Optics manufacturer Leupold & Stevens began advertising in Bugle in 1986 and has remained a steadfast supporter ever since. A lifelong hunter, president and CEO Bruce Pettet takes pride in the company’s commitment to conservation. He’s also proud that Leupold is still a family-owned company that manufactures in Beaverton, Oregon—demonstrating a commitment to an American pursuit of quality that inspires him every day. Pettet put his products—and his glassing skills—to the test in November on his first Team Elk hunt, chasing mule deer with RMEF President David Allen in eastern Montana.
What was the hunt like?
The hunt was awesome. The area was pretty rugged county, with lots of deep draws and plenty of places for mule deer to hide. We had a full moon and warm weather, so we had to put our time in. We hunted hard every day to find deer. It was beautiful terrain. I really enjoyed scanning those deep draws and canyons. Obviously, I’m an optics guy, so I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time glassing and use our products.
You’re an Elk Foundation life member. Why did you join RMEF?
Like most people, my first reason was my love of elk hunting. As I’ve gotten to know the organization better, frankly, it’s the passion for conservation—particularly the ‘hunting is conservation’ movement that RMEF has created and articulated in an incredibly powerful way. That’s what I’m about. I have a passion for conservation. And I want all non-hunters to know what we do as hunters—not just for elk, but for all wildlife.
What does conservation mean to you?
It means thoughtful stewardship—the idea that we need to protect our land, manage our wildlife and educate our hunters. These resources belong to everyone, and we’ve got to manage them properly. How we act and behave as hunters is absolutely critical to doing that, critical to making sure everyone understands what we’re about. It’s not easy. There are a lot of people pushing from a lot of different angles. But I think if we all boil it down to thoughtful stewardship and really making sure that we’re doing what’s right for our wild game, we’ll be in pretty good shape.
How do you incorporate those ideals into your life?
I’m lucky working at Leupold because it’s part of our core values. We live it every day. I not only belong to RMEF; I support a number of organizations that protect and preserve wildlife—from the Mule Deer Foundation to Ducks Unlimited to Pheasants Forever. I’m always up for the challenge of making sure that we as hunters and fisherman are understood. When I have a chance to talk to non-hunters, I find that they’re really open to listening.
How did you start hunting?
The first time I ever hunted was for quail with my grandfather in Oklahoma when I was barely big enough to hold a shotgun. My family was back there for Thanksgiving. I begged him, and I wore him down. He finally said, “Okay, let’s go.” He handed me a shotgun. He had bird dogs at the time. One of the dogs went on point, and up it came. My grandfather had a shotgun, too, so I’m not sure which one of us actually shot it. But he convinced me it was me. It was pretty awesome. From that moment on, I had the bug for hunting.
What drives you to continue hunting year after year?
I just love it, and I always look forward to it. When hunting season starts to roll in, I feel like a little kid again. I love getting my gear ready almost as much as the hunt—that anticipation. Whether or not you’re successful, it’s just that whole idea of being outdoors and enjoying this incredible country that we live in. Just being able to get out and experience it is what it’s all about for me.
What’s your favorite hunting memory?
I don’t have one single story. It’s all the times I’ve been hunting with my sons. In fact, my oldest son and I just hunted together in Oklahoma for whitetail over Thanksgiving, and my daughter joined as well. They’re all adults now. Whenever we can, we go out into the field together. We really like being out there. There’s just something about being out with your children in the field that is tremendous.