The “Gentry Effect” Could Have Positive Ramifications

By now it’s been a few days since most of us have first learned of the incident involving Troy Gentry and the shooting of “Cubby.”   While Gentry’s legal team has worked hard to put a positive spin on the negative news trying to mitigate the bad press…one indisputable fact remains.   What Gentry did in rural Sandstone, Minnesota shooting a tame bear in a penned area a few acres in size is akin to fishing for fish-farm trout out of a cattle tank.   In each case the outcome might be called hunting or fishing, but the behavior is hardly sporting by anyone’s stretch of the imagination.

Let’s face it…Gentry was perfectly within his right to go on a “canned” hunt and shoot a game farm animal.   It happens all the time in many different areas of the country.   But you should know that this type of hunting is coming under greater scrutiny all the time.   As you can imagine most of the non-hunting world fails to see the sportsmanship in going on such a hunt.   Yet, some of the biggest critics of game farm hunting are from within the hunting community itself.   Hunting animals within a confined space — no matter how big the pen may be — just somehow dilutes the overall allure of chasing game without boundaries.   It’s part of where fair chase comes from.

Apparently what Gentry did was hunt an area roughly the size of the playing field found inside a domed football stadium.   And if that wasn’t bad enough, he hunted an animal that had a long history of not fearing people.   The animal was said to be essentially tame.   Put all these factors together and you have despicable scenario.   One that I dare say 99 percent of the hunters out there would not care to find themselves involved in.

Now as I understand it nothing I’ve described so far is really illegal — un-ethical, many would argue — but not criminal.   Where Gentry really went wrong was tagging the bear and holding it out to the public as if it were a wild kill.   Now here’s where things have the potential to really become unfair.   Once an animal is tagged and registered with the state (as wild) who’s going to stop the so-called hunter from taking it a step further and register the kill as a trophy?   Not suggesting that’s what Gentry did in this case…but why wouldn’t he have done that or at least considered it?   From all accounts Cubby was an unusually large black bear.   I bet the skull would have scored nicely in the record books, too!

Do you see the slippery slope here?   Do you want your trophy animals taken in the wild to compete against critters harvested from game farms that were registered with a few “white lies?”   What can it all hurt?   The hunter has to live with the knowledge they didn’t accomplish the feat fairly…why should any more need to be done?   Well, for one to keep the integrity of our record systems intact.   You might think that what Gentry did could not possibly affect you…but that might be a false assumption.   If Gentry is capable of being dishonest with the state game department why not to everyone else he might deal with regarding the bear?   The point is where do the lies stop…and at what cost to the reputation of the hunting heritage must we all endure?

From what I have read it sounds as if Gentry prides himself on his actions and accomplishments as a hunter.   And that’s just great…for most of us law-abiding hunters we do the same.   Most of us act responsibly and appropriately because we know eventually our behavior will be judged by our peers.   When I hike out to the woods my entire behavior is dictated by attempting to live up to the intense scrutiny of my peers.   I believe it was Aldo Leopold who once wrote that hunting is a unique sport because we don’t have a gallery of on-lookers watching our every actions while in the field.   We must therefore conduct our actions as if hiding behind a tree might be a game warden scrutinizing our sporting behavior.

So, should we make a big thing out of this Gentry incident?   Hell yes!   Irrespective of how the criminal case eventually plays out he is responsible in the first place for putting himself in that situation.   And when you’re a big-time personality where all of your actions are more highly scrutinized by the public you have an extra incentive to keep your nose clean, so to speak.

Indeed, Troy Gentry should be the new “whipping boy” within our hunting and fishing ranks held out to the public as a bad example…a rotten egg within our proverbial sportsman basket.   If as a sporting community we don’t castigate him for his behavior and call it out for what it is…then by virtue of not commenting we appear more accepting of the poor choices that he has made.

When folks “screw up” as outdoorsmen it sometimes takes a long time for people to forget.   I’m sorry to say there are several sportsmen from within my very own hunting region who have displayed poor sportsmanship or illegal behavior in the past…and in my mind I will forever associate that behavior with that person.   Some might not call that fair because people can make mistakes and subsequently modify their behavior.   I understand that.   But it should also be the fear that you will forever live with a reputation earned through your actions that keeps your nose clean in the first place.   If we all use what happened to Gentry as a an example of what we would not want to happen to ourselves…this could be a very positive happening within our sport.   Call it the “Gentry Effect.”

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

What The Hell Was He Thinking?

The behavior exhibited by some people never ceases to amaze me.   Yet often this same behavior has a tendency to down-right disgust me.   Especially because to the general public this sort of negative press is often attributed to being a “hunter” and the sport of hunting, not to some criminal act totally separate from our beloved traditions.   Again, we’re all given a black-eye because one of our own falls miserably short when it comes to using good judgment and discretion in their behavior.

I’m talking about the recent indictment of country music artist Troy Gentry.   Allegedly he is accused of purchasing a tame black bear that federal officials are claiming he shot with a bow inside an enclosed pen.   Supposedly he paid $4,650 for a bear known as “Cubby” to use while he taped a mock wild black bear kill here in Minnesota back in fall 2004.   I’m reading that the bear’s death was videotaped and subsequently edited to make it look like he killed it in a “fair chase” hunting situation.   Supposedly he even registered the kill with the MN DNR as if it were wild in an effort to further this shameful ruse.Troygentry

If convicted the country singer, as well as the game farm owner of the bear, could face stiff federal charges.   Gentry on conspiracy to falsely label an animal and the game farm operator on separate charges.   In fact, both could face fines up to $20,000 plus a maximum of 5 years in prison for their respective actions in this little stunt.

Now if I were the judge and they were found guilty…I would be inclined to give them both the maximum penalty because they obviously both are too damn dumb to know how to sensibly act.   I doubt either one of them understood the gravity of what they were doing.

Problem is common sense does not always play a big role in directing the lives of some people.   Pure greed and the intense desire to be seen as a success among peers will drive men that should know much better to do some really stupid acts.   First, take the owner of the bear…if you have a pet animal that presumably you are licensed to keep, how can you sell a pet when you must know the nefarious fate it will eventually have?   I guess money has power and intoxicates the sensibilities…how else do you excuse it?   Now take the country singer who has even more at stake — namely his reputation.   Why would he even take the risk of possibly being publicly exposed as a complete fraud?   If convicted he should forever live with the fact the public will see he is a real phony…stripped of any past sportsman accomplishments because now they would all be suspect.   Hell, in my book he could have been caught with a street hooker and eventually he might have walked away from that incident salvaging some of his reputation.   But not now, not if he is convicted of this violation.   Never again should the title of sportsman be in any way associated with his name.

And folks that’s how it ought to be.   If the details turn out to be true then apparently Mr. Gentry was under an extreme amount of pressure for the public to see him succeed as a hunter.   In the end, all he likely proved was the fact he is a moron lacking a conscience.   The sporting community should stand up and ostracize folks like this to never allow them back into our circles.   Much like a convicted sex offender has lost all credibility and trustworthiness around kids…is it really much different for someone who purports to be a hunter and sportsman when their behavior has been proven to stoop this low?   Seriously, criminals (which is a better term than “hunter” in this case) like this should not be allowed ever again to hold a hunting license…anywhere…period…end of story.

Of course, the likes of defendants such as Gentry will probably claim they were “framed” and the alleged events didn’t happen at all like what is being reported.   Yet, I really don’t feel sorry for him.   Fact is, he had a video camera rolling that probably served as the biggest piece of evidence against him.   I don’t know that for certain, but it’s just a strong hunch I have.   Sometimes when the tape is rolling people will do strange and outrageous things for the camera.   Of course, it’s one thing to tape events of a hunt as they actually happened, yet another thing to turn it into a Hollywood production by fabricating all the important details.

Personally, I’m not into country music so I wouldn’t be very inclined to listen to this poor excuse for a so-called sportsman/singer anyway.   But if I did enjoy that genre of music I would now be very inclined to be voting with my pocketbook and never purchase any of his music again.   Besides, why patronize an artist who federal officials are attempting to prove makes poor decisions on spending his money anyway?

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

Customer Service…For Some It’s An Oxymoron

Let me begin first by saying this blog post will probably sound as though I am beating up on Ruger just a bit.   To some extent that may be true.   But my motivation for today’s writing is not to smear an otherwise reputable company…quite the contrary.   I feel companies who perform stellar customer service deserve our future support.   And those that have some deficiencies deserve to take a little heat if that’s what it requires to improve their customer care performance.

About six years ago I decided to purchase my first over and under shotgun.   I’ve never been a big O/U fan, but decided the time was probably right to own a gun I can take to the range and proudly display.   At first I logically looked at the various Brownings on the market…but then a buddy of mine convinced me to take a closer look at the Ruger Red Label Satin Grey All-Weather.   At first glance this gun seemed to appeal to me.   Sharp looking, with the gold duck inlays, a true performer that by all appearances could take some rugged use in the field.


I purchased the gun after spending what I felt was a small fortune for a gun of any kind.   Yet, I kept reminding myself that guns are a relatively good investment.   The excitement of taking the gun out of the box, however, quickly disappeared once I got on the range.   Misfire after misfire.   How could this be?   A brand new gun looking as fancy as this one…it’s supposed to perform, but it wasn’t.   Out of every 10 shots I would take at least one or two would produce nothing at the muzzle-end.   Not only was this new gun unreliable for shooting, I considered it to be downright dangerous.

I took the gun to a local authorized Ruger repair shop and nothing changed.   Still performed lousy.   My next step was to package it and send it in (at my own expense) to the factory under warranty repair.   At this point I was truly disappointed…but willing to be patient to get a gun back in good working order.   I waited, and waited, and waited.   I called the factory and was told there would be a backlog.   I then spoke to my dealer and he called the factory…but essentially was told the same thing.

Finally my frustration got the best of me.  I called and spent a great deal of time on hold until finally a customer service person answered who was not at all helpful.   Except I did learn one thing from her, however.   What she told me was that the gun I mailed in had been on their shelf waiting repair for over three months and they hadn’t even opened the box yet to look at it.   WHAT!   Gosh, sure glad I sent it in UPS Blue paying a small fortune so they could get it quickly.   Realizing I had spent about $1,500 for a new shotgun that has not worked correctly since I took it out of the box and then now learning the factory repair center is so cavalier to not even open the box even after 3 months setting on their shelf?

Needless to say I lost it.   The pheasant hunting season was only weeks away and dammit I purchased that gun in the spring to use on my fall pheasant hunts.   Suddenly it wasn’t looking very hopeful this would be a gun I’d get to use at all during that particular fall’s hunting season.   I expressed my frustrations with customer service and then hung up to call my dealer friend.   How could a responsible outdoors company treat their valued customers in such a shoddy manner.   Made me wish I had looked at the new Browning guns a bit closer.

That’s when I did it.   I called customer service back up and got another representative.   This time I asked immediately to speak to a supervisor.   When the customer service gal asked why…I told her that I wanted someone with enough corporate authority so I could quote them in my next article.   She gladly put me in touch with her supervisor.   I started off by asking for her name and the correct spelling, as well as her official title at Ruger.   She reluctantly gave me all that information.   I explained to her that I’m an outdoors writer on assignment going pheasant hunting in about a week in South Dakota.   I further explained that the gun was intended to have prominent mention in my article whether it continues sitting on the shelves at the Ruger Repair Center or is in my hands out pheasant hunting.   I reinforced to this person they will be quoted in the article reasoning that a writer has to develop a story one way or another.   If they wanted to continue holding my unfixed gun I would gladly oblige that fact in my story.

Guess what?   Over-nighted to me and arriving the next day was my shotgun all repaired and now functioning just fine.   Somehow I don’t think it finally was my gun’s queue to get the necessary repairs.   After a long overdue wait somebody finally felt motivated to avert what they saw could have been a bigger problem.   I suppose it’s an instance of the squeaky wheel gets the grease sort of mentality.

And you know, therein lies one of the main problems with many in corporate America.   It’s not just Ruger, but big companies are sometimes more than willing to let their customers get lost in the chaos of trying to maneuver through the system.   Had I known the gun would sit for months on end without even getting looked at…I wouldn’t have allowed that to happen in the first place.   I would have lit a fire under someone’s butt long before that amount of time had elapsed.

On the flip side of things I’ve heard stories about outdoor gear companies doing some fantastic customer service on their products.   One such company that quickly comes to mind is Leupold.   Oh, sure, you pay a bit extra for their optics…but the reputation of the company standing behind their quality somehow makes it a little easier to open up the pocketbook.

So, I’m anxious to hear some of your stories.   What hunting or fishing companies have treated you fairly…or possibly unfairly?   Of course, we can’t always base our impressions on one single experience, but then again if they don’t perform well the first time some can never be allowed to have a second chance.   Let’s hear your thoughts.

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