Word came last week that an old friend of mine, and all North American Hunting Club members, passed away on the eve of Independence Day. Bill Stevens of Federal Premium Ammunition was well-known and highly respected in the hunting, conservation and shooting sports world. He’s the kind of guy who each of us would be proud to say, “I shared a hunt with Bill Stevens.”
I knew Bill best for his work in the transition of waterfowl hunting to steel shot, and then on to other non-toxic alternatives. Every conversation I had with Bill on the subject left me with a greater understanding. He was an encyclopedia of knowledge and a superb teacher. He was a tremendous resource in my research for the book “Extreme Waterfowling,” as well as articles for North American Hunter magazine.
Bill was monumental in helping shape conservation efforts and policies for both Federal Premium and the industry, and was responsible for launching the 4-H Shooting Sports Program. He was known by thousands and thousands as a man who never stopped promoting his true passions—hunting, shooting, youth, family and conservation. He earned countless awards for his efforts, but he dedicated himself for the simple reason that he cared. He worked tirelessly and traveled all over the country. He was a regular attendee at industry meetings, youth events and was Federal’s ear to the industry when some of the biggest issues and regulations were being decided.
From 1984-1986, Bill also served on the Citizens Commission to Promote Hunting and Fishing in Minnesota, a group appointed by Governor Rudy Perpich. The main outcome from the commission was the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program, a kind of state-funded CRP and wildlife area acquisition fund. The critical habitat license plates now available in Minnesota are part of the RIM program.
After his retirement from Federal Premium in 2007, he continued to be heavily involved in 4-H, conservation and education programs. He attended several events on the company’s behalf, even after a career that spanned more than 4 decades, and his true passion never wavered.
In fact, just last month Federal Premium announced the first-ever Bill Stevens 4-H Leadership Award winner. The award in his name highlights 4-H support and increasing development of youth conservation efforts. National 4-H Committee Member and extension educator Conrad Arnold was crowned with this honor. Arnold accepted the award Monday, June 20, at the 4-H National Shooting Sports Invitational in San Antonio, Texas.
Over the years, Federal Premium has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations through on-box royalty programs. These programs were born and supported because of Bill. He was instrumental in starting and growing royalty programs for the National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International. These programs include organization logos on select Federal Premium packaging, and give dollars directly back to habitat. He was also very active with the Ruffed Grouse Society and was involved in many projects involving land acquisition and development.
I was blessed to have hunted with Bill a number of times across the country, but as I dug through my personal albums and slide sheets to find a picture of us together to use in this memorial, I discovered there are none. Among all that I learned from Bill over the years, the most recent lesson comes after his passing: Take more pictures, Miller, or you’ll regret it! Just like I do at this moment.