May 9, 1932-Dec. 27, 2017
Jack Atcheson Sr. was born May 9, 1932 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to parents Art and Dora Atcheson, who moved their family to Butte in the early 1940s. To quote Jack, “I have hunted since the age of 5. I left Butte when I was 15 to work at a logging camp in Libby, Montana. Bear season was open year round and the fat was used for the finest pies and pastries. Deer season seemed to be flexible as well. There were elk, moose, grizzly, a few caribou, and fewer people. I lived alone outside of town with a dog, a horse, and a pet crow.”
Atcheson was still a teenager when he enlisted in the Army, spending a year in infantry combat in Korea. He suffered frostbite in the Korean winter and had lifelong back pain from a near-miss from an enemy artillery shell. Describing his service, Jack wrote, “in 1951, I volunteered for combat in the Korean War and was promoted four times in one year to Sergeant First Class, at 20 years old. 45,000 Americans were killed and the violence was unbelievable. I was wounded only once, truly a miracle.” The VA would later claim his fractured vertebrae and embedded shrapnel were not combat related.
Atcheson left the Army as a Master Sergeant and returned to Butte, marrying his lifelong partner, Mary Claire. Together, they founded Jack Atcheson & Sons in 1955, originally a taxidermy business that developed into an agency for organizing outdoor adventures around the world. “I came home, finished school, went to college for a short time, but I was already making good money as a taxidermist and hunting consultant for Alaska and Africa. I dropped out so I could hunt more.” It was Jack who coined the term “hunting consultant” to describe his occupation, the term that is now commonly used—and preferred—by his competitors and colleagues.
Describing some of his accomplishments, Jack wrote, “I’ve arranged hunts for Jack O’Connor, the most famous hunting author ever, hunting with him on his last hunt. I’ve hunted with Jim Carmichael many times, General Craig Boddington, General Chuck Yeager, and Jim Zumbo of The Outdoor Channel.” He once had a seat with the Dalai Lama while hunting in Asia, and even hunted with the Shah of Iran before its overthrow.
Jack was an outspoken advocate for public land accessibility and opportunity. He was one of the leaders behind the passage of Montana’s Stream Access Law, guaranteeing access to the public. While president of the Public Land Access Association, he personally sued the State of Montana to “unblock” 5.2 million acres of public state land and millions more acres of federal land, for all generations to enjoy in perpetuity. In the year 2000, Time-Mirror and Outdoor Life Magazine awarded him the prestigious Outdoor Life Conservation Award. He was also honored by the National Wildlife Federation for the same reasons. Although remaining an active Montana sportsman until his final winter, Atcheson retired gradually from the family business. His motto and company slogan, “Go hunting now while you are physically able,” is an axiom Jack lived to the very end, remaining vigorous in hunting and conservation worldwide his entire life. Many of his adventures are collected in his memoirs, Hunting Adventures Worldwide (1995) and Real Hunting and Campfire Humor (2011).
Jack’s final statement was made as his family gathered on Christmas, where he spoke of his complete love and adoration for Mary Claire, his soulmate, traveling buddy, best friend, and wife of 62 years. He was absolutely crazy about her and his last words were of his precious girl. She survives, as well as his four children, Jack Jr. and wife Cindy, Keith and wife Niki, Brian, and Kristie and husband Lee; brother-in-law Charlie Anderson; grandchildren Andrew, Alissa, Adrianna, Trevor and fiancé Misty, Trinda, Brook, Braeden, Lauren, Bohde, Diani, and Malindi; great-grandchildren Kanyon, Jack, McKynlee, Tristin, William, Darla, Landon, and Hayden; and by Edie, Gene, and Tammy Oswald.
He is preceded in death by parents Art and Dora Atcheson; sisters Phyliss Best and Patti Andersen; and by brother-in law and sister-in-law Jim and Delores Sullivan.
It was Jack’s wish that, in lieu of flowers, those who choose to, are encouraged to make donations to grandson Trevor Atcheson’s GoFundMe page. With Jack’s passing, Trevor now has a tenacious guardian angel by his side as we continue to pray for his miracle of a new heart. Donations to pro-hunting conservation and public land access organizations are also encouraged.
Funeral services will be held at Thursday, January 4th at 1:00 PM at St. Patrick’s Church, immediately followed by a celebration of life at the Butte Mcqueen Club.