 And The State Of Wild Turkeys

COVID-19 started making a strong impact just as turkey seasons around the country were opening.

With public land, border and even hunting season closures it changed the dynamic of this season.

But it will have an even greater impact on turkey conservation as spring is the peak fundraising season at the local level for the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).

Check out his podcast with Chester Moore and Becky Humphries, CEO of NWTF as they discuss this and why turkeys are a cornerstone species for conservation in America. Listen below.

Coronavirus And Its Shocking Global Impact On Wildlife

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.

Listen here.

Please share this message. It needs to get out there.

This podcast is a must listen and so is this series. More to come…

Chester Moore, Jr.

COVID-19 And The Wild Sheep Decline: An Interesting Parallel

The impact of COVID-19, the coronavirus on humanity, is nothing short of historic.

While the death toll has not and hopefully will not reach the levels of the Spanish flu of 1918, the potential is there, and the grip it has on government, commerce, and private citizens is unprecedented.

That’s why I can’t help but make parallels between COVID-19 and the near-catastrophic decline of wild sheep of the 1800s.

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The author photographed this bighorn at 12,000 feet in an area where grazing is restricted but these sheep don’t stay here all the time. Moving into grazing areas is a highly dangerous proposition. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

When Lewis & Clark set out on their epic expedition, there were around two million wild sheep in North America. By 1900, there were fewer than 25,000 according to some estimates.

And while it would be easy to blame it on unregulated hunting and market killing which no doubt had some impact, by far the biggest killer was pneumonia.

Coming from domestic sheep, it hit wild herds as they co-mingled in the valleys and mountains during the westward expansion of European settlement. Millions of sheep died, and if it were not for conscientious hunters and fish and game departments around the nation, there would likely be no wild sheep left today.

Listen to Chester Moore discuss this issue and give some inspiration on wild sheep conservation at his new podcast “Higher Calling”.

It’s a story few have heard outside of wild sheep hunting and biologist circles, but now is the time.

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Notice the mountains in the background of this sheep lot. Have wild sheep mingled with herds in this area? (Public Domain Photo)

The decline of wild sheep is second only to the government-sponsored bison slaughter in the depth of impact on a species in North America.

Humans are now quarantined, and in effect, bighorns are in many areas.

In 2016, Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) officials killed six bighorns because backpackers saw them co-mingling with domestic sheep. The bacterial form of pneumonia can be brought back to the herd and transmitted to lambs.

“When you have the lambs dying, it’s hard to build a population,” said CPW spokesman Joe Lewandowski in The Durango Herald.

“As wildlife managers, we look at populations, not individual animals. In this case, we know an individual animal could spread the disease to the larger herd, and then we have a bigger problem.”

This is not an uncommon practice in wild sheep management.

While translocations, strict herd management, and grazing restrictions have brought sheep numbers continent-wide into the 150-175,000 range, pneumonia is still the most significant threat. Still, there are no specials on Animal Planet or Nat Geo Wild or any other mainstream media outlets. This pandemic has been going on with wild sheep for 150 years, and only the hunting community, fish and game agencies, and biologists seem to care.

The focus should now be on saving people and the economies of the world, but there is space to teach a valuable lesson on wildlife conservation. There has never been a point in recent history where this particular story of wild sheep has such a great chance to touch the hearts of millions of wildlife enthusiasts.

During the downtime from work and school, people are looking for things to occupy their time and inspired, informative media on some of the beautiful animals in North America can help fill some of that void.

That is what this post is all about. I’m doing my best to let people know that when the dust settles on COVID-19 (and me and my family are praying daily that will happen soon), sheep will still have their own pandemic to face.

Concerned conservationists have done a remarkable job building herds throughout North America, but these conservationists are aging quickly, and new blood needs to step up to the plate.

Maybe something good that can come out of this tragedy is that some young person is motivated to get involved with sheep conservation. Perhaps being isolated, afraid of mingling with others and under the potential threat of death itself because of an unseen force will inspire action.

Sheep, of course, have no way to conceptualize these things, but they don’t need to when caring conservationists are in place in fish and game departments, conservation groups, and halls of the legislature.

COVID-19 may be momentarily stealing our freedoms, but it can’t rob the wild and enduring spirit of those thoughtful enough to make a bold stand for bighorns and their thinhorn cousins.

That force is as majestic as the sheep themselves.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Wildlife Journalist Honored For Bighorn Writings

Wildlife journalist Chester Moore has been honored for his writings on bighorn sheep hunting and conservation.

He won first place for the “Outdoors Column ” category in the Texas Outdoor Writers Association Excellence in Craft awards for his bighorn sheep story entitled “New Life For New Mexico’s Bighorns”. The story appeared at Higher Calling and in the Wild Sheep Foundation’s Mountain Minutes newsletter.

Moore at home with his two “Excellence In Craft” awards.

He also received a second place award in the “Feature” category for his “Desert Homecoming” story in Sports Afield that detailed the comeback of Texas’ desert bighorn herd. 

“I’ve been doing a lot on wild sheep, trying to get the word out on their conservation needs and the absolute triumph that hunter-based conservation has been for all wild sheep in North America. It’s a real honor to be recognized for these writings.”

Moore is a staunch supporter of sheep and mountain wildlife conservation is a member of The Wild Sheep Foundation, Texas Bighorn Society and Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society as well as the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance. He is also a member of The Houston Safari Club Foundation and National Wild Turkey Federation.

Additionally, in January at the National Wild Turkey Federation-Texas state convention Moore was awarded the “Advocatus Magni” award for his work as an advocate for wild turkey conservation.

Chester won the “Advocatus Magni Award” from the National Wild Turkey Federation for his work as an advocate of wild turkey conservation.

“This is such a tremendous honor,” Moore said.

“Wild turkeys are a passion of mine and I believe if we get turkey conservation right all forest species will benefit. Even wild sheep benefit from certain turkey enhancement projects like controlled burning. To get an award like this is truly inspiring.”

Deep Woods Dangers Pt. 2: Murder Mountain

“You need to watch Murder Mountain.

Spoken somberly from a National Forest Service game warden, those words got my attention.

As we conversed at the National Wild Turkey Federation convention in Nashville, I asked if he ever worked Humboldt County, Ca.

And as I related a personal experience from there nearly 20 years ago, he recommended the six-part Netflix series.

“There are missing people, murders and drug trafficking. You were lucky to get out,” he said.

In 2002 me and my father set out on a mission to explore the Pacific Northwest after my great white shark cage dive adventure in San Francisco. I had heard a bit about pot growers in the area but nothing that seemed worse than where I live in East Texas.

Boy was I wrong.

One night on our trip we set out to try out our new night vision goggles and to record night wildlife sounds in the stunningly beautiful mountains in the Trinity Alps. When I tell you this was in the middle of nowhere it might be hard for you to imagine just how far unless you’ve been to that part of the world.

We pulled up a few minutes after the sunset and planned to stay through the night.

As Dad started taking out the equipment, I walked over to a good viewing spot to look down into the valley with the night vision goggles.

The moon was full so visibility was high.

If anything came into the clearings below we should get a glimpse, I thought.

Then I saw it.

A beam of light shot up toward our position.

“Dad, did you see that?” I asked as I pulled off the goggles.

“What?”

“A light beam just shone toward us,” I replied.

“I didn’t see it, he said.”

Neither did I now that the goggles were off.

I put them back on, and a few seconds later I could see the light beam moving up toward us. I took them off and couldn’t see the light.

Immediately I knew that someone was below, traveling with night vision and using an infrared light only visible with night vision technology.

The drug activity warning hit me and I readied to retreat. I knew whoever was down there was not listening for bugling elk like we were.

Just as I shouted for Dad to throw the gear back in the SUV, headlights of a vehicle came on about 3/4 mile ahead of us.

We were on one side of a logging road that cut across a mountain.

This was on the other side of the mountain road. Someone had been signaled.

We shoved our gear into the SUV and sped out of there, but by the time we hit the road so did the truck from the other side. They were headed straight for us. At one point I was going 80 down the mountain, and they were just a few feet away—literally an arm’s length from hitting us.

I knew that was their goal.

After what seemed like forever we got to the base of the mountain on one of the main roads going toward Willow Creek. As soon as we turned back toward that little city, they turned back up the mountain.

The author finds himself in remote locations frequently. And while they are often beautiful like this aspen-covered hill in the Rockies, danger often lurks. The biggest game is usually in the most remote locations and sometimes so are the most evil people.

Had I not went with my gut feeling, we might have been killed or at least gotten into a very tense situation.

Well, being chased down a mountain is pretty tense, isn’t it?

Over the years I have learned a few things about staying safe in the woods from people with bad intentions. Please share this with others.

It could save their lives.

#Bad Vibes: If you feel bad about going into an area don’t go. I am a follower of Christ. I believe sometimes this is the Holy Spirit telling me to stay away. You may not believe that, but just call it a “gut feeling” and go with it.

#Never Alone: As much as I love to be in the distant forest alone with my camera—don’t you do it. Always bring someone along. Preferably someone who is experienced in the woods. You are far more likely to get hurt by evil people if you are alone.

#Pack Heat: If it’s legal where you are then use your Second Amendment right, and carry a firearm. Make sure you are trained in its use and be prepared to do what is necessary.

Better you defend yourself against a maniac than become a statistic. Also, carry a large knife with you. In close quarters it could save your life.

#Study the Area: The Internet is a great tool for studying areas. If you find out an area is a high drug trafficker area for, for example; avoid it like the plague.

Stay away!

I have several areas I no longer frequent because of this issue.

#Stay Calm: If you do encounter people in the woods who seem uneasy or a bit shifty, stay calm. Getting angry or showing fear is a good way to trigger someone who has violent tendencies.

#Travel Plan: Leave your spouse or close friends a travel plan and let them know the points you plan to explore. Give them a time frame. Let them know to call for help if you have not returned by a certain time or day.

#Strategic Parking: Always park your vehicle facing out of the area as you check out. In a tight spot, you don’t want to have to back up and turn around during a retreat. Also park in a spot in a clear area that you can see from a distance. If someone is waiting on you or has moved into the spot, it will give you a chance to assess the situation and prepare.

#Don’t Try to be a Hero: If you see strangers poaching in the woods at night for example, don’t be a hero and try to stop them. They are armed and probably will use their weapons on you if you try to stop them. Call and report activity to local game wardens and get out as quickly as possible.

#Buy And Carry A Beacon: I carry a Spot-X beacon that will alert all rescue personnel at the touch of a button. Don’t rely just on a cell phone. Get a beacon of some kind too.

#Talk To Locals: Not all information is on social media. Talking to locals in a gun shop or sporting goods store can give you good intel on the local region.

Seeking wildlife in the mountains and forest is one of the most exciting things a person can do, but it has its share of dangers. Keep these tips in mind and you should be available to avoid any serious trouble.

After studying a map, I was probably 10 miles or so from the actual Murder Mountain documented in the series but deep in a county with many missing people, murders and mayhem.

Do you have any harrowing stories of running into dangerous people in the woods? If so, email me at chester@chestermoore.com.

To read pt. 1 of the Deep Woods Dangers series click here.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Moore Honored For Turkey Conservation

The Wildlife Journalist® and Higher Calling blog publisher Chester Moore was awarded the National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) “Advocatus Magni Award” for being an outstanding advocate of wild turkey conservation and hunting.

Moore received the award at the NWTF Texas banquet in College Station, TX and said it a true honor to be recognized by such a prestigious organization and for something he believes in wholeheartedly.

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“As turkeys go, so do America’s forests. If we get turkey conservation right then everything from whitetail deer to gopher tortoises and wild sheep benefit,” he said.

In 2019 Moore embarked on a quest to raise awareness to turkey conservation and began by photographing the Grand Slam of turkeys around the nation in one year.

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Two Rio Grande gobblers the author photographed on his Turkey Revolution® quest in 2019.

“There’s much more to come. This award inspires me to do even more and explore things like the link between turkeys and sheep in their shared range. It’s going to be a great year,” he said.

The highlight will be taking a group of teen’s from Moore’s Wild Wishes® program into Colorado on a search for wild sheep, turkeys and elk in the mountains.

wwexped turkey

These Higher Calling Wild Wishes Expeditions will take these young people who have a critical illness or loss of a parent or sibling on a special conservation mission trip to raise awareness to sheep, turkey and elk habitat and conservation issues.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support this important program click here.

 

Sheep Show Highlights Hope

A desert bighorn ram crossed the steep, rocky opening with incredible ease.

I had struggled to quietly get within photo range without slipping and falling to my death for longer than I would like to admit. The ram, however, crossed through a much more treacherous spot with impunity-in seconds.

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A beautiful desert bighorn ram walks across a steep, rocky slope. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

Seeing their ability to survive and thrive in such habitat is one of the things that draws men to seek out wild sheep-whether with a camera, rifle or bow and arrow.

And Jan. 15-17, thousands of sheep enthusiasts gathered in Reno, NV. at the annual Sheep Show hosted by The Wild Sheep Foundation.

It was my first time attending and I came both as a fan of wild sheep and a wildlife journalist wanting to get the story on what makes this group of people tick.

The fan was satisfied as soon as I walked through the doors of the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

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The author with a beautiful Dall sheep mount at the Wild Sheep Foundation’s Sheep Show in Reno, NV. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

Anyone into wild sheep would be impressed with incredible wild sheep taxidermy displays and hundreds of booths ranging from outfitters specializing in argali hunts in Tajikistan to Colorado’s grass-roots Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society.

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An incredible argali display created by Wildlife Revolutions-Taxidermy Studio. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

A melanistic desert bighorn taken in Mexico was of particular interest as well as a mountain-style display of wild sheep and goats from Asia.

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A melanistic desert bighorn taken in the 2019 season in Baja Mexico on a hunt arranged by Bo Morgan of Go With Bo, a well known outfitting company. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

Sheep hunting is not for the out of shape was evidenced by conversations with outfitters who start some of their hunts at upwards of 12,000 feet.

And it’s not for the out of work either.

While lottery-style draw permits gives the working-class man access to sheep hunting, much of it is a wealthy man’s game.

But that has come as a benefit to wild sheep.

Whereas whitetail deer can pay for themselves through standard hunting licenses fees due to their huge distribution and strong populations, sheep can’t survive through that model.

Auctioning off a portion of tags to wealthy hunters at banquets like those held at the Sheep Show funds a huge part of wild sheep conservation efforts. And whereas whitetail need studying and observation, sheep need an entirely different level of management.

Moving sheep from areas with high population densities to low and making sure they do not co-mingle with domestic sheep that can pass on deadly pneumonia is incredibly expensive.

Without groups like The Wild Sheep Foundation which according to president Gray Thornton spent more than $6 million on conservation efforts in 2019 along with regional groups like the Texas Bighorn Society and Alaska Wild Sheep Foundation, sheep would be in real trouble.

Tags at these auctions regularly go more than $100,000 and some coveted tags like those for Montana’s giant rams have fetched more than $400,000.

The hunters with that kind of coin could easily hunt big rams with outfitters who have tags and spend less. But these hunters believe in conservation and don’t mind spending to make it happen.

The most impressive part of the event came at the beer reception for the Less Than One Club. Its a subgroup of The Wild Sheep Foundation for members who have never taken a wild sheep.

More than 2,000 people attended this year’s event, shattering the previous record and showing an incredible diversity of people.

I’m a member and despite having traveled and written all over North America have never taken a sheep.

Neither had the lifelong sheep biologist who I sat with or the 28-year-old girl I met who dreamed of sheep hunting. Virtually very income level, background, ethnicity and state in the union was represented and everyone was truly excited.

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Pete Muennich of the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance announces the winner of the annual “Billy Goat Club” drawing for a mountain goat hunt.  The Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance partners with The Wild Sheep Foundation on this event. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

And although I don’t have official demographics, I estimate a third of that room was 35 years and younger and half under 45. In the hunting world those are impressive numbers and they show hope for the future of wild sheep.

Enthusiasm for these great animals is not limited by age, income bracket or location. It’s universal to those who have somehow found a fascination with wild sheep.

Three Dall sheep hunts were given away that night in draws that had everyone on their edge of their seats. Asian ibex hunts were given away for the international component of this unique club that everyone in the room inherently wants to be disqualified from.

The day after the show, I drove seven-hour span from Reno to Las Vegas to attend the SHOT Show on behalf of Texas Fish & Game magazine. It was an incredible drive through stunning country with frequent “Bighorn Crossing” signs.

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Bighorn crossing signs are a common sight in many areas of Nevada, highlighting the state’s high level management of these ungulates. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

I had learned about a tract of public land with a good sheep population and hoped I would be able to photograph my first sheep in Nevada and by God’s grace and good information there was the sheep at the beginning of this story.

I could not help but think back to the Sheep Show and wonder if this beautiful, young ram would even be here without the love of those in the sheep-hunting community.

Just as I decided to head back down as not to spook the ram, he made his way down toward me.

He stopped about 75 yards away, highlighted perfectly by the brilliant desert sun and essentially posed while looking right at me. I could now make out a tag in his ear with a very easily identifiable number.

This ram had at some point been captured, documented and maybe even moved from another area to here.

That kind of management doesn’t come cheap and it does not come without people who believe in wild sheep management like the Nevada Department of Wildlife and The Wild Sheep Foundation.

The beautiful creature turned and headed back up the slope, this time journeying to the peak and over.

I left Nevada with great hope for the future of sheep and sheep hunting thanks to the Sheep Show and a deeper curiosity about Nevada and it’s three varieties of wild sheep.

More on that to come soon.

Chester Moore, Jr.