WSF OFFICE STAFF
Gray Thornton, President/CEO
Gray Thornton serves as president and chief executive officer of the Wild Sheep Foundation. Prior to joining WSF in 2008, he served as executive director of the Dallas Safari Club in 1997-2008 and chapter & membership director for Safari Club International from 1990 to 1997. During his tenure, he produced record results for membership growth, fundraising and mission funding for both organizations. He followed his passion to the conservation/hunting industry after a successful sales career with Unisys and Xerox corporations.
As a public speaker, Gray has been invited to present keynote addresses on wildlife conservation and hunting and angling ethics internationally to diverse audiences. These audiences range from civic and sportsmen’s groups to international associations, the Serbian Parliament and former presidents of the US, France and South Africa.
Gray was awarded the Wildlife Utilisation Award by the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA), the association’s highest conservation honor. He also received PHASA’s highest service honor, the Coenraad Vermaak Distinguished Service Award and is the only non-South African to be so recognized. He received the President’s Award from the Guide Outfitter Association of British Columbia for his years of dedicated service to the hunting and conservation community. As an outdoor writer, he received a Katie Award from the Press Club of Dallas, representing the southern US for the best outdoor story of the year with “Iron Horse Fly Fishing.”
He is a Summit Life member of WSF, a Chadwick Ram Society member, and a Life member of Idaho WSF, Washington WSF, Wyoming WSF, Texas Bighorn Society, SCI, NRA, PHASA and other organizations. He is also a member of numerous guide/outfitter associations.
An avid hunter as well as salt and freshwater fly fisherman, Gray has hunted and fly fished throughout North America and internationally, including nearly 20 African safaris. He has hunted in New Zealand, Germany, Mexico and Canada and has taken three of the Four North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS), a Rocky Mountain goat as well as tahr and chamois. In 2017, he plans to complete his FNAWS with a desert bighorn sheep hunt.
Gray received a Bachelor of Science degree in management and marketing from California State University at Fresno and has earned advanced credits in wildlife management from Colorado State University at Fort Collins. He has his wife Kelli recently relocated to the Bozeman, Mont., area from WSF’s former headquarters in Cody, Wyo. Kelli recently was kicked out of WSF’s <1 Club for taking her first wild sheep.
Buddy DuVall, EVP of Development
Buddy DuVall joined the Wild Sheep Foundation as Executive Vice President of Development in October of 2014. Buddy previously spent 10 years in the outdoor industry with USA Shooting as Director of Marketing from 2004-2009 and Executive Director of the USA Shooting Team Foundation through 2014. During this time, Buddy attended many industry shows and events including every WSF Sheep Show™ since 2005, where he developed many relationships and friends within the outdoor industry, conservation community and WSF family.
A native of Gainesville, Georgia, Buddy attended the University of Georgia before transferring to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) while training as a USA Shooting Team member and resident athlete at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center. As a pistol shooter on the US Team, Buddy competed in over 40 World Cup and international competitions and last competed internationally at the 2002 World Championships. After graduating from UCCS with a marketing degree, Buddy spent 12 years in sales and marketing in the clinical laboratories industry with SmithKline Beecham Clinical Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp and American Bio Medica Corporation.
Today, Buddy is focused on advancing WSF’s mission, directing the Ensuring the Future of Wild Sheep capital campaign, supporting WSF’s annual convention and other marketing/fundraising initiatives. Buddy is a Summit Life member and member of the Chadwick Ram and Legacy Societies.
Kevin Hurley, Senior Conservation Director, THS Programs Lead
As senior conservation director for WSF, Kevin Hurley brings with him over 40 years of experience as a wildlife biologist, with wild sheep, particularly bighorn sheep, being a huge part of his personal and professional life for the past 36 years. Prior to joining WSF’s staff in 2011, he spent three decades as a wildlife biologist for the State of Wyoming Game & Fish Department (WGFD), retiring as the statewide bighorn sheep program coordinator. During his final years working for WGFD, he chaired the Wild Sheep Working Group for the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and has remained an active member representing WSF for the past six years. During his career with WGFD, he survived two plane crashes (Dec. 1991 and Aug. 2002), both while surveying pronghorn. The resulting injuries changed his life: While not able to physically do the things he had done before, he learned to compensate with a tireless work ethic as a wildlife professional.
Dedicated to the future of wild sheep, he completed his $100,000 commitment as a WSF Marco Polo Society member (#24). He has been a WSF member since 1981, became a Life member in 1997, and a Summit Life member in 2014. Kevin is currently a proud Life member of fourteen WSF Chapters & Affiliates. His allegiance to WSF began in his college years—using proceeds from the Wyoming Governor’s bighorn sheep licenses, FNAWS (later WSF) was the major funding source for his graduate studies at the University of Wyoming, where he studied the Trout Peak bighorn sheep herd located between Cody and Yellowstone National Park.
In his hunting life, Kevin fired his first gun when he was 25 years old. He learned how to hunt after moving to northern Idaho in 1978. He later went on to earn his FNAWS by taking a Wyoming bighorn sheep in 1997; an Alaskan Dall in 2011; a Yukon Stone sheep in 2012; and a southern Baja desert ram in 2014. Kevin notes that he had his only son Kyle with him on three of his four successful ram hunts. Today, Kyle is a U. Wyoming grad, mechanical engineer, accomplished archer, WSF Summit Life Member, and Life member of both the Idaho and Wyoming Chapters of WSF.
Marci Johnerson, Membership Manager
Hired in February 2016 as WSF’s membership coordinator, Marci has been a WSF member since 2012, when she found her husband’s passion for wild sheep had rubbed off on her. Prior to joining WSF, she was the executive assistant for a wildlife film production company and an orthotic and prosthetic practitioner.
In 1999, she began bird hunting, which is still her passion. She started hunting big game in 2006 and two years later began bow hunting almost exclusively. Today, she is a member of WSF’s <1 Club and aspires to take her first wild sheep in the coming years. In the meantime, she supports and joins her husband in his career as a mountain lion hunter and wildlife filmmaker. They have taken their baby daughter on backcountry lion chases and are expecting a second child in 2016.
Marci is passionate about her work at WSF because of the members, whose passion for wild sheep inspires her.
Becky Layne, Sheep Show Exhibit Manager
Among her many WSF roles, Becky is most recognized as the Sheep Show™ exhibit manager, and she also serves as the merchandise and meetings manager. She views attending the annual convention as the best part of her job, where she can meet WSF members she considers to be her lifelong friends. The 2016 Sheep Show™ marked her 27th convention. In 2014, Becky was recognized for her long service to WSF with an award and a Life membership.
Originally from St. Louis, Becky’s family moved to Wyoming in 1975, and she embraced the outdoor lifestyle through camping, boating and hunting. She celebrated many birthdays in hunting camp and received her first gun on her 12th birthday during a moose hunt in Cokeville, Wyo. She killed her first deer at 13. In 2015, after living her whole life in a state with more antelope than people, she finally harvested her first antelope with the help of fellow WSF staff members Kim Nieters and Justin Phillips.
Traveling is her passion, with Bora Bora and Greece topping the bucket list. Beyond dedication to conservation and hunting, Becky says her proudest accomplishments are her two amazing daughters.
RYAN BROCK, Education Coordinator
Serving WSF for the past 4 years as its youth education coordinator, Ryan grew up learning to love the great outdoors in southern Colorado, where he spent summers exploring the wildlife refuges where his father worked. Through various backpacking and horse-packing trips with his family when he was young, he learned about the natural world. An avid hunter, today he enjoys pursuing big game and birds.
While focusing on science education, Ryan earned a master’s in education and a Ph.D. in curriculum, teaching and learning. His dissertation was dedicated to further understanding the timeframe youth take to develop an environmental identity to the natural world while participating in after-school nature clubs.
During his tenure for WSF, he has led the Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience (YWCE) as a component of the WSF Sheep Show™ in Reno. He also spearheads WSF’s nationwide Shooting, Hunting & Ethics Education Programs (S.H.E.E.P.), where Ryan conducts youth outdoor outreach for WSF Chapters and Affliliates and for other nonprofits, such as Ducks Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Both YWCE and S.H.E.E.P. offer school kids exciting exposure to shooting, archery and hands-on learning about wildlife, habitat and conservation. Attendance has grown exponentially for WSF youth events over Ryan’s tenure.
In addition to his part-time work for WSF, Ryan teaches fifth grade in Reno, Nev. Beyond his professional life, he continues to inspire his son and young daughter to cultivate curiosity and excitement about the natural world.
Kurt Alt, STAFF BIOLOGIST, INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS LEAD
Kurt joined the Wild Sheep Foundation in the fall of 2015 after 32 years (35 unofficially) for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, serving as a wildlife area manager, wildlife biologist, and the Wildlife Manager for southwest Montana. He has been responsible for managing wild sheep and goat populations throughout western Montana including Montana’s unlimited bighorn sheep seasons.
During his 40+ year career, Kurt has lectured extensively in European countries on wildlife management in Montana and North America. He brings broad perspectives to the WSF mission, drawing on his career in Montana, manager-to-manager exchanges with East Africa, Argentina, Russian Far East, and Europe, as a German certified lead hunting instructor offered to US and Canadian troops stationed in Germany and as the current President of the Northwest Section of the Wildlife Society.
Kurt is a Summit Life Member and a life member of the Montana Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation. After growing up in Butte, MT, he earned his BS and MS in Fish and Wildlife Management from Montana State University. His wife is a teacher currently stationed in Germany with the US military and his son is working on a Doctorate in southern California.
Clay Brewer, Conservation Director, BHS Programs Lead
Clay Brewer joined the Wild Sheep Foundation team as a Conservation Director in September 2016 after 25 years of service with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). He served in various capacities over 3 decades as a wildlife professional, including TPWD’s state-wide Bighorn Sheep Program Leader, Wild Sheep Working Group Chair (2011-2016) for the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA), Desert Bighorn Council Technical Staff Chair, WSF Professional Resources Advisory Board 2011-2016, and many other key leadership positions. Known for his efforts in helping restore desert bighorns to historic levels in Texas, Clay provided important strategic direction and leadership in improving landowner relations and working with multiple stakeholders to achieve common restoration and management goals.
In recognition for his work with wild sheep west-wide, he was awarded the WAFWA Professional of the year in 2016. Clay also received TPWD’s 2004 Conservation and 2010 Leadership Awards, the Texas Bighorn Society’s President’s Award in 2003, the Desert Bighorn Council Honor award in 2011 and the Wild Sheep Foundation’s Wild Sheep Biologist Wall of Fame Award in 2007.
He is a Summit Life Member and a Life Member of the Texas Bighorn Society. Clay received a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Management from Oklahoma State University and a Master of Science degree in Range and Wildlife from the Borderlands Research Institute, Sul Ross State University.
Clay and his wife Helen of 34 years raised 3 successful daughters and currently reside in Placid, Texas.
Kim Nieters, Auction/Awards Manager
A proud Life member of WSF and a new <1 Club member, Kim has spent nearly 30 years working for the foundation. At the age of 20, she began her WSF career at WSF (then known as FNAWS) as membership coordinator. Ever since then, she has found the driving force behind her professional passion has always been WSF’s energetic and inspiring members. As Kim always says, “I work for them!” During her WSF tenure, she has helped manage the foundation’s membership, merchandise, raffles, awards and auctions. With the generosity of WSF’s donors/exhibitors/sponsors and members, Kim and WSF’s stellar staff have raised over $110 million to benefit wild sheep and their habitat. Working for WSF has been the best education in the world, Kim says, teaching her professionalism, values and the principles that guide her every day.
Kim began hunting just a few years ago and fell in love with bird hunting, then took her first big game animal on a 2015 antelope hunt with the help of her friend and former WSF staff member Justin Phillips. She plans on trying for another buck antelope this fall.
Kim has two beautiful daughters, Shelbie and Emma, and a grandson Zavier, her biggest fan. Kim spends her leisure time taking them camping and traveling with them on sports outings.
Terry Ziehl, Office Manager
Terry was born and raised in Cloquet, Minnesota, which is about 20 miles from Duluth. Her father did a little bit of hunting, but his passion was fishing and camping at Leech Lake. As a family, they used to always say, "if you wanted to go fishing with dad, you better want to stay out there for hours!" So naturally, Terry grew up fishing, which she still loves to do today.
In 1981, Terry married her high school sweetheart, Terry (yes, they have the same name). They soon moved to Casper, Wyoming so he persue a degree in the oil field. After obtaining his degree and a position with Marathon oil, the Ziehl's were transferred to Cody in 1986. Terry became familiar with FNAWS while she lived in Casper since her husband was a member. Terry started with WSF back in 1987 as a part time receptionist. "I guess you could say I really enjoy working here 30 years later!" she says.
Terry has worked almost all positions, except graphic design. She wears many hats here at WSF world headquarters but her main job is in account receivables and payables. Terry especially looks forward to the convention each year! She loves to catch up with the many friends she has made and to always make new ones!
Terry has two girls; Sami, the oldest, lives in Cody. Kimberly, the younger daughter, currently lives in Billings, Montana.
Sam Sposito, Administrative Assistant
Sam Sposito grew up in Northern California where she was exposed to hunting and fishing at a young age. Her father and older brother were both dedicated waterfowl and deer hunters and frequented the Sacramento river in search of stripers. Having been raised around horses, rodeo, hunting and fishing Sam gained an appreciation for animals and the outdoors that she now values for her own children. Due to her husband’s involvement in the hunting industry Sam began attending the WSF show in Reno, first as an attendee then for numerous years as a volunteer. It was from here that she spawned an appreciation for conservation and for the WSF family and brand. Sam and her husband Jeff have two daughters, Taylor and Ryan. They have now lived in Montana for a handful of years and appreciate all the outdoor activities Bozeman has to offer their young family. From 4-H to hunting and fishing or camping and skiing Sam stays busy raising her family the way great mom’s do.
JOHN MORRISON, STUDENT INTERN
John Morrison joined the Wild Sheep Foundation as an intern in spring of 2016. He is pursuing a major in Business Marketing along with a writing minor at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana.
In high school, John developed a passion for videography and journalism as the editor of the school-based news broadcast station, CHS Wired. He achieved two national-level awards for his stories with CHS Wired. John’s spectrum of expertise also extends into the world of graphic design. At this time, he also works as the assistant graphic designer for the Center for Health and Safety Culture, an organization affiliated with Montana State University. Before moving to Bozeman, John served for two years as a member of the board of directors for Sleeping Giant Ski Area, a non-profit organization in Cody Wyoming.
John’s other office is the outdoors, where he is typically tied to a rock, giving a tricky presentation to a fish, or neck deep in a powder day at Bridger Bowl.