Founder/Creative Director of Northwoods Collective. A.J. DeRosa is an American…
The next step in leaving the upland hunting community better than we found it.
An open letter from Project Upland’s Creative Director A.J. DeRosa in Issue Zero of Project Upland Magazine.
I often ponder the specific moment when I became a bird hunter. Was it when I was a young kid following behind my father with a youth model 20-gauge pump, seeing my first ruffed grouse on the ground, and being so proud as we brought it home? Or was it the first time I approached a point by my wirehaired pointing griffon and shot a wild bird rather than one pen raised for training?
Want to know the truth? There is a fundamental flaw in my initial question . . . It is not when I became a “bird hunter” but rather when I became a part of a “bird-hunting community.”
This first happened when I released the film Searching – A New England Hunting Tale. Tripp Way, regional director for the Ruffed Grouse Society in New England, made that film come to life in the community. He gave a city-grown bowhunter a chance to share how important the escape of the uplands was to even a dog-less hunter. He set in motion a hard lesson I would learn about the upland world . . . dogs.
“This realization of the staunch differences left me wanting . . . wanting a community that could be all-encompassing where ‘all legal methods’ had their places in the evolution of a bird hunter.”
To be clear, I love dogs. I have a bird dog. But this wasn’t always true. As I began to film more of the upland community, I started to understand that the issue of dogs was almost like the Cold War, east versus west, when it came to hunting with or without dogs. I would be a liar if I said that did not bother me. This realization of the staunch differences left me wanting . . . wanting a community that could be all-encompassing where “all legal methods” had their places in the evolution of a bird hunter. That influenced the birth of Project Upland, a need for a welcoming community for new, novice, and even the hardcore willing to challenge the unspoken “rules” that sometimes inhibit the future of upland hunting.
Project Upland was not supposed to be what it has become, a culture bigger and more important than just one opinion or film. How #ProjectUpland has become a statement of purpose, rather than just a brand or a one-man show, is a testament to the upland community . . . This is not A.J. DeRosa hunts the world 12 different ways, but it is 12 different people, 12 different places, stories, and moments in time.
When Project Upland became a part of the larger Northwoods Collective creative agency, that ideological statement, “These are your stories,” become even more possible. Under the sound business direction (never leave business to the creative folk) of Managing Partner Chet Hervey, we were able to expand. The first step was bringing more filmmakers to diversify the product. We wanted to celebrate all the artists of our community and give them a creative outlet of which to be proud.
From that evolution came this Project Upland magazine, an opportunity to add an even more bold medium for our community to express itself. Although it may seem like this magazine appeared out of thin air, this publication is merely another pivot in a longer vision many years in the making. Chet and I were very close to being true to our skateboarding and surfing youths and going “punk rock” on what we called our “zine.”
We wanted something that truly captured the community, shift in culture and we believed in the authenticity of DIY-ers, novice bird-dog handlers, hardcore uplanders, and millennial industry professionals. Saying that the reality of public lands, wild birds, and everyday people was of importance to us would be an understatement.
Over the past years I have spent a lot of time on the road filming and talking to passionate bird hunters. Not pro staffers, elite establishments, private properties, but real people. I came from the same place as them and realized the simplest answer, in this case the stories we tell at hunting camps and around campfires are the ones that matter most.
We have brought all this together for one collaborative vision, to leave the upland community better than we found it, more accepting, stronger at painting a true story outward to nonhunters, and more accessible to the masses.
As I write this, I cannot help but reflect on the past 24 hours, when I found myself in Idaho with a single-shot, youth-model 20-gauge behind a young puppy trying to shoot my first California quail with Chet. There is a learning curve to both remembering to cock the hammer on the gun at a bird’s flush and a young dog’s first hunt. It reminds me of my favorite quote from Teddy Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
My California quail represents a “first” . . . a place on a path where some of us have been, some will go, and some will dream to be. This is the fundamental core of how all upland culture should be remembered and celebrated. We should be proud of wherever we are, whatever we have on the path of the uplands, and not let the opinions of others taint the beauty of these unforgettable experiences.
What I remember most of my first California quail hunt was not a successful kill but rather an amazing moment in a miss. Nothing can quite prepare someone for the chorus of rising wings and the inevitable covey panic that follows. Missing can be just as special as hitting. This experience serves as a reminder of how diverse our individual experiences are, the temporary block of all logic being caught in the mesmerizing rise of birds. It’s a thing of beauty that needs our attention and curation.
So here is Project Upland magazine, a big step for us to give this brand more purpose and a clearer vision for our community . . . to expose the uplands to the world . . . to capture defining moments . . . to push our passion and culture forward . . . to bring our community closer . . . to make us feel.
These are your stories . . .
Click here for more information on Project Upland Magazine
Founder/Creative Director of Northwoods Collective. A.J. DeRosa is an American filmmaker most notably for the award-winning Project Upland Series. His first mark in the hunting industry was as the critically acclaimed author of the cult classic The Urban Deer Complex and more recently The Urban Deer Complex 2.0. A.J. has expanded a larger mission into the successful R3 vision of millennial hunters through cutting edge research and successful application across the Northwoods Collective brands. Now a passionate bird hunter you can find A.J. following his first bird dog a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Grim through the uplands with his wife Sabrina and oldest son Marty McFly.