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B&C Member Spotlight - John B. Burnham

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One of the few books ever issued "With the Approval of the Boone and Crockett Club is "The Rim of Mystery: A Hunter's Wanderings in Unknown Siberian Asia", by John Bird Burnham. Burnham, a Boone and Crockett Club member, along with a companion, Andrew M. Taylor, embarked on a five-month expedition to the remote Chukotsk Peninsula of Northeastern Siberia to determine whether wild sheep existed there and to what species they belonged. Located across from the Seward Peninsula of Alaska, and with the Arctic Circle cutting through it, this area is one of the farthest north locations of the former Soviet Union.

In a dinner at the home of Charles Sheldon, and with Dr. E.W. Nelson, Chief of the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey in attendance, plans were made for the trip. The year was 1921 right in the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution, and it took help from the Colorado Museum of Natural History to obtain permission from the Revolutionary Commissioner "to hunt birds!" Burnham wasn't interested in birds but the license was impressive enough to get him through the trip.

Although there was reason to believe that mountain sheep existed in the Chukotsk Peninsula, no one knew what the sheep were or how to classify them. No museum in the world had a specimen from the Chukotsk or from any place near it. ln the far north the animals are driven to the sea coast in winter to procure food on account of the deep snows of the interior. On the Chukotsk peninsula, where local people hunt seals and walrus along the sea coast, it would seem that sheep driven to the coast by weather conditions would soon be exterminated.

After a long search and with much hardship, Burnham did secure a mature ewe. He wrote, "It was very different in color from any sheep I had ever seen. Its back was a mouse color with a black dorsal streak and the tail which was very short was black also. The horn flare was unusual." Other than some picked up horns, this was the only evidence of sheep the expedition secured.

Burnham wrote, "In summing up Taylor and I together traveled twenty-two thousand miles and wore out nine pair of shoes in the five months of our trip to get one small mountain sheep. But, we are satisfied because we accomplished our job and had a mighty interesting time while we were about it. You who love new country will understand; life is too short to try to explain to others."

Research from the John Burnham papers, 1882-1977, (University of Wyoming. American Heritage Center) indicates Burnham was an influential proponent of wildlife conservation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He joined the staff of "Field and Stream" in 1891 and wrote articles in support of game laws and game preserves. An enthusiastic hunter, he was tasked with reforming the game laws of New York State between 1904 and 1915. From 1911 to 1928 he was president of the American Game Protective and Propagation Association, which lobbied for Federal legislation protecting wildlife populations. He also worked with the Audubon Association and the government to establish a treaty with Canada to protect migratory birds.


Member Spotlights

Boone and Crockett Club members have come from a cross-section of famous accomplished people whose lives and careers have written and recorded the history of this country since the late 19th Century. They have been naturalists, scientists, explorers and sportsmen, writers and academicians, artists, statesmen and politicians, generals, bankers, financiers, philanthropists, and industrialists. Their diversity of ideas and activities during their careers have made the Boone and Crockett Club rich in its fellowship and achievements. To read more member spotlights, just click here

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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt