Surprise, surprise, I am still around but I haven’t posted anything in weeks because--well--I didn’t want to write! That, in itself, is a surprise because for 40+ years I have always had something that I wanted to write about, but for weeks now I haven’t wanted to write about several outdoor related events that made the national news. I know my reluctance is not writer’s block because when I have found myself on a deadline I was able to get the assignment written, but I couldn’t pen a decent blog post. What makes that reluctance to write surprising is that the issues I have been thinking about, often in great detail and even digging into the issues with additional research, are timely, relevant, and important to all of us who enjoy fishing, hunting and shooting. However, every time I tried to write a draft of a post I became so discouraged that I would put down my pen and turn to working in my yard and garden.
Some might argue that I have been in a slump brought on by the spring weather, or some malady. I think my reluctance to write has been a response to the sheer idiocy that has been exhibited by so many of the outdoor media’s celebrities, and outdoor professionals (guides and outfitters). Let’s be honest, a significant number of these people have behaved in ways that are appalling at the very least. If you go online and begin counting up the game violations by these people you quickly realize we’ve got a problem and it is best expressed in the immortalized words of Strather Martin and Paul Newman: “what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” The failure is that too many outdoor celebs and professionals are starting to believe their own press releases and from that they are expecting a “bye” when their actions violate the law. What is troubling beyond the actual “criminal act” they are charged with is that they have violated the trust between themselves, their fans, and society as a whole. These miscreants have forgotten that the men and women who are the anglers and hunters of our society most often carry out their activity without any other eyes watching over them, and they do so ethically and honestly, exactly the way they expect others to conduct themselves in similar situations. The vast majority of outdoor men and women are aware that society has entrusted them, through the hunting licenses and the premise of a right to hunt, with an honor system that the game laws will be honored. This is the very foundation of the protection of the right to hunt--it is based entirely on the ethical action of the individual. Sometimes there is a collision between what the ethical behavior is and what “needs” to be done, and when that happens we must make a choice that is based on the most favorable outcome. For a person to follow that principle in the field is not a part time choice but one that dictates all of the actions of the individual, but here is the sticking point: the action must be entirely self started and self completed even if others are present to observe the action. If a person will act outside what is ethical or “need,” regardless of the presence or lack of presence of anyone to observe the action, then is it reasonable to assume that person’s actions are not unusual but part of a pattern? I believe it is, and for evidence of the truth of that belief one needs only to review some of the court documents pertaining to the outdoor celebrity miscreants to see their pattern of game violations.
I am sure that some of you will wonder why I should care so much and my answer to you is that we, all of us who love the outdoors and fishing/hunting, must care because their actions taint all of us in the eyes of nonparticipants. Then, when the time comes (as it invariably does) for the general public to vote on a hunting related issue, the pro hunting groups must overcome a negative image generated by the miscreants’ actions. When we try to use the argument that more that 95-percent of all anglers and hunters are ethical and do follow the game laws and the principles of good sportsmanship the response is often, “how do we know?”
The fact is that we can only know our own actions and assume the actions of others are equally ethical. We cannot know how often the celeb that makes the news for game violations or other actions violates the law or is unethical. The tragic truth is that the rest of us must bear the burden of “their” guilt and consequently redouble our efforts to maintain our right to hunt. In a time when the politics of hunting is getting more segmented and the anti-hunting/gun elements have an increasingly well funded (although still historically, culturally and ethically inaccurate) argument, we cannot afford to continue supporting the miscreant celebrities of our industry.
If an outdoor celebrity cannot gather the footage or sound bites they need for their programs within the law and abide by the angling or hunting ethics, but knowingly violate the law to get their bites, then they do not deserve our support, whether it is watching/listening to their broadcasts, or buying their products. Yet, a sizable portion of the angler and hunter population continues to support them to the point of verbally trouncing anyone who speaks out against the celebrity! Case in point is Ted Nugent. Numerous editors and even the National Rifle Association have all remained silent about Nugent’s behavior and when asked why, we discover it is because Nugent’s fans are ready to rip into anyone who speaks out or writes against Nugent and they are afraid that condemning Nugent’s actions will “rock the boat.” They are unwilling to risk losing readers or members. In short, membership fees and subscribers are more important than the future of the outdoors and Second Amendment!
What is this drive by these fans to give celebrities more room to maneuver, even when those maneuverings are detrimental to all of us?
I do not have an answer. This much I do know; if we are going to continue giving them “passes” for their misbehavior eventually we’re going to pay a much higher price. These men (and women) may have paid the court imposed prices for their actions, but that price alone does not repair the damage they have done to the nonparticipant’s perception of the outdoor community.
A final thought on this troublesome issue has to do with the notion that a person can pile up good deeds and be forgiven for any of their trespasses. Without burrowing into the philosophy of “good” and “good actions” let it be sufficient to say that in the real world, regardless of how many times a celebrity reminds us that he or she has taken dying children, or wounded veterans, on hunting or fishing trips, the fact remains that the celebrity has violated the law, the ethics, and the true philosophy of the outdoor sports--a fact that cannot be repaired or erased by the public spectacle of “good deeds” but only by the offender’s public contrition. They need to let their “good deeds” stand alone and not use sick children and wounded veterans as a public bag balm to hide the effects of their actions. glg