Hunting, Fishing, and Camping: A Way of Life Supporting Connections to Our Lands and Family

HECHO Q&A with Lupe Huerena and his daughter, Alexis Stack (27)

Lupe Huerena is a native of Flagstaff, Arizona.  He continues to live in the mountain town of Flagstaff surrounded by beautiful federal public lands.  Lupe served our country as a Marine and he recently retired from working at Camp Navajo Army Depot where he had a long and successful career of 35 years. 

One of the first things he wanted to do the day after he retired was go hunting.  Hunting is a way of life for Lupe.  Like harvesting a garden, he has always harvested meat through hunting and has always included his family.  Lupe’s daughter Alexis grew up hunting with her Dad.  Although Alexis is very busy with her nursing career, she continues to hunt with her Dad and is committed to passing on this family hunting tradition to future generations.

A young Lupe with a bull elk

A young Lupe with a bull elk

Alexis with her first deer, 2003

Alexis with her first deer, 2003

What was it like growing up hunting?

Lupe Huerena: My dad wasn’t really a hunter – I just grew up with it in my blood I guess. Ever since I was a little kid, I liked guns and rifles and hunting. When I turned 14, my dad took me on my first turkey hunt and my first 2 deer hunts (only because I wanted him to). I also hunted with my uncles a few times. When I turned 18 and I could go on my own was when I really started hunting a lot.  

Alexis Stack: Hunting, camping and fishing were things we always did growing up. We didn’t have a lot of money but every summer, as soon as it was warm enough, we’d go out camping and fishing. I often brought friends and they were always excited to go with us. I don’t know how many of my friends caught their first fish with my dad rigging up their lines.

I always wanted to hunt, too. As soon as I was able to, I took my safety class and went on my first hunt. There’s something special about doing that with your dad – being outside, hunting, catching a fish and cooking it, and doing it all with your family.

lupe (above) and Alexis (Right) sighting rifles before elk hunt, 2015

lupe (above) and Alexis (Right) sighting rifles before elk hunt, 2015

What’s it like hunting together now, as adults?

Lupe: It’s wonderful because we get to know each other a little better. Your kids leave at 18 and then after that you just see them on the weekends or holidays. Alexis and I hunted for 6 or 7 days together. We’d leave the house at 5:30 am and wouldn’t get back until 6 or 7 at night. All of that time we hunted and had a good time and got to know each other better without all of the distractions of city life and phones and all of that. Hunting with my kids is the best.

Alexis: You spend a lot of time in close quarters. When I was younger, I felt lucky that he was taking me hunting and camping. I think my dad is a pretty cool guy, so I thought it was fun to hang out with him. Now that we’re older, our conversations have changed.  You run out of small talk and you get to know each other on a different level. My dad doesn’t do deep conversation very often, but when you get him talking and sharing stories about himself, it’s really cool. I feel a different connection with my dad because I get to spend time in the outdoors doing what he’s loved to do. I feel so lucky that he’s passing this knowledge and tradition on to me.

Finding bear tracks on an elk hunt, 2015

Finding bear tracks on an elk hunt, 2015

Alexis with elk near flagstaff, Az, 2015

Alexis with elk near flagstaff, Az, 2015

What’s it like to eat what you’ve killed?

Alexis: About 2 years ago, I really started paying attention to my health and trying to change the way I eat.  When you’re able to go out and harvest your own food you know it’s healthy and you’ve worked hard to get it. When you’re eating that you think, “Wow, I put that on our table. I provided for my family.”  It makes me feel awesome.

Lupe: My main purpose for hunting is for the food. I hunt every animal there is – tomorrow I’m going javelina hunting. I also hunt elk, deer, antelope and all of the small game there is, and that’s how I’ve always fed my family. I raised 4 kids and that’s what they ate growing up.  

I love eating the food that we catch – my wife is a really good cook. That probably helps quite a bit. My wife used to help me skin them and take it to the butcher, too. Plus, she fixes our lunches. It’s a tradition that I’ve always had and hope to keep doing for a long time.

Alexis: My mom can surely throw down some good cooking on a camping trip. I wouldn’t want to be lost in the woods without her, that’s for sure.  She makes potatoes and eggs and always really good pico de gallo salsa. She’s made some delicious elk tamales over the years, too.  

Lupe with the day's catch at navajo pond

Lupe with the day's catch at navajo pond

Lupe's grandsons, Matthew and Angelo, with javelina

Lupe's grandsons, Matthew and Angelo, with javelina

How does this connect to conservation efforts?

Lupe: Every time you buy a box of bullets or a rifle or a game tag or your license, money goes back to the Game and Fish Department. Beyond that financial support, I’ve always done my part to keep things beautiful. When my boys and I used to go fishing, we would take a plastic bag with us and we’d walk around the lake and pick up trash, empty beer cans, hooks and whatever else people left behind. When we’d go hunting, we’d do that too. People leave empty boxes of ammo, old targets and all sorts of miscellaneous trash.

Alexis: I feel a connection out there and an appreciation for how quiet it is. On our last hunt we weren’t seeing a lot, it was a little overcast and it had rained a little bit. It was early fall and the colors were starting to change. The road was wet, and as we were walking, we saw fresh tracks from a mama and baby bear. You feel like you’re in their element and it’s a privilege to be there away from the hustle and bustle from everything going on in the city. You’re in their territory. It’s pretty special and it definitely inspires you to want to protect it.

Lupe: Conservation of these lands means I get to feed my family the most natural types of meat through both hunting and fishing.  It also means that my generation and the generations behind me get to form a connection with the outdoors and get outside away from the video games and cellphones and get moving.  The earth gives to us in so many ways like oxygen, food, and habitat, why would we not want to protect it?

Lupe (left), grandkids Angelo and Naomi, and son Angel (right)

Lupe (left), grandkids Angelo and Naomi, and son Angel (right)