When Non-Hunters Feel Qualified To Analyze Our Sport

Ever since Cheney’s unfortunate accident I’ve been closely monitoring the media coverage the story and hunting has received as a result of the mishap.   I’ve seen the issue turned and twisted just about every way possible…and almost without exception the opinion writer will either take a pot-shot at Cheney for his failed actions (usually with some political under tones discernible)…at the sport of hunting in general for being inherently dangerous and unnecessary…or sometimes loathing both Cheney and hunting.   No doubt about it…during the weeks since the accident it has been good fodder for those water cooler discussions.

J.R. Absher in his Outdoor Weblog pointed out a good article recently that hit it on the head and I think should be a must read for sportsmen.   In fact, you may want to read the story on that link sort of as a preventative dose for the total insanity I’m about to expose below.

I suppose it was bound to happen that people would use the Cheney incident as a catalyst of sorts to drive home their agenda that both Cheney and hunting is bad.   But the manner in which these folks purport to be some kind of expert on things leaves me about ready to gag.   Consider these excerpts from a recent opinion writer in the Salem, Oregon StatesmanJournal.  (click on the excerpts to read the piece in its entirety)

“…from a legal point of view, the precedent that matters here may not be Cheney, but rather a hapless Maine hunter named Donald Rogerson.

Rogerson, like Cheney, shot someone while in search of game. Mistaking a 37-year-old housewife for a white-tailed deer, Rogerson shot and killed her. Locals insisted the victim (who had recently moved from Iowa) was to blame because she was wearing white mittens during deer season. A Bangor, Maine, jury cleared him of manslaughter….

…Cheney and Rogerson share the ignoble distinction of succumbing to what hunters (and lawyers) call “buck fever.” It is a phenomenon as old as hunting, defined by the Random House dictionary as the “nervous excitement of an inexperienced hunter upon the approach of game.”

Okay, let’s stop right here for a moment.   Correct me if I’m wrong…but “buck fever” usually is an excuse why a hunter doesn’t bag his/her game…I’ve never known it to be a credible legal defense argued by lawyers to avoid prosecution in either a civil or criminal trial explaining why a shooting took place.   Furthermore, “buck fever” is not synonymous with a causation of “victim mistaken for game” or the concept known as pre-mature closure, which often best describes accidental shootings.   In Cheney’s case the victim was suddenly “in the line of fire.”   It was an accident…pure and simple.   Accidents happen to folks whether they’re hunting, shopping, walking the dog, crossing the street, etc.   But let’s not equate Cheney or most other hunting accidents with the phenomenon known as “buck fever.”   Doing so only shows the opinion writer’s blatant ignorance of our sport.

“…most cases of accidental shootings are viewed as reasonable mistakes by hunters and often it is the victim who is blamed for failing to give a hunter a wide berth. Even in the few cases where criminal and civil charges are brought against hunters such as Cheney, they are often tried by a jury of their peers: jurors from communities where hunting and hunting accidents are a way of life.”

Sometimes the best facts to substantiate a person’s belief are the ones they make up without the inconvenience of fact-checking.   My guess is a jury made up of a shooter’s hunting peers would likely be more critical of those actions rather than being lenient and sympathetic.

“…In areas ranging from vehicular accidents to corporate misconduct, individuals routinely face criminal charges for reckless conduct. In hunting, however, gross negligence is often refashioned as mere “excitement.” Indeed, criminal charges can be downgraded when the killing was done in sport.”

And to think people actually believe this stuff…incredible.

“…Cheney’s is a classic case of buck fever. There was nothing particularly confusing or unexpected about an individual rejoining a hunting line, as Whittington reportedly did. Rather, it was likely the euphoria of seeking and shooting game that blinded Cheney to the fact that he was aiming at a 78-year-old attorney rather than a six-ounce bird… Given Cheney’s heart condition, hunting would seem a poor recreational choice.”

Can you believe an editor of a major Oregon newspaper allowed this nonsense to go to print?

“…Cheney’s case reflects a troubling de facto immunity given to negligent hunters. Because of our tradition of hunting, we view people who make lethal use of a firearm as less culpable than those who make lethal use of objects like cars.”

Is it just me…or is this crap starting to get under your skin a bit, too!

“…At least Whittington knows who shot him. Frequently, the culprits in hunting manslaughter cases are never identified. With the expansion of suburbia, it is increasingly common for people to unwittingly enter a line of fire.”

This comment sure says a lot about the capabilities of our law enforcement officials.   Quite the contrary, it is a rare case where the shooter is not identified…but, of course, why let those facts get in the way of an otherwise good story.

“…Even in the crowded Washington area, hunters are permitted to hunt game and fowl.   Joan Manley, a federal lawyer, was shocked during a morning walk with her dogs on the Potomac River in suburban Alexandria, Va.: Alongside the heavily traveled path that runs next to the river, two hunters sat with loaded shotguns in a boat resting on the shoreline. They were after ducks. Two police officers confirmed they had a proper license and were expected to avoid joggers and bird watchers.

If they had failed, they could have expected no worse punishment than Cheney has received….”

Alright, I think most reasonable people would agree these comments are being made by someone who is terribly confused by reality.   Well, guess what…they were made by a nationally recognized law scholar from George Washington University named John Turley.   In fact, this opinion piece didn’t just appear in the Oregon newspaper that I linked to…nope, these comments were printed originally in The Washington Post and reprinted nationally in any newspaper that wanted to pick up the feature.   Isn’t it truly wonderful to see trash like this written and our sport smeared by the likes of a law professor from whom you would expect a much more accurate accounting of the truth.   I sure would…or perhaps I did.

Nope, instead the Cheney incident only served as a catapult to encourage the likes of the John Turley’s of this world to indiscriminately take shots at a sport they know absolutely nothing about.   His bio claims he’s a gun owner who shoots skeet and clays…so I guess having touched a gun once upon a time makes him some kind of a national expert on the subject of explaining hunting accidents.

Along those same lines…did I mention I bought some thong underwear to give my wife once for a present?   Certainly the 10 minutes I spent in Victoria’s Secret must qualify me to write in Ladies’ Home Journal about the finer points of purchasing lingerie and the upcoming undergarment fashion trends to expect.   I’ve gotta go now…I’ve got something much more exciting to write about than dwelling any further on this pathetic topic.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Does Hunting With A Muzzleloader Have To Be So Primative?

I know this post is bound to ruffle a few feathers among my peers…but I tend to support the recently proposed change to Minnesota law that if enacted would allow the use of modern scopes mounted on muzzleloaders.   Why?   I think the time has finally come for each of us to accept the fact that for most hunters using a muzzleloader today it’s not about nostalgia and a passion for the history in the firearm…nope, it’s about increased opportunity by hunting with what amounts to a single shot firearm.

Frankly, most who oppose these views will likely take the stance that modern muzzleloading seasons have evolved far beyond the true spirit of how it was first permitted.   In Minnesota, for instance, the first modern day muzzleloading season began in 1977 and the participants in those days were hard-core enthusiasts who wanted to relive the experience down to the last detail.   A friend of mine, Mark, actually dressed the part in his old buckskins and fully enjoyed the flavor of the whole frontiersman experience.   Speaking for Mark, I would suspect that his opinion on using a modern in-line muzzleloader for hunting would be akin to fishing for trout out of a cattle tank.   Where’s the sport, he would ask?

Well, to each his own…I guess.   I can certainly sympathize with the folks who once enjoyed the relative peace and quiet of the late muzzleloading season without the throngs of people in the woods.   Does that mean, however, we need to be respectful and protect those privileges for a few without allowing the sport to naturally evolve as sportsmen would like to see it?   I guess some would argue yes…while the majority of sportsmen seem to be saying no.   Last year almost 70% of the hunters polled in Minnesota stated they would like the opportunity to use modern scopes on muzzleloading firearms.   Obviously these folks aren’t heading to the woods with flintlocks…rather, they’re intending to use something more modern in appearance and function.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m looking forward to muzzleloading hunting this fall mostly for increased hunting opportunity.   Yup, I’m being totally selfish…and I don’t see anything wrong with that.   The Minnesota DNR is so messed up with how they let us hunters use shotguns in Zone 4, that a single 2–day opening weekend for deer hunting is laughable.   Bad weather or the farmers not getting crops out in a timely manner means you might just wait another 363 days until the hunting opportunity with a firearm rolls around again.   Oh sure, you can buy one of the hybrid licenses allowing you to virtually hunt during any open season…but why should I have to spend three times as much money for that when the DNR could be more liberal with the number of days allowed for regular gun hunting?

Obviously, by turning to the muzzleloading season this accomplishes two objectives for me.   First, the extra three weeks before the muzzleloading season begins allows most of the farmers in my area to get the remaining crops out of the fields.   That’s a bonus as the deer have less cover.   But the ML season also extends for 16 days in Minnesota for the same cost as my 2–day license earlier in November permitting me to use a shotgun only.   This fall I want the extra days of hunting so I will be opting for the muzzleloading hunt during 2006.

But are scopes really necessary on a muzzleloader, you ask?   Of course, the answer to that one is no…but I think it also depends on the hunter.   If a hunter gets a certain satisfaction out of using a scoped firearm why should he not be allowed to use it?   It’s still a single-shot firearm which likely will not permit a follow-up shot at the same animal.   Furthermore, I know several hunters who aren’t worth a crap with open sights…but give them a scoped rifle and their accuracy improves measurably.   Personally, when a hunter decides to pull the trigger on an animal…no matter if it is with a muzzleloader or a high-powered rifle…I want that sportsman to be the most efficient as possible in making a clean kill.   Our sport is not served any better by a hunter who is forced only to use open sights because that is what tradition has long dictated with muzzleloaders.   It ought to be a personal decision what the hunter uses to sight-in his muzzleloader…and not a decision strictly governed by the DNR when there is no biological or safety reason for doing so.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not expecting nor will I use a scoped muzzleloader this fall even if the laws happen to change in the meantime.   Instead, I just don’t see why there should be any strong opposition for the proposal, except by those who always seem resistant to change.   And for those traditionalists who are yearning to keep the woods for themselves during this special time of the year…it’s time to embrace and accept change because it’s inevitable in our sport.

Sportsmen have many personal reasons why they choose to hunt the way they do…and if allowing more efficient sights on muzzleloading firearm spurs someone’s interest in the sport to try something new…I’m all for it.   Where do I sign the petition?

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Just Ask Ted…He Has All The Answers

TedNugeWho’s a famous living outdoor personality named TED?   Not too difficult, I think most people who would play this word association game would of course say Ted Nugent.   Oh sure, there may be lots of other Ted’s that are notable for various reasons…but nobody comes across as energetic and as passionately about their cause as “The Nuge.”

Now let me ask you what stance does Ted Nugent have on such pressing outdoor issues such as gun control, killing wild game, conservation, anti’s, etc.?   Are you stumped for an answer…I doubt it.   Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the past 15 years or so you know exactly how Ted feels about most of the important political issues of our time facing sportsmen.   To say Ted is outspoken about his love for the outdoors is somewhat of an understatement…he certainly has a unique style and flair that I suppose is befitting of an aging rock star.   Oddly enough, most people either love him or hate him…there doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground with people who are apathetic either way towards his views on the outdoors.

Recently, while attending the SHOT Show…I sat in on a filming of a segment called “Ask Ted” where members of the studio audience asked him questions about anything…and I do mean anything!   Segments of that filming are scheduled to air on the Outdoor Life Network Friday evenings during the month of March.   Check your local listings for details on air times or visit the OLN web site.   I think you’ll find the show both interesting and perhaps thought provoking.

As I listened to Ted spew forth his thoughts on everything from why all sportsmen should be a member of the NRA…to writing letters to public officials, etc. it dawned on me that here is a man who is openly proud to be a hunter…and isn’t ashamed to admit it.   Granted, I can certainly see the merit in some of Nugent’s detractors who claim the guy often goes over the top and can at times be embarrassing to all of us…but let’s face it.   Here’s a guy who passionately wears his sportsman’s colors on his sleeve and attempts to promote the outdoors in the most positive way he knows how.   I can point to few others I know who can command an immediate audience as quickly as Nugent.   Just looking around the room there were folks across all ages as this guy has some cross-generational appeal seemingly to everyone.

Like it or not, Ted is one of our sport’s leading spokespersons promoting his pro-hunting, pro-outdoors, pro-America spiel to a larger audience than perhaps anyone else within our ranks can accomplish.   He admits to doing numerous interviews each week where his message is colorfully driven home to thousands, if not millions of people over the course of a year.   Our sports need that kind of message being delivered to the general public…even if you don’t like the exact manner in which it is communicated by Ted.

Former Wyoming Senator Malcolm Wallop once stated, “Ted Nugent is a hunter who just happens to be a rock star, not a rock star who happens to be a hunter.   What most impressed me about Ted is his commitment to the real America.   His message is clear.   He cares about our country…and he leads by example…He is a cheerleader for the real, hard working, law abiding folks of America.”

Through the years I have listened to many of the critics who speak ill of Ted and what they call his “rants” that border on acting downright foolish.   That may be true.   But I take my hat off to Ted for standing up for what he believes, which I think parallels, for the most part, what most of us law-abiding sportsmen also believe.   We don’t have the same charisma as Ted, we don’t have the same “in your face” personality as Ted, heck…most of us don’t even have the balls to pick up the phone and call our legislators when they need to hear from us pertiaing to important issues.   Ted does.   He proudly proclaimed there isn’t a politician who represents him that doesn’t know exactly how he feels on most outdoor issues that may have political ramifications.

If you haven’t done so already I urge you to tune in and watch one of Ted’s upcoming TV shows.   Certainly they are entertaining…at times they can be down-right disgusting…but don’t overlook the fact that his subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) message can also be thought-provoking.   You don’t have to agree with everything the man says…hey, I don’t even agree with most of the things my hunting and fishing partners proclaim from time to time.   Yet, you have to appreciate the fact here is a man who has devoted the second half of his life to “singing” the praises of the American sportsman…and doing so in a manner that only the Motor City Madman knows how.

Uncle Ted, if I was a citizen of Michigan you most definitely would have my vote for governor!   Ooops!   Did I just let the cat out of the bag and spoil it for one of his upcoming TV shows?   I guess you’ll have to tune in to find out for sure.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.