COL Campaign fog is dilemma for hunters

I am a hunter and proud to be one. To hunt, I own firearms, and because of those shotguns and .22-caliber rifles, I am the target of an election-driven campaign to "Vote Your Sport."

Groups such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association are urging hunters to think about hunting when we vote.

I will.

Hunting is one of many issues I think about when voting for president.

When I do, however, it won't be my shotguns and rifles I'll be thinking about. It will be the grouse, turkeys, deer, and ducks, their habitat, and how well the candidates do at protecting the environment.


As a hunter, my first obligation is not to my firearms, but to the game.

It's not that owning my firearms isn't important. I would find it extremely difficult to vote for someone who wanted to take away or severely restrict my right to own those firearms. There is no reason to restrict what I own for hunting.

But some things are more important. And that is the state of the fish and wildlife, the land and water, the skies. Those are the basis for my passions of hunting, fishing, camping, birding, hiking, just being outdoors. Without a clean environment and plentiful habitat for game and fish, hunting or fishing would crash.

Determining just how President Bush and Sen. John Kerry stand on the important issues of conservation and firearms, however, is not easy in a campaign bloated with a nauseating brew of innuendo, obfuscation, half truths and fog.

For example, the shooting sports foundation said Kerry tried to ban semiautomatic shotguns, like those used in duck hunting. But in the October issue of Field &; Stream, Kerry specifically said he is a hunter, though not a great one. "I'm never going to vote to take away guns. I never have," he said. And later: "I don't have any broad-based agenda to move beyond preservation of what we have today."

So who do you believe?

Those in favor of Bush, such as the foundation, Safari Club and NRA, scream about Kerry's record on firearms. They point out the NRA gives him an F, and some say the anti-hunting group PETA is a big Kerry backer.

One thing pro-firearms people point to is Kerry's backing of the ban on some forms of assault weapons. That's an issue that is more smoke than fire. Kerry was in favor of renewing the ban, while Bush said he would sign a bill to renew the ban but didn't push for it.


Kerry didn't help his cause, however, when he said during a campaign stop in Wisconsin that he likes to hunt deer.

"I go out with my trusty 12-gauge double-barrel, crawl around on my stomach," he said. "That's hunting."

Deer hunting with a double-barrel, on the ground? You've got to be kidding. That quote makes him sound like a doofus who is pandering for the pro-hunting vote.

Then you have the Sierra Club and other environmental groups that are deluging people with e-mails in the past few months, saying Bush is a destroyer of the environment. Even prominent Minnesota Republicans came out against Bush's environmental record. In effect, they are giving him an F.

The Sierra Club lambasted Bush for policies they say contribute to air pollution and global warming.

But Bush, in his Field &; Stream interview, said his top conservation goal is "cleaner air, better land and cleaner water." And he said he's in favor of not only protecting wetlands but increasing their number.

But in one critical area for upland habitat -- the Conservation Reserve Program -- his administration failed to fully enroll as many acres as was allowed. That is, until this summer when he said he wants to expand CRP.

That smells of election-year pandering to the pro-hunting vote.


So who do you believe? Kerry?Bush?The NRA? The Sierra Club?

It's a daunting dilemma -- and more important than who you believe, you must decide what's important.

All I know for certain is that for me, the state of the species I hunt, fish, watch and enjoy comes first.

John Weiss is the Post-Bulletin's outdoors writer. If you have comments or story ideas, call him at 285-7749.

What To Read Next
Get Local