Im a hunter, and I know that hunters need a spokesperson. We need someone with a lifetime of experience who speaks with authority about preserving public lands and the wild animals living there that we love to hunt. We need someone whose personal magnetism generates interest simply by speaking on the subject of hunting.
I just dont want my spokesman to be Ted Nugent.
It doesnt bother me much that the former rock musician is abrasive and obnoxious. If being obnoxious were illegal, several of my friends would be imprisoned.
It doesnt bother me that Nugent receives media attention far out of proportion to his actual importance. He sold 30 million albums, so has earned his time in the public eye far more honestly than Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian.
It doesnt bother me that Nugent dresses in American flag-themed clothing and styles himself an American patriot even though as a young man he worked very hard to avoid the draft and the Vietnam War. Our country seems to be full of people just like him late-in-life self-righteous types who are more willing to risk their sons and daughters in combat than they were to go themselves.
It doesnt even bother me that Nugent has somehow become a standard-bearer for a significant number of American gun owners and hunters. Im sure stranger things have happened, though I cant think of any right now. His followers revel in Nugents out-of-control, stream-of-unconsciousness method of speaking, where logic and clear thinking take a backseat to foul-mouthed invective and shock value.
When outdoor writer Jim Zumbos naïvely derogatory comment about black guns semi-automatic rifles that are military knockoffs set off an Internet firestorm and threatened the destruction of Zumbos communications empire, it was Nugent who rode to the rescue.
Zumbo had denounced the weapons as terrorist rifles and the backlash was ferocious. Nugent invited Zumbo to his Texas ranch where, in a scene eerily mindful of communist re-education camps, he instructed the browbeaten writer on the benefits of the guns. Subsequently, Nugent declared Zumbo rehabilitated and called for forgiveness. Sure enough, forgiveness happened and Zumbos wide-ranging framework of magazines, television and speaking engagements was restored.
It does disturb me a little that, as a featured speaker, Nugent lit up the most recent National Rifle Association convention with a clear threat against the president of the United States: If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.
Nugent has always been a showboat and a blowhard; the Secret Service needed only 20 minutes to identify him as such, though I suspect they might have been a little tougher had they not had some recent troubles of their own. Certainly Nugent is not a serious threat, but even blowhards can occasionally incite others to violence.
Its hard for me to get excited about Ted Nugent because he just seems so inconsequential. But because Im a hunter, a few things Ive learned about him are disturbing. He is a serial poacher and as such, a thief. In 2010, Nugent pleaded no contest in California to using bait to kill an undersized buck deer and then not properly tagging it. He was fined $1,750 and was prohibited from hunting in California until this month.
More recently, on April 24, Nugent pleaded guilty to transportation of a bear he had illegally killed in Alaska. This latest infraction will cost him a $10,000 fine, put him in probation for two years and prohibit him from hunting in Alaska or on U.S. Forest Service land for one year. Nugent protested that he wasnt aware of the state regulation hed violated, which makes him either a pretty dumb guy or a liar. You make the call.
It also bothers me that Nugent is on the board of directors of the NRA. The NRA, which protects our right to bear arms, also claims to represent hunters. As such, its directors should be held to the highest standard of hunting behavior. It will be interesting to see if the law-abiding, ultra-patriotic NRA will do the right thing and remove Nugent from its board.
Or will the NRA leadership continue to support a twice-convicted game-law violator who openly threatens the president of the United States?
Pat Wray is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He lives in Corvallis, Oregon.