Jim Huffstodt, a 1965 graduate of La Salle-Peru High School and Utica native, published his fourth book in August, a biography about the life of Dr. Frank Chapman, called “The Man Who Loved Birds.”
Although he wasn’t always a bird person, Huffstodt said when he encountered Chapman’s books he was drawn to the writing and Chapman’s life story. Huffstodt has spent the last seven years of his retirement researching Chapman’s life and writing the biography.
“Anyone who considers themselves a bird lover, a nature lover, a conservationist, would find the story of Frank Chapman’s life fascinating,” Huffstodt said. “If you love birds or nature and care about our wilderness areas and creatures that live there, I think you will find Chapman worth knowing.”
Huffstodt has been a newspaper reporter, college public relations officer, U. S. Army journalist-photographer and freelance magazine feature writer. He worked for the Illinois Department of Conservation in Springfield and later with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission in West Palm Beach. Huffstodt wrote three other books in addition to “The Man Who Loved Birds,” including “Everglades Lawmen,” “Lincoln’s Bold Lion” and “Hard Dying Men.”
He earned degrees in American history and journalism from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He won writing awards from UnitedPress International, the Association of Conservation Information and the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Huffstodt is retired and lives with his wife in Flordia.
Huffstodt’s latest book, “The Man Who Loved Birds” is the first comprehensive biography of Chapman and his accomplishments in conservation. Chapman is most known for creating the Christmas Bird Count, where bird lovers worldwide go out on Christmas Day and count the bird species they see.
The CBC was created by Chapman in 1900 as an alternative to the traditional Christmas bird hunt, where people would shoot as many birds as possible and the highest body count would win. Songbirds, hawks, owls, humming-birds and other non-game species were slaughtered and left to rot.
“He inspired and led the bird protection movement and encouraged ... the modern bird watching movement,” Huffstodt said. “So in a way, 75 years after his death, he also recruited me as he did thousands of others who read his books and listened to his lectures.”
As a boy, Huffstodt said he grew up pheasant, rabbit and squirrel hunting along with a little fishing. He also made frequent visits to Starved Rock and walked the trails all year round. A conservation course he took at L-P High School also had a big impact on him growing up, Hoffstodt said. The course is what really got him interested in conservation because it was all about how people are part of nature and need to preserve it.
“Even if you aren’t interested in wildlife or wilderness, you need to be.” Huffstodt said. “Because if we lose more of it, it’ll impact the whole globe.”
To buy his books or get more information, use this link: https://www.amazon.com/James-Thomas Huffstodt/e/B001K8M4KU/ref=aufs_dp_fta_dsk