Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Interview with the Bigfoot Field Reporter

Howdy, folks...

I certainly hope it's been a great summer for everyone! My new headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina really lives up to the motto "Famously Hot"! I have seen more snakes within a mile from my house this summer than I have in the last two years combined!


Last night I was the guest on Sharon Lee and Rictor Riolo's Blogtalk Radio show "The Bigfoot Field Reporter". It was a fun interview, and one of the few interviews I've done with other bigfoot enthusiasts. I've done quite a few different Blogtalk shows; typically with paranormal investigators or reporters of esoterica. To get to speak with people who are well-versed in the subject made for a much more conversational and enjoyable experience.

You can listen to the interview HERE, or you can click play on the embedded player below. Thanks for listening, and enjoy what's left of the summer!

Listen to internet radio with sharonlee0827 on Blog Talk Radio

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Recommended Viewing: Enigma Research Group's "Sasquatch Field Research Series: Tracking 1" DVD

The Enigma Research Group is a Georgia-based team of researchers who have been studying the sasquatch phenomenon in various forms for many years. I have known the members of the group for quite a while; in fact, in 2006, Leigh Culver was the first BFRO member that I met, and eventually recruited me into the organization. Through Leigh I met Keith McLain, who has since become a great friend and field partner.

Leigh and I in Northeast Georgia.
Leigh also introduced me to the benefits of the "step-by-step" tracking method, and how to properly apply it to documenting sasquatch tracks and sign on a near-forensic level. In March of 2007, at Leigh's suggestion, I enrolled and participated in a tracking course taught by Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services in Appomattox, Virginia. I made the trip up to the course with Leigh and another Enigma Research Group member, JT McAvoy. It was an eye-opening experience, and truly helped shape my field research methodologies.

The March, 2007 Joel Hardin class group photo including Leigh, JT, and me.
Later that same year, Leigh and I hosted a tracking course on a private property in Northeast Georgia for BFRO members. There was a "classroom" component that Leigh had created which was essentially an introduction to the step-by-step tracking method and the tenets of using three-person teams to follow trackways. In addition to the classroom-style portion of the course, Leigh and I had laid trackways through various parts of the environment 24 hours earlier, and assisted each team with finding and documenting every single footfall that we made.

The 2007 Northeast Georgia Sasquatch Tracking class group photo.
In 2009, Leigh, JT, and I taught an updated version of that same course to the Utah chapter of the BFRO in a remote area along a beautiful portion of the Duchesne River.

Having a discussion at base camp during the 2009 Utah class.
In 2010, Leigh, JT, Keith, and a newer member Craig Jackson (who attended my 2008 BFRO Georgia Expedition) decided to adapt Leigh's tracking course for a documentary format and release it on DVD. They sent me an early copy of the DVD, and I think it's a fantastic way to learn the tenants of identifying and documenting track and sign without having to travel across the country to attend a course or class.



I highly recommend this DVD for any field researcher hoping to locate and document sasquatch track and sign.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 2012 Update

All,

I apologize for the lack of posts, updates, etc. here. My computer crashed a few weeks ago, and I have been tediously responding to all emails and blog comments via my phone (which is much less fun than typing on a computer).

I just spent several nights in the field in Northeast Georgia with a few BFRO members, as well as a veteran researcher from Europe.

I will be posting that expedition report, as well as the complete Arkansas BFRO expedition report in the next few weeks.

I deployed the three Reconyx RC60 cameras at a location in Georgia, and investigated a fascinating series of incidents as well.

I'll do my best to complete all three reports and post them on the BFRO site and here as time permits, and as I get access to functional computers!

I hope to have mine repaired and running ASAP.

Best!
Matt

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Interview for the Dailysingle Webzine

I was recently contacted by the Dailysingle, a web-based magazine featuring interviews with different unique individuals every day. Today's issue features my interview, along with a few photos.

Read the interview HERE


Monday, April 30, 2012

Field Research Strategy: Using a Vehicle as an Observation Blind

In my own personal quest for the observation and documentation of sasquatches, I am always trying to employ simple and consistent methods that will allow me to more easily see (and potentially film) sasquatches in various contexts.

While it's much more exciting and dramatic to enter wilderness areas and back country in pursuit of sasquatches, I personally believe that better opportunities for documentation await in areas where sasquatches approach areas of human habitation/occupation; especially places where sasquatches have been habituated to humans and exploit human food. (For further information on that subject, please read my article about "Established Habituation Scenarios".) 

Sasquatches will approach camps, lone vehicles, etc. in very specific scenarios; usually in search of food. Many people (witnesses and researchers alike) have heard them moving into camp in the wee hours of the morning to investigate human "stuff". Often, they'll even hear the sasquatch(es) touching/examining tents with human occupants. This occurs frequently, and offers a great opportunity to document sasquatches. However, at the first sign of human movement (unzipping a sleeping bag, unzipping a tent, etc.) the sasquatches typically vacate camp immediately. Dr. Jeff Meldrum experienced this during an expedition in the Siskiyou Wilderness of northern California. Many people have heard sasquatches doing this, but only a few people have seen them in the act. Most tents don't allow you to see much through their walls or mesh windows in total darkness.

Artist Scott Davis' impression of a sasquatch visiting a camp.
There are numerous reports from witnesses and researchers that support this theory, but a select few have greatly influenced my thinking and strategy with regard to this type of attempt.

BFRO Director Matt Moneymaker wrote about setting up surveillance systems inside vehicles for documenting camp approaches. He states: "The most passive camera traps are ones requiring no installation, testing or camouflaging at the site, such as when cameras are already set up inside vehicles. Rigging up surveillance cameras inside vehicles is a much bigger project than one might assume, and needs to begin long before the expedition. If it succeeds at a given spot then it can succeed repeatedly there. If it does not succeed, it can be relocated to other spots as quickly as the vehicle can be moved."

Dennis Pfohl (Colorado BFRO investigator and Erickson Project member) recorded this example of a sasquatch walking through a small camp during a field excursion in Oklahoma. From this BFRO article: "The night this clip was recorded, a search and rescue professional (Rob B.) attending the expedition said a tall massive figure came up to the vehicle he was sleeping in (a 4x4 pickup). The animal pushed up and down on the tailgate with tremendous force. It then walked around to the door of the pickup. It leaned over the hood of the raised 4x4 from the side, to look down through the front windshield. It then it grabbed the door handle and rocked the vehicle a few times. It pounded lightly on the door a few times before walking away. Rob couldn't move while it was happening. He was laying on the seat, in his sleeping bag, looking up through his slightly fogged windows. He could see the figure's size by its silhouette against the starry sky, when it leaned over the hood of the raised vehicle to look through the windshield."  

Veteran researcher (and friend) Tal Branco often used his vehicle as an observation blind. In addition to trying to observe a sasquatch approach his camp from within a vehicle, Tal would mount a parabolic dish on the roof of his vehicle and listen with headphones, anticipating an approach. This method yielded several recordings of approaches and vocalizations for Tal, as well as one sighting.

Kansas-based bigfoot researcher Randy Harrington had an extended observation in southern Oklahoma from the cab of his truck. After devoting time to researching various "hot-spots", Randy decided to set up a small camp in an area where the resident sasquatches had a reputation for taking human food from campsites and trash bins in a heavily used recreation area. He was also monitoring the area with a microphone mounted to the roof of his vehicle. He was able to hear the sasquatches approaching his camp, and therefore was able to anticipate their movements and observe them.

Randy Harrington

In an attempt to replicate the results of other researchers, and also to modify and adapt the methodology, I have been using similar techniques.

I am currently using the Zoom H2 Field Recorder. It's a decent unit with sensitive on-board microphones, and will support large SD cards and multiple file formats. The benefit of this unit is that you can use a large SD card and lithium batteries and it will record high-fidelity audio for an extended time. For sasquatch researchers, that's a major benefit.

The Zoom H2.

Now, when I camp with a small group of researchers, I will sleep in my vehicle. I have a 4Runner, so I can lay the back seats down and create a nice surface to sleep on. I'll lay down a Ridge Rest and sleeping bag and have all of my optical gear at the ready. I mount my H2 on the roof or side of the vehicle with a magnet (at a safe distance from the unit, so it doesn't affect the SD card). I crack one window slightly and run a pair of headphones into the vehicle.
My sleeping setup.
The Zoom H2 has a few different microphone settings, one of which splits the front and rear microphones into a stereo pair. Once you're using that setting, you can orient the unit to direct attention to a given approach or two approaches. I orient it in such a way that I could anticipate the most likely approach routes, and assign them a channel (left or right). Once I'm in the vehicle, the recorder is rolling and I'm monitoring in real time. On the high gain setting, the unit is really sensitive, so I am able to hear subtle sounds extremely well.

If we are able to successfully elicit an approach from a sasquatch to our camp, I'll be able to hear it slowly approaching. If my H2 is oriented correctly, I will also be able to tell which direction it's coming from, and point my optical gear that way. My windows are tinted, so I have the advantage of being able to move around slowly without giving myself away. Moreover, the vehicle really helps contain any small sounds that I make.

Being in a vehicle also offers you a nearly 360 degree view of your surroundings; it gives you much better odds of seeing one approach.

I have been using this method for the last several outings, and I am absolutely convinced that it is one of the most viable ways to see or document a sasquatch. I would highly recommend this method to other researchers and enthusiasts hoping to have an observation of their own.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Radio Appearance on the Charlie Langton Show (CBS Radio, Detroit, MI)

I made a brief appearance on the Charlie Langton Show this morning to talk about sasquatch field research.

You can listen to my interview HERE (left click to listen, right click to "Save As").

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mary Green, the "Tennessee Bigfoot Lady"

[Preface: Beyond detailing my interactions with Mary Green, this is a story about the rewarding experiences one can have when they make the decision to get to know someone personally, rather than make ignorant assumptions based on internet gossip. Mary doesn't have the most stellar reputation on many of the more frequented forums and websites, so this will undoubtedly be an unpopular post. My hope is that people will read about my experiences and rethink their opinions, especially for those people who haven't met Mary.] 

When I first began spending time in the field trying to encounter a sasquatch, I was utterly alone (in every sense of the word). I had already reconciled my own experiences, and had been gathering information from various sources and witnesses for nearly two years, when I realized that it was indeed possible to encounter a sasquatch in the field. So, in 2004, I began visiting locations in Northeast Georgia where sightings had occurred. I was armed with a cheap first-generation night vision monocular and an even cheaper camcorder (with no night-shot capabilities to speak of). Most of the time, I would wait patiently and listen. After a full year of spending time in the field with no direction or success, I decided to try and make contact with other enthusiasts and researchers on the internet. I really wanted guidance; the assistance and experience of someone who knew more about these things than I did.

In January of 2005, I submitted a rather lengthy report to the BFRO, detailing the experiences that had become the impetus of my own research. At that time, there were really no BFRO investigators in the state of Georgia. My report sat in the internal database untouched, and I was never contacted.

I reached out to other bigfoot websites as well; including one that focused solely on Georgia. I never received any responses from those websites, either.

Finally, I reached out to Mary Green via her "Tennessee Bigfoot Lady" website. I was familiar with her research, and had been reading everything I could about the Janice Carter-Coy habituation case that Mary was associated with. I had ordered and received her book 50 Years With Bigfoot.

Cover image of 50 Years With Bigfoot
I emailed her to introduce myself, and to ask about habituation research. She promptly responded to my email, and gave me some direction with regard to making contact with sasquatches. Moreover, she sent me the name of an independent bigfoot researcher in Georgia (John) who was also trying to foster and cultivate ongoing interactions in the central portion of the state.

Mary Green, State Park Ranger, and Igor Burtsev
Her message was simple: Sasquatches were elusive, but curious. The key to initiating interactions required patience, consistency, and a gentle approach. They are especially responsive to people who feed them routinely. I was encouraged to utilize curious and non-threatening sounds when entering an area and leaving food; children's toys, whistles, etc. Keeping a playful attitude would ensure that the sasquatches wouldn't perceive me as a threat. She told me that their intelligence level was comparable to that of aboriginal humans, and that most researchers greatly underestimated their cognitive abilities. Mary also said that I didn't have to go very far to locate these things. Oftentimes, they occur just at the edge of rural populations, and in rural agricultural communities. Above all else, she told me that if I could just be patient, consistent, and compassionate, I could potentially cultivate interactions with these creatures.

It seemed far too easy from my perspective. I was a 23 year old guy who was enamored with the concept of seeing and documenting a sasquatch in a remote area. I envisioned myself as an intrepid explorer, who was something akin to a modern-day Indiana Jones; I would enter the heart of a dark forest at night with cutting-edge technology and come face to face with a legendary beast, barely escaping alive; ya know, that kind of thing. Now I was being told that I didn't need to be well-equipped, well-camouflaged, or in the interior of some remote wilderness area to see a bigfoot. I only needed patience, some sweet food items, perhaps a toy whistle, and a good attitude. It certainly wasn't the adventure I had imagined, but her kindness and willingness to share her experiences and insight was invaluable to me.

In the field in 2006.
Upon Mary's advice, I made contact with John, and in May of 2006, he and his wife Amy drove up to my favorite location in the Northeast Georgia mountains to camp. That was the first of many nights we would spend in pursuit of an encounter. That camping trip was the first time that I had ever spent any time with another "bigfoot researcher", and it was great. As most bigfooters know, it's hard to find others who share your passion and interest. It was especially hard back then, as there were fewer websites and forums, and the social media network was in it's infancy. It was like a floodgate had opened inside me. We spent the whole night staying up by the fire and sharing stories. I listened intently as John told me more about Mary's research, and the concept of habituating sasquatches.

On August 12th of that year, I traveled with John and Amy to meet Mary at her home in Tennessee. I found her to be very caring and friendly, with a warm, motherly quality. She is a mother and a grandmother, and that certainly showed in her disposition and interactions with me. I was given a copy of her other book, Night Shadows, and brought up to speed on the current status of the Carter case. She also told us about an ongoing study being conducted a wealthy Canadian researcher. She had been contacted by that particular project and was shown some pieces of footage that they had obtained in a neighboring state. Mary openly spoke with me about her research locations, and the methods that she used to establish a trust with the resident sasquatches. She told us what foods to use, what sounds they would respond to, and what to expect if we tried those techniques in her locations. Finally, she showed us a bit of video that she and another female researcher had recently obtained in one of her sites that was very impressive. To this day, I do believe that the clip of video I was shown was a legitimate documentation of sasquatches in northern Tennessee.    

That night, John, Amy, and I followed Mary's instructions in one of her research locations. I won't go in to great detail about that night in this post, but it was a very significant night for me, as we had a close encounter that really impressed and unnerved me.

I made several subsequent trips up to see Mary that year. Most of the time, I went with John and Amy. We usually stayed in or near her primary research location, and I spent many nights trying to elicit an encounter in those woods. I eventually met Janice Carter during one of our visits, and was able to spend a few nights in the field with her as well. 

John, Amy, and I also made the drive up during the Thanksgiving holiday, and had Thanksgiving dinner with Mary, her husband John (who's since passed away), and her son. Late that night, we had another impressive encounter while putting out food for a particularly bold sasquatch in the area. That was the last time that I saw Mary, although I spoke with her via telephone several times after that.

Mary had a great deal of disdain for most of the online bigfoot community. After writing her book about the Carter habituation, she became a lightening rod for the doubt, disbelief, and anger of bigfoot enthusiasts on the internet. People attacked her credibility, integrity, intelligence, financial well-being, health, etc. She told me more than once that she was certain that her association with the Carter case had taken a huge toll on her health, due to the stress it involved. It seemed a fairly heavy price to pay.

She also harbored a grudge against most organized bigfoot research groups, including the BFRO. I think she felt that they represented something that was harmful to the sasquatches in some way. Mary never liked the idea of groups of people pursuing sasquatches. I know that she felt betrayed by other loosely-knit groups of researchers who had broken promises to her and exploited many of the locations that she had shared with others. It seemed to hurt her feelings when I joined the BFRO in May of 2007. I have thoroughly loved every minute of being involved with the organization, but even still, I am frustrated by the fact that it upset Mary. I felt that she had given me a lot of invaluable insight, and had allowed me to have unforgettable experiences that I wouldn't have had if it weren't for her diligence and devoted consistency at those locations for years prior. I am forever grateful for that.  

I have spoken about my experiences with her to other researchers who have asked about them, or who have brought her name up. I will admit, at times I have been reticent about my early involvement with her, as my own selfish fears about being associated with her reputation crept in time and time again. I haven't spoken with Mary in a few years, and I regret that. Having been fortunate enough to work closely with several habituators and long-term witnesses in the past two years, I can confidently say that Mary's approach to sasquatch research (patience, consistency, and compassion) is valid. I have seen confirmation of many of the things she shared with me time and time again in the last few years. I hope that one day she will be remembered as one of the first investigators to really research habituation claims, and to have the courage to write about them. 

I recently heard that Mary was admitted to a hospital for reasons unknown to me. When I first met her in 2006 she was in poor health, and often spoke openly about it. I decided to write this post this morning in hopes that she will read this and understand how thankful I am for the kindness and generosity she extended to me. In writing this post, I am reminded of a famous quote from Dr. Martin Luther King:  

"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." 

 I apologize for my silence, and I hope that my words will help to give readers a slightly different perspective of Mary.

I also sincerely hope that any bigfoot enthusiast or researcher who reads this post will realize that the only way to really understand someone is to truly spend time with them. Please don't become complacent with merely reading the often ignorant and negative things that people say about each other online. If you're interested in learning more about a person, or an incident, do your due diligence and research it yourself. Never be satisfied with other people's perceptions; always forge your own. I have met many amazing people associated with this subject. Most of them are much different than their online reputations would have you believe. I am so very glad that I didn't settle for those opinions. I was lucky enough to learn that lesson early on, and I have Mary Green to thank for that.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Citation

I've received a number of emails and phone calls regarding the recent NPS statement describing the citation I received in the Buffalo National River area.

There are inaccuracies in the article that I'd like to address. Those inaccuracies have led many readers and enthusiasts to make incorrect assumptions about the expedition.

Before I address the article, I'll explain my side of this story.

I started scouting locations for this expedition in October of 2010. I had narrowed many viable options down to what I thought would comprise the best three; one in Northwestern AR, one near Little Rock in the Ouachita Mountains, and one on the Buffalo National River.

My selection process focuses primarily on specific environmental factors and terrain features, rather than just looking at areas with reports. There are very few reports online from the Buffalo River area, but once I started working closely with witnesses and local researchers in Arkansas, I was able to learn quite a bit about the many undocumented and unreported observations and encounters in the area.

I scouted the specific area on February 1st. It's a dramatic and beautiful area; overwhelmingly gorgeous. I was remarking incessantly to the individual who accompanied me to scout (an interpretive ranger for the National Park Service) about how much the Boxley Valley looked like a more dramatic version of Northeast Georgia. I even tweeted this about the area: "I was absolutely enamored with the area I scouted yesterday in Arkansas for the upcoming #BFRO expedition. Truly stunning!"  

It really is an incredible area. The Lost Valley Canoe general store is great as well. They were very helpful and friendly to all of us prior to and during the expedition.

After scouting that location and having been very impressed with the area, I decided to conduct the expedition there.

I immediately scoured their website to see if I needed any specific permits or passes to conduct such an effort there. There are applications for permits related to commercial fishing (which doesn't apply to us), commercial photography (which doesn't apply to us), weddings (which doesn't apply to us), and cremains scattering (which doesn't apply to us). I didn't see any rules, regulations, or permits related to a coordinated group hiking and camping in the National River. Moreover, the campground that we were based out of is free each year from mid-November to mid-March.

I assumed that I had fully acquainted myself with the necessary information related to the usage rules and regulations of the park. I was wrong, and I paid for that mistake.

On the morning of Friday, February 24th, two NPS law enforcement rangers entered our base camp. I was in the process of distributing map packets to the expedition participants when one of the rangers approached me and asked me if I was in charge of this group. I told him that I was the organizer of a field research effort, and that I was indeed in charge of the group. I explained that myself and a few others had been conducting field research in the park since Wednesday (the 22nd), and that most others had arrived on Thursday, the 23rd.

He explained to me that he had "received a tip" informing them that we were with a popular television series and were filming in the park. I explained (in no uncertain terms) to him that we were not filming for a television series, and that the series he was referring to was about bigfoot researchers affiliated with the research organization that I was a member of.

I told him that I had worked on an episode of the first season (Georgia), and that I would be working for the show again in March for an episode in Oklahoma, but that our presence in the Buffalo National River was unrelated to the series.

I provided him with the name and number of the Co-Executive Producer of the series, and told the ranger that any and all concerns related to the TV show should be direct to him. I also provided him with the name and number of BFRO Director and series cast member Matt Moneymaker, and the name and number of a BFRO administrator should they have any further questions or concerns. Moreover, I provided him with the URL of the BFRO website.

I was told that there was "nothing wrong" with our group using the campground and the park to conduct field research. I told them exactly where we had been during the previous two days, and exactly where we planned to go. I even offered to mark each locations on the map for the rangers so that they could be aware of where we would be at all times.

The ranger took my driver's license and asked me wait. Concerned expedition members asked me if everything seemed to be okay, and I told them that the concern seemed to be related to the television series.

When the rangers returned my license, I was told that I would be given a warning. During that conversation, one of the rangers was called back (via radio) to his vehicle. I was asked to wait again.

After a few minutes, the ranger came back over to me and asked me why the BFRO website used the nomenclature "Sold Out" next to the expedition dates. I explained to him that the organization charges fees for first time participants and first time repeaters for our public expeditions. I explained to him that once an expedition roster is full, we use the term "Sold Out" to indicate that we weren't receiving any more inquiries for that expedition. I also explained our fee system.

Each organizer is different, thus each expedition is different. There is no fixed number of expedition participants that an organizer can involve in a given expedition. I chose to have a roster of 30 people for this expedition, based on the number of BFRO members attending, and the area we would be operating in. I explained to him that the "Sold Out" nomenclature was to be used at the organizer's discretion; not when a certain number of slots had been "sold", or a dollar amount achieved. We ended up having 32 people attend the expedition, as two witnesses were invited by BFRO members to come and share their experiences with us.

At that point, the ranger informed me that I needed a special permit to operate in the park if members of our group had paid someone to be involved. I told him that I wasn't aware of that, and would do whatever it took to rectify the situation. I offered to provide him with all of my receipts, rosters, emails, and documents related to the expedition if it would help in any way.

The rangers explained to me that I would be issued a citation for "conducting a business operation" in the park without a permit. I had the option to attempt to appeal it in court (in Arkansas) at a later date, or pay the fine within 30 days.

I told the rangers and the expedition participants that I would pay the fine. Here is the bottom line:

There was a permit that I needed in order to conduct that type of operation in the park, and I wasn't aware of it. The blame falls on ME, not the BFRO.

My neglect caused me to receive a citation. No one made me go to that location. I chose it, and I thought that I had thoroughly looked into any potential obstacles.

I told the rangers that I would pay for my mistake, and that I hoped that it wouldn't reflect poorly on the expedition participants or the organization. They told me that it didn't. One of the rangers addressed the expedition participants to tell them that they should enjoy the park, and that we weren't in any trouble by being there and conducting research. The ranger told them that I had neglected to obtain the necessary permit and was given a citation, but to enjoy the rest of our stay.

I immediately called the Co-Executive Producer of the series to inform him that the National Park Service might call him to ask a few questions. I also spoke with Matt Moneymaker and informed him of the situation. I called Karen Bradford (Law Enforcement Specialist) to ask specifically which permit I needed so that I could educate myself. Several expedition participants were present for those phone calls and conversations.

I paid my citation in full on Friday, March 23rd. That same day, I received an email from a writer who asked if I would respond to the recent statement that the NPS made about my citation. I wasn't able to make contact with the writer for a few hours, and by the time I had made contact with him the article had already been released.   

There are a few inaccuracies in the NPS article (written by Karen Bradford). The article states: "After questioning numerous people associated with the group, they discovered that approximately 30 people had paid Matt Pruitt, who is affiliated with The Bigfoot Field Researcher’s Organization [sic], to lead them on a hunt for the creature. Several participants said that they had paid $300 to $500 each to be lead on a three- day expedition."

First of all, there were not 30 paying participants. There were 32 expedition participants, including myself. Of those 32 participants, seven were BFRO members (who don't pay any fee). Three more people were guests of those members, and also paid NO fee. Five expedition repeaters had to pay a "repeater fee" of $150. Of those five repeaters, four brought a guest (one each) at no additional fee. There were eight new participants who paid a "newbie fee" of $300 to attend the expedition. One of those new participants brought a guest at no additional fee. Finally, a group of four men from Mississippi and Alabama came to the expedition together in one vehicle and were charged $500, which they split among themselves. 

That brings us to my next point: paying expedition participants send their fees to the BFRO, not the organizer. None of these people paid me. They paid the BFRO, who then sent me half of each fee.   

For those of you who don't want to do the math, that's a total of $3650, of which I, the organizer, receive $1825.

If you read Karen Bradford's statement literally, you may have assumed that I was paid anywhere from $9,000 to $15,000. That is absolutely not the case. Again, I received a grand total of $1825.00 for organizing and leading the expedition. 

I'd like to explain to the readers how I use that money.

I started scouting for this expedition and receiving inquiries in October of 2011. I lived in Oklahoma City during that time, and the drive to the Arkansas border itself is about 180 miles, not to mention the additional miles to other locations. One of the locations that I scouted was 325 miles (one way) from my home in OKC. That's a 650 mile round trip. The site I scouted in the Buffalo River area was 295 miles from my home; a 590 mile round trip. That's not even including the many miles that I drove while scouting around each location, and not including my final trip to and from the expedition itself. During that expedition, I drove dozens of miles each day. I am currently in the process of moving and have boxed up most of my documents, but when I get fully moved in to my new location, I'll gladly organize and share my gas receipts to give the readers an idea of how much I spent in gas alone for this expedition.  

In preparing for each expedition that I lead, I make a number of purchases. I'll name a few here, but like I said above, I will gladly share my receipts and total costs with interested readers here once I have organized all of them. 

Prior to each expedition, I typically purchase a surplus of batteries for all of my devices, as well as enough batteries to supply many other people, should they find themselves needing batteries. My GPS units and audio recorders require AA batteries. My headlamps (of which I have five in case any are needed by participants), handheld red LED flashlights (of which I have five), and two-way radios (of which I have five) all require AAA batteries. I buy enough batteries to power all 15 of those items for five days (Wednesday through Sunday), as well as a surplus to provide for other expedition participants if necessary. Anyone who has attended one of these expeditions can tell you that we go through batteries like crazy. 

I purchase a surplus of rain covers (ponchos) and hand-warmers, in the rare event that an expedition participant is under-prepared and we encounter rough rain or sudden temperature drops. 

I purchase multiple maps of the area, including the relevant 7.5 minute topographical maps, the National Geographic waterproof topo maps, a DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer, and any other specific (vehicle use, hiking trails, etc.) maps I can locate. 

I spend literally hundreds of hours on the phone discussing the expedition with inquirers and participants. I spoke with over 60 expedition inquirers to select the few new participants who came to the expedition. Many of the expedition participants signed up months in advance. I made myself available to take their calls at anytime. I interviewed dozens of witnesses across the state, as well as interviewing a few seasoned researchers. I devoted a significant portion of my phone bill each month specifically to the expedition. 

Finally, I was also working a full-time sales associate job earning $9.50/hr, or roughly $380 a week (before taxes). I had to take several days off work for scouting locations (which I haven't added up yet), as well as taking six days off work for the expedition itself. That six-day stretch alone is a (roughly) $456 portion of my income that I had to forfeit in order to be present at the location during the expedition. When you have monthly bills (rent, car payments, auto insurance, cell phone, etc.) each dollar that you purposely forfeit counts.

So, if any of my readers are interested, I will add up my receipts and phone bill percentages, and internet bill percentages, and days missed at work (which also caused me to forfeit a quarterly bonus) to reconcile against that $1825.00 that I received for the expedition. I think you'll quickly see that I didn't profit a single dime on this expedition. 

I don't organize expeditions to make money. I organize them in order to explore new areas, to challenge myself, and to introduce interested parties to the sasquatch phenomenon. In the process, I end up fostering many relationships between new researchers and BFRO members, witnesses, and cultivating new friendships. 

It's very difficult to organize expeditions the way that I choose to do them. It's incredibly stressful, and requires a lot of focus and responsibility. It's exhausting, time-consuming, and financially difficult. However, it's personally very rewarding, and that has (until this point) inspired me to continue organizing expeditions.   

In closing, I'd like to apologize to anyone who read the NPS statement and thought that I was intentionally trying to violate the National Park Service or the Buffalo National River. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have the utmost respect and compassion for the National Park Service. I have very deep connections to the NPS. I won't discuss the nature of those connections at this point, but those who know me personally know what I'm referring to. Beyond certain connections, I've been fortunate enough to get to know many NPS employees; a few of which I consider great friends. Also, I have visited many NPS sites, including Great Smoky Mountains NP, Grand Teton NP, Yellowstone NP, Glacier NP, North Cascades NP, Mt. Rainier NP, Olympic NP, Redwoods NP, Chickasaw NRA, and Buffalo National River. I have been to the Oklahoma City National Memorial so many times that I've lost count.

I was more than willing to pay my citation. As I stated before, my negligence was to blame for being unaware of the permit. I failed to do so, and I learned my lesson. That doesn't bother me.

What does bother me is that the NPS statement may lead people to believe that I intentionally violated the rules and regulations of the park. That hurts. I would never do such a thing, and those who know me personally (and especially those in NPS who know me) can attest to that.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Week in Arkansas...

I apologize for the lack of updates lately, but there is certainly a lot to share!

I just returned (and decompressed) from a week of field research in Arkansas; easily one of the most beautiful and "squatchy" places I've visited.

I'll be writing a full report outlining my week in the next few days, along with pictures, videos, and audio files related to my trip there.

The Arkansas Expedition itself was a great success! Participants came from OK, TX, AR, MO, TN, WI, CO, MS, IL, CT, AL, and GA. There is much to report, and I can't wait to share our experiences and data with the readers here.

Until then, I'll share a photograph of the scene of a significant event during the expedition:


Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What is a Sasquatch? Why, a Sasquatch, Of Course!


One of the most polarizing issues among sasquatch researchers and enthusiasts revolves around the (as yet to be decided) taxonomic designation of the species, or what sasquatches are.

Although the issue is indeed of great importance to me, I try not to invest too much emotionally into the argument. I happen to take the stance that sasquatches are simply sasquatches. If that seems a bit vague, allow me to explain...

The common version of this argument usually finds researchers battling over whether sasquatches are humans or apes. Superficially, this argument is flawed because humans actually are apes; we are in the order of Primates, and in the family of Hominidae.

For many of the people actively engaging in this debate, the argument is more of an emotional one than an intellectual one. The people who believe that sasquatches are "human" feel that the "ape" proponents are denigrating the creatures, and lowering their regard for them. The "ape" proponents themselves typically take the stance that the "human" perspective is too romantic and grandiose a notion.

Sasquatches may be the closest living relative to homo sapiens sapiens (us) on the planet. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if they were taxonomically designated in the genus homo. But, they are not us; no more than we are them.

In other words: Humans are NOT sasquatches, therefore sasquatches are NOT human.

They are sasquatches. 

I don't know any humans that look like this, do you?

A modern female sasquatch.

Likewise, I've never received any sasquatch reports that described creatures like this, either:

 
Modern humans.

Modern human.
Modern human.

Often times, I read the comments of researchers, skeptics, and enthusiasts, as they say things like:

"Chimpanzees have less hair on their faces than the rest of their bodies, so sasquatches probably look similar."

"Humans developed tool use and fire, so sasquatches would have, too."

"Gorillas live in large troops, so sasquatches probably do, too."

"Orangutans are fairly solitary, so sasquatches probably are, too."

...and so on and so on, etc.

While it is useful to search for correlatives in the great ape line, it is futile to judge purported sasquatch behavioral ecology solely by the ecology of other apes. Sasquatches are obviously NOT chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, or humans. Thus, we shouldn't expect sasquatch behaviors to mirror those of the aforementioned species. Each member of the great ape line has strikingly unique behaviors, morphology, and ecological adaptions. Sasquatches do as well.

Indeed, the great ape existence can be represented as a continuum; we (and the other great apes) exhibit characteristics which can be placed at various points on the continuum.

I try to perceive sasquatches as a unique and marvelous species. Their unique adaptations are a result of their unique ecological niche. I try to maintain that neutrality in order to understand their behavior in a holistic sense; not excluding data from my research just because it doesn't yet have a known correlative in the great ape canon of data.

On a purely emotional level, I think that referring to them as "human" is actually more denigrating than any other designation. In so many ways, they are far superior to us.

 They don't have to negatively manipulate their environment in order to thrive in it. 

They don't routinely destroy their own resources in order to "better" their standards of living. 

They don't appear to wage wars against their own kind in an effort to secure more valuable territories. 

They don't decimate their own species based on ideological beliefs.

If we (as a society) come to view sasquatches as another "human" species, what would keep us from exploiting them and their resources in the same manner that we exploit other peoples and their resources?

Sasquatches are unique, and should be perceived and respected as such.