I have often been asked “why do you volunteer for RMEF?” It’s actually both a very simple and a complex answer. When I was first introduced to RMEF some 26 years ago, I knew very little about elk since I had spent most of my life in Virginia. My father won an elk hunting trip and tasked himself with learning everything he could before he went to pursue a species he’d never hunted before. The more he learned, the more he shared this new passion with his family. After starting the local Shenandoah Valley Chapter, he asked if I would volunteer as they prepared for the second event. I was very impressed with RMEF and their dedication to both wildlife and habitat.
I learned that even though I didn’t have lots of money to donate, I could donate my time and still have an important impact. I used my voice and my skills to work with RMEF to advocate for wildlife and wild places.
I’ve also been asked, “Why volunteer? There’s no money in it for you.” When I hear that, I always tell this story. My father Phillip “Jim” Massie and I and a couple of other volunteers, drove a truck and trailer into Kentucky to pick up elk that had been captured and prepared for transport to their new home in the mountains of southwestern Virginia. To stand on the hill overlooking the release site with several hundred other silent onlookers, to see the Director of the Virginia DWR release the first elk with tears in his eyes, was one of the most moving moments of my life. There is no amount of money that would compare to the feeling I had on that day.
To be part of a legacy that makes the world a better place is a priceless experience. That’s why I volunteer. I receive so much more than I give.
Dr. Jonathan Featherstone
In 2005, my friend and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation life member, George Winecoff, took me to my first RMEF banquet. I was instantly engaged with the RMEF and everything elk and elk country. I haven’t missed a banquet since. In 2017, I felt a desire to help lead my Charlotte chapter as a chapter chair and in 2019, I also became a life member.
Not only was I intrigued with elk habitat and the RMEF, but my itch to pursue this magnificent animal grew yearly. In 2010, my dream became a reality as two friends and I drew coveted archery New Mexico elk tags. We killed three elk and have been hooked ever since. However, it wasn’t about the kill. It was the interaction with the elk and elk habitat that truly made our volunteer efforts so worthwhile.
My deepest pride comes from the fact that elk call North Carolina home! Every summer, my wife and I take our five kids to Cherokee, to view the elk. While watching, my wife and kids understand my passion for elk country and they too appreciate and have become active volunteers for the RMEF. My wife Stephanie and the kids help with the banquet, and my daughter Jadyn, paints paintings to raise money. She even won the RMEF youth award for her efforts. I’m so proud of my immediate elk family, RMEF and its volunteers.
My buddy, Tom Mount, and I apply every year in many states for many species and are starting to draw some fantastic opportunity tags. We have killed several elk and I have even been able to kill a mountain goat. We are returning to elk country in Montana for Tom’s goat in 2021. RMEF volunteers and supporters help all species, not just elk! What a fantastic conservation organization.