From Study Plan to Book: A Voice for a New Breed of Hunters

LILY RAFF McCAULOU  ’10  | The KWF Experience

A  Manhattan transplant in rural Oregon, Lily Raff McCaulou learns to hunt, a topic she explored during her fellowship year at Michigan.

When I applied for a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship, I knew my proposed study plan was unorthodox. It became clear just how unorthodox it was during my admission interview. That’s when a member of the panel read out loud my topic title – “The ethos of hunting” – sighed and asked: “Are you sure you wouldn’t want to study something a little more… broad?’”

I declined, then went on to explain why this topic was worthy of an eight-month academic pursuit.

Growing up near Washington, D.C., I didn’t know anyone who hunted. Hunters, I figured, were probably just barbaric gun nuts. Then, at 23, I moved from Manhattan to Bend, Ore., to cover a rural area for a small newspaper, The Bulletin. There, I began interviewing hunters for my articles and realized that although I had long considered myself an environmentalist, these hunters – most of whom scoffed at the “E” word – were more knowledgeable and thoughtful about animals and nature than I was. Eventually, I decided to buy a gun and join them.

During her fellowship, Lily Raff McCaulou took in the Mill Creek Sport Center Buck Pole in Dexter, Michigan

The more I immersed myself in hunting, the more intrigued I became. The topic touched so many facets of my life: what I ate, how I viewed the landscape around me, my connection to previous generations, my relationships with animals, my fear of death.

I believe that, at its best, journalism introduces readers to subjects that shed new light on their own lives. It also helps to connect communities that don’t seem, at first, to have much in common. My own transformation from gun-shy urbanite to competent hunter seemed to align with these journalistic ideals, so the topic of hunting actually seemed like a perfect fit for the Knight-Wallace program.

My explanation made at least a little sense, I suppose, because I landed a fellowship: eight glorious months of international travel and seminars by experts on everything from Chinese-U.S. relations to ragtime piano. I found a few courses that related – albeit tangentially – to my study topic, including a psychology class that examined how humans “created” dogs from wolves, through selective breeding. At Wallace House, we Fellows went around the room several times a week and introduced ourselves by listing our names, most recent jobs and study topics.

This had the unexpected benefit of getting me used to talking about a subject that’s taboo in many circles – especially academic ones. More than one guest raised an eyebrow when I mentioned that I was at the University of Michigan to study hunting. But many of them couldn’t resist asking me about it.

In fact, I was surprised by how many people – even non-hunters from urban backgrounds – were interested in my topic. Ultimately, this encouraged me to do what had been in the back of my mind all along: write a book.

I landed a book deal shortly after I returned from my fellowship. My book, Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt my Own Dinner, came out this summer.Looking back on it now, almost every chapter contains some vestige of my fellowship year. There’s research from my dogs-and-wolves class, references to Moby Dick (one of many hunting-related novels I had time to read that year), even personal anecdotes from deer hunting in northern Michigan that fall. In one sense, my study topic was perfectly typical: it led to a year that was nothing if not broad.

Lily Raff McCaulou, writes a weekly column for The Bulletin (Bend, OR) and is the author of “Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner.” Her views on hunting, the environment and gun rights have appeared in The New York Times and on NPR.   

KWF Fellow brings her Michigan experience back to NPR

ANDREA HSU  ’12  | The KWF Experience

The clementine on the left was operated on by a skilled surgeon. A nonsurgeon operated on the other one. During her fellowship, Hsu practiced her technique alongside surgeons and medical students.

At the University of Michigan, as with most medical schools, Grand Rounds start early. Well, early for a Knight-Wallace Fellow. By 7:30 am, the medical students and residents who gather for the weekly lecture series (not actually rounds of patients) have already been at work for a couple of hours – a thought that more than once guilted me into getting out of bed.

Andrea Hsu, KWF ’13

It was on one of those mornings that I got a first peek into Pamela Andreatta’s world. Andreatta, a medical educator, was at Grand Rounds presenting the results of some of her research. She’d designed a number of non-traditional simulations for teaching minimally invasive surgery techniques, and had tested them out on faculty, residents, and students. Far from the million-dollar computer-based simulators, these are low-cost, low-tech models made from things like colorful foam shapes purchased at Michael’s Arts and Crafts stores and various types of fruit, including clementines. Her hope is that given the simplicity of these models, they can be put in offices and call rooms so that doctors can spend five or ten minutes between patient visits honing their surgical skills. She’s also bringing these models to developing countries where resources are scarce but minimally invasive surgery is in high demand.

Andreatta’s innovative approach caught my attention, and after that morning’s Grand Rounds, I made a mental note to catch up with her after my fellowship had ended. And so in May, over two visits, I had a chance to not only better understand the shortcomings in medical education she’s trying to address, but also, gain some insight into her quirky brilliance. It was fun to hear how she’s shaking up a field steeped in tradition. In addition to simulations that teach surgical skills, she’s also working on exercises to improve communication within medical teams. One involves getting several people to work together to make potholders by stretching colorful bands across a plastic loom – while using laparoscopic surgical tools.

At the end of my interviews, I probably had enough material to fill twenty minutes on the air, but did my best to capture the essence of Andreatta’s work in the four minutes I was allotted. Sometime in the future, I’d love to do a longer piece about her and the rollout of her work in medical programs around the country. By then, I fully expect that she’ll have come up with some new simulation that will overtake the Clementine, but right now I can only dream of what that might be.

Andrea Hsu, producer, “All Things Considered,” National Public Radio, studied innovative approaches to healthcare awareness during her journalism fellowship. Listen to her story on npr.org. 

Secret Ingredient Leads to Wildlife Encounter

VINCE PATTON  ’04 | Awards and Recognition

Elk

Vince Patton ’04 and his videographer Michael Bendixen use authentic hunting practices to shoot their subject. Their story, Elk at Mount St. Helens, won an Emmy.

We had concealed ourselves in a ravine, the videographer and his camera draped in camouflage mesh and me bundled in brown leather jacket, hoping we’d blend into the pumice plain. Our pre-dawn hike into the volcanic hillocks in front of Mount St. Helens had allowed us to spot several herds of elk without them noticing us In October, our drab clothes matched the parched landscape.

While Michael, the videographer, trained his camera on a herd 500 yards away, I sat with headphones glued to my ears and trained the directional “shotgun” microphone towards the herd.

Vince Patton, KWF ‘04

Vince Patton, KWF ‘04

Breeding season had descended on the Toutle River Valley. Bachelors eagerly sought to recruit females to their sides. Male elk bugled and bellowed regularly. This was a once-a-year chance to record their surprisingly high pitched wails.

We’d spotted a large herd led by one dominant male but they were too far away for good close-ups. So what was that loud crunching sound? This side of the volcano is off limits to hunters. We were in the natural scientific research zone with special permission. We certainly expected no one else hiking here. I turned the microphone, directing it over my shoulder and the footsteps became even louder. Whoever it was had walked up just a few feet away above the edge of the ravine where we had hidden.

Michael whirled his camera in time to see a very surprised bull and three female elk. They took one look at us, spun and ran off.

Why would an animal so notoriously skittish of humans have come to inspect us? Michael knew.

Michael’s special ingredient had worked. He had sprayed both of us with elk urine before we set out. We’re told elk don’t see well. But their noses rank closer to bloodhounds than to humans. Apparently, we smelled particularly appealing that morning to the bull in search of a harem.  He didn’t actually see us until the last moment when he peered over the edge.

Hunters use this technique too, so it’s not particularly unique.

But in 32 years in television, it’s the first time I’ve needed pheromones to coax someone closer to the camera.

Vince Patton reports for Oregon Field Guide on Oregon Public Broadcasting. He and videographer Michael Bendixen won an Emmy for their story on Elk at Mount St. Helens