By Trail Kreitzer, Professional Hunt Advisor, July 2016
I consider it an honor and a privilege to be joining the Huntin’ Fool team. I am excited for the opportunity to contribute to the monthly magazine, and hopefully I will get to visit with many of you in the future. The chance to gain new knowledge and the exchange of information and ideas is critical to expanding all of our hunting opportunities and ultimately improving the probability of tagging out. We are a community of hunters, and I am genuinely grateful and eager to be a part of it and your research process.
My love of the outdoors is largely due to the opportunity I had to be raised in a rural setting where most of my free time was spent outside. My parents were originally from Indiana, but my father’s desire to explore and hunt the mountains of the West eventually led us to Antimony, a tiny town in southern Utah. I grew up across the street from Otter Creek Reservoir, surrounded by some of the most famous elk and deer country in the West. My closest neighbor was a mile to the east. I had miles of river bottom, irrigated fields, and sagebrush steppe out the sliding glass backdoor. One of my favorite pictures from my childhood is of two bull elk feeding in the yard 50 yards behind me while I sat on the picnic table.
Every fall, my family hunted Utah’s general season deer hunt. Some of my fondest memories are trudging along in oversized hand-me-down boots behind my dad and older brothers on hikes through the rolling pinyon, juniper, and sage-covered hills of southern Utah’s deer country. It was an annual tradition built from crisp, early October mornings, late nights, storytelling, laughter, and listening to playoff baseball on AM radio on the ride home. It was an awesome time and place to grow up. I loved it, still do.
The allure of the natural environment eventually led me to seek an education and career that would get me outside as much as possible. Fortunately after high school, I landed a seasonal job working on a trail crew on the Fishlake National Forest. It got me outside nearly all summer where I had the chance to see all kinds of wildlife as well as gain a wealth of information about southern Utah’s mountains. Over the course of a few seasons, I expressed my interest in wildlife to the district biologist and eventually got a position working for him. Along with doing general wildlife surveys and habitat work, I was given the task of catching, collaring, and tracking sage grouse on the southern end of Monroe Mountain. Conveniently, that required me to be on the mountain both morning and evening, which was great for feeding my addiction to glassing up velvetracked bucks and bulls.
While working seasonally for the Forest Service, I was able to complete a degree in Wildlife Biology from Utah State. Go Aggies! I also met and married my wife, Angie, and we’ve had three boys, Landon, Colin, and Owen, over our 14 years of marriage. I was only out of college a few months when I began working as a Wildlife Biologist for a privately-owned company doing environmental clearances for oil, gas, and mining exploration. I was able to travel and spend time conducting wildlife surveys throughout Wyoming, Utah, and portions of Colorado and Nevada.
In 2009, I accepted a job as a Habitat Restoration Biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in Cedar City, Utah. During my six years with the UDWR, I had the privilege of being part of a massive habitat restoration initiative. Over the past decade, state, federal, and several conservation organizations have combined funding and resources to complete over a million acres of habitat restoration and fire rehab and have installed hundreds of wildlife water guzzlers throughout Utah. In 2015, within the southern region alone, I was able to help design projects, secure funding, and complete nearly 30,000 acres of habitat work and install multiple big game water guzzlers. I firmly believe that proactive landscape scale habitat restoration and water development will continue to be the key to maintaining and increasing wildlife populations across the West, and I am proud to have been a part of that.
The progression of my own hunting career began to rapidly develop in my early 20’s. I was working with a group of guys who were all avid bowhunters, and the idea lingered with me long enough that I eventually dug up my dad’s old Bear compound bow from the basement. I tuned the bow up, and combined with what he had left from a dozen aluminum arrows and mismatched broadheads, I hit the hills in search of elk. I vividly remember my first archery encounter when a spike bull trotted to 23 yards in response to my dad’s soft cow calls. I missed that spike, but I had never been so overtaken by an experience in the woods. I fell in love with archery and bowhunting.
Fairly soon after, I began to pore over draw odds and noted that if I was going to draw more permits I needed to pursue more primitive weapon hunting opportunities. Since then, I have applied for mostly archery permits, but I love to hunt with any weapon, muzzleloader and rifle included. As such, my application strategy has developed somewhat over the past decade. I have and will continue to build points for species where it makes sense, but by and large, I am an opportunist at heart and try to capitalize on permits that are easier to draw more regularly, regardless of weapon type. I have been fortunate to have drawn a few good permits, but a lot of my success has come from research and analysis of hunts that are relatively easy to draw. I absolutely love to hunt. I love everything about it – the research, preparation and planning, gear, adventure, peace, challenges, and sense of accomplishment it provides me. Those heightened moments that only the outdoors and hunting can provide are so sacred and valuable to me. You cannot get the types of experiences anywhere that hunting provides, and I want to experience that as often as I can.
Hunting has taken me to some amazing places, from chasing bugling bulls in the backcounty wilderness of Wyoming to spot and stalk late season bulls in Arizona. I’ve sat days on end hunting antelope in a hot blind perched on a West Desert waterhole, and I’ve sat in tree stands, swaying back and forth in a spring breeze, waiting on black bears. I certainly haven’t hunted everywhere or everything, but I want to and I want you to as well. My love for the outdoors and hunting has been the driving force in my developing career path and was the primary factor in deciding to join the team here at Huntin’ Fool. Being in this environment is a dream come true for someone who craves adventure hunting, and I am thrilled to be able to pass that on.