HELENA, MT – Jan. 7, 2019
Safari Club International has recognized longtime MOGA member Russ Smith as its Outstanding North American Professional Hunter of the Year. Smith, who owns and operates Montana Professional Hunters, will be presented with the award Wednesday, Jan. 9, at SCI’s 47th Annual Hunters’ Convention in Reno, Nevada.
Although it has been through several name changes, Smith has operated his outfitting business since 1985. During that time, he’s outfitted on State, BLM and private lands across Montana as well as backcountry camps in USFS wilderness areas. In addition to guiding mule deer and elk hunts in Montana, he helps plan and coordinate complex hunts in remote locations across the globe.
Smith has demonstrated extensive service to the outfitting industry during his 34-year career. In addition to serving as President of the Montana Outfitter and Guides Association, he served on Governor Marc Racicot’s first Private Land/Public Wildlife Advisory Council. Two programs that came out of that effort include Outfitter Sponsored Licenses and the State of Montana’s Block Management program. He’s also served on the Montana Board of Outfitters, where he advocated for the role of outfitted hunting in conservation and Montana’s economy, and established important ethical and performance standards for license qualification. Smith was integral to the Montana launch of Hunters Against Hunger, a program that facilitates wild game donations to food banks.
“Within the hunting industry, we recognize the SCI Professional Hunter Award to be one of the most prestigious awards of its kind as it honors professional hunters who are acknowledged by both their peers and clients to be at the top of their field,” MOGA Executive Director Mac Minard said. “Being recognized as SCI Hunter of the Year is a cherished honor that few have attained, and Russ is highly deserving of this lifetime achievement.”
The selection process for the award is extensive. To be considered, applicants must submit a bio, answer a personal questionnaire and secure letters of recommendation. The selection committee looks for the following as they consider applicants: a skilled and competent hunter and guide who’s respected by clients and peers; someone who’s informed and knowledgeable about wildlife and conservation and dedicated to the same; adherence to the highest standards of integrity in the field; and commitment to abiding by the rules and regulations governing the industry, among other criteria. Shawn Murphy with SCI noted that Smith received nearly all of the first-place votes for the award during the Outfitter and Guide Committee’s final review.
“This award represents thousands of miles on horseback and thousands of miles on foot in cold and snow—all kinds of difficult conditions. But it was worth every minute because I was with some great folks,” Smith said. “We had a lot of successes, and there have been a few disappointments, too, but it’s been a great journey.”
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