New book details life of late outdoor legend Roger Latham

Roger Latham was destined to be an outdoorsman. He turned
himself into a legend.

Not that he ever would have admitted as much.

Latham, for those who never knew him — and he’s been gone 31
years, so an entire generation doesn’t — was as humble as he was
great, according to his friends.

He grew up in Western Pennsylvania in the 1920s and 30s “on the
edge of poverty.” With his dad Ernest “Red” Latham, he hunted and
fished for food as well as fun.

He loved to trap, too. When getting up early each morning before
school to check his trap line began to irritate his brother, though
— they shared a bed — he started sleeping with a string tied to his
toe. He hung it out his window, and when friend and future
brother-in-law Dom Carbon would come by, he’d give it a yank to
wake Roger without disturbing Vince.

That passion would serve him well later.

Latham became one of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s first
game protectors, then served as the agency’s deer biologist. It was
in that latter role in the 1950s that he began championing the idea
of using doe harvests to reduce the size of the deer herd until it
was in balance with its habitat.

That didn’t make him popular then — he was in fact fired for
being a half century ahead of his time — but it opened another
door.

Latham became outdoor editor of the Pittsburgh Press for more
than two decades. He proved as talented with a pen as he was in the
woods, earning national accolades for sharing tales of his
adventures locally and around the world while arguing against
topics such as the stocking of farm-raised turkeys.

His life was, in short, a series of adventures, great and
small.

Now, for the first time, his story has been captured in the
pages of a book.

Ann Jenkins, a former Pittsburgher and friend of Latham’s now
living in Delaware, Ohio, wrote a book about him titled “A Tribute
to Roger Latham.” It’s been a goal of hers since Latham died in an
accident while photographing wildlife in Switzerland in 1979.

“When I think of Roger, I think of his sense of humor, I think
of a gentle man, I think of his selflessness — his caring about
people and wanting to help them, as everyone was important to him.
I think of his vast knowledge and love of the natural world and
God’s creation, and how grateful I am that I knew him, learned much
from him and was inspired by him,” she said by way of
explanation.

The book is full of anecdotes about Latham told by friends and
relatives. Many focus on his work to introduce the outdoors to
people locally. There are some of his columns, too, as well as
samples of the tips and recipes he used to offer, and plenty of
photos.

One thing that stands out are Latham’s columns about deer. The
similarities between the “deer wars” then and now are striking.

“It’s struck me again and again since I started being
professionally involved in the deer issue back in 2001 how little
progress has been made since 1950, when my dad wrote that special
edition of Game News,” agreed his son, Roger Latham, a conservation
biologist himself.

“But in spite of the glacial rate of progress, I keep
interpreting various things I hear from my Game Commission
biologist friends as grounds for at least a little optimism.
Certainly DMAP, more antlerless permits, and allowing additional
tools in special management areas such as baiting are steps in the
right direction.”

His father would certainly agree, but he can tell you that — and
more — himself, through Jenkins’ book.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Jeff Mulhollem

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