Congratulations to American Hunter contributor and my friend Craig Boddington, who has been named as the recipient of the 2017 Weatherby Hunting and Conservation Award, presented annually to a hunter “who has ethically taken the most varied, difficult, and largest number of species in the world”; who has made “contributions to wildlife conservation and education demonstrating the positive role hunting plays in conserving the world’s wildlife”; and whose sportsmanship demonstrates “character, integrity in the field, and lifelong commitment to hunting.” Craig was recognized Jan. 3 by the Weatherby Foundation International at its 61st Annual Awards Banquet during the annual Dallas Safari Club Convention.
The announcement is historic. The first Weatherby Award recipient in 1956 was Herb Klein, a friend of Roy Weatherby and major benefactor of and investor in the firearm legend’s Weatherby Inc. (The foundation was formed in 1988; the firm is no longer affiliated with the award.) The next two recipients were Jack O’Connor and Warren Page, but no writer has won since. “Honestly,” Craig replied, “I don’t know if any genuine ‘gunwriters’ ever will again; the requirements are kind of extreme. But it does show that all things are possible!
“No one achieves ‘the Weatherby’ by accident,” continued Craig. “It takes a lot of work, a lot planning ... and of course a lot of hunting. That said, I can’t say that attaining it is a lifelong goal, because for many years, by the rules of the Foundation, ‘professionals’ such as writers, outfitters, taxidermists and booking agents were not allowed to compete. This started to change about a dozen years ago so it became a possible goal. But I have only been competitive because I’ve been hunting for a long time and, even as a young hunter, have always been interested in hunting the available game in areas I visited—not just ‘primary species’ but other game on license.
“The last dozen years, when this recognition seemed almost within grasp, have been a tough road. I didn’t expect it this year, and I am totally surprised. Roy Weatherby started this award in 1956. I knew him well and respected him immensely. I have followed this award, carried on in his name by Weatherby Foundation International, for many years. Most of the former winners have been my hunting heroes and many have become friends. But I never really expected that someday I might join this small and exclusive group. I am not just humbled but in total shock.”
During his hunting career Craig has gained extensive experience on six continents. His first “international hunt” occurred in northern British Columbia, in 1973; he made his first safari to Africa to Kenya, in 1977. He completed the African Big Five in 1986; he also has achieved the Capra Super 30; Ovis Super 20; two North American grand slams; and the North American Super Slam from Grand Slam/Ovis. He is one of only two hunters known to have taken all nine of Africa’s principal spiral-horned antelope twice. His favorite hunts include those for African buffalo, which he has pursued in 12 countries; and for whitetails, which he loves to hunt and guide for in Kansas.
“I have been rooting for Craig to win this award for quite a few years,” said John Zent, Editorial Director of NRA Publications, “mostly because I know he deserves it, but also because I too hoped a writer would win it again someday. He’s done us all proud.”
Said Mark A. Keefe IV, Editor in Chief of the NRA’s American Rifleman: “In the pantheon of lifetime achievement awards for those like us, there is no higher honor. And this one is long overdue.”
Craig grew up in Kansas, and in the mid-1960s he began hunting whitetails and mule deer there; pronghorns and mule deer in Wyoming, and mule deer in Colorado. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout at age 14. He attended the University of Kansas on a Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps scholarship, and was graduated with a Bachelor’s of English then assumed a commission in the United States Marine Corps. He served in command assignments for more than 20 of his 31 years of active and reserve duty, and retired in 2005 as a colonel.