SHIRAS Film Explores Economic Impacts of Nonresident Hunters 

Outdoors communication has changed dramatically since I first published my first Driftwood Outdoors column in September of 2006. Writers have become photographers. Radio show hosts are now podcasters. Social media influencers didn’t exist but today are a major source of content. Above all, video dominates the scene. I have now added the title of filmmaker to resume. 

My first film, SHIRAS: A Nonresident Montana Moose Hunt, recently debuted on Carbon TV and the Driftwood Outdoors YouTube channel. I put off joining the outdoor television boom of the last couple of decades mostly out of disdain for how hunting has been portrayed by too many folks in front of cameras. The ridiculous reactions to shooting game. The staged and recreated scenarios. The NASCAR like hawking of products. It all left a horrible taste in my mouth. Most of the conservation-minded hunters I call friends share this feeling. 

Yet, films can be a powerful medium for education and entertainment. If you have been reading my Driftwood Outdoors column for any length of time, or listening to the podcast, you should by now know where my heart lies. Perpetuating care and concern for the conservation of fish and wildlife is my focus. Doing so through political involvement has been my lane. My extensive interaction with politics has made clear the reality that at the end of the day, most issues come down to money. 

Non-resident hunters are an issue in most states. Especially out west, where tags are usually allocated through a lottery. Residents of states like Montana, Colorado, New Mexico and more often feel slighted when a nonresident hunter draws a coveted tag residents have been unable to draw in their lifetime. It’s a double-edged sword though, because nonresidents pay far more for the privilege to hunt in those state than the residents. Thus, nonresidents significantly contribute to the conservation coffers that fund the natural resources the residents care about. 

SHIRAS is the story of my dream hunt 18 years in the making. I moved to Montana in 2003. As soon as I became a resident, I began applying for moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat permits. I moved back to the Midwest in 2006 and have continued to apply every year as a nonresident. I’ve spent thousands of dollars to receive, year after year, disappointing “Unsuccessful” notifications. This ended in the summer of 2023 when I finally opened a long-anticipated email acknowledging my hunting permit of lifetime had finally been drawn. 

I went to work right away formulating a plan. Hunting the rugged mountainous landscape west of Glacier National Park includes serious challenges to a flatlander, but through a rapidly developed network, I was able to acquire the knowledge needed to have a fighting chance at wrapping my tag on the trophy of a lifetime. I knew I had to enlist the help of friends. Once my hardcore sportswoman girlfriend, Lauren, agreed to join me on the hunt, my first call was to experienced backcountry hunter, Jesse Deubel. 

Jesse is the Executive Director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. He grew up in the in the small village of La Puebla near Espanola, New Mexico. His earliest memories include following his dad through knee-deep, snow in the Carson National Forest in search of mule deer when he was 6. By age 12 Jesse had experienced his first, true backcountry hunt for wild turkey miles deep in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness. At 15 Jesse, harvested his first elk with a bow and arrow in the Gila Wilderness. So, he’s as experienced in the backcountry as anyone I know. When I asked if he’d join me on this hunt to help haul a moose out of the mountains, he said yes before I finished the question. He co-stars in the film. 

Once I decided I wanted to film the hunt, I took a shot and called Hollywood cameraman, Steve Fracol, who was suffering down time due to the writer’s strike. Steve is a decorated industry veteran with credits on shows like Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Sons of Anarchy, and Shameless. He shot films like Land of the Lost, Green Lantern and Deep Impact. I couldn’t believe it when he said he’d love to come along and film the adventure. His work on the film speaks for itself.

To round out the production, my good friend and producer of the now famous Mossy Oak documentary The Colonel & The Fox, Nathaniel Maddux, and his team at Slate + Glass handled all the post-production. They captured my vision of the story exactly as I explained. I was truly blessed to put this all-star team together to produce a film I am incredibly proud of. 

SHIRAS explores the intricacies of the hunt. The people and places associated with all that goes into a nonresident, do-it-yourself experience of this magnitude. We set out to accomplish what at times seemed impossible – finding a bull moose in the wild country of Northwest Montana and successfully ending a dream hunt decades in the making. All on our own, without a guide or outfitter.

Once successful on the hunt, we turned to telling the story of how nonresident hunters impact a community economically. We filmed scenes at a meat processing facility, woman-owned fur tanning business, local taxidermist, saloon, and a tire repair shop. We hoped to show our positive impact on the area as visitors. I feel we were successful in showcasing how valuable nonresident hunters are as an economic stimulus to rural regions of our country. It was a different spin to a hunting film. One I hope you and other will recognize the importance of and appreciate.

If you are interested in checking out SHIRAS and learning more about how nonresident hunters have an economic impact where they travel to hunt, you can view the film on Carbon TV and on YouTube. If you enjoy it and would be willing to share the film, hopefully the positive message of hunters from out-of-state bring financial benefit to stores, repair shops, restaurants and more will spread and will help paint hunters as important, positive members of society. 

See you down the trail….
Brandon Butler
bbutler@driftwoodoutdoors.com

For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on HERE or anywhere podcasts are streamed. 

Pic with moose (L to R): Brandon Butler, Jesse Deubel and Steve Fracol created the film SHIRAS to explore the economic impacts of nonresident hunters.

Pic without moose (L to R):  Jesse Deubel, Steve Fracol, and Brandon Butler  created the film SHIRAS to explore the economic impacts of nonresident hunters.

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