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 (1997-2008) and Chapter & Membership Director for Safari Club International (1990-1997.) During his tenure, he has produced record results for membership growth, fundraising and mission funding for all three 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 was the first 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 North American 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 numerous WSF chapters and affiliates as well as many industry and 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 completed his FNAWS with a desert bighorn sheep in February of 2017.
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 and his wife Kelli reside in Bozeman, Montana with their Weimaraner, Sage and Vizsla, Sienna. Kelli was kicked out of WSF’s <1 Club for taking her first wild sheep in 2015– a Stone’s in British Columbia.
Kevin Hurley, Vice President of Conservation & Operations
As Vice-President of Conservation & Operations for WSF, Kevin Hurley brings 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 38 years. Prior to joining WSF’s staff in February 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, Kevin 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 seven+ 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).Kevin has been a WSF member since 1981, became a Life Member (#794) in 1997, and a Summit Life Member (#23) in 2014. Kevin is currently a proud Life Member of 15 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. In a bit of a twist on typical situations, Kevin was mentored by a younger buddy (and lifelong friend!) and 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’s 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, top-notch mechanical engineer, accomplished archer, WSF Summit Life Member, and Life member of both the Idaho and Wyoming Chapters of WSF. Kevin accompanied Kyle on two successful hunts in fall 2017, for Dall’s sheep in the Yukon, and for mountain goat in northern British Columbia.
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.
Kurt Alt, Conservation Dir., MT & Int. Sheep & Goat Programs
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.
Terry Ziehl, Finance 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.
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.
Paige Culver, Development Manager
Paige and her family reside in Bozeman, MT. As they enjoy all things outdoors, it only makes sense that they place conservation at the core of their value system. Being avid hunters, Paige and her husband spend many of their “dates” scouting and tracking down big game with bow or rifle in hand. She works hard to teach her two children how to be good stewards of all that they have been given and to give back when able. She has recently made it a goal to join, and ultimately be kicked out of, the <1 Club.
Paige has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Management and a minor in Corporate Communications and brings knowledge from various career experiences. Prior to joining the team at WSF, she worked as a program manager for Montana State University and also owned and managed a rodeo apparel company. Her experience owning and operating her own business gave her a wealth of experience in networking, marketing, and operations management as well as an extra helping of grit. As Development Manager, Paige looks forward to helping continue the legacy WSF has created in making great strides for the conservation of wild sheep.
Marci Johnerson, Membership Manager
Hired in February 2016 as WSF’s Membership Manager, 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.
Marci is passionate about her work at WSF because of the members, whose passion for wild sheep inspires her.
Garrett Long, Exhibit and Sponsor Manager
Garret Long serves as the Exhibit and Sponsor Manager for the Wild Sheep Foundation, joining the team in 2018. Prior to joining WSF, Garrett was the conservation liaison for SITKA Gear. He has worked with a broad range of conservation organizations, creating industry support for impactful conservation efforts. Utilizing this momentum, he has been fortunate enough to speak at a number of conservation events, stressing the importance of outdoor industry involvement in impactful conservation opportunities.
Garrett was fortunate enough to be born and raised Bozeman, Montana, and has lived in Montana his entire life. Whether going for a quick fishing trip after football practice, or skipping a morning chemistry class after spotting elk on the way to school, he has always been drawn to the outdoors. Wild game meat was also the staple food source at the Long household, which instilled a very deep connection to the importance of public lands, access, and sustainable wildlife populations.
While acquiring his Bachelors of Science in Health and Human Performance, he developed his class schedule to meet the requirements for medical school. However, his need for continued involvement in the outdoors surpassed his desire for a career in medicine. Without a doubt, Garrett is certain he made the right choice.
Still living in Bozeman, Garrett and his wife Janna enjoy doing everything outside with their two dogs Hawk and West. Although unlikely, Hawk is a German Shorthair Pointer that excels at retrieving waterfowl, while West is a Labrador Retriever, primarily excelling at pheasant hunting. Garrett and Janna are both avid elk hunters, but look forward to the hopeful loss of their WSF < 1 Club membership in the coming years.
Sam Sposito, Administrative/Membership 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.
Jessica Smorowski, Executive Assistant
Jessica joined the WSF team in November of 2017. She is a native Montanan, who first left the state to pursue interior design studies in Spain, later finishing her degree in Portland, OR. While she certainly enjoyed the creative aspects of designing interiors, her true passion has always been for all things outdoors.
Jessica was fortunate to grow up with parents who made time outside a priority with weekends and family vacations always consisting of hiking, camping, backpacking and hunting in remote, beautiful places. She is happy to be a part of such a talented team whose goal is to preserve both the wild places and valued traditions she holds dear.
RYAN BROCK, PhD, 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.
Branden Butt, Student Intern
Branden joined the WSF team in February 2018 as an intern after volunteering at the 2018 Sheep Show. He was born and raised in Corvallis, MT and grew up hunting and fishing with his family in western Montana where he gained a love for being in the mountains. After going to college in Billings for a couple years he took some time off and worked at Scheels for several years as an archery tech. While living in Billings he met some great friends who got him into backpacking and backcountry hunting. Those friends are who got him hooked on wild sheep because of their passion for hunting and conserving wild sheep. In the past few years Branden has discovered a huge appreciation for public lands and wildlife conservation because of the positive impact that hunting has had on his life.
Branden moved to Bozeman last fall to go back to college and to live in a place that has a huge hunting, fishing, and conservation culture. He is pursuing a business degree at MSU and hopes to always have a career where he gets to work towards the benefit of wildlife and wild places. At MSU he is a member of the student chapters of Wild Sheep Foundation and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and hopes to get kicked out of the <1 Club as soon as possible. If he is not in his office or in class, he is probably either shooting his bow or in the mountains looking for wildlife.
Lauryn Hales, Conservation Intern Native American & First Nation
I started working at WSF in March of 2018 as an intern. I grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana. Growing up I spent most of my time hiking the Mission Mountains, enjoying Flathead Lake, and volunteering at the Mission Valley Animal Shelter. I am a firm believer that exploring the outdoors is the best form of therapy. I learned from a very early age to respect our wildlife and to keep our outdoors pristine as possible.
Some of my favorite memories from the reservation include huckleberry picking, drives through the National Bison Range, warm swims in Flathead Lake as well as many mountain lakes and streams, and learning through the stories others have to share.
I am currently going to school at Montana State University and have a focus in Law as well as Native American Studies. After completing a Bachelor’s at Montana State I plan to pursue schooling in Native American Law and Policy.
I am so excited to be working with such great people and hope that my relationship with my tribe can offer a unique and valuable perspective.