When a small group of family and friends decided to take the plunge into the deep waters of the outdoor magazine world a year ago, they had a mutual love of the outdoors, a desire to get the word out on what was available for sportsmen visiting Indian lands, and a lot of optimism that a good cause and hard work would help them succeed.
It was over a year ago that Hunting The Rez magazine was born [“The Only Source for Hunting Indian Country”]. Now experienced publishers with four issues printed and number five in the works, the entrepreneurs from Montana’s Rocky Boy Reservation recognize the climb to success is a steep uphill trek but a good product tirelessly presented is garnering attention — and some new supporters.
“We quickly discovered that partnering and networking would be essential to achieving our goals,” said Jason Belcourt, founder/publisher/managing editor of Hunting The Rez. And they have done so, swiftly and smartly. When issue number one of the publication appeared in the spring of 2011, the editor wrote: “We have a lot to prove and a short time to get there.”
Magazine content has ranged from buffalo hunting the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation to elk hunts with the Mescalero Apache, a trophy trout trek through Montana’s Blackfeet Nation, and a ‘Grand Slam Ram’ hunt on the Rocky Boys Reservation.
Although it’s a constant battle to round up advertising support for the quarterly publication, enough positive feedback has been received that other doors have been opened, like the partnership with International Sportsmen’s Exposition and joint sponsorship of the First Ever Hunting The Rez Live and Online Big Game Auction recently conducted at a first-of-its-kind Indian Pavilion in Phoenix, Arizona.
“Hunting The Rez and ISE partnered with eight tribes and outfitters throughout the United States and Canada to put together some of the most exciting, challenging, rewarding and fun hunting and fishing packages to ever be offered exclusively from Indian Country,” Belcourt said. “Other outdoor shows have featured auctions, but the Hunting The Rez event is the first where all of the packages up for bid came exclusively from Indian Reservations.”
The auction resulted in a cash infusion of $117,100 for contributing tribal Natural Resource and Fish & Game Departments, a monetary boon as tribal programs look for alternative revenue sources to help offset federal funding cuts.
Flushed with the success of the initial auction, magazine co-owner Quentin Long Fox predicted: “We believe we have most of the kinks worked out to be able to have an even bigger and better event next year — with more than double the number of hunting and fishing packages to go to auction.”
Options this year ranged from 2-day trophy buffalo hunts in South and North Dakota to 5-day deer, elk, or trophy bull elk hunts in Montana and New Mexico, the rapid-fire salesmanship of an auctioneer solicited bids from attendees on the floor of the pavilion to those monitoring a live feed via the internet.
A 6-day whitetail deer rifle hunt package in Alberta, Canada sold for $4,200. A 5-day fully-guided elk rifle hunt in North Central Montana drew a winning bid of $7,000. Another Montana package, a 3-day 2- person fishing vacation on Blackfeet Nation waters, brought a bid of $1,000. The final auction item, the one that drew the most interest and the most spirited bidding — and the highest price — involved a 10-day Rocky Mountain bighorn ram hunt on Montana’s Rocky Boy Indian Reservation. Bidding started high and kept going higher until the last man standing wrote a check for $54,000.
On hand at this year’s 4-day ISE, billed as ‘the region’s largest adventure travel, fishing, hunting, and camping show,’ were representatives of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the Hualapai Game & Fish Department and New Mexico’s Jicarilla Apache Reservation where sport hunting is an old tradition.
“Many hunters knew about the legendary elk hunts that take place on Native American lands, but few knew about the world-class deer hunts or fishing opportunities available,” said John Kirk, Communications Director for International Sportsmen’s Exposition.
“By partnering with Hunting The Rez in offering an Indian Pavilion at our Arizona show in February, we were able to get the word out to a much larger audience about the amazing hunting and angling opportunities available throughout North America’s Native American lands and waters and we look forward to expanding this first-time effort to more of our shows in 2013.”
Also in the works and moving forward is a television partnership with Sportsmen’s Channel watched by millions of viewers. “We’re building up some show backlog,” says Long Fox who has acted as videographer for a below-freezing buffalo hunt in north central Montana, home to the Gros Ventre-Assiniboine, and a predator hunt in the Four Corners area of New Mexico — with 2012 video shoots planned for a cougar hunt as well as hunts for turkey and pheasant.
“Sportsmen’s Channel has signed with us for 13 episodes and they’ll start running our series as soon as we have eight programs shot, edited and ready to run,” Long Fox says.
“Indian Country is the biggest secret hot spot for sportsmen across the globe,” Belcourt says. “There’s plenty of game and little hunting pressure and one of our goals is to inspire sportsmen and women to plan hunting/fishing adventures on tribal land that offers specific advantages like extended seasons for non-enrolled hunters.”