Following in Teddy Roosevelt’s Footsteps
Steve Vinciguerra and his son Tony are both avid hunters and fishermen who appreciate that the Harris Center protects land so the wild ones continue to have a home. Their love and respect for nature and its inhabitants runs deep.
“I have been a member of the Harris Center for many years,” said Steve. “I believe in its mission and appreciate as a hunter that they understand the role that hunters have played in conservation, going all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt.”
Steve and Tony are both passionate about being outdoors and share a grave concern for the preservation of habitat, much like Teddy Roosevelt who protected roughly 230 million acres of public land and created the United States Forest Service. From the National Park Service website:
“A sportsman-hunter all his life, Roosevelt sought a chance to hunt the big game of North America before they disappeared. Although his writings depict numerous hunting trips and successful kills, they are laced with lament for the loss of species and habitat.”
Steve’s Early Years
Steve’s family moved to Maynard, Massachusetts, when he was 11 years old. Their house was across the street from an 88-acre farm, where Steve immediately got a part-time job. Steve soon learned trapping from his friend Leslie Boardman, who passed away in February 2020.
“The day I met Leslie, we had just moved to Maynard. I came home from school, and there was a knock at the back door. It was Leslie. He said, ‘If you like to hunt and trap and fish, you’re gonna love it here!’”
Love it he did. Steve took to that way of life like a fish to water. A large number of Polish and Finnish immigrants lived in Maynard at the time, and they were accustomed to living close to the land. Hunting, trapping, and fishing were part of daily life, a life Steve embraced wholeheartedly.
Also across the road from his home were 300 acres of government-owned land that had been turned into a munitions testing site. Steve remembers sneaking in to fish in Puffers Pond, which became less thrilling some years later when the land became part of the 2,200-acre Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge and he no longer had to slink in! He took to fishing early on, and it’s stayed with him ever since.
“Here I am going up to the stage to get my ‘Ted Williams rod and reel’ at the Boston Globe building. I was 13 years old and a contest winner of the trout in the senior (13-16 year-old) division. My big disappointment that day was that Ted was supposed to be giving us our prizes, but they had a rainout the day before, so they had a double-header that day. He was my hero back then. He hunted, he fished, he was an innovator in saltwater fly fishing, and a Marine. My brother Francis serviced his plane in Korea and watched as he landed his burning plane that had been hit by enemy fire.”
Like many of the kids in his town in the late 1950s, Steve learned to trap muskrats. When he was a senior in high school, one of the biggest apple orchards in the area paid him to trap the muskrats and rats that were ravaging their winter stock of apples. Steve got $1 for each carcass he brought in and an extra dollar for each muskrat hide (used to make coats back then).
All in the Family
Steve’s dad purchased a camp on Lake Ossipee, and from the age of 16, Steve enjoyed hunting and fishing in New Hampshire. He dreamed of moving there someday, but that would come years later. Steve became a fishing and hunting equipment salesman, married, and started his own family. Soon, his son Tony was by his side, learning the ways of nature from his father.
“My dad started taking me fishing from age two, same as his dad,” said Tony. “They instilled a love of nature in me. When I was too young to go hunting, my dad took me out scouting. I started to go out hunting with him when I was 15 years old — every weekend during hunting season. I shot my first deer with a bow and arrow when I was 15. It was a huge milestone in my family. My mom and sisters gave me cards.”
Steve also took his nephew, Ralph, under his wing. Due to their difference in age, Ralph was more like an older brother to Tony than a cousin, especially in Tony’s early years of hunting. Ralph, Tony, and Steve enjoyed (and still do!) countless hunting and fishing outings.
“My nephew Ralph is like a son,” said Steve. “His father was my oldest brother. To say hunting and fishing is important to Ralph would be a gross understatement. Like me, he lives to be outdoors; we have shared this passion since he was six or so. I would pick him up on Friday nights so he could spend the weekend with me. If his grades fell in school, his punishment was that he would not be allowed to come to my house.”
Passion for the Wild
Steve eventually married a second time to a woman who loves the outdoors and fishing. They bought a camp in Antrim in 1993, traveling up from Massachusetts almost every weekend for many years. Ultimately, they resettled in the town of Washington. Steve, now in his 70s, retired at age 58 and has been enjoying the good life ever since — out in the country, surrounded by nature.
Tony lives outside Boston and works in high tech. But he comes to New Hampshire often to fish and hunt — always with his dad, and often with Ralph as well.
“I always make a point to come up over the summer and early fall to scout, look for deer sign, look for likely places to hunt,” said Tony. “My dad does a lot more of the scouting now that he’s retired. But sometimes we make it a family event, and I come up with my wife and dog. We look for sign, droppings, look for patterns, where the deer bed down, where they eat.”
Tony keeps the family tradition alive by mentoring his own two nephews; both go fishing with him, and one goes on hunting trips. An appreciation for the outdoors runs in Tony’s veins, and he wants to pass that on to the next generation.
“My dad’s passion for the outdoors is impressive and infectious, and I certainly have it as well,” said Tony. “Eating the meat we hunt is very important, but the number one reason is getting outside and being in the peace and beauty of nature. It’s nice to unplug and get away from it all.”
Keepers of Wild Places
Tony and Steve cherish outdoor life and hope it won’t be lost as people become increasingly disconnected from nature in our modern world. They give evidence to the fact that outdoor enthusiasts are often outspoken champions of the value of wilderness.
Tony said, “Hunters were always the first conservationists, always the first to look for wild places and wild animals. Our numbers are dwindling. Hunters are an important voice when it comes to conservation and making sure we have places like the Harris Center.”
Steve added, “One thing I fear most is that future generations have so little interest in hunting and fishing. If it wasn’t for hunters and fishermen and Teddy Roosevelt, this way of life — living close to nature — would be gone. The biggest threat to the environment is loss of habitat. That’s why I love the Harris Center — it keeps it alive.
You know, a friend asked me what heaven would be to me. That’s easy. A clear, running trout stream, with me and a rod. A foot of fresh snow and deer tracks. And an October morning with a springer spaniel by my side.”
Sounds like a bit of heaven can be found in the SuperSanctuary right now!
For more about fishing, hunting, and wildlife, be sure to visit WLAGS, a blog written by Steve and edited and occasionally penned by Tony.
For more information on the Harris Center’s 50th anniversary celebrations, please contact Lisa Murray at (603) 525-3394 or by email.