Alright, let’s start off with your role as editor at MeatEater–
Currently, much of my editorial work has been to develop and support content launches here at MeatEater. Das Boat, Back 40, and other unreleased content or products we are bringing to market are a few. My personal favorite upcoming projects involve a series with a bird dog veterinarian, in-the-field video projects for the editorial team, and MeatEater veteran initiatives.
Yeah, MeatEater has a lot going on right now. Tell us about what that looks like from your end.
In the new MeatEater, Inc., structure the business model has two avenues of content creation. One of which is the production team, which everyone is probably aware of. They produce the MeatEater seasons on Netflix and all of the videos we currently distribute on YouTube. The other side of content creation is the editorial team.
This editorial team is the other content creation team, which I’m part of. We focus heavily on four different subjects, that heavily intersect: hunting, fishing, conservation, and culinary. We’ve pulled some of the best writers in the industry, who can play in all realms and specialize in one, to work in this editorial space.
I’m proud to be a part of this crew. My strengths in the editorial realm are a blend of photography, digital marketing, web content optimization, and I’m starting to work in smaller video projects with the team.
What’s your family history with bird dogs?
The first family history of dogs comes from an Australian Shepard named Frank that we had on the farm. Frank was an independent, gentle, and stoic dog. He was the reason I started to understand symbiotic relationships. Then one day, I was around 6-8 years old, I asked my father why Frank wasn’t around the porch in the morning or night. Dad explained that Frank understood it was his time to die and he needed to be alone in nature to go through the process. It was a major learning experience of life and death on the farm, many more would follow.
After Frank, my father kept a German Shorthaired Pointer in the kennel at all times. We were an upland hunting family and community; there were no two ways about it. I cut my teeth on bird hunting carrying around a toy shotgun through milo fields following my dad’s various GSPs and our pseudo-uncle (my father’s best friend) Phil’s Brittanys. I remember walking through the thickest CRP afraid I would be lost in the fields of grass that towered over my head.
Fast forward 25 years later and my brother and I enjoy the comforts of riding on the tailgate of the farm truck as our old man shuttles us around on old gravel county roads from field to field. We’re both crack shots, constantly trying to better each other. Typical brother scenario. The one thing that remains the same is the history of hunting the fields behind pointing dogs. My father currently owns the dog of his life, a GSP named Belle.
“Dog of his life.” Yep, that’s how Addison feels about Gunner. So how did that history influence you getting Pinion [current dog] and how you train him?
My brother, Joel, and I both have 1.5-year-old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon – brothers out of the same litter but wildly different temperaments.
This bearded hermano duo that my brother and I are training is very much in line with my father’s history of bird dogs. Find a breeder you can trust, give a damn about papers, and get that dog on as many wild birds as you can. It’s a bit of an homage to our father’s way.
Though, I can tell you that my two future forecasted dogs will be very carefully selected from bloodlines. In the meantime, I love taking these blue-collar bird dogs out in the field and hunting with them.
We’ve got Pinion here with us, he’s a cool dog. What’s one of your favorite traits of his?
I get a great deal of happiness from the happy, quirky, non-stop puppy mentality of my dog Pinion. Once he gains interest, his drive kicks in like an adrenaline injection into his bloodstream. Yet, when he’s at home you can often find him on the couch with his feet in the air and an audible snore sounding off from his bearded muzzle.
Yeah we saw that drive kick in this afternoon. Anything quirky about him?
I’d say the quirkiest aspect of Pinion is his avoidance disposition. I’ve probably, (absolutely have), spoiled him rotten. Pinion currently sees any training that doesn’t involve birds as a punishment. It’s something I’m currently working on with him, and we’re about to have a real heart-to-heart after the season when I run him through the force-fetch training. We have some battles on the horizon, and I’m really excited to see his progression and mental toughness evolve after that training.
Who’s alpha in this duo?
That’s an easy one, I’m alpha in this relationship. I’ve spent time since he was 8 weeks old going through dominance drills. Always play fair, but always take lead.
You were just talking about your time in Iraq at 20 years old. You said rediscovering hunting was a sort of therapy for you. Can you elaborate on that?
Bird hunting on the family farm and paddling whitewater in Colorado were the two things that gave me a grounded sense. Bird hunting was a deeply rooted activity and navigating whitewater tunneled my adrenaline focus into moment-by-moment decision making – very similar to my time in Iraq.
Immediately after that deployment, I took a period of time off hunting. As a small-town farm boy, I was pretty shook up when I came home. Angst and anger boiled up often. I decided to pick up the camera at this juncture and shoot frames instead of lead while I cleared my head. Yet, my mind always felt clear and right when we would load shotguns and pointing dogs into the trucks.
The upland fields of the Flint Hills of Kansas always have provided an inner-philosophical journey that reminded me of who I am and eased my angst along the way. Hear more from Morgan on The Hunting Collective podcast here.
What’s your favorite part of hunting with Pinion?
Watching Pinion and his brother Arlo work the Kansas fields together while my brother and I carry over/unders around brings me the most happiness. It’s a perfect blend of family legacy, connection with family – and remaining tied to the primal roots of hunting with wolves that we’ve manipulated genetics over many years to lock up on point and retrieve a shot bird.
You’ve had adventures all over. If you could go back to a spot with the griff – one where you’ve already been – where would you go?
The wild west feeling of Baja and the amount of wildlife in the water is crazy. I love the live-in-the-moment lifestyle there. Completely soaking in the moments of hunting reefs while spearfishing, surfing winter waves hitting the Pacific Coast, and ceviche, sushi, and as many damn tacos and beer that you can ingest. Damn, that’s good living down there, and a dog at your side always makes it better.
The most vivid memories are from beaches in Baja, and I’d always love to get back there. Two separate winters in my 20’s were spent managing a surf/paddleboard shop in San Jose del Cabo and also traveling around in my campervan surfing and spearfishing. My black lab Bomber was with me during both of those trips, he’s since passed.
Is there a spot in Montana or Kansas that you feel like belongs to only you?
There is a string of land in Kansas, three quarter-sections, that connect together. My family’s farm, my father’s high school friend, and my pseudo uncle Phil’s land. This combined 498 acres has a mixture of grasslands, CRP, ponds, agriculture, hedgerows, waterways, and plumb thickets. Throughout this land, my brother and I know all of the hiding and feeding spots the birds like to visit.
This land is sacred ground, especially as small farmers are disappearing regularly here. I cherish the time to go hunt these areas, especially with my brother and father. This is where I grew up and learned hunting and formed my thoughts surrounding the act of.
Hearing you talk about conservation involvement, we know you’re passionate about public lands. Why?
The idea about conservation initially started on private lands, the lands mentioned in the answer above. Seeing the diverse small ag & conservation practices dying with land sales to corporate entities who literally bulldoze the ground flat and push GMO monoculture practices has resulted in a devastating effect on the health and population density of wildlife I grew up with while in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
In Kansas, I had no clue about public lands. The state is comprised of roughly 2% public in the overall state land available, which is second worse in the nation. It wasn’t until I came back from my 14-month deployment to Iraq that I finally started to get the ‘public land’ picture. I soon received my DD-214, which honorably discharged me from the military, and headed west to the live in the mountain towns of Colorado. I started to explore trails, river systems and watersheds, and bag mountain peaks while decompressing from my eye-opening experience in war. Quite a bit to bite off and chew for a 20-year-oldold kid off the Kansas farm.
The connection I fostered to public lands at this time was incredible. It was like I was coming home to a place I had never been. The open spaces allowed space and time to wrestle demons and learn how to be a happy, grounded person. A lot of my personal development happened here.
What are some organizations you’re involved in that you think are putting in the work right now?
Since then I’ve spent my time recreating and sourcing my own food from these wild places. From class V kayaking, elk hunting, and bird hunting public spaces with my pup Pinion. As this connection to the lands grew, the need to protect and serve the lands, wildlife, and water was front and center. The organizations that I’m a fan of and/or become involved with include American Whitewater, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, TRCP, and Pheasants Forever. Some of my current work is the action of getting other vets into these places with conservation orgs like those mentioned and my work here at MeatEater.
Ok, so what’s the first step for beginners wanting to get involved in the conversation?
The first step for folks to get involved is to go out and play in the wild. Run a trail, walk a field with a gun dog, paddle a wild river – go find connection to the wild, then research what organization is doing the best work to protect the resource. Send in an email, call the organization or show up to a local event and ask what you can do. Selflessly volunteering an amount of time produces a feeling that’s hard to create anywhere else. But first and foremost, get outside and connect with the hills.
Read More: Meet Our Gunner Ambassadors
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