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.

Give Babe Winkelman A Break

Last fall, Babe Winkelman, a nationally known outdoorsman and communicator was cited for the alleged illegal use of two-way radios while deer hunting on his property in northern Minnesota. He claims that the use of the radios in his hunting party was for safety reasons…which, in my mind, is a perfectly legitimate reason for their use.

Yet, a local conservation officer who had been monitoring those communications saw it differently and made a citation. Eventually Babe petitioned the court with an Alford plea which essentially doesn’t admit to guilt, but concedes that the evidence of the case would likely point towards a conviction. Babe paid his dues which included a $200 fine and a community service component consisting of writing an article about hunting ethics. Click here to read more.

But this posting isn’t about whether Babe was right or wrong with the use of his electronics last fall. Certainly with the evolution of technology we will all be faced with new challenges that might at times put us on the wrong side of the law. Indeed, I am frustrated with the folks who are now condemning poor Babe as a lawbreaker. I’ve read that several of these individuals are calling for groups, such as the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, to “cut all ties” with the Babe. These are the folks who truly disgust me.

Let me state that I do not personally know Babe, although I once heard him give a lecture to a group of outdoor writers at a convention in Maine. It was truly one of the most inspirational talks I have ever heard. Babe described how early in his career he was to lecture a group of fishermen…but that things started off all wrong. As I recall the details, Babe was so nervous…that he tripped and fell face-first on the stage. Talk about a dramatic entry!! The entire audience was laughing…and this budding outdoors communicator was suddenly at a pivotal point in his career. His choices? Well, he either must pick himself up and now overcome the tremendous stage fright or walk off to never be heard from again.

Obviously, we all know which choice was made by Babe. He didn’t give up…in fact, over the course of 25+ years as writer and TV host I dare say he has inspired many of us to explore and better appreciate the great outdoors. Babe’s enthusiasm for the outdoors was evident whether you saw him in person or on TV.

I ask you this question…do we need more Babe Winkelmans in our outdoor world or should his illegal, albeit unintentional, actions from last fall be used against him to castigate a truly great outdoorsman? Consider this…place all of the positive things Babe has done to encourage enjoyment of the outdoors experience on one side of the scale. Now place his alleged law violation on the other side of the scale. Do the two even come close to balancing out? I DON’T THINK SO!!!!

To those individuals who choose to cast stones at this great outdoorsman I have but one thing to say. Babe Winkelman promotes the outdoors positively and touches the lives of more people in one week…than any of the nay Sayers will achieve after a lifetime of whining about another person’s success. Rather than bring a person down for making an honest mistake…let’s encourage him on, to learn and to grow from the experience.

I wholeheartedly encourage the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association to continue their alliance with Babe as their official spokesperson. He’s a man of great character who deserves far better treatment than some individuals in the outdoor world have given him after his mistake.

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