Outdoor News: Letter to the Editor

With only two weeks left before Election Day the political spin is certainly in full swing. Turn on the television and you can’t go 15 minutes without listening to a political commercial. The radio is much the same way. Even Outdoor News, a weekly regional tabloid I subscribe to, is filled with letters supporting both candidates for president. No doubt about it emotions are running high and misinformation is running rampant during the waning moments of the 2004 presidential campaign.

Today I’m gleaning a few comments from the recent Letters to the Editor section of Outdoor News (October 19) made by supporters of candidate John Kerry. As an ardent supporter of George W. Bush, it seems to me to be a big folly how some of the statements being made by professed sportsmen can even lend support to John Kerry and his liberal ideology.

The comments (Outdoor News, Vol.37 No. 42, October 19, 2004):

“I’m sick and tired of all you sportsmen who think you have to vote Republican ‘just because.’ If any of you fools really believe that John Kerry is going to infringe on our right to bear arms you should wake up and smell the coffee….” Ted Erhart, Ramsey, MN.

“…John Kerry, at least, has high ratings from conservation and environmental groups, and has posted on his web site a Sportsman’s Bill of Rights, at the top of which is gun ownership.

Bush is an election-year conservationist. His first three years were a disaster. He needs to be fired! Period!” Russ Thornell, Forest Lake.

Here is my response as it was submitted to the editor of Outdoor News:

Difficult Decisions

An election approaches that requires some difficult decisions, especially if you lean Democrat and profess to be a sportsman. No matter how much passion spins the facts, a Kerry/Edwards victory will eventually result in the erosion of sportsman’s rights.

Ted from Ramsey urges us to “wake up and smell the coffee” if we think John Kerry will infringe on our rights in any way. Well, Ted, I hate to tell you this buddy, but trying to infringe on our gun rights has been one of the few accomplishments Kerry has achieved during his illustrious 20-year senate career. Perhaps if you weren’t so hung up worrying about what the NRA tells its members you’d have more time to confirm the pathetic voting record of your favorite candidate.

A candidate’s past performance is a far better indicator than relying on his future promises. Promises can easily be broken and are often made for ulterior motives. Past performance, on the other hand, shows a tendency to act in a certain manner.

I was also curious how Russ from Forest Lake seemed to regurgitate most of the talking points found in Kerry’s “Sportsman’s Bill of Rights.” Oddly enough, Kerry’s promises seem to be reassuring sportsmen he would not do anything to effect the way we all like to hunt and fish…sort of like Bush has demonstrated to us during the past four years of his presidency. The choice for this election is rather simple; do you trust unproven promises or do you trust past performance?

Certainly my heart goes out to sportsmen who are being encouraged by their unions, the media, their friends and others to vote for John Kerry on November 2nd. Sometimes it’s tough to balance out each of your beliefs when there is no perfect candidate, no matter on which side of the political fence you stand.

So go ahead and vote for John Kerry…but don’t delude yourself, and especially others, into believing that the Kerry/Edwards ticket is the best choice for sportsmen and their interests. John Kerry’s dismal senatorial track record along with his lame promises for the future tends to indicate otherwise.

Why else would The Humane Society of the United States refer to John Kerry as one of their “heroes” of congress? Is it possible this ardent anti-sportsman’s group knows something about John Kerry that those who wear political blinders would rather we didn’t all see?

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Accepting the Heyday for Pheasant Hunting is Gone Forever

Let’s face it…the dismal pheasant hunting opener here in Minnesota yesterday should have been no surprise to anyone. I’ve already documented how unharvested crops and uncooperative weather were major factors why we did not see any birds opening day. (see yesterday’s blog) Still, what do us hunters expect? For the past several decades the opportunity for quality pheasant hunting has slowly been on the decline here in Minnesota…and there is little to provide for a more hopeful future.

One of my fondest pheasant hunting memories occurred with my buddy Mitch when we flushed several pheasants and hit one that landed on the other side of the field about a quarter mile away. Both of our dogs witnessed the event…and simultaneously followed the bird until we recovered it, thanks to our canine’s assistance. That bird in the bag was the last one we needed to fill our daily limit…after hunting for only about 90 minutes.

The time was the late 70s/early 80s and it was far from what many would call the heyday for pheasants, but it was a quality time, at least as far as we knew. Could I repeat such an event today? I suppose it is possible, but not on that very parcel of land. You see, in the precise spot where the final bird was recovered by our dogs there now sits a new house nestled into the hillside. The entire field where we once hunted would be deemed too close to any building, thus it is now off limits for hunting.

You think this is an isolated happening…think again. Urban encroachment into rural areas has to be one of the biggest factors (aside from farming practices) that is hurting our pheasant hunting opportunities. I can think of a handful of prime locations where I hunted in my youth that are simply unavailable today because of changes in land use. Unfortunately, the very lands that hold the most promise for quality pheasant hunting are often sought-after by developers who want to build homes on what they perceive is nothing but “wasteland.”

I don’t know what the answer is for the future. Even though the particular county I live in restricts housing to no more than 4 structures (houses or farm yards) per square mile, there always seems to be legal variances available to those who know how to work the process. Let’s face it, when a family has set their minds on a particular building site that family’s needs and desires will always win out over the dislocation of the pheasant (or other wildlife). After all, the family has money that will add to the county’s tax rolls…the pheasant, if anything, is a burden to manage. And we are not just talking about pheasants here…many a squirrel hunter has lost their prime spots because woodlots now have $300,000 homes tucked away in once secluded oak stands.

Please understand I am not talking a total doom and gloom scenario here for the pheasant and the hunters who enjoy chasing them. Our world is constantly changing and so, too, must our expectations for what makes a quality hunt. It is not fair to define a successful hunt by comparing it to hunts of 10, 20 or even 30 years ago. Times were different then…and they will likely be much different into our future. It’s hard to believe that the hunts many of us deem mediocre today will be fondly looked back on by our children 20 or 30 years from now. I know that outlook doesn’t seem right…but face reality…we are constantly demanding more from a limited resource (land) and the prospects for things improving dramatically is very unlikely.

As pheasant hunters, we must all stay positive and work toward brighter days ahead. Join groups such as Pheasants Forever and local conservation clubs that work hard to develop both critical habitat projects and awareness. Remind yourself to measure the quality of the hunt not solely by the number of birds you bag. Instead, a better measure of success is by the amount of time your busy schedule affords you to be in the field with friends enjoying one of hunting’s finest, most elegant sporting birds found anywhere in the world.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Ron Schara…This Bud’s NOT For You!

Since 1996, Budweiser Brewing has teamed up with several national conservation organizations (the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Buckmasters American Deer Foundation, Quail Unlimited and the Women’s Shooting Sports Foundation) to positively promote the outdoors through their “Conservationist of the Year” program. Voting is now underway until November, 26th 2004, by mail and on the Internet.

This year there are four candidates vying for the title of Budweiser Conservationist of the Year – 2005. The winner will receive a $50,000 grant while the three runners up will each receive $5,000. Of the four candidates for this prestigious award…one candidate simply does not even belong on the ballot. That candidate is Ron Schara.

I’ve known and worked with Ron Schara for many years up until 1996 when we had a “parting of the ways,” so to speak. Indeed, it would be fair to say that some of my ill feelings toward Ron are as a result of sour grapes. I put a lot of trust in this man for a career, we created a business relationship together…but eventually his desire for “fame and fortune” destroyed everything that we both had worked so very hard to develop. In a matter of a few years I watched a man who was humble about his great success evolve into a self-centered, ego-driven television star (with his dog Raven).

When I look at what the Budweiser Conservationist of the Year award means, it conjures up in my mind someone who works selflessly toward making the natural world a better place for everyone. It’s an award that in the past has been given to someone who does not go out to seek the glory or the accolades associated with putting their name on a conservation effort…and then letting all their little minions do all the hard work behind the scenes. When you read the other three candidate profiles you see common folks who each in their own way put their heart and soul into their conservation project. In contrast, when I read Schara’s profile, I cannot be certain if Schara has done little more than lend his name to most of those efforts for which he takes credit and now seeks reward.

I will give Schara his due…he has been a strong advocate of the outdoors through his many years in newspaper, as a book author, and as a radio/television host. He has also been a very popular and recognizable personality in all of these efforts in Minnesota. I am troubled, however, because Schara has taken on all of these tasks as a paid professional. I truly doubt whether many things Schara now embarks on in his life are done out of charity…rather, it is likely done with the motivation of making himself look better to the public and for making money. And don’t get me wrong…that is fine…but you don’t hang your hat on those accomplishments and then expect to receive a prestigious conservation award because of it. That is simply WRONG!!

I’m urging you to do this. Obviously, if you are reading this blog you have Internet access. I encourage you to go to the Budweiser web site and carefully read over each of the profiles. I then ask you to please choose one of the other three candidates (other than Schara) who are much more deserving of a $50,000 grant and the accolades that go along with such a prestigious national award.

Yes, I think it would be humbling for Ron Schara to miss out on this great honor. He’s received much in his life…I dare say probably even too much. Now, it is time for someone else to step forward into the spotlight and for them to enjoy their “15 minutes of fame.”

NOTE: To reach the section on the Budweiser web site allowing you to vote is somewhat tricky. First go to www.Budweiser.com and then click on “GAME TIME” at the top. This will take you to another section where you must click “OUTDOORS.” Finally, you must click on “Conservationist of the Year – 2005” to enter that portion of the web site that will allows you to vote.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.