Take a minute to imagine. You are waiting on the wings of a stage. Your staff starts the introduction and you can feel the energy of the crowd rising. It's palpable. As you come onto stage you've got to stomp your boots just to release the energy, it's a mix of happy dance and a powerful, shit kicking, get things done stomp! This is how Backcountry Hunters and Anglers CEO, Land Tawney, came onto stage Saturday night at this year's Rendezvous. The crowd roared to their feet, the eruption was a beautiful give and take between Land and all of us. Land has been a tremendous leader the last few years and we the people have risen to meet his exuberance. In one year the constituency grew 100% and is up over 20k members. It is the fastest growing conservation sportsman group in the nation. And at this year's Rendezvous we welcomed one of our most powerful allies Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia.
Over the last year I have tried to build a bridge between my first home the Outdoor Recreation Community and my second home The Hunting and Fishing community. This past winter, along with my friends from Wylder Goods and Argali Outdoors we threw a Venison Diplomacy house party during the Winter Outdoor Retailer trade show in Denver. It brought these two communities together to talk about combining our love for public lands and being a force for good and positive change. With high level folks from various brands attending, it seemed like a real step in the right direction.
The week leading up to the Rendezvous I came to find out that Yvon would be attending and also be speaking at the Campfire Storytelling event Saturday night. That information was capped off with the fact that the Hunt To Eat booth was going to be right next to the Patagonia booth. As a business owner I have come to admire Yvon more. Before it was mostly about his mountaineering exploits, now it's for the way he has carried himself and his company forward. He has lived a life for which he does not apologize. While no one is perfect, he has led a life based on his principles and makes no qualms about it. And if the success of Patagonia is any measure, he has lived a damn fine life. I hope to look back at 80 years old and see that I too lived by my principles and had such a profound effect.
The Campfire Storytelling event was certainly the highlight of the Rendezvous. Remi Warren, a highly skilled, badass backcountry hunter, made us cry with a love story. And Yvon Chouinard made us all blush. Now I am a unabashed fan of Patagonia, but Yvon and therefore Patagonia have gotten a bad rap as many have perpetuated the lie that they are anti-hunting. They are not. Do you know that Patagonia makes a upland bird hunting jacket and pants? Yvon told us all real hunting stories. He started by telling how he raised his kids with two main rules to live by: Don't waste food and don't let something suffer. What followed were stories of his kids having life and death interactions with animals. One story included walking the beach after a big oil spill and snapping the necks of see gulls who were covered in oil so they would not suffer any longer. Another story included hitting a deer with a car, it wasn't dead, so clad in a cocktail dress his daughter wrestled the deer and snapped its neck and tried shoving it in the trunk of the car to take home and butcher.
After hearing Yvon's stories I truly appreciate his sense of humor. It is dry, witty and dark. I laughed so hard I slid out of my chair while he spoke. While he is mostly an angler and upland bird hunter, he does have a freezer full of deer and elk at home. In fact, he told my wife that during the massive California fires he had to go buy a generator and sneak back to his house to plug in his chest freezer because he did not want to loose his meat stash.
Speak truth to power. Now is not a time to be careful, now is a time to be dareful. Now is not a time to be divisive, it is a time to be inclusive. Now is not a time to worry about your bottom dollar, it's a time to stand up for the land and the animals and make sure that someone is speaking for them. With the Land and Water conservation fund set to expire we must rally. We must yell from the rooftops. We must come together: mountain bikers, climbers, anglers, birders, boaters, runners, backpackers and hunters to speak truth to power. We all must give more, more time and more money.
Often hunters are thought to be the only consumptive users of public lands but given the growth of recreational use in our country, every hiker has an impact. If you are the in the Outdoor Recreation community it is time for you to ask the very hard question, how do you give back. It is time for brands to step up and lead by establishing a backpack tax similar to the Pittman Robertson Act. A 0.5% tax on every piece of gear you buy could reshape conservation efforts in an epic fashion. From conversations overheard during this year's Rendezvous I know there is one who supports this type of tax, so for the rest of you, this is your moment to step up before they do. Thanks to the wisdom of my community my views on this statement have shifte. Please read Public Lands need Public Support to learn how they have evolved. Coming SOON!
As I move forward to deliver the Hunting and Fishing community apparel that is cool, know that every purchase will give back a little bit to help protect the land and the animals. We are working on many new collaborations with non-profits across the spectrum. We will also give you designs that help start a conversation and that give you a moment to speak truth to power.