Random Thoughts On Cecil The Lion And The Lingering Media Madness

Okay, so I’m not going to describe the situation involving a Dr. Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota and the now famous Cecil the lion (apparently pompously pronounced, cess-ill) as most of us have already heard the story to the point of ad nauseam.   In fact, if you haven’t heard about it by now…then quite likely this blog post will mean nothing to you anyway.   Instead, go find some other blog rating diaper brands or comparing cavity fighting qualities of various toothpastes.

The fact is the story about the Zimbabwe lion has grown well beyond a prudent person’s sensibilities.   So much so that in today’s news I now read how the leader of PETA has called for Palmer to be lynched.   Really?   A group professing the kind, gentle and proper treatment of animals shows no compassion towards its own?   Of course, those of us who know PETA for what they truly are realize this is no big surprise.   Indeed, the longer they fan the media flames, keep this item newsworthy, keep it in the public’s mind…well, you know…the longer some people will open their pocketbooks and provide to them the reason they actually exist.

Admittedly, I don’t know many of the facts surrounding this lion hunt.   Very few people do.   Of course, lots of people think they know and have already convicted the dentist faster than you can open you mouth and say ahhhh!   Sadly, we may never know the true story.   At this time I certainly won’t defend Walter Palmer any more than I will condemn him for some terrible poaching act.

Still, I have to wonder how what could be a very innocent man ever regains his life back.   A person doesn’t pay $50,000+ for a hunting experience and expect the sort of outcome that has apparently developed.   I would think when a person hands over that amount of money they are expecting memories and a trouble-free hunt to be their dividend.

I remember a guided turkey hunt I was on in western South Dakota many years ago when I was at the total mercy of the guide.   I paid him a nice fee and he was expected to deliver to me a quality outdoor experience.   And even though the hunt never resulted in tagging a bird, it provided me experiences and opportunities in a part of the country I will never forget.

But, it also provided me something else.   It provided to me the understanding that when you are on a guided hunt you are not always in total control.   Case in point…we were hunting on Federal land when my guide suddenly mentioned to me hunker down and be quiet.   I asked why.   His response was because we are now on private property where we don’t have permission to be.   I said REALLY??!!  What the hell are we doing here!!!   I expected the guide to know the boundaries and to always play by the same rules I used in my ordinary hunting pursuits.

I learned.   No matter how well you vet a guide prior to the hunt…when you rely on someone else to show you the path toward achieving success ultimately you are no better than they are, sometimes through no reasonable fault of your own.

Personally, the notion of traveling to Africa for big game hunting has never motivated me.   I get it how some people want to live out those unique experiences and pay small fortunes to do so…but it’s not for me.   Still, no person should ever be subjected to what Walter Palmer has endured no matter if he’s guilty or innocent.   Protesters shutting down his business and essentially driving his customers (livelihood) away should be sued for his economic losses.   After all, one could call them protesters, but a case could just as easily be made they are more like terrorists causing direct and measurable harm against others.

It’s one thing to exercise your freedom of speech and do so in the manner in which you care to express it.   However, it is quite another thing to do that juxtaposed on sidewalks and private property so a client no longer feels safe to seek out the services of his/her medical professional.  Not to mention all the adjunct employees in that office who now have an unknown future because protesters have a beef with their boss.

Consider this.   In our country when a deer is poached who usually gets most upset?   PETA?   The tree-hugger neighbor?   Perhaps some other bleeding heart individual?   Nope.   When a deer is poached in America the person who is most upset about the situation is the other sportsmen who strive to play by the rules and appreciate fair chase efforts.

Now, consider how widespread poaching has been in other countries over the years when it hardly gets any concern or mention until the situation grows dire.   Even then, poaching hardly tugs at the heart-strings of the vast majority of the general public.

Yet, this time it was different.   It was the perfect storm, so to speak.   A story that was ripe for a social media and Internet explosion of raw and unbridled emotions.   Why?   Because the player involved appeared to be some privileged white male with money to spend on such pursuits.   Not only that…but he succeeded in taking a lion that had a name — Cecil.   This is anthropomorphism at its absolute finest.   How could some hunter travel half way across the world to shoot a creature WITH A NAME?   Presumably, when something has a name it has a personality, feelings, life aspirations, you get the idea.   Yeah, this time it was different.   An asshole blood-thirsty dentist shot a beloved 13–y/o favorite creature supposedly known throughout Zimbabwe.

Bleeding hearts have petitioned the White House pleading with the President to extradite Palmer back to Zimbabwe so justice can be served.   Surely we can trust a fitting justice will be served by the Zimbabwe government who can’t even take care of its own starving human population.   It’s all ludicrous.

Here’s what’s going to happen, IMHO.   This will all eventually backfire.   Mark my words.   No American hunter in his right mind will book a future hunt to Zimbabwe after seeing this incident play out with Palmer.   Soon, the money will dry up and then be spent in other African regions more hunter-friendly, so to speak.   Hey, don’t take my word on this alone…read this by someone who knows.  University of MN’s Craig Packer is one of the world’s foremost lion researchers who has dedicated 30+ years of his life studying the king of the jungle.

I recently saw a post on Facebook by Steve Pennaz, a long-time editor and outdoors writer who succinctly stated the following wisdom:

Kenya terminated hunting in the 1970s; since then it has lost 85% of its wildlife. In contrast, South Africa has embraced sport hunting the past five decades and wildlife numbers there are booming … from 575,000 wild game animals in 1964 to more than 24 million in 2014. Why? Hunting places an economic value on both wildlife and wild places. It provides direct incentives to protect and conserve these precious resources. Look no further than the Duck Stamp program here at home—it has raised more than $800 million and resulted in 6 million acres of wetlands conserved.

The honest truth is the conservation of a wild species does not come about by the people showing hype and sensationalism on the nightly newscast.   The efforts of saving and assisting a species so it can thrive is done often by the folks made out to be the villains in this activity.   I’m convinced how the people who shoot off their mouths in front a live news camera do nothing more than get some kind of emotional orgasm that makes them feel good.   How do I know this?   Simple…their rhetoric and well-intended gestures do nothing substantive and identifiable to benefit the species for which they cry over.

On the other hand, even a reviled dentist who may very well someday be proven to be a poacher, has done more for the conservation of African lions to ensure their future than 99.99998% of the people who have expressed their disgust for him and his killing act.   Those are the facts!   If you don’t like it then put your money where your protesting mouth is on this topic and make a actual difference for your cause.

RANT: How SHOT Show Industry Day At The Range Lost Me

This year I made special plans to attend the SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range (also referred to as Media Day) only to be greatly disappointed.   Let me begin by saying how this is a rant about something I have to get off my chest.   I understand and appreciate how many readers of this blog might feel lucky to have the opportunity just to be part of this day.   To that I say become a writer and report on industry happenings.

Here’s the deal.   Normally I fly into Vegas on Monday (the day before the SHOT Show exhibit floor opens) and prepare for a good night’s sleep before hitting the trade show hard for the next four days.   This year I decided to change up plans.   I had not been to Media Day for a few years and decided I would check it out once again in 2014.   This decision was largely because of this e-mail received in 2012 from one of the event organizers:

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Okay, I thought to myself this is rather special.   They followed up with me to see if I was going to take advantage of my invite.   Well, as luck would have it I could not attend in January of 2013 because I had already booked a flight and lodging plans that would not allow that invitation acceptance…so I responded with this e-mail:

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After this correspondence I thought maybe it’s time to re-think my annual SHOT Show travel plans and include Media Day once again.   So, when plane tickets were purchased and lodging was reserved this year, I planned to come in on Sunday afternoon so I could spend a full day at Media Day and then attend the show when it opens the next day.   Problem is when doing this my budget only allows a 4 nights stay so it meant coming home early on Thursday (and missing two regular show days because of it).

I made the decision to attend Media Day and all went well until registration.   It was a confusing mess and the upshot is this year I apparently wasn’t one of the privileged few to get an all-day invite.   Nope, I was told I could not go to the range until the afternoon session despite the fact all my media colleagues left bright and early in the morning for a full day.

Now, keep in mind I made plans to attend based on what I had been offered in the past with an all-day invite.   I would certainly expect that a media person who was attending his 24th  SHOT would have at least earned that privilege…but apparently not.   I was duped.   I relied on what had been customary all previous years to go out to the Media Day when it opened early and make a full day of it, if that’s what I intended to do.   I most certainly would not have cut my SHOT Show experience short had I known that was the opportunity cost to attend HALF A DAY AT MEDIA DAY!!!

So, I’m done with SHOT Media Day.   That Monday will once again forever become a travel day for me to the main show.   I know some of my colleagues are enamored with getting to do some hands-on shooting and testing.   Good for you.   A lot can be written about a gun when you get to shoot 5 test shots on some uncontrolled desert range.   I find the entire pre-SHOT event to be nothing more than a bunch of hype combined with photo ops in an outdoors setting.

And here’s what really gets me.   I had made these travel plans and was committed to attend Media Day, but I lost out on that opportunity thanks to organizer incompetence.   You see, on Thursday night when my return flight got home I found this package at the top of the mail pile on my desk.


Yup, it was the package of my credentials to attend Media Day.   They were so disorganized this year apparently they could not mail them out in time for some of us to have them in Las Vegas.   What a bummer.   Essentially, I feel like I wasted a day of my SHOT Show experience because of this process and the rather poor way it was handled.

Nope, never again in this blog’s pages will you read me making plans to attend SHOT Media Day at the Range.   In my opinion it is an unorganized joke and I will not allot time in the future, in my schedule, for this event.

I remember the good old days when SHOT only had 300–400 media attend to report on it.   I understand that it has exploded into nearly 2,500 media annually and it gets more difficult to manage all those people.   Still, I refuse to be relegated to a half day access only when on that Monday I could be on a plane sipping a cocktail on my way to THE REAL SHOT SHOW EVENT!!!

©2014 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.