Catching up with Joe Hosmer wasn’t easy. His e-mail auto message said that he was in the field–that could mean any place in the world. Finally, he texted back that he was “chasing dogs that were chasing pheasants in South Dakota,” but would get back soon. At least he was on the same continent.
When we did connect, Joe first sent me pictures of his Gordon setters, which are almost like extensions of his soul. This is a man who deeply loves hunting dogs and hunting in general, and now, after retiring from a very successful career running an executive search business, he is President of Safari Club International Foundation (SCI Foundation), guiding something very new, special and sorely needed by the hunting community.
He explains the difference between Safari Club International (SCI) and Safari Club International Foundation (SCI Foundation) as: “SCI is ‘First For Hunters,’ while the SCI Foundation is ‘First For Wildlife.’ The Foundation oversees Sustainable Wildlife Conservation and Wildlife Education. The Foundation also is a proud supporter of SCI Humanitarian Services and the Wildlife Museum, in Tucson, Arizona. In all this realignment the Foundation is now guided by its own separate, 15-member Board of Directors, for which I serve as its President. The Foundation funds and manages worldwide programs dedicated to wildlife conservation, outdoor education and humanitarian services. It provides the scientific backing of sound wildlife research allowing for pro-hunting regulations and policies to move forward for all sportsmen and women to benefit. We have been charged to independently grow the SCI Foundation and become the foremost wildlife Foundation within the global hunting community. SCI Foundation’s directors are is ready to expand the brand of First For Wildlife to the far corners of the hunting community in support of sustainable use.”
How does one get to do what Joe Hosmer does? Joe Hosmer grew up in rural southern Vermont on a farm that raised standard-bred racehorses and Springer Spaniel grouse hunting dogs. For sure, hunting definitely is in his blood. I asked him about how he got started and Joe spun a good yarn about his first deer.
“Unlike many horse farms in Vermont, ours was not a manicured showplace,” Joe says. “It was simply a well maintained and comfortable piece of ground we all loved. We cut our own hay, maintained a small apple orchard and mucked out our own stalls. The name of our farm was Birchcrest Farm Stables. It was so named for the ridgeline that was covered with white birch trees which served as the backdrop of our house and barns.”
On the farm, hunting was a way of life. “We harvested deer and grouse just as we would pick apples or wild strawberries. Hunting deer, however, was a special event. It was, and probably still is, a social time for hunters that started in early November and culminated on Thanksgiving weekend.
“Our family had a deer camp a couple of towns over in a place called ‘Popple Dungeon’. The area was named for the quaking aspen trees that grew so thickly in the area that the woods always seemed dark, due to the shade from the leaf cover and being in a deep valley. It was, by Vermont standards, big country.
“Our deer camp was an old house trailer with a rough porch and mudroom tacked onto the front. My father was involved in the telephone construction business and would use deer season as an excuse to bring his clients into the social mix as a way of thanking them for using his construction crews. Probably not a politically correct gesture these days, but it the 50s and 60s it was what it was.
“Eventually our deer camp caught the attention of several outdoor writers who were friends of friends. They would even join us for a few days and we would marvel at how our little camp had made the sports section of the New York Times. Lee Wolfe, Jack Carlin and others became family regulars during deer season.
“One year, while I was still in grade school, I was taken out of class on a Thursday so I could be with the ‘men’ in Popple Dungeon for Friday and Saturday. My first deer rifle was an old 44-40 Winchester lever action. The bluing had worn off of it so it almost shined from all the wear. I proudly carried my .44-40 while sneaking through the woods and spending hours atop huge boulders, just waiting for an unsuspecting whitetail buck to pass through my domain. I was always assigned to one of the men so I wouldn’t wander too far astray. I thought this practice was ridiculous since I would travel these woods in the summertime on a regular solo basis, only accompanied by a dog or two.
“My first weekend at deer camp was a rite of passage unto itself. I was now one of the guys. I could spit, drink coffee, hear dirty jokes, and not shower, all without getting ‘spoken-to’! What a wonderful place to be!
“Well, my first weekend came and went and the Vermont deer herd was never bothered by our presence. Mom came on Sunday and dropped off a box of food and supplies for the hunters and picked me up to go home. There is no Sunday hunting in Vermont and it was a day to resupply and say good-bye to some guests and welcome newcomers.
“Monday morning came and I got up early and did my chores of feeding and watering the horses. We kept a few horses in what we called the south pasture, which was a short walk to the gate from the back of the barn. I would fill a couple buckets, one with oats and the other with sweet feed, lug them down to our homemade feeding troths, call in the horses and make sure they were all okay.
“I got about half way down to the gate when I noticed a buck chasing a doe through the orchard, several hundred yards away. I set my feed buckets down and sneaked back to the barn. Once out of sight of the deer, I bolted to the house. I yelled some headlines to my mother as I grabbed my .44-40 and reversed my route. Once in the barn I climbed to the hayloft where I could get a better view of the orchard. I peeked out the loft door and confirmed that the buck was still there.
“Scooting back down the loft ladder and out to the opposite side of the barn from the deer I made a plan. I slipped up along a low spot of land out of sight from the deer. I would occasionally crawl up to a point where I could peer over and see the deer, as I had to reassure myself that they were still there. Finally, when I thought I was close enough, I lined up the open sights on the huge buck and let loose with the old .44-40. I don’t know if I connected with that first shot or not, as I just kept shooting until the deer wasn’t moving anymore. I sure didn’t want to lose him!
“As I approached him he seemed like the biggest deer ever (whereas in hindsight, my monster buck was a rather young and small, eight-pointer).
“Now, as dad would say, ‘the work begins.’ I had never field dressed a deer before, but had seen it done in my young past once. Unsure of myself, I ran home and told mom of my victory and of my dilemma. It was now too late to catch my bus for school and the horses in the south pasture had still not been fed. Mom, unafraid of anything, still knew her limits and field cleaning a deer was not in her basket of skills. Dad was still at deer camp with no telephone and I was willing to try, but there was clearly hesitation. Mom sent me out to finish my chores and give her a chance to come up with a solution. I was done in record time and back in the house awaiting her decision.
“Soon a car arrived in our yard and it was mom’s friend and my school nurse, Cherry Bleakney. Grabbing everything we thought we would need, I led mom and Cherry to the orchard where my deer laid. I remember that I was so relieved to see him still there as I was sure he would regain life somehow and run off. Cherry was a longtime friend of the family and a hardy lady of New Brunswick origin; a hunter in her own right.
“Between the three of us we took care of a very shot-up deer. We hung it in the barn and Cherry drove me to school, after a quick shower and change of clothes. We dealt with getting some tenderloin off the deer and after school mom and I drove to Popple Dungeon to give it to dad. Since there was no phone at deer camp, our arrival was quite a surprise and delight to everyone. We all had a few bites of tenderloin from the cast-iron frying pan and I reveled in my fifteen minutes of fame as a big game hunter. I think mom and dad were pretty proud of their eight-year old grade-schooler, too.
“His hunting buddies, of course, kidded dad, that the women and children of the Hosmer family were the real hunters. That was the only deer taken by our family and friends that year, which made it even more special.”
From his start as an eight-year-old Vermont deer hunter, Joe became the founder and former CEO of Mountain Ltd., a Maine-based global engineering and technical search firm. The business, which boasts over 500 professional specialists, specializes in business staffing, telecommunications engineering solutions, remote area expertise, extensive third world and LDC experience, high-end headhunting, for-profit and not-for-profit business development.
Joe still dabbles in business consulting, when not working with the SCI Foundation (which is like a full-time job), and squeezing in as much hunting as he can. To give you a feel for his schedule,according to Joe’s blog, this has been his schedule for the last couple months: July 17 in Maine for the summer, August 3 in Dallas conducting interviews, August 22 in Jackson Hole for SCI Foundation Board meeting, September 14 in Botswana for African Wildlife Consultative Forum, October 1 in Maine for grouse and woodcock season, October 17 in Texas, and October 24 in South Dakota for pheasant hunting.
Joe assures me that he has plenty of time for other recreation, too. When hunting season ends, and he is home, you may find him riding the backroads of the Texas Hill Country on an Adventure motorcycle or driving a Russian-built sidecar.
When he was recently inducted into the Telephone Hall of Fame, Joe was described as an adventurer, who happens to also be a remote/international/arctic traveler; big game and upland bird hunter; former professional motorcycle road racer and competitive Land Rover enthusiast; published photographer and technical rock climbing instructor; who also happened to build and run corporations and serve on many corporate and public service Boards of Directors, who has no more spare time and is flunking retirement!
As a world-wide ambassador for hunting, I asked Joe what he felt needed to be done to save hunting. Reflecting on the future of hunting, Joe, who recently appeared on a national television show talking about “how green hunting is,” says, “we hunters are often our own worst enemies. The different factions of hunters fighting among ourselves-different groups, different kinds of hunting-is self-destructive.
“We should be uniting to get that positive image of hunting out to that 80% of the population that sits between the anti-hunters and the pro-hunters and votes. We will never change the antis, so why spin our wheels fighting them when we could be building positive alliances and support to keep hunting going and conserve wildlife for future generations?”
As President of the SCI Foundation, Joe Hosmer is in a unique position to make a major contribution to developing educational programs that can help save hunting and the web of life that supports wild game. He said that he’s currently hunting for corporate sponsors and philanthropists to help the SCI Foundation really take off. If you’d like to lend a hand, you can contact him via the Foundation offices.
You can also contact Joe to seek his wise counsel on business matters and follow his travels by signing up for his blog here.
Images courtesy Joe Hosmer and SCI Foundation