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Find The Boots

Rantings from a few corporate types about life, technology, travel, guns, politics, and everything good in the world.

Goodbye Zumbo

Monday, February 26, 2007

Just in case you've been in the air for the last week and this is the first blog you're reading since you've been back, hunting celebrity Jim Zumbo really stuck his foot in it. Outdoor Life took the blog down, but thanks to Mrs. du Toit the text is still available of Zumbo's articles and his two apologies. If you read through the comments you'll see that I got into a bit of a discussion with her.

First, Zumbo's original blog entry:
Assault Rifles For Hunters?
As I write this, I’m hunting coyotes in southeastern Wyoming with Eddie Stevenson, PR Manager for Remington Arms, Greg Dennison, who is senior research engineer for Remington, and several writers. We’re testing Remington’s brand new .17 cal Spitfire bullet on coyotes.

I must be living in a vacuum. The guides on our hunt tell me that the use of AR and AK rifles have a rapidly growing following among hunters, especially prairie dog hunters. I had no clue. Only once in my life have I ever seen anyone using one of these firearms.

I call them “assault” rifles, which may upset some people. Excuse me, maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity. I’ll go so far as to call them “terrorist” rifles. They tell me that some companies are producing assault rifles that are “tackdrivers.”

Sorry, folks, in my humble opinion, these things have no place in hunting.

We don’t need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them, which is an obvious concern. I’ve always been comfortable with the statement that hunters don’t use assault rifles. We’ve always been proud of our “sporting firearms.”

This really has me concerned. As hunters, we don’t need the image of walking around the woods carrying one of these weapons. To most of the public, an assault rifle is a terrifying thing. Let’s divorce ourselves from them. I say game departments should ban them from the praries and woods.

I read this article and my first thought was "What was he thinking?" Calling assault rifles "terrorist weapons" wasn't a very good idea. And rubbing salt in the wound that is the divide between shooters and hunters was a bad concept for an article.

My second thought was that maybe he has a point. Anti-hunters would get a lot of mileage out of pictures of hunters with scary looking black rifles. Imagine if the Hmong hunter in Wisconsin had been using a black rifle. Hunting gets attacked from all sides -- from within over divisions between dog hunters, Sunday hunting, night hunting, game farms, etc, and from the outside by animal rights groups and soccer moms that buy their meat at the grocer but think hunting is cruel. The attack on guns is pretty much in the background for hunters. Even John Kerry felt he had to buy a brand new goose hunting outfit in 2004 and go on a hunt. The lefties pander to hunters to get elected because they're seen as separate from the assault weapons that they're so willing to ban. So the argument that perhaps hunters shouldn't let themselves get grouped in with the assault weapons crowd doesn't seem so unreasonable.

The floodgates in the blogosphere opened up. Zumbo issued a couple of apologies, but he was basically forced into retirement. He misunderstood the key concept that the things you can say with friends around a campfire or in an anonymous forum or blog entry are entirely different than what you can say when you make your living by what you say and what people think of you. He generated a firestorm and ended up effectively becoming unemployed because sponsors wanted nothing to do with him.

I'm not in the camp that feels bad for Mr. Zumbo. He should have known not to poke the bear, and he shouldn't have been surprised when it slapped him. But I also think that this discussion should never have turned into a 2nd Amendment issue. He never suggested that assault weapons should be banned. He merely stated that he thinks they look bad for hunting and hunters shouldn't be allowed to use them. He was misinformed about the state of hunting, and he stumbled into a very sensitive area.

Assault weapon owners are rightfully touchy with a Speaker of the House named Nancy Pelosi. The assault weapon ban is coming back. I'm worried too, although I wonder how many of these gun owners that are screaming stayed home last November and didn't vote in order to teach the Republicans a lesson? It was a bad time for Mr. Zumbo to step in this particular steaming pile.

My experience with hunting celebrities is that they're pretty much idiots. They're writers and TV personalities, not expert sportsmen. My defining experience with the genre was when I was working as a guide in a remote Canadian fishing and hunting camp. We got a visit from a famous hunting celeb that did a show on moose hunting. The celeb was insufferable. He thought he knew everything. He had read a book on moose hunting on the plane, and he decided that the best strategy would be to drive the moose. While that method may work just fine in an organized hunt in neatly divided European farmland, the muskeg forest doesn't lend itself to it with just two hunters. He spooked every moose in the area. Finally, on the last day of the five day hunt one of the guides got up early and killed a moose at the far end of the lake while the celeb was sleeping off a hangover. If you watch the TV show, it looks like the celeb did everything and killed a moose on his first day.

So the idea that Zumbo, too, is an idiot shouldn't surprise anybody. From his world view, he took a somewhat controversial stand. He didn't take into account the current anxiety in the shooting world, and what he actually said got twisted around quite a bit. His apologies didn't fix the damage. Instead of saying "I never meant to say that people don't have the right to own assault weapons" (which he didn't), he talked about how he was learning that assault weapons are indeed becoming popular in hunting. It didn't matter. The gun nuts wanted a scalp and they got it.

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