By Dotti Albecker and Cathleen Gilchrist
Duncan Gilchrist, 66, passed away Saturday, Oct. 5, 2002. Gilchrist suffered a heart attack while in the Gold Creek area east of Missoula, Mont., videotaping a wildlife hunt.
In his lifetime, Gilchrist was a highly respected outdoorsman and foremost authority in regard to wild sheep and bears. He gained international respect as a book author, magazine writer, videographer, conservationist and big-game hunter.
He was born Jan. 19, 1936, in Malden, Mass., the son of Arthur Bruce and Beatrice Gilchrist.
Duncan Gilchrist graduated form the University of New Hampshire in 1958 with a bachelor of science degree in forestry. Following graduation he accepted a forester position in Northern Maine College, where he met his future bride, Pat Devoe. Duncan and Pat were married on Aug. 13, 1960. With a yen to see Alaska, Duncan took a position with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) working in Anchorage. After five years with the BLM, he left to become a forester for a logging company based out of Haines, Alaska.
While in Haines, Duncan achieved another major accomplishment when he acquired his pilot license. Becoming an Alaskan bush pilot not only opened up the whole state for him, it showed him country and enabled experiences of which few can only dream.
The outfitting business was Duncan’s next venture. He established Lynn Canal Guiding Service based out of Haines and guided for brown bear, black bear, Dall’s sheep and Rocky Mountain goats.
As a partner in a large logging operation, Duncan moved the family to Afognak Island near Kodiak in 1974. He sold his share of the business in 1976 and relocated the family to the beautiful Bitterroot Valley of Montana.
In Montana he was a registered outfitter for several years. Strongest among his other accomplishments was becoming a licensed real estate broker for Strout Realty.
In the 1980s, Duncan, a naturalist, became greatly interested in Montan’s bighorn sheep. It grew to be more than an interest and evolved into a lifetime passion.
Duncan authored several books on bighorn sheep, in particular a series of three books titled Montana: Land of Giant Rams, in which he chronicled the condition of the state’s bighorn sheep herds. A subsequent book told the story of bighorn sheep everywhere they’re found under the title In Quest of Bighorn Rams, and another on Dall sheep was titled In Quest of Dall Rams.
Altogether, Duncan authored 11 books on outdoor subjects on topics as varied as field care to bear hunting, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and various hunting techniques, including a manuscript he had just delivered to his publisher on big-game hunting for beginners.
While writing books, he discovered another passion that was an outgrowth of his love for photography: being a videographer of wildlife. This activity not only took him across the United States and Canada, but also to Africa, New Zealand, Australia and to Alaska and the Northwest Territories many times. He ultimately produced 12 videos on big- game hunting, particularly in regard to wild sheep and bear. Duncan was honored for his wildlife filming with an award in 2001 at the International Wildlife Film Festival.
Duncan was active in the Ravalli County (Montana) Fish and Wildlife Association (RCFWA) and was a two-term president of that organization in 1982 and 1983. He was awarded the association’s highest award, the Nick Kramis Award, in 1992 and is credited with starting the group’s annual fund-raising auction on behalf of wildlife. He subsequently served on the RCFWA board of directors for several years.
In 1993 he was elected to the board of directors for the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS), a national organization that is headquartered in Cody, Wyo. He served on that board for two terms, from 1993 to 1998. In 2001 Duncan was honored by FNAWS with its Distinguished Service Award, which cited him for his “many contributions to the wild sheep of North America.”
Dr. Bill Foreyt of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University commended Duncan’s work over the past 10 years on behalf of wild sheep, particularly in regard to Duncan’s major hope that a cure would be found for Pasteurella pneumonia in bighorn sheep, which is almost always fatal.
“Washington State University has lost an important, strong, most enthusiastic supporter, and I have lost a very close friend,” Dr. Foreyt said.
Duncan Gilchrist was an OWAA member since 1995 and volunteered to count ballots for board elections in 2001 and 2002.