Elk NetworkLarry Karns: Looking After the Black Hills

Volunteer News | August 20, 2012

Larry Karns: Looking After the Black Hills

By Samantha Abel, Bugle Intern

Karns hunted in Colorado until 1999, bringing home four bulls, including a dandy 5×5 he shot off Gore Pass by Steamboat Springs.

“Now I’m a 68-year-old with bad knees, so my hunting time is over,” he says.

During those last few trips to Colorado, Karns noticed the landscape was rapidly changing, and he didn’t like what he was seeing.

“I could see the development in the Rocky Mountains,” Karns says.  “Everybody wants to live in the pine trees.”

The same thing was happening back home, too, prompting Karns to become a volunteer for the RMEF’s Gold Country Chapter in 1995. 

“The Black Hills have been discovered,” he says. “There is a house going up on every corner. If we are going to have an elk herd, we need to protect the land and the water.”

One project Karns holds dear to his heart is the Black Hills guzzler project. Guzzlers capture and store rain and snowmelt in covered, low-evaporation troughs that provide dependable water for wildlife. A few years back, several RMEF chapters took on the responsibility of finding, monitoring and restoring existing guzzlers, and constructing new ones, across public and private lands in the Black Hills.

“Larry has been instrumental in organizing guzzlers in the Lead/Deadwood area,” says Tom Slowey, South Dakota regional director. “He did a lot of the leg work in locating and cataloging the areas to get the project started.”

Slowey says he loves working with volunteers like Karns who are so dedicated.

“Larry has been continually busy doing something to benefit the Elk Foundation,” Slowey says. “He understands the importance of the organization, especially in the Black Hills.”

Karns is also an RMEF Habitat Partner, and has been very successful getting others to join him. Last year, he sold six habitat partnerships by himself.

“I became tired with just trying to sell tickets to events,” Karns says. “I wanted to do more.”

He kept three of the Habitat Partnerships a secret from Slowey until the night of the Gold Country Chapter’s big game banquet, when new Habitat Partners receive recognition.

“He single-handedly raised $15,000,” Slowey says. “If we don’t have anything for him to do, he finds something to do. And this really shows how much he is capable of doing in a short time.”