By the time I was 10 years old….
A Red Ryder BB gun, a fly rod and a Bear recurve were all placed in my hands. The BB gun was brand new and it was Christmas Day 1988 in southern Oregon. I was so excited to have my first gun!

My father took me out in the back yard and showed me how to aim. He taught me the difference between the front sight, the rear sight and how to use the sights to put a BB exactly where I wanted it to go. He taught me how to nail a pop can at a distance. I will never forget the ‘ping-crunch, then the rattle’ sound of my shiny silver BB’s going into those bright red Coca-Cola cans.

We moved to New Mexico, then Colorado, following my parents’ job sites and it was in Colorado, where I shot my first bow and arrow and caught my first fish on a fly.

My father is from Kentucky. An original “Kentucky Long Rifleman”. He is an avid outdoorsman, loves flintlock rifles, archery, everything frontiersman and still hunts today where he lives in Western Kentucky. One year we all went to KY for Thanksgiving. I was 7 or 8. When we got there, he went up into the attic, found his Bear Archery recurve bow and gave it to me. It was green and brown and though we lost it in one of our moves, I will never forget it.

My mother is part Sioux and from Oregon. Her grandmother was full-blooded Sioux, born on the Rosebud Reservation to the Sioux Nation in South Dakota. Her uncle (my great uncle), “Uncle Jim”, was a traditional fly fisherman who made his own fishing rods and tied his own flies. We would visit Uncle Jim and Aunt Sally (amazing woman who taught us how to make blackberry pie!) almost every summer, spring break or Christmas until I was about 14, when my uncle’s health started to decline. Uncle Jim gave me his entire collection of fishing gear when I was 9 or 10 years old. I guess he wanted to pass along his life, his passion, and the tradition of fly fishing. He taught me how cast a fly rod over twice my height (9ft) in his backyard and gave me all of his apparel, including his size 13 waders (still double and triple my socks to fit in them) and XL vest that I still have, boxes of feathers, hooks, fly cases and his trusty Scientific Anglers reel.

It was in Colorado where my loving and supporting mother and father took me to Red Rock Archery ( which is still there in Grand Junction, CO. They put my bow and me in the hands of the owner, Gabe Lucero (owner of Red Rock Archery/Native American) who taught me how to shoot. He also made me arrows! …my own wooden arrows with orange fletching. I would practice in the back yard until the fletching wore off.

It was in Colorado where my father took me on top of the Grand Mesa (the world’s largest flat-topped mountain) that I caught my first trout from a beautiful lake, with a black ant fly pattern and the will to not stop even after I lost many flies in the pine trees behind me while learning to deliver a forward cast while controlling my back cast. It was magic! Magic when a cast I produced landed where I intended it to land and a fish was soon in my hands.

Every day of my childhood where I shot the can, hit the target, or landed a trout in all of its beauty, vigor and fight, was magical and special.

I have in my adult life relocated to the state of Georgia where I hold a Lifetime Sportsman Hunting & Fishing license, then back to Colorado, my favorite state in this beautiful nation. After years of college (about 5 ½ years to tell the truth), 4 years in Japan as an international educator and more hours spent away from the great American outdoors then I ever wanted to spend, I have returned to the mountains.

I return to the woods every season, spring, summer, fall and winter, to hunt and fish -to feed my spirit, that traditional American spirit that is thousands of years old, passed down and given to me by my elders – it is in my blood – to sustain my family for another year – to show the world through example and design, our way of life – Our traditional American way of life.

Join me in this tradition.

-Ryan Founder of Traditional American Hunter