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(ID) Firth gunsmith devotes life to firearms, wildlife conservation

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Drizzt, Mar 19, 2005.

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  1. Drizzt

    Drizzt Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Moscow on the Colorado, TX
    Firth gunsmith devotes life to firearms, wildlife conservation

    By Harry Morse - Fish and Game

    wildlife in eastern Idaho benefited from a gunsmith's incompetent "fixing" of a young teenager's rifle 60 years ago. The bungled efforts to fix John Kontes' rifle inspired his life's work in gunsmithing and conservation work.

    "Gunsmiths were about a half-inch below God to me as a kid," said Kontes. "When I took my rifle in to one and he screwed it up, I decided if he could be a gunsmith so could I."

    Sixty years later the quiet man from Firth is receiving national recognition for his work, generosity and support of conservation groups from Safari Club International to Pheasants Forever, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, National Rifle Association and the Southeast Idaho Mule Deer Foundation.

    Deputy Assistant Secretary and Counsel for the U.S. Department of Interior David P. Smith writes; "Thank you for your valuable contributions to our nation's outdoor and wildlife heritage. You have selflessly given a lifetime of energy to conservation efforts and truly personify what it means to be a sportsman and conservationist."

    Kontes' quiet influence went in other directions. Judge Jerry Meyers of Salmon counts Kontes as a longtime friend. Just prior to his appointment to the bench in Lemhi County, he visited Kontes at the 8 Ball Gun Shop in Pocatello. There he focused on a bumper sticker above the work bench.

    "It said, 'Soft Judges Develop Hardened Criminals,'" remembers Meyers. "Over the years John and I talked about crime and justice. The bumper sticker is 100 percent accurate, judges either encourage people to keep the law or break it by their sentences."

    Crime declined 50 percent for adult offenders in the Salmon area and 60 percent for the Bonneville County Juvenile district Meyers presided over during his eight-year tenure, according to the Idaho Supreme Court statistics. Kontes' influence has positively impacted crime even in the far reaches of Idaho.

    One of Kontes' driving goals is to help wildlife. Using his gunsmithing and knife-building skills, he donated time, materials and effort. His donations raised money for various groups dedicated to increasing and protecting game animals from deer and elk to pheasants and waterfowl.

    Thirty-five years ago, he was a member of the Bonneville Sportsmen's Association and the Southeast Idaho Sportsmen Association. Working with these groups, he spent countless hours in the field doing conservation projects from fixing goose nests boxes to helping eliminate predators.

    When conservation groups in eastern Idaho went to Kontes and asked for a contribution of gunsmithing work, a custom knife, or even a custom-built rifle, he usually said yes.

    "I spent a lot of hours working on donations for different groups," said Kontes. "As long as it was for a good cause and helped wildlife, I wanted to help. I didn't mind spending the money or hours in the shop to help wildlife."

    His custom-made knives, fashioned from Swedish steel and India stag-horn handles, developed an ardent following at conservation auctions. Opening bids started as high as $350. The knives are works of art, yet built to be used in the field for skinning deer and butchering wild game.

    Hunters from Idaho Falls to Pocatello know Kontes for his skilled and patient work on sporting arms, from standard hunting rifles to the finest and most expensive of firearms. When a rifle needed work on a trigger, or glass bedding of a barrel was required, Kontes was the go to guy.

    "My .300 Remington wasn't shooting for a darn," said Leo Line of Blackfoot. "I took it to John and he had it shooting groups the size of a dime."

    To some eastern Idaho hunters, getting their hunting rifle ready to put meat on the table was a priority, to others it was pinpoint accuracy. If they needed help, Kontes was the man to do it.

    "I had John work on most of my rifles," said Lane Clezie, vice president of Safari Club International. "His skill in trigger work, glass bedding and action is amazing."

    Clezie also tapped Kontes' skills to support conservation efforts.

    "John donated time, effort and skill through gunsmithing and custom knives that helped organizations like Safari Club International support hunter's rights and do on the ground work to benefit big game," said Clezie.

    Kontes' work with Safari Club and help from Clezie highlighted his generous donation to national and local conservation organizations and brought recognition by Smith and the Interior Department.

    Gun collecting is one of Kontes' driving passions. As a child he polished John Browning boots in Idaho Falls and swore he would have a Browning collection. He pursued his passion for more than 60 years and now owns one of finest collections of Browning arms.

    Kontes put his gun collection on public display in Pocatello at an Outdoor Exposition to help support the Southeast Idaho Mule Deer Study done by Idaho Fish and Game. His collection was the centerpiece of the expo drawing thousands of visitors.

    John Kontes and his prize English pointer Maggie live in Pocatello and look forward to days in the field fishing or hunting. At 74, not much grass is growing under his feet. He is currently planning a turkey hunting trip to Georgia with longtime friends.

  2. Bear Gulch

    Bear Gulch Member

    Feb 19, 2005
    That is cool to see a local recognized!
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