Jim Casada

January 12, 2008

Offseason reading for the sportsmen

This is the time of year, with another whitetail season now a memory and the opener for spring turkey season still seeming a distant dream, for soothing sessions of armchair adventure. I've been an avid reader all my life, and there are few things which bring me a fuller measure of pleasure than curling up with a good book.

My tastes in outdoor literature are quite eclectic, although there's no doubt I have a distinct preference for old-fashioned storytelling. That's why authors like Archibald Rutledge, Havilah Babcock, Corey Ford, Nash Buckingham, and Robert Ruark rank among my favorites.

Yet as we enter a presidential election year, with the candidates' stances on Second Amendment issues being an issue which deserves careful scrutiny from sportsmen and gun owners, my recent reading has included a book of singular importance. It is Frank Miniter's "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting."

Although a relatively young man, Miniter has accumulated impressive credentials as a writer, researcher and editor. Currently he serves as executive editor of the National Rifle Association's "American Hunter," after having previously worked at "Outdoor Life" for a number of years. While at that magazine, he investigated and reported on a major scandal in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and dug deeply into other subjects such as the illegal international trade in wildlife parts and bear and cougar attacks on humans.

He brings his proven research skills to this book in telling fashion. In doing so, he does hunters a wonderful service, along with providing anyone who takes the time to read the work a solid grounding in mythbusting. As he notes at the outset, "Most people just don't know the truth about hunting. Emotion gets in the way of reason."

How true. Maybe that's because the facts, as they come through in telling fashion in this book, don't fit the anti-hunting agenda.

Miniter points out, step by step, fact by fact, the manner in which facts support the hunting lifestyle. He makes it clear that hunters are the most devoted and effective of all conservationists, noting that historically they have paid and paved the way in a myriad of fashions, that they have been great benefactors of food pantries, and that they are the most effective enemy of poachers and those who break wildlife laws.

Indeed, the entire first section of the work, comprised of five chapters, is devoted to making what he styles "The Humane Case for Hunting." He then turns to the societal impacts of hunting, touching on everything from what vegetarians owe hunters to gun rights.

Here are some of the revealing points he makes, backing them up with solid evidence or statistical data in every case. It is hunters who have played the key role in great comeback stories of game animals such as white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and elk. Nationwide, livestock losses to predators cost millions of dollars every year. In the past quarter of a century, scientists have documented dozens of illnesses which have been transferred from affecting only animals to humans.

As someone who cares, and cares deeply, about the future of hunting, I was particularly impressed by Miniter's thoughts in the chapter "Hunting Is Good for Kids." Uncomfortable as the realization may be, have no doubt about it -- hunting as we have known it, an integral part of the fabric of American history, is threatened. Miniter offers answers, plenty of them, to that threat, and he does so in a literate, convincing fashion.

Likewise, he gives insightful examples of the fact that it seems almost impossible to engage in a debate with anti-hunters. Simply put, they have predictable responses -- no factual evidence to back them up and an unwillingness to listen to arguments based on hard evidence.

This is a book of major importance, maybe as significant for the hunting community as anything published in the last decade. It comes from Regnery Publishing and is readily available through Internet sources or your favorite local bookstore.


With another deer season now history, the time is at hand for small game hunting, beginning to think about the rites of spring and turkey hunting, doing some cold-weather fishing, or perhaps enjoying some hunting in print.

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