Skip to main content

The Leopold Legacy

The Leopold Legacy

"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." -- Aldo Leopold

Considered the father of wildlife management, Aldo Leopold developed an ethic in which love and respect for the land are the guiding principals in land stewardship. Aldo Leopold's definitive work, A Sand County Almanac, reveals the unexpected natural richness hidden in the sand counties of Wisconsin.

//

He believed that public conservation efforts had little chance of success unless private individuals felt a strong personal responsibility for the health of the land.


In 1935, driven to action by this philosophy, the Leopold family bought a sand county farm. It was worn out and then abandoned by our bigger and better society and "selected for its lack of goodness and its lack of highway." The Leopold family spent 12 years of time and effort changing their 80 acres of desolation into a showplace of native Wisconsin habitat complete with abundant wildlife and restored natural landscape. In so doing, Aldo Leopold left us an inspiring example of the land ethic in action.


Now, 75 years later, the Leopold legacy in Wisconsin still lives, carried on by a couple of dedicated bowhunters, Stan and Carolyn Godfrey. I first met the Godfreys in 2006. I had been the Pennsylvania State Chairman for the Pope and Young Club's Museum Fund Drive, and through my fundraising efforts I won a hunt that the Godfreys had donated to the Club for the event. I was thrilled to find out I would be hunting with them in Buffalo County.

Stan called in early September to remind me that Buffalo is an Earn-A-Buck county, meaning I had to shoot a doe before I could legally shoot a buck. He suggested I come out early and harvest my doe. I explained that it was a 2,200-mile round trip.


"That's a long drive just to shoot a doe," I said.


"Think about it," he said. "I'd hate to see a Booner walk under your stand and you can't take him because you haven't taken your antlerless deer."

I hung up, thought about it for 30 seconds, and called him back. "I'll be there in two days," I said.

I killed my doe the first afternoon and spent the next couple of days cruising around the farm with Stan on four-wheelers while he explained what he and Carolyn had been doing to improve the place over the past 15 years.

In 1994, while living in the southern part of the state, the Godfreys had bought a 240-acre farm in Buffalo County with the dream of improving the habitat and retiring there. Every weekend, every vacation, and every spare moment went into improving that piece of land in the Leopold tradition.

Food plots planted on a yearly basis and never harvested provide food for critters year round. Stan has also developed ATV paths to give access to the high, remote sand bluffs surrounding the property. He brought in tons of gravel to make safe travel lanes throughout the farm, providing great access for hanging stands and monitoring trail cameras. He has planted clover in every lane and trail touched by sunlight.

Through the years, Stan has planted over 2,500 trees to provide cover and food for wildlife, and he has carefully planted, fertilized, and nurtured orchards of apple, pear, plum, and high-bush cranberry. The property now abounds with healthy populations of deer, turkeys, and songbirds of all descriptions. An occasional bobcat shows up, and the sighting of bald eagles is not uncommon.

"It's a labor of love," Carolyn said about her husband's dedication to his work. "He's in his glory when he's on the tractor planting a food plot, clearing downed trees, hanging treestands, or monitoring trail cameras. It never occurs to him that it's a lot of hard work."

Although Carolyn and Stan do most of the work themselves, they get help every spring when the local high school's FFA club visits the farm to help with new plantings. "This past year the kids planted 250 oaks," Carolyn said. "Of course, I had to feed the whole bunch when they were done!"

The more time I spent with these fine people, the more their story reminded me of the Leopold legacy. The Godfreys had nurtured their land just as the Leopolds had in the 1930's.

As I said at the top of this story, Stan and Carolyn are avid bowhunters and have been for a long time. Stan has 19 P&Y trophies on the wall, and Carolyn has eight. Photos of the couple with Fred Bear, and bows signed by Bear, adorn their trophy room walls. Stan has been an official measurer for Pope and Young since 1972. He also measures trophies for Boone and Crockett and the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club. Both Stan and Carolyn are life members of Wisconsin Bowhunters and were chosen as the 2007 Wisconsin Bowhunters of the Year.

They also donate a hunt each year to the Whitetail Unlimited Youth Hunt, which provides a first-time hunt for kids who have never hunted before. "I think we get more of a thrill out of this experience than the kids do," Stan said. "It's a very satisfying thing to see a youngster harvest his or her first big game animal."

In November 2006, I returned to the farm and had a gimme shot at a nice buck on the last day of my hunt. Out of nowhere, a branch materialized to intercept my arrow, and the buck lived to possibly break another bowhunter's heart.

In 2008, I was ready to try for a big buck once more. Stan suggested I come early again to take care of my Earn-A-Buck tag, but this time gas was over four dollars a gallon, so I told him I'd take my chances in November.

Then the price of gas dropped 50 cents.

"Let's go for a ride," I said to my wife, Kathy.

"Where?" she replied. "To town?"

"No, to Wisconsin!" I said.

It was early October and the fall foliage was just beginning to change. I killed my doe on the third day, and we spent the next couple of days relaxing with our friends and learning more about their commitment to land stewardship and management of wildlife on their farm.

During our discussion of their dedication to improving habitat, my eyes kept wandering to the trophy whitetail mounts staring down at me from the living room walls. Naturally, I had to ask Stan the big question: Why does this area produce such trophy quality whitetails?

"Well," he said, "we do have a good gene pool, we do have good minerals in the soil, and we do have good nutrition in vast fields of corn and soybeans.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Better Bow Practice: Pick a Spot When Aiming

Better Bow Practice: Pick a Spot When Aiming

On this edition of "Dead On," Hall-of-Fame bowhunter Randy Ulmer shares advice on picking a spot to aim at when practicing with your bow.

Tree Saddle Hunting Gear: Saddle Options

Tree Saddle Hunting Gear: Saddle Options

Most of these saddle options are offered in kit form with lineman and tree tether ropes plus carabiners, some with MOLLE-attached storage pouches for ropes, aider, drink and accessories.

Texas Hog and Whitetail Hunt

Texas Hog and Whitetail Hunt

Bowhunter TV Editor Derek Mleynek sets up for some hog and whitetail hunting at Canyon Ranch in Texas.

Tree Saddle Hunting Gear: Climbing Sticks Tree-Attachment Upgrades

Tree Saddle Hunting Gear: Climbing Sticks Tree-Attachment Upgrades

The array of ultra-strong, easy-to-use, light and quiet aftermarket stick attachment options has never been more creative and compelling. The noisier, heavier, harder-to-conveniently-wrap-on-your-sticks metal buckle and strap is anathema for today's mobile hunter.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Inspired by “Buzzwinkle,” a lit up moose in Anchorage, this Apple and Cheddar-Ale Moose Burger Recipe is sure to be a delicious party on your taste buds with every bite.Apple and Cheddar-Ale Moose Burger Recipe Recipes

Apple and Cheddar-Ale Moose Burger Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Inspired by “Buzzwinkle,” a lit up moose in Anchorage, this Apple and Cheddar-Ale Moose Burger...

Chasing predators is great for calming big-game nerves.Tips for Bowhunting Predators Other Game

Tips for Bowhunting Predators

Joe Bell

Chasing predators is great for calming big-game nerves.

It's important for bowhunters to adapt to the ever-changing scenarios & shot angles on the fly. Treestand Shot Selection for Bowhunters How-To

Treestand Shot Selection for Bowhunters

Tony J. Peterson

It's important for bowhunters to adapt to the ever-changing scenarios & shot angles on the...

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

A year has already passed since the loss of one the greatest bowhunters in history. Remembering Dwight Schuh One Year Later Stories

Remembering Dwight Schuh One Year Later

Dwight Schuh - February 05, 2020

A year has already passed since the loss of one the greatest bowhunters in history.

It's often said archers do it The Journey For A Longbow Super Slam Stories

The Journey For A Longbow Super Slam

Nathan L. Andersohn - July 31, 2018

It's often said archers do it "the hard way," but hunting with a longbow is, by far, the...

Suddenly quiet, the bright-orange, one-time Danish Coast Guard boat drifted with the current, waterA Greenland Hunting Adventure to Remember Stories

A Greenland Hunting Adventure to Remember

Jeff Waring - January 02, 2018

Suddenly quiet, the bright-orange, one-time Danish Coast Guard boat drifted with the current,...

Dwight Schuh explains why it's okay to be serious about bowhunting - but not too serious!Hunting for the Fun of It Stories

Hunting for the Fun of It

Dwight Schuh

Dwight Schuh explains why it's okay to be serious about bowhunting - but not too serious!

See More Stories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Bowhunter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now