The (MDF) Caribou

caribou resized

My first outfitted big-game hunt was an Alaska barren ground caribou hunt that took place about 20 years ago. Bought the hunt at the Mule Deer Foundation Convention in Sacramento that took place in 1998. The caribou tag says 1998, so that validates the year.

The donation to MDF was set up by Gary Williams, MDF Chairman of the Board. At the time Gary was working for Leupold-Stevens and Leupold paid some of the trip costs as a donation from them.

The hunt went to sale at auction and I was the high bidder for $1700. The hunt took place in September and the caribou we hunted were part of the Mulchatna herd.

Camp was on the Nushagak River and we hunted up and down the river by boat. We found this caribou along the King Salmon River, a Nushagak tributary.

Although the Mulchatna herd was supposedly at an all-time high, I believe it may have already been in decline. We didn’t see many caribou and the one on my wall was probably the largest that my guide, Robert Nelson, or I sighted. Today the Mulchatna herd has still not regained the stature it had during the early 1990’s.

Robert and I stalked to within 60 yards of a small band of caribou and the I shot was the largest bull in the group. We killed him about two miles from the boat and the boat was about 30 miles from camp. The next day we brought a meat packer back with us to make the pack out a little easier.

I had two caribou tags and could have shot another smaller bull, but decided to pass. It was a good decision because I ended up using my second caribou tag on a Sitka blacktail deer on Kodiak Island about a week later.

I killed the bull with a Browning Automatic Rifle in 7mm. It was the first hunting rifle I owned with which I bagged a big game animal. Prior to that time, I hunted big game with bow and arrow only. The rifle was a raffle prize a San Jose MDF banquet in 1995 and it has an inscription on it: CENTRAL COAST CHAPTER, 1995, Fifth Annual Banquet, The Mule Deer Foundation. It was the model and caliber used by John Leonti the original chapter chairman of the San Jose Chapter. He was a nice man who passed away some time during the year before the banquet.

I purchased only one raffle ticket that night because I didn’t want to stay for the end of the banquet. I handed my ticket to David and Rose Stevens before I left and asked them to watch over it. David called me the next day and told me I had won.

I tanned the original cape from my caribou, but never mounted it, probably because I couldn’t afford the price of taxidermy work in those days. Last year I decided to find capes for a few of the animals taken on some of my past hunts. This is the only caribou I’ve killed so it is definitely a trophy to me even though just another caribou to anybody else.

My taxidermist and MDF supporter, Taff Vidalles, searched for a proper cape. Early season capes were available, but they did not properly represent the bull I had killed. Eventually he found a cape with characteristics of the bull I killed and purchased it for $650 wet-tanned.

I ended up paying $1,250 for the mount. $900 was Taff’s normal price. He added $350 (of the $650 cost of the cape) to his regular price and estimated that the $300 credit was appropriate because he normally would have had a preparation and tanning cost of about that much. I agreed.

Here’s me and the bull the way we looked in 1998.

Rich and Caribou


Mule Deer Foundation Supports California’s Hunting Heritage

On April 24th The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) contributed $15,000 towards protecting the hunting heritage of Californians and also took a seat on the board of directors of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA). With MDF President, Miles Moretti, on hand as it’s newest director, COHA held a meeting of it’s members at the Quail Point Gun Club.

Surrounded by Rob Olsen and Jim Waters MDF give COHA check

Caption: Left to right. COHA Director and Delta Waterfowl President – Rob Olsen, COHA President – Bill Gaines, COHA director and MDF President – Miles Moretti, MDF State Chair Rich Fletcher and COHA Director Jim Waters.

During the past few years, these organizations have collaborated on conservation programs while developing a strong working relationship. COHA and MDF  have now sealed the deal – strengthening each organization. Funding from MDF will help pay for the cost of COHA’s legislative programs and Moretti’s experience with wildlife and hunting issues will strengthen COHA’s decision making body. 

MDF is very concerned about political issues affecting California’s wildlife programs. COHA is currently working on key legislation that will protect hunting lands and conservation dollars in the state coffers. Two key legislative efforts that are key for hunters are SB589 and California State Assembly Bill 979.

COHA has been working in the state legislature to pass these bills for several years and this could be the year. SB589 is out of committee with little opposition and will go to a floor vote in the Senate soon. This bill will protect license and tag money by creating additional over site from the hunting community. AB979 will prevent local governments from limiting hunting opportunities on public lands and confirm that over site belongs with the Fish and Game Commission and Department of Fish and Game.

MDF and COHA are working together for the benefit of conservationists in California. The success of both organizations is driven by the passion of outdoorsmen and fueled by sportman’s dollars.  With continued financial and in-kind support for these organizations, hunters we will continue to enjoy diverse and plentiful hunting opportunities in the “Golden” state.

IMG_0487 MDF and COHA croppedMiles Moretti, Mark Hennelly, Bill Gaines, Jason Rhine, Rich Fletcher and Rick Bullock

Missing the Point About Conservation

For many years I’ve supported conservation organizations and believed that I was making a difference by doing so. Like most of my friends in conservation I have done so without really worrying about what I was getting in return. I’ve believed that the cause helped wildlife and helped to minimize attacks on hunting
Recently I received an email that made me wonder about some of my hunting brethren.
Here’s what (name deleted) had to say. 
“My Friend and I are Traditional Archery Hunters and interested in becoming members of MDF, we are both retired and belong to the Diablo Bowmen Archery Club in Clayton California.
I live in Discovery Bay, and (also deleted) lives in Magalia near Paradise.
For years I have belonged to Phesants Forever, Doves & Quail Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, North American Hunting Club, California Deer Assoc. California Wildfowl Assoc., none of which has ever helped me in my quest for hunting property access. All they seem to do is ask me for more money and support, but they have never ever enabled me to get hunting access.
So why am I writing to you? I’d like to be up front and ask if joining MDF will lead to us being able to gain access to hunting areas either open to members of MDF or Public Access ? This may sound a bit selfish but to tell you the truth every one of the “Clubs” organization I listed above have just been a magazine subscriptionand a junk mail source, to which I “donated” moneies not recognized by the IRS as donations.
As I am now retired, I like to gets some return on my investments.
So bottom line should we join?

(name deleted)”

Needless to say I responded with a “no.” Based upon this man’s statement, he will be no happier with MDF than he has been with the other groups he has previously joined. This man does not understand that we need to conserve our resources in order to enjoy them.

He should have read the mission of each of these organizations and if he had, he might not have sent this email.

By putting money and effort back into the resource we are making an attempt to assure our activities produce a net gain for wildlife. We could do nothing, but over time the resource would dwindle until neither hunters or anybody else would be able to enjoy the pleasure of viewing, hunting and eating wild game.

Access would be worthless if there were no game animals to hunt.

It would be hard to feel good about ourselves if we did nothing but take and never gave back. For me, giving back is an important part of feeling valued and happy.

We’ll never know for sure the effectiveness of our efforts, but at least we know we tried and for me that’s good enough for me.


Letter to Members: Livermore-Pleasanton MDF 2009 Banquet Cancelled

January 12, 2009


Dear MDF Supporters:


Over the past years, our local members have contributed significantly to the success of The Mule Deer Foundation. In return, thousands of acres of deer habitat have been restored or protected and the Foundation has moved from infancy to being a major player on national conservation front.


Unfortunately, the Livermore-Pleasanton Chapter will not hold a banquet this year.

Father time has finally caught up with our committee and we were not able to find members to replace us. Although we regret that the end of our group has arrived, we are still supporting MDF and rooting for the organization’s success. I will continue on as State Chair for Legislative Affairs and I’ll be in Salt Lake City next month for the annual convention.


Here are a few of the things going on this year. The MDF Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met in September and representatives of MDF, the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and California Department of Fish and Game approved evaluated deer habitat projects seeking MDF funds. Seven projects received approval and, assuming they pass all the other tests associated with agency approval, they will be funded during 2009 or 2010. MDF also contributed funds to the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA).


During the last week in October, MDF attended the Whitehouse Conference on North American Wildlife Policy, a program created by President Bush by Executive Order. As one of the Foundation’s representatives, I participated in the discussions of how conservationists can build a path to maintain a positive influence over North American Wildlife in the next Century.


We are still interested in finding volunteers to replace those who have labored for years, so if you are interested in helping MDF reinvent the local chapter, give me a call. (925)373-6601.


On behalf of the Livermore-Pleasanton Committee,


Rich Fletcher