Today on The Average Conservationist Podcast, Marcus is joined by Clark Dodd. Clark is the owner of 2% Certified Bella's Bones. Bella's Bones is a company that makes various items like bottle openers, pizza cutters and wine stoppers out of shed antlers that Clark and his dogs find. Growingup in east Tennessee, Clark is no stranger to the outdoors and really cut his teeth fishing the trout streams in the Smoky Mountains with his Dad and not long after that started bowhunting. Clark spent the better part of 20 seasons working in Yellowstone while living in different parts of the country before finally settling down just outside of the park. What started as making a few small items for friends has turned into a full fledged business where Clark attends various craft and trade shows to sell is handmade, statement pieces to outdoor lovers. If you're looking for a cool, conversation starter household item, be sure and check them out all he has to offer at bellas-bones.com.
Marcus Ewing: [00:00:00] You are listening to the average Conservationist podcast brought to you in partner with 2% for conservation. 2% for conservation's mission is to create an alliance of businesses and individuals that ensure the future of hunting and angling by committing their time and dollars to fish and wildlife.
1% of your time plus 1% of your money equals 2% for conservation. 2% helps businesses and people pair with conservation causes to support things that fit what they care about. Whether you are into hunting, fishing, or just getting outdoors, 2% can help you not only start giving back to wildlife, but get certified for it.
Getting 2% certified means you've made the same commitment as popular brands like Sitka Stone, glacier and seek outside in giving at least 1% of your time and dollars. Back to wildlife, but it's not just for outdoor companies, breweries, contractors, coffee roasters, and even piano repair companies have earned 2% certification and stand out as leaders in their communities for doing so.
Businesses that are committed to conservation deserve your business. When [00:01:00] you shop, learn more about 2% for firstname.lastname@example.org. That's fish and wildlife.org,
Clark Dodd: ladies
Marcus Ewing: and gentlemen. Wherever you're listening from, whenever you're listening, welcome back to another episode of the Average Conservationist Podcast. And I'm your host, Marcus Shoeing. All right, great episode for you today. Just a conversation that was just super fun. Today I'm joined by Clark dod and Clark is the owner of 2% Certified Bells, bones and Bella's bones.
They make dog juice. They make a lot of assorted call it kitchen [00:02:00] utensils that are all handmade out of some type of horn or antler. Anything from bottle openers, pizza cutters, wine stoppers I don't even know what like the proper name for 'em is, if you want to scoop a piece of pie or like a piece of pizza or something like that.
So just a ton of really cool handcrafted things that are all made out of CHT antlers and. Not only that year's, antler shoes that you can buy for your pet as well. And unbeknownst to me, when I first reached out to Clark and we talked about this at the beginning of the episode, Clark was joining me for an episode, gosh, probably a year and a half ago, maybe two years ago called 30 Miles of Fence with Jared Frazier.
And Simon Baard I believe was his name. And they were doing this big fence pole and repair project out in Montana. And when he responded to my message to him, he said, Hey, I've not done this before except for the one other time with you. [00:03:00] And of course, I started thinking to myself, who is this guy?
But then once he told me, and I recognize the name it was all good. But no, we had a great conversation about the business about his upbringing growing up in Tennessee, bouncing around across the country a little bit. Played college baseball, was a high school baseball coach after that.
So we take a deep dive into baseball for a little bit which was fun. It is certainly something I enjoyed and I was telling him after the podcast, that we could probably have just spent an hour talking about baseball, and that would've been okay with me. But I'm not sure how many people who are tuning in to listen to conservation want to hear two guys talk about baseball.
But nevertheless yeah we talk more about, how the business evolved. How it got started and what was the turning point for Clark and his wife to decide to give this business a go. If you haven't I highly suggest you guys check out Bella's Bones.
Bella's bones, excuse me website cuz they have a ton of really cool, just like little statement [00:04:00] pieces for around the house that are great conversation starters. Like Clark and I talk about. It was just, it was a really enjoyable conversation. I think Clark and I talked for another 20 minutes or so even after we got done recording.
Just a great guy with a ton of a ton of insight. And just a really good listen. So episode 1 52 with Clark dod, enjoy everybody. Clark. Dod, welcome back to the podcast. How are you today?
Clark Dodd: Oh, I'm doing great, Marcus. Thanks. Great to be back. It's been it's been a while. I think, I'm not even sure when we did that other podcast with Jared and Simon, but but yeah, a repeat offender I guess.
Marcus Ewing: Yeah, there's not a lot of you guys out there, not a lot of repeat offenders no I'm excited and to be honest, when I was to get guests and things like that, I'm always going through 2% business page to see if, new members have been added or anything like that. And I just blindly reach out to people and say, Hey, this is who I am.
I partner with 2%. Usually that kind of calms the nerves to someone on the other end if they're like, man, who's this random [00:05:00] person reaching out to me? Yeah. But when I reached out to you and you were like, oh, yeah, I was on the podcast for, I didn't realize. Clark that you were the one the owner or who was in charge with Bella's bones.
So all of a sudden I was like, oh gosh, familiar name, familiar face, so to speak. No I'm excited to talk more today. A little bit more one-on-one.
Clark Dodd: Nice. Yeah. That yeah I, when we were really just getting started trying to get started when we had that horse prairie conversation that Bella's bones really, and it's real infancy, we're still pretty much in our infancy. But but early on there, when the last time I talked to you, we didn't have a whole lot going on.
Marcus Ewing: Yeah. So before we take a deeper dive into Bella's bones I guess first how are you connected? Cuz do you know both Jared and Simon had you just met them on the project?
How did you guys come to be working together on that fence project?
Clark Dodd: We first ran into Jared boy, several years ago quite a few years ago before 2% existed. And [00:06:00] he was a one of the chapter members, chapter board members for the Montana chapter, backcountry hunters and anglers.
And we volunteered to help out at a, the Mer Live podcast recording event in, in, I think the very first one they did in Bozeman. And so that's where we met Jared. So I've known Jared For quite a while. And then Simon, I, that was the first time I had met Simon. Okay. Was on, that was on that fence work with Jared that we discussed we had our previous podcast with, but yeah, Jared now we've known him through bha was the original.
And then also my wife, no, interacts with him and he's one of the board members for the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance. Yep. And Wendy is the Montana Regional rep for the GOAT Alliance. So we interacted with
Marcus Ewing: Yeah. Right on. Clark, tell the listeners a bit about yourself, a little bit of your [00:07:00] background and really, being in Montana there, like what does the outdoors look like to you?
How were you introduced to it growing up?
Clark Dodd: I've been. In and out Montana for quite a while now. I grew up in Tennessee in East Tennessee actually in Knoxville, which is a pretty good size town. And but not very far from the great Smokey Miles national park. And what really my outdoors background there, like my fishing with my dad on the trout streams and the S Smokeys when I was small enough that he was holding on to me to keep me from falling in a stream, and then and he's from he's originally from Virginia and his folks had a house place on the Rappahannock River, which maybe a mile above where it flow into the Chesapeake Bay. A lot of fishing, a lot of fishing there when we'd go to visit there and and a lot of fishing.
In the, in the mountains canoeing in streams and then also canoeing around on some of the lake, a lot of reservoirs in east Tennessee. And so a lot of pan fish and bass and that, that was the big outdoor [00:08:00] stuff as a kid. And I wound up going to college in western North Carolina.
And one of the guys that I played baseball with was a big bow hunter. And and he set me up with his with a third hand bear whitetail too. That, that was I've got it out in the garage now. It's got a cracked limb, but it was it's old, but it I could shoot it fairly well.
And and so I started hunting with him a couple other guys on the ball team quite a bit. That's how I got into hunting angle, the late onset, but not. Too late. Yeah, not
Marcus Ewing: too late. Oh, definitely
Clark Dodd: not. Yeah. Yeah. So went from there, came out here I'd been coaching some college baseball and wasn't getting along with the guy that I was coaching with.
And so I was gonna leave at end of the semester, at that Christmas break time. And my mom knew that I didn't have anything going on, and she saw a flyer to to work for the summer in Yellowstone National Park and do some seasonal work. And [00:09:00] so she, she knew I'd always wanted to come out west and so she handed me the flyer, this is, pre email and everything and yeah.
And filled it out. Sent it in. They sent back, said, yeah, come out and work for the summer. So I, I came and I wound up spending five summers and three winners up at Old Faithful. And and caught was just fished a lot. In the park a lot. And met my wife there and we actually lived in, she's from Michigan and we lived in Michigan for about nine years.
Whereabouts? We had late nineties, early, early two thousands. We were outside of Big Rapids. We, I taught at Fair State and she was working in the student rec center at Fair State and yeah. Yeah. And coached high school baseball up the road in Reed City. And we spent quite a while there, but Mid Michigan's nice.
But the whole time we were there, I was there. We were really, I really like to be back in Montana. And so now we're about [00:10:00] I'm looking out my window right now and I can see the northwest edge of Yellowstone okay. From here. And Looking out at the Gallatin Mountains and the Abortive Bear tooth just around the corner from the ab Orca Bear Tooth Wilderness.
And so the outdoors now looks a little bit different for, from for me than it did when I was a kid in east Tennessee and maybe in Virginia and even, North Carolina. We were out in the mountains, but yeah. Not quite these mountains. Yeah,
Marcus Ewing: man. So many follow up questions.
One, I love that, that you spent some time in Michigan so you can appreciate what all that Michigan has to offer. Oh, lot. Lot. Yeah. It really does. I think a lot of people tend to sleep on Michigan a little bit. For all the outdoor activities you can get into. There's a ton of great trout streams.
You can hunt a lot of different species. The Great Lakes are. Unmatched in my opinion. Especially, we're right on the brink of summer here, and this is just in my opinion, the best time to be in Michigan is the summertime. [00:11:00] But coaching baseball, I'm a big baseball guy.
I grew up playing baseball. Nice. Yeah I had the opportunity to play, I played football in college, however, my heart was always in baseball. I don't know what it was like I, and I would rather play in the field than hit. Don't get me wrong, everyone loves the hit, but for whatever reason I played middle in field and I could just stand out there and shag ground balls until the lights go out.
It was by far my favorite passion as, as far as sports go growing up.
Clark Dodd: Yeah. Yeah. I've spent a lot of time on a ball field yeah, obviously playing all the way through college. And then couple years coaching college ball. My, my dad was a coach and and then after I came out here, I was, it, by the way he was not the guy I was coaching with that I didn't get along with mom to get outta town.
That wasn't the st the skinny there. But I did help him out sometimes. So a couple of springs when I was in between summers and Winters and Yellowstone, and you get, we'd get [00:12:00] about six weeks off Yeah. In between seasons. And so I'd go back and help him out a little bit. And but nine years of high school ball in Michigan coaching there.
In fact, one of my guys the center fielder off of my my very first high school team that I coached is he's gonna come out and elk hunt with me this fall. So That's Oh, that's awesome. Pretty cool. That's awesome. Yeah.
Marcus Ewing: Yeah. Those connections. That's great. Yeah. That's awesome. So growing up in Tennessee, who was your team?
Were you a Braves fan then?
Clark Dodd: I was not. I grew when I was a. When I was a little kid my mom's brother, my mom was from Connecticut, so this is a little stretch a little wiggle here, but my mom's brother married a lady from St. Louis. Okay. And when I was five or something, they brought me a St.
Louis Cardinals hat. And and that was it for me. And I'm East, Eastern Sea, west Sierra, a lot of Cardinals fans. Yeah. That was nice. Yes. Yeah. And we were I, it was right at the [00:13:00] early stages of of cable tv. So that, so the Cubs and some of my friends got the, when they first got cable tv and we didn't get cable tv.
We did, we had to, we had the black and white with three channels. And so the Saturday game of the week and Monday night baseball was it. But I would, some of my friends would get Cubs games and certainly Braves games. And of course, neither one of 'em were very good. And when I was a little kid the Cardinals weren't very good either but they still they were my team and they, blue Brock was still playing and that sort of thing.
I'd be checking the box scores every day and Yeah, checking the paper. Yeah. Yeah. Check, checking the paper every day for that. And but that's where and then when I was in Michigan I started listening to the Tigers on the radio and it was It was a tough time to be listening to the Tigers on the radio.
Marcus Ewing: I was gonna ask what timeframe that was, because, I'm gonna guess here, but I'm sure Ernie Harwell [00:14:00] was doing the broadcasting right.
Clark Dodd: At the very end of his career was the very end, maybe when I first started listening. First year or maybe two. Okay. It was it was some of the really bad years.
Got plenty of them. Yeah. It's, it was I can't remember some of the specifics, but like Brandon Inge was playing and, oh, yeah. And then I, man, I can't remember,
Marcus Ewing: When you had Bobby
Clark Dodd: Higginson. Yeah. Higginson, yeah. Yes. There at that
Marcus Ewing: time. I wonder if he would've been there at that time.
Who's that? Fryman shortstop. That might've been a little bit before
Clark Dodd: that. He was a little, he's a little before me. I know. I, my Wendy will talk about, Lance Parish and all the old timers. Yeah. From when she was when she was a kid and it's, good clubs with Tramel and Whitaker.
Whitaker and those guys. Yeah. And but they they had a couple of okay. Season. It made for more challenging made for more challenging coaching of high school baseball, I can promise you. Because they just weren't very good. And Yeah. And Kirk Gibson [00:15:00] was was on that the radio broadcast for a while when I was there.
Okay. And he was not afraid to point out why they weren't very good. I think I could pass that on and maybe we could learn a little bit from some of his commentary, but it would've it, it would have to be much, much easier to coach high school ball if you've got a good big league team that the kids all like and watch Yeah.
And everything because, most of my guys didn't watch and didn't pay a whole lot of attention and
Marcus Ewing: stuff, but yeah. I can't say that I blame 'em. I certainly recall that, that timeframe, which was probably early two thousands, I'm guessing. Yeah. Is that about right?
Clark Dodd: Yeah. Yeah. So my first spring of 99 was my first team and then through oh seven, I think was the last team.
And then we, then when we moved back out here,
Marcus Ewing: man, you were coaching the same time I was in high school.
Clark Dodd: Yeah. Where'd you play? What school?
Marcus Ewing: Small town. So you coached in Reed City? So northeast of you? Small town called Johannesburg. Lewiston [00:16:00] is where Oh, okay. I've heard of, yeah, just east of Gaylord.
Okay. Is where I grew up. We were Class D, so we were small. We had some good teams, we were Class D. We bounced back and
Clark Dodd: forth from B2C at a couple of times. Funny story that that I was afraid we were gonna repeat in a way here. I was at an antelope camp a couple of years ago and was a couple of people I didn't know there and, mutual friends and that, that whole story.
And we're standing around at campfire talking and and it comes out. We kid across there that, yeah, I'm from Michigan or whatever. Oh yeah. Where the whole spiel and spring Lake High School, whatever. Said, Hey, did you play for Tom Hickman? And he just lo, he just sat back believe, looked at me like, what?
How did you know that? And I, he said, man what year did you graduate? 99. I said, man, I saw you play the last high school game you ever played. And he was certainly surprised. But [00:17:00] it was funny. We were in a regional tournament and they lost in the first game and in the team that, that beat them wound up beating us.
Okay. Two games, two games later. But they it, they, he was a good player. They were a good team. Was but yeah, it was really funny. We're standing around a campfire in the middle of nowhere in eastern Montana. Yeah. I saw you play high school baseball, man.
Marcus Ewing: Yeah.
Just a couple of guys chopping it up. No that's a great story. Yeah. We could talk baseball all night, mark. Yes. But yeah, maybe we'll save that for another one. So tell me about your company Bella's Bones. Like how, gimme the origin story. What did that look like? How did you decide to, launch this thing?
Clark Dodd: When we came back out here, we were able to come back out cause my wife had gotten a real job and healthcare benefits and everything. And she when we made the move, getting ready to make the move and she said hey, you're not just gonna hunt and fish and ski all the time.
Here's an ad for a job you might like. And it was running sled dogs guiding sled dog trips. [00:18:00] And I. Sent in an app and a guy hired me. And so I started with him and then another guy started the next year, and he was a big shed hunter and I had been out a couple of times walking around, but I didn't have any idea what I was doing, not that I really know now.
But but I started shed hunting a little bit with him and talking about it, and I'd be out on my days off and he'd be out on his days off and we'd compare notes and everything. And so I, and I really enjoyed it. And then started playing around, messing around with the new dog that we had gotten.
We got a 10 month old lab, chocolate lab that somebody decided they were they had some extenuating circumstances, but she was pretty stubborn, pretty challenging critter. So I think that maybe they they Decided she was just a bit too much for him. Yeah. And gave her away.
So we got this free dog outta the Bozeman Chronicle free column in the classified ads. And I started messing around with her and getting her to bring me back outwards and [00:19:00] and and that's Bella. So that's the Bella and Bella's bones. And and she turned on, turned into a a really pretty good shed dog.
And you, I like really like dogs, obviously you, if you're gonna be guiding sled dog trips, you, it's pretty helpful. And and then we've had labs we're on we just, we're on our fourth one right now. Our third and fourth are still around, but So we're, I'm a dog person. I like to get out in the woods.
In the fall some, if I was a better elk hunter, I'd probably do more bird hunting. But I struggle to get an elk in the freezer, so Wendy hunts with the dogs quite a bit. Bird hunts with the dogs quite a bit. And then I spend a lot of time with 'em on the mountain in the springtime trying to pick up some antlers here and there.
And I had a bunch of antlers in the guest room and Wendy went in to, opened a window one day and she tripped on some antlers and almost impaled herself. And I got told that you need to do something with some of these things, man.[00:20:00] We gotta get some, and it's, this is not working.
And so I started I started cutting some up and selling 'em for dog shoes on. On Facebook and that kind of languished a little bit. And I did that a little bit just with some of 'em. And then un unfortunately, I sold a big pile to a guy that traveling through buying, buying antlers by the pound.
And I sold a big, basically a whole pickup truckload to him. And I wish I had 'em back now, but yeah, and then started making some bottle openers and things and giving 'em some of my buddies, and they seemed to like 'em. And I started getting a little better at it. And then a couple years ago, we, try and sell, maybe we'll try and make a bunch of this stuff and go to a craft show, and yeah. And so I got into a couple of craft shows and then then upped the the website's really not very good cuz it's, I'm maintaining it and I'd much rather be on the mountain than playing around with the [00:21:00] computer and I'm not very good with the computer so the website somewhat lacking, but but we've expanded it quite a bit there and doing quite a few shows.
And we're at Renez v Big back Country Hunters and Anglers Rendezvous this spring as a vendor. And so we've been get, getting out and about and doing that and so I just took Bella and the proclamation that I needed to do something with, get some of these antlers out of the house.
Yeah. And trying to fund my habit, fund my shed hunting habit.
Marcus Ewing: Y Yeah, I was, look, when I was looking on the website earlier, I saw that, yeah, it looks like a, an upcoming event schedule, and you've got, gosh, at least a dozen or so on there that looks like you're scheduled for throughout the spring and the summer when it comes time to, make, whether it's a bottle opener, you've got like a wine stopper pizza cutter.
You got a whole list of kind of very handy or everyday kitchen utensils that you've been able to really make look nice. Thank you. What does the process look like, making one of these, how long does it take, walk me through that.
Clark Dodd: It depends a little bit obviously [00:22:00] on what it is that I'm making, but if I've got a, just, let's just say I've got a an antler in front of my in front of me and I'm looking at it and I say you know that and I do, I use elk antler and deer antler, and we've got white tails and And mul deer here.
So I get some of each of those. And then also I do have some pronghorn antelope that I use the sheaths from to to make some earrings and stuff like that. I don't think. Okay. I'm not sure if I've got any of those on the website or not, but but so that's the real stuff that I'm working with.
Then, maybe I'm looking at a at a, at an elk antler and I say that third will make a nice handle for a bottle opener. It's got a nice arc to it and it's, yeah, the right size. And then I'm cutting it off using a bandsaw, cutting it off and then and then drilling a hole in it.
I'm using a lot of the. The hardware that I'm using, almost exclusively stuff that they're selling for wood turning. Okay. So yeah, it's coming outta wood, turning catalogs and stuff like [00:23:00] that. And the big challenge for me is that antler is not square and it's not straight, and it's not easy to clamp or to, to get to where my hole that I drill is really truly 90, 90 degrees from the perpendicular to the flat spot on the top of the, into the antler.
Trying to get all that balanced out is even just clamping them to drill is a challenge. But I'm clamping it up and drilling hole in it and mountain, some kind of a an insert in it and then and most of those things just screw in. Yeah. Okay. The stuff I've got permanently mounted, and then a lot of them the pizza cutters for instance, they come, they unscrew, so they've got a, there's a metal insert there that you can unscrew the stuff from so that I could, you can throw the cutting head of the pizza cutter into the dishwasher or something without Okay.
Throwing the, messing up your antler. Yeah. So that's a, that's the basic idea. And then [00:24:00] they, sometimes if I'm, and I sand 'em down, smooth them up and polish 'em up. And and so if I'm on a, if I've got easy work with stuff and and I'm making A bunch of 'em at once, which I'm trying to do, it can take me tw 20 minutes to half an hour to make a pizza cutter.
Okay, too. That's not too bad. Too bad. It's not bad. And it it's a challenge that just like everybody else, that the the materials, the prices have gone up. Whether it's the metal stuff that I, the components that I'm buying through the catalogs or antler antler is demeanor out at $20 a pound for elk antler.
And it wasn't, it's only been a couple years. It was 14 bucks a pound. Yeah. So that really starts starts adding up on you. So there's a it's not real easy to work with. It's just hard. It's It's not like a two by four, that's that you can square up,
Marcus Ewing: but I think that's the beauty in [00:25:00] it, right?
Because whether someone who's buying one notices likely the difficulty of putting something like that together. They're a statement piece in my opinion, right? They're very, they look nice. You can tell like that they're all handcrafted and I think people appreciate those kinds of things, right?
Especially like a bottle opener, for example, right? You have some people over for a barbecue or something, got some beers going, whatever the case is, and hey, you got a bottle opener? Oh yeah, it's in the drawer over there. They pull this thing out and they're like, it starts a conversation right there, if it's a wine opener that you keep on the counter or, something like that.
The, these are types of things that, will last. It's bottle opener, so it mean, it's not like it's being used multiple times every day unless, unless you like to get after. Yeah. Yeah. But that's, those are the kinds of things that yeah, they just, they stick with the family.
They stick, kind of generation to generation. And it's one of those things that, I'd imagine if it gets passed down or, like if we if I were to buy one and, we just keep it in the drawer and we're using it when we need, there's gonna come a [00:26:00] time where, you're gonna start cleaning stuff out and passing it down to your kids or, some type of relative and, it's just one of those things that's really cool to have.
And also, very functional as well.
Clark Dodd: That's the idea, the functional stuff, but it is, none of it is none of it's anything that somebody has to have. So it, it has to be like you say, a statement thing. A a conversation starter. No, nobody has to wear a camouflage all around town all the time.
Either, and you sure see a lot of that kinda a. Statement stuff, or your Sitka gear or your first light or whatever, yeah. But but it says something. I think, and it certainly says something and we're we're really a tourist place yeah.
Right outside of Yellowstone. And I do a lot of shows, in fact, we're we have done with it. The only thing we did one spring craft show, aside from the Bha Rondevu. And then and then I'm starting, I'm going be doing a a little market right outside, right outside the north entrance to Yellowstone.
Like we, if you [00:27:00] step onto the sidewalk, you're in the park. Tomorrow night. So the first night I'm gonna do one of those. Then that's just getting started. This is their first year for that. So it'd be interesting to see how it goes. But but yeah, you got a lot of people there that it's interesting that, that really, oh my gosh.
Is that, oh, that's, is that elk or is that deer, or what is that? Or did you kill all those animals? No, they fall off. It's really even in Montana, even the, some of the locals, they're semi locals or something that you No, you, they fall off. They're, yeah. And so there's an educational component to it as well, which having coached and been a teacher.
And then, and I spent a lot of summers also with the park service in Yellowstone. And I was never really an interpretive ranger that would be working in a visitor's center or something, but. But I worked in some back country offices and used to do answer the phones and emails and stuff with questions and stuff.
So it's so [00:28:00] that, that teaching aspect of things or when I'm, I've got some antelope stuff and those, those are really, they're weird animals and they're horns, they fall off the, shes of their horns fall off, so they're not antlers and they're only sort of horns and yeah, and they're a different, they're a different thing.
And that, and lots of people don't get that, don't know about that. Which is understandable. They're, they're not something a lot of people know about. But let's say you get some interesting conversations at your booth, at the craft show, whether it's somebody else that's a big shed hunter and knows a lot about this and that, and, oh yeah, those are some nice sheds you got there, or whatever.
And or somebody that just I can't believe you killed all those animals. No. We need to talk.
Marcus Ewing: Yeah. It's funny you mentioned that because when I went to college I, you make, you meet a lot of [00:29:00] new people. Make a lot of new friends. Sure. You are familiar enough with Michigan to understand like, the area I grew up in and it's really, even over by Reed City, big Rapids in that area.
It's certainly a bigger area, but it doesn't, you don't have to drive too far to get to some of those, more rural communities. Sure. I grew up. The with a certain way of life, the outdoors and hunting and fishing and all those things were very normal to me growing up.
And, you make new friends in college, and I think it was probably after college one of the, one of my buddies who I became pretty close with throughout the course of school we started talking about hunting one day and telling him that I was gonna be going hunting, this is during whitetail season.
And we start talking about antlers. And he didn't think that Whitetails dropped their antlers every year. He didn't, he couldn't wrap his head around. He's no, that's not true. He's so they just, so they fall off and they just grow bigger the next year. I'm like, yeah, theoretically yes.
That's what happens. He's no yeah. I don't buy it. Like we had to Google it. We had to, I was calling people, I [00:30:00] had to call my wife of all people to say, can you please tell him that deer dropped their antler every year? Sometime in the winter, January, February, somewhere in that court, like they're gonna fall off.
And. If I'm having to go to my wife to prove my point to my buddy, like he's lost the battle 100%.
Clark Dodd: That's right. At least he trusted her.
Marcus Ewing: Yeah. Don't trust the guy who actually hunts, trust his wife, who's never hunted a day before in her life.
Clark Dodd: Yeah. It's it's interesting. And be honest with you, I don't know when I became aware of that.
I, I don't have any idea if it was when I was a little kid. My, my dad grew up hunting some not much big games. There wasn't, there was, they lived off squirrels and rabbits and that sort of stuff. But they did a little bit of deer hunting, but they're just, it was, the timeframe when in rural Virginia they're, it was a big deal to see a deer track.
Yeah, [00:31:00] so there wasn't a whole lot of that. But so I, by the time I was, middle school, high school age, I had some cousins that hunted in Virginia and there were deer, some quantities of deer, but but I didn't have much exposure to that at all. So I'm not even sure really when I learned that it might have been when I was a little kid.
I might well have known it but I don't remember learning it at any point in time. It's just, yeah, we're gonna go look for sheds or something like that, okay. Yeah. Yeah and I'm sure that, I, the vast majority of the kids that I went to high school with, I went to school in Knoxville and it's East Tennessee, but it's a decent sized town and.
Yeah, for sure. I'm sure a lot of them had no, no concept of that.
Marcus Ewing: Yeah. And it's funny that growing up, again, doing a lot of whitetail hunting and, my dad was a big hunter and a big fisherman. I don't ever recall having conversations about going to look for sheds in the springtime.
[00:32:00] And maybe that's just because, we hunted a lot of public land almost exclusively when I was young. We were hunting different spots all the time, every season we were, unless a spot was really good and we knew no one else was, was gonna likely be in there, we hunted all over.
My dad and his brother, my uncle, it seems like we'd hunt a different spot every time when I was young. So we never did any shed hunting. But then, gosh, maybe a decade ago, I, when I was really into it on my own, so to speak, like I wasn't hunting with my dad or anything like that, and, We had my in-laws have some property, so we were doing a lot of like management on the property, like habitat and things like that, and trying to really cultivate it, when we started, Hey, maybe we should go look for sheds this spring, right?
It was, it's funny that I knew it all along, but I never I never had any interest or just never really thought about it. It was just never something that I did until, like I said, maybe a decade ago when I really started paying attention to it. Yeah, I don't
Clark Dodd: know. I think I, I remember hearing about it when I first came out to [00:33:00] Yellowstone.
It was a thing poaching sheds out of the park to the point where they would talk about, and it was right at the early GPS kind of stuff and yeah. Oh, they're they're, they've got some of the antlers that they've embedded GPS trackers in or, that sort of thing. And but it was cause he, cuz you can't collect them in the national park in Yellowstone.
Thankfully quite a few of those elk walk out of the park and come in winter, right across the valley from us here. So they bring those antlers with them and leave them here before they go back. At least sometimes. But it, it was, when we were in Michigan, I would go down.
I mostly went Wendy's from down around Jackson, Adrian in Devil's Lake area. And I'd go down there. Her parents have 60 acres down there. I'd go, I'd had access to that. I'd go down there and it was really, at that point it was, my father-in-law and myself were the [00:34:00] only ones that hunted on it.
And and. We had some, I hunted a little bit of public land around us but I didn't have a whole lot of time cuz I was even then trying, it's a far cry, that time commitment, coaching high school ball, even then, far different than it was when I was in high school myself. Oh yeah.
And and now it's gotta be, it's gotta be even worse. But I, that was my, I gotta try and maximize my time here and and that means private land in southern Michigan is a good option,
Marcus Ewing: yeah. Real good option as far as Michigan goes. Absolutely. Yeah.
Clark Dodd: Oh, it was great.
It was great. But yeah, but that, and then you were talking about the Great Lakes earlier and we were an hour or so from Waddington and go over occasionally and. I had a boat that I had bought out here for fishing on Lake Yellowstone and stuff. But and it's, it is certainly a good boat for the, for, not a, it's not a big boat, but it's good enough to go out and [00:35:00] troll for salmon out outta the ports and stuff.
But and we actually lived on a Muskegon river. And so I could put the canoe in there and float the take, put the bike in the back of the pickup and drive downstream, ride my bike back home, get in a canoe, float down the river. And man, it was slick.
We had walleye and rainbows and small mount and blue gill and all kinds of stuff in that river. It was great.
Marcus Ewing: Yeah. Yeah. That's freshwater walleye. Tough to beat as far as A freshwater fish goes. That's, that's just my personal opinion, but I'm a big fan of walleye.
Clark Dodd: Yeah. Yeah.
They're good. I'm not very good at catching 'em, but they're really good.
Marcus Ewing: It's all right. I'm right there with you. You started Bella a few years ago. How does, and you've, I think it's fairly recently, have become 2% certified, and is certainly you. It is, yeah. Yeah.
Certainly you have the relationship with Jared over the, over the, some time. But [00:36:00] how does conservation tie into, the mission of Bell's bones?
Clark Dodd: It's we, Bell's bones can't exist without very clearly can't exist without deer and elk. No deer, no elk, no antlers.
And, That's right. No bottle openers, no pizza cutters, no earrings, nothing. So we have to have that obviously. And then and then public land for us is I mean it's indispensable. The, it's access here, private land access here is difficult to come by at best. So there are a couple of places where I can get on and and pick some sheds.
We had I had access right here for some bow hunting. But somebody else goofed that up with with a bad rifle hunting experience on this guy's property. And and so it, most of the bigger properties around here, [00:37:00] It, somebody's paying to hunt on 'em and whether they're being outfitted or there are some that just are, owned by some Hollywood type that is not interested in hunting.
Yeah. So it's tough and from that standpoint, but we are extremely fortunate to have I mean if I were to point off of my left shoulder here and go straight in that direction once I got across the valley here, I think I could probably go something in the neighborhood of 50 miles straight line before you ran into another road.
Oh, wow. Yeah, so it's a pretty, pretty big chunk of of roadless. Roadless area. And and while if I went straight south from here, maybe once you get to the end of the valley here, probably 12 miles south of us, southwest of us, really, [00:38:00] if you went south there through Yellowstone, you'd cross the west entrance road and then one other road before you got all the way down to the other side of the Tetons.
So along the ways, so there's a lot of roadless a country and so there, there's the public land is it's, is here. And we do we do have quite a few. We really live in winter range, so lots of elk come down, lots of deer come down. Sheep come down. It's a wa it's a great place to wander around in the winter we saw a beautiful ram a couple of, maybe a week ago now.
Wendy and I did just right down a road at a spot where we stopped to, to take a look for some elk across the other side of the valley, and one of the three or four rams right there. And one of 'em is a really nice full curl guy that they're hard to see. They just, you don't see 'em very often.
But they'll come right down in the valley in winter here and yeah, and it's neat. So we get we get that and it gives you some of that, but the opportunity to see 'em and [00:39:00] everything, but for us, it gives it, that's where I go to Jet Hunt on the public land. And like you were saying, I don't think that many, even when I started really getting after it and 12, 15 years ago with with my buddy from the dog sweat outfit There were guys out there, but there weren't that many guys out there and guys and gals.
But there weren't that many people out there. And Bozeman's right on, not very far from us. And it's just exploded. And and the popularity of shed hunting has exploded with the I think a lot of the social media stuff and YouTube is in the whether it's the whichever YouTuber or Instagrammer that's trying to make a name for them, throwing off the three 80 set of elk antler.
And yeah, of course guys want to go out and pick up a big set of elk antler, of course. Yeah. And you're ready to go out and walk around and get out of the house and get out, back out hiking and And so there's a lot more competition but there's a lot of, there's a lot of country, [00:40:00] there's a lot of country here that we can access a lot of, kind, a lot of public land here that we can't access because it's checkerboarded in.
The corn crossing type stuff where public is boxed in by private and big debates over whether you can if you can access that without trespassing on the other property and do you need permission and everything there? And there are I'm not sure how many square miles just to the north and northwest of us here in the gallatins.
30, 40 square miles, I don't know of public land that you can't get to because it's boxed in. So conservation is Important to us. And we've been, Wendy and I both been individually 2% certified for quite a while but like you said, just got the business lined in there. But it just, it could the Bella's bones could not exist without public lands and access to them and and the deer and [00:41:00] elk, quality habitat to hold the deer and elk, to help 'em survive.
And this was a, we had a tough winter, not as tough as it was in say, south of us down in Wyoming, which is just, wasn't just horrible. For the deer and the antelope and probably not quite as hard on the elk be just because of their size. But there, there are quite a few winter kills out here.
But you know that, that. Having winter range for 'em having quality places for 'em to eat that, that, find something to eat and hang on through winter. That's all without it, any that, take any of that away and my little lady bitty business is not even little lady bitty, yeah. It just doesn't exist.
Marcus Ewing: In a typical spring, especially since you've really started putting, to use the antlers to, to make a lot of the different items that you make what, I don't even know, like how, what's a good way to quantify, whether it's by pounds or, pick up bed of a truck, like what's [00:42:00] a good spring for you in terms of finding sheds and that good range?
Obviously for anything from, whitetail and mules to, to obviously elk.
Clark Dodd: I, I don't find a whole lot of whitetail sheds cuz I, I, they're right in the river bottoms and almost exclusively, not exclusively, but mostly on, on private land. And I don't find a whole lot of my, buy some from some of my buddies that I had a buddy that, that, that did work on a ranch here locally, and he, he'd be out in the haystacks and pick up deer sheds and I'd buy some from him and stuff.
But I might find generally maybe 30 or so elk sheds. And boy, the deer shed's kind of very I don't know what I found, I didn't find that many last year elk sheds. I started getting accepted to these shows and I. And I had to make stuff and I didn't have as much time to to get on a mountain.
And then the old big beast Bella was, [00:43:00] she was old. She died last this past winter at 15. Wow. For a lab. Yeah. Big a big chocolate lab. And yeah, she made it a long time and I would've very surprised when she made double digits. Just all beaten up and bad knees and rattlesnake bites and head caught in a dang con, bear trap.
And just a pretty impressive life story. Tough dog. Yeah. Oh, phenomenally tough. Phenomenally tough. But and she was really, She was r was good at finding 'em and consistent. But my little yellow lab, she's good at really good with deer antlers. She's a little intimidated by the bigger elk antlers.
She'll pick some up, but not like bell. But she, she smoked me Nugget smoked me once last spring, 10 to nothing on deer sheds on the mountain across the valley here and Oh wow. And she just, she's scratching [00:44:00] around and pulling pulling old pieces of antler out from underneath the pine needles in the, we just get 'em in the timber and they can do some amazing things.
I might find 30 or 40 deer sheds with the dogs. Depends on how much I get out. And it's I used to do a little better, but I used to go out sooner. Okay. And it really it really is. It's, I didn't know any better, but it's really hard on a, on the critters.
Yeah. And I know some people will say people hike or CrossCountry ski and stuff like that, and yeah. And I'll go out and cross-country ski sometimes or whatnot but I'm not going, when I'm not going out just to cross-country ski or whoever is going out to cross-country ski or take a hike.
They're not digging around. I'm digging around in bedding areas and, it's it's you're pushing 'em around and they've got no place to go and there's piles of snow and it's incredible what a bull elk will go through. Oh [00:45:00] yeah. Snow up to his, above his belly and they're just surfing across it and and you see a couple of 'em several years ago we had a real bad winter, probably 10 years ago, and then they were dead bull elk alcohol over the place.
And it winter started real early and and lasted a while. And then you start seeing that and, I don't need to be a part of that. It's not I need some mantler for my business, but I don't need 'em so badly that I'm gonna go out early on and push these critters around.
And I and I try and when I buy from other people I try and buy from people that I feel pretty good about buying from, they're the way they're gonna conduct themselves when they're out there and it's my, my buddy that I used to hunt with, shed hunt with.
He's, if you don't go out there, somebody else is going to and they're gonna get pushed around and, and if you don't go out, then all the easy ones are gonna be gone. And to some degree I think that's true. The, [00:46:00] everybody, you do a little Google search and about elk shed hunting for elk sheds.
Oh. South facing slopes. This, it all melts off and Yeah. And yeah, they're gonna be out there feeding and Yeah, they're gonna drop some antlers out there and yeah, everybody and their brother's gonna be on that south facing slope. And and if you wait at all, then you know, you, you don't, they're gone.
And yeah and they're good. 20 bucks a pound and they start to add up. You find four or five sheds that are eight to 10 pounds a piece, which are, nice sheds, but, starts to be some real money there. Yeah. So folks I just ch I choose not to choose to wait much later than I, I can remember thinking, at some point I'm not gonna get, I'm not gonna let somebody beat me to that ridge next year.
And I'm, that's not that's not part of my equation [00:47:00] anymore. And I think that, you can hurt your shed hunting that way by pushing elk out. And in fact, a couple years ago I ran into one of a buddy of mine in the back country and he's we're both out here.
We're hunting sheds from bulls that got pushed around already by other people, and pushed back and up and out. I'm, I don't, certainly don't claim to be a good shed hunter, and I don't I don't push it that much. I like getting out. I like springtime. I like springtime more than maybe I even used to.
I'm winter's starting to get a little old for me here. 15 years of running sled dogs in the winter. And I getting up at, 30 below, 35 below in a wall tent with a bunch of sled dogs. I may be a little old for that anymore, but, so spring and the flowers blooming, and the butterflies coming back and and and and getting out and walking on dry ground and not post oland through, knee-deep or waist deep snow.
Really appeals to me more nowadays than that post hole one's get. Got it. That's pretty old.
Marcus Ewing: [00:48:00] Yeah. Leave that to the young guys. Yeah, that's right. I don't blame that. That's right. That's right. Clark, before I let you get outta here, ma'am where can people find Bella's bones?
Where can they pick up some of your handmade goods and, antlers and dog chew and all that good stuff?
Clark Dodd: We're www Bella's Bella's has no apostrophe in it in the website, bella's hyphen bones.com, so b e l a s hyphen b o n e s.com. And we're we're also on Instagram at public Land Pup.
And and Facebook. And I think that's Bella's bones, I think is Facebook. I don't pay a whole lot of attention to Facebook. I'm, and I'm very, I'm poor on social media in general. Every once in a while I'll go on a little kick and put a couple of posts up and yeah. And then I won't for a while.
And, but we're at a, we're at a bunch of shows and like you noticed said, right there on a, on our homepage, on the, on a [00:49:00] website, there's a list of where we're gonna be. There's a couple farmers markets around the area, and then some of the bigger festivals in Southwest Montana throughout the summer.
So yeah, come see us. And I'd be happy to send something to you or I think it's better to come, and pick and choose in person. Get your hands on the what's that pizza cutter feel like in my hand? Or what's that bottle opener feel like in my hand? Yeah. Kind of thing.
Absolutely. Because they're all different. They're all different. For sure.
Marcus Ewing: Everyone's unique. That's what makes it so special.
Clark Dodd: It is pretty
Marcus Ewing: cool. Clark dod, thank you again for joining me. It was good chatting with you again, and look forward to doing this again soon.
Clark Dodd: All right. Sounds good, Marcus. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it. All right. Have a good night.
Marcus Ewing: You too, buddy. Okay, thank you again to Clark for joining me today. Telling telling me a bit more and you a bit more about Bella's bones and the story behind that. I would also like to thank the partners of the podcast, stone Glacier Go Hunt, and 2% for conservation.[00:50:00]
And if you're interested in learning more about 2% for conservation, you can visit their website, fish and wildlife.org. And over there you're gonna see all the certified brands that have committed to conservation that you should support when you shop. I also encourage you guys to give 2% of follow on social media where it's gonna be only positive conservation driven content, filling up your feeds there.
So again, if you'd like to learn more about 2% for conservation, you can look for them online, on social media email@example.com. Thanks for joining me this week everyone. Hope you enjoyed the episode, enjoy the holiday weekend, and as always, stay safe out there. And remember that conservation starts with you.