Garrett Titus is a senior majoring in economics at Missouri State University. He’s just launched a local chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, and his group just had its first meeting last week.
“I learned to shoot when I was very young,” Titus said. “I grew up with firearms.”
He’s the only child of an electrical engineer and an accountant, from Lawson, Missouri, north of Kansas City—a place where there are “more cats and dogs” than people, he says. He grew up on 150 acres of land.
He has shotguns, deer rifles. And an old, muzzle-loader from the 1800s.
“That’s my favorite, personally. I’m really traditional when it comes to that stuff," Titus said.
His favorite type of hunting? Pheasant hunting. If you want see this young man’s face light up, ask him to describe venturing out on the hunt.
“It’s usually a cold, crisp morning with usually a five to ten miles an hour north wind,” he said.
Exiting the truck, he said, it’s silent—except for the wind rolling across the plains.
“And you can just barely see the sun peeking up, painting its, just, gorgeous picture along the skyline,” he said.
That’s when you hear the pheasants cackling in the fields, he said, and the dogs are whining, ecstatic to exert their instinct and training.
“We put on our vests, and kind of spread out in a line, and just follow that dog as you just meander throughout the field,” Titus said.
He grew up hunting with his dad, uncles, and cousins.
“I was probably eight when I first went along. And I was just so intrigued by the art of it,” he said.
He’s hunted in South Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, and throughout Missouri’s public lands.
“And I want to personally advocate for that,” Titus said.
He considers himself both an environmentalist and a supporter of the Second Amendment.
“I think the term 'environmentalist' was only ‘loaded’ since the 1970s," he said.
"The environmentalist, before that, was a pro-hunter. And now the environmentalist tends to be more left, and the hunter tends to be more right. But that’s where I disagree completely,” he said.
For example, he says people who identify with the political right tend to look past ecosystems and their importance. And the left? They tend to ignore the idea that our ecosystem needs managing, he said.
“When we do not have balanced ecosystems, we find extinction happening. And there are many problems caused by us,” he said.
He says he votes, and he arms himself with information on the issues he cares about. He does not align with a political party, he said.
“I believe that you have to go in there and pick whoever you believe to be the best person for the job. That doesn’t mean the person you want to sit down and have a beer with. That doesn’t mean the person you like better,” he said.
Candidates’ positions on firearms do come into play, he said, when he chooses a candidate on the ballot.
“But I would tend to say that, to me personally, preservation and conservation of ecosystems and our wildlife tends to have a much greater impact on my personal vote,” he said.
He would never vote away a right, he said.
“Just like I would never vote away the Second Amendment, I would never vote to say abortion is illegal. I would never do that—because that is voting away a right,” Titus said.
He says he and his close friends are critical thinkers, and that not everyone his age falls into one political camp or the other—on the issue of firearms or other matters.
“It saddens me in this country that it’s come to two political parties make our decisions for us. There has to be somebody who isn’t so radical to come and lead this country,” he said.
That’s Garrett Titus, a senior at Missouri State University in Springfield. He wants to work in the preservation of wildlife and public lands.