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 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.

Move over Men…Women Are Discovering the Outdoors in Droves

I suppose it was about 20 years ago when my friend Mike made a comment that will forever stick in my mind. He was much younger then, recently married, and his wife wanted to spend as much time as she possibly could with him. Indeed, Mike’s wife wanted to discover all aspect’s of his life…including sharing his interest for the outdoors.

Of course, Mike did not want that to happen. He wanted the time spent outdoors to be just with the boys…the last bastion of male independence and freedom…a time away from women and all associated “girly” things. The infamous comment he made to me was summed up much like this…“my wife is bugging me to go out duck hunting and I don’t know how much longer I can put her off. I just know that when she goes it is going to be the coldest damn day of the year so she never wants to go hunting again.” In other words, Mike’s goal was to get any future thoughts of his wife going hunting ever again completely out of her mind.

Now let’s fast forward 20 years or so. I was talking with Mike just the other day and he was telling me that this year he plans to bring his daughter, Kelsey, deer hunting for the first time. He gave her the option…she gave it lots of thought…and then told her dad that she wanted to hunt deer. In fact, she wanted to experience everything about the hunt…although she wasn’t real keen on having to gut the deer if she was successful. Last I heard Mike is planning to bring his daughter hunting and he is very excited about this opportunity to share special time with her.

Hmmm…. What has changed during the past two decades? Did Mike’s attitude finally mature so he now better understands that women in the outdoors could be an acceptable occurrence…or has society in general become more accepting, if not downright encouraging of women who are discovering new opportunities to enjoy the outdoors?

Not to discredit my friend Mike—although that has never stopped me before— I do think that societal attitudes have certainly changed towards women who enjoy hunting and fishing. What was once a taboo form of recreation for a lady is now very much acceptable, in fact I dare say in some circles it could be encouraged. Personally, nothing could please me more than to see this gender evolution taking place in our outdoor world.

There are two popular programs that are at the forefront of inspiring women to live and enjoy the outdoors. The primary program is Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) and the other program is sponsored through the National Wild Turkey Federation and is called Women in the Outdoors. Both programs offer weekend workshops to help ladies grow outdoor skills in a friendly, pressure-free environment. Oddly enough, many of the women who attend these programs actually are more comfortable gaining their outdoor knowledge from these programs, rather than a well-meaning male in their life. In fact, learning from a significant other can often challenge the patience of both the teacher and the student with so many new skills that must be presented and developed.

Even so, outdoors women are learning something that men have long ago discovered—the outdoors…whether it be hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, etc…can be a perfect opportunity to build camaraderie among pals and to foster new friendships. If you’ve ever been around a group of women in one of these programs you will also learn one other thing…and that is these ladies know how to have fun. They can laugh at themselves…but they also pull together and will help each other develop the new skills much better than many of their male counterparts will do in similar circumstances.

I truly believe that seeing women become active in the same sports that many of us males enjoy is a very positive happening. It’s no accident that outdoors women are one of the fastest growing segments of the outdoors industry. Today camo clothing is made exclusively for women…women have their own waders, their own hunting and fishing equipment…and they don’t just settle for the same items that guys use. Indeed, today’s woman has an attitude that they belong in the woods or on the water…and many of them are prepared to prove it.

As far as my friend Mike is concerned, it’s refreshing to see he’s now developed a healthy attitude that his only daughter should have the very same opportunities that both of his boys experienced. Kelsey plays hockey…and this year she will be deer hunting for the first time. Best of all, seated next to her in the deer stand will be her loving dad who is very proud to finally provide that opportunity for his little girl.

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

Know Where Your Money Goes!

If you donate money through work-sponsored charitable causes…have you taken the time to check on for what that money is being spent? Similarly, when the neighborhood charitable fund drive comes knocking at your door…what groups are getting their hands on your hard earned money?

One of my biggest pet peeves in life is groups that ask for my money and then use that money to work against my beliefs. Case in point: Today in the Minneapolis StarTribune there’s an article that talks about the entire board of directors of the local Minnesota Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation resigning their positions. Why? The official response is because of “philosophical differences.” Truth is, however, one of the big issues that has dogged the local chapter for many years involves hunting. Here’s what the StarTribune said:

“The local board also objected to other directives that included no granting of wishes that involve hunting or firearms, a decision that dates to a Minnesota hunting wish that sparked national controversy in the 1990s….”

“Tensions between local and national offices date at least to 1996, when Make-A-Wish Minnesota granted an Alaska bear-hunting trip to Erik Ness, a White Bear Township teenager suffering from brain cancer. Animal rights groups and some other chapters objected, and in 2000 the national Make-A-Wish Foundation banned wishes involving hunting. Ness died in 1999 at age 21.”

Why would any sportsman want to contribute money to a group that would not honor the wish of a dying child…even if that child wanted to go hunting? Frankly, I think the concept of making dreams of dying children possible should not be governed by whether or not a bunch of decision makers personally approve of an activity…especially when the activity is perfectly legal for the child, or any healthy child to participate in.

But let’s get serious here. This is all about politics and how a non-profit organization will cower to big money interest. In this case, the big money is from the very groups looking to put us sportsmen out of business. It’s obvious these “anti” groups threatened the national M-A-W Foundation through coercive tactics likely involving their membership boycotting their financial support. In so doing, it was much better for M-A-W to disappoint a single dying child, than a large group of potential donors.

I was outraged when I first heard this story several years ago and now today it makes me even more upset to see this all finally come to a head. On the other hand, the former local board of directors, including the former local president, Karla Blomberg, deserves a hearty THANK YOU from all of us who purport to be sportsmen in this great state. Thankfully, young Erik not only experienced his dream hunt once…but also again later in the year when he was finally successful in his hunting efforts.

Back in the mid-90s it was the local Minnesota Chapter of M-A-W working with the Minnesota Safari Club chapter conducting private fundraising efforts to get young Erik on his hunt. The money could not come from M-A-W because of the raging controversy that continues to this day, hence the recent resignations. The national organization of M-A-W has since issued the following policy:

“it is not in the best interests of the children we serve for us to continue considering wishes that involve firearms, hunting bows or other hunting or sport-shooting equipment.”

Well, folks…read that policy statement one more time. If it isn’t in the best interest of the M-A-W Foundation to serve kids who have deep desires to partake lawfully in the sports that we embrace…why then would we support financially a group that so blatantly slaps all of us in the face? I think it’s high time all of us sportsmen flex our power and withhold any future contributions that may go directly or indirectly to groups such as this. Instead, check out organizations such as This organization, although I do not necessarily endorse it per se, seems much more worthy of our funds than M-A-W Foundation.

No, I think this time the national Make-A-Wish Foundation has really shot itself in the foot. When it cannot work with a local board of directors and president who obviously could set aside politics and facilitate the wishes of a dying child…then I suggest this is an organization led by people who can go without all of our support. Let them get their money from the animal rights groups and others with whom they’ve proven to favor based on their past and present ill-conceived actions.

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