Thursday, November 02, 2006
Bill Cochran's Outdoors: What's more important: the election or the rut?
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
- Virginia’s hunting totals produce mixed results
- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
Outdoor sportsmen are about to let another election come and go with little input. The big question isn’t who to vote for, but whether to spend Nov. 7 in a treestand taking advantage of the deer rut or to dedicate a few minutes to a voting booth.
National organizations have been urging sportsmen not to sleep through this one. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has been promoting the slogan “Vote Your Sport.”
Bob Kane, a Virginian who heads the Sportsmen’s and Animal Owners’ Voting Alliance has been saying “Support those individuals that will support you.”
The NRA has been peppering its publications with front-page warnings that the election is going to decide if the anti-gun crowd, people like Charles Schumer, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, will be in charge. These foes, said Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president and native Roanoker, “are counting on low voter turnout to give them control of Congress.”
While the NRA and other organizations that represent sportsmen see themselves at war, the response of sportsmen frequently has been “oh-hum.”
To be sure, there are a handful of blaze-orange “Sportsmen for George Allen” banners across the state; however, they hardly represent a ground-swelling effort by sportsmen. They are the work of the NRA, who is spending a bundle to get Allen reelected.
Sen. Allen gets an “A+” rating from the NRA for what the association calls “his perfect pro-gun voting record in Congress.” His challenger, James Webb, also is an NRA member and has stated that he strongly supports Second Amendment rights. But the NRA says it has problems with the fact that some of the money flowing into Webb’s campaign can be traced to anti-gun Democrats.
Many sportsmen can be expected to do the bidding of the NRA and vote for Allen, but some admit that they do so with little enthusiasm. That’s because they have a hard time remembering anything Allen did for them while governor and senator, other than be a watchdog for gun rights. Some have difficulty forgiving him for sending Bill Woodfin over to be executive director of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, a move that proved disastrous.
No question, the gun issue is an important one. As a friend told me, “If you don’t have guns you don’t have hunting, and if you don’t have hunting you don’t have conservation money.”
But guns shouldn’t be the only factor. There is the Farm Bill, for example, which provides more benefits for wildlife and sportsmen than most other programs combined. Do your Senate and House candidates support it?
What about Teaming for Wildlife, a coalition of more than 3,000 organizations working to prevent wildlife from disappearing in Virginia and other states? Virginia has developed an intensive Wildlife Action Plan, but it begs for federal support after identifying 925 species that have special conservation needs. Do your candidates advocate such support?
What about energy requirements? There is a dire need to reduce foreign energy dependence, but would your candidates toss aside protection of fish and wildlife habitat in that pursuit?
What about the management of our national forests? Do your candidates support practices that promote a reasonable amount of early successional habitat to benefit wildlife species that depend on it, or will they give the forests over to protectionists who will turn them into parks?
Then there is the animal-rights issue. Have your candidates been taken in by the Humane Society of the United States and other organizations that are spending big bucks to end hunting and to radically change everything form livestock farming to pet ownership; medical research to zoos? Better watch out if your candidate is getting an endorsement from HSUS.
What about funding for national parks and trails and federal recreation facilities and wildlife refuges? The list could go on.
Sportsmen give away their vote too cheaply. We don’t demand accountability, even from the people we support. We nail up “Sportsmen For” signs without asking the candidate what he has done for us in the past and what he plans to do for us in the future. Too often, we aren’t even aware of the issues.
We can tell you a whole lot about the rut, but that could become just so much folksy information if we don’t have firearms and the opportunity to use them in the pursuit of hunting.