Imagine a piece of land that could serve as a token example of coexistence between wildlife and agriculture, while simultaneously introducing youth to the world of hunting – that was the dream of longtime Pheasants Forever member and volunteer, Tom Pick.
A lifetime of adventure gave rise to one man’s innovative idea to benefit the future of conservation in Montana. Tom Pick was an avid outdoorsman and conservationist who took pride in sharing the outdoor lifestyle with others. He was also one of the proprietors of an idea to use university-owned property to introduce Montana youth into the world of hunting and the outdoors. Before he could see the project through in its entirety, Pick passed away while cross-country skiing in the beloved state he called home.
Originally from West Virginia, Pick served as a military policeman in Vietnam as well as an Agricultural Advisor on a Reconstruction Team in Iraq from 2009 to 2011. Since his introduction to the western landscape shortly thereafter, Pick knew he wanted to write his story in Montana, so he headed to Big Sky Country to follow a passion. The devoted conservationist served as a board member and special project coordinator with his local chapter of Pheasants Forever in Bozeman, Montana. “Tom wasn’t highly visible within the chapter, instead he lead in a quiet strong way,” stated Joe Duggan, former Montana regional representative. “He was one of the key leaders and brought a unique energy to the organization and the Gallatin Valley Chapter of Pheasants Forever .”
Through his dedication and connection to Montana State University (MSU), Pick had a vision to enrich the lives of youth hunters in Montana while concurrently providing a service to MSU on the 560-acre Lutz Farm - a property deeded to the university by landowner Helen Lutz Walsh for the exclusive use of “agricultural experiment purposes.” In an attempt to decrease crop depredation issues with the myriad of elk, deer, and other wildlife that were disrupting crop experiments, consideration was given to deforestation of certain areas on the property before Pick approached MSU staff with a conservation solution.
Pick knew the importance of youth education and the desire Montanans had for a program where future generations could go hunting, learn the basics of gun safety, and explore the state he had come to so dearly love. His goal for the property included showing MSU students valuable conservation skills centered on how wildlife and agriculture can coexist, as well as hosting mentored youth hunts. Not only would this satisfy the public appetetie for hunter education, but it would also aide the school’s current issue of crop depredation. Pick sought to combine interest of multiple groups for the collective good of the land.
“With the sudden passing of Tom Pick, the driving force behind this project, much work remains to be done to bring his dream to fruition. Partnering with Pheasants Forever will be crucial to realizing the full educational value of this special place,” stated MSU representatives. The Gallatin Valley Chapter of Pheasants Forever will continue Pick’s work to establish a conservation legacy in conjunction with Montana State University.
The official dedication for the Tom Pick Memorial was May 22nd, 2017. Pick is survived by his wife, Kathleen Williams, his two sons, Calen and Sander Pick, as well as their mother, Jessie Close.
Jimmy Foreman is a Pheasants Forever Public Relations Intern