I always have made it my policy not to become involved in political issues; politics often is a dirty game and I have no taste for the rules. My propensity, however, to come to the aid of the underdog has, on occasion put me in a position demanding participation. The white-tailed deer is my life, second only to my family and my God! I owe a great deal to whitetails; and my 40 years of work with these wonderful animals and the great men and women who hunt them, and invest money and sweat in preserving them has been a blessing. My father taught me three rules of life—know your convictions, stand strongly on them and always speak your mind and the truth. These simple rules got him through the 74 years of his life and they have served me well over the last 65 years. He was my hero, coming home from the Pacific theater all shot up and with very little interest in hunting anything. I had to learn to hunt on my own and thankfully under the kind eyes of two mentors, my Uncle Spencer (“Butch”) and a high school biology teacher, Mr. Victor Rippy. My family on both sides were small farmers, often harvesting game for the table rather than sport. I tell you this to make clear my feelings about animals and about people of the land.
Recently, I have heard about things being said in blogs, presumably to aid in successfully removing Governor Walker. Since I am not politically motivated, did not vote for Governor Walker, will not be able to in the up-coming election, and am neither a Democrat nor Republican, I am concerned and saddened by things being said about me and my positions and values related to white-tailed deer. Although there is no way to combat anonymous postings on Internet blogs about me, I can speak in a straightforward manner about my positions and will continue to do so. Wisconsin is a marvelous place with some of the most beautiful places and friendly people I ever have experienced. I have enjoyed my time with the hunters and landowners of this fine state. It was the highest honor of my career to be asked to be the “Deer Trustee,” and I have said so many times. I take this responsibility seriously and view it as an opportunity to end my career by giving something back to the animal and the recreational pursuit that has shaped my life.
My career has been full of experiences, involving a diversity of people, places and activities. I made the decision early on NOT to be a typical college professor; instead of the ivory tower existence of publish or perish, I opted for working with people in almost every state and province from Mexico to Canada. It has been my joy to hunt whitetails in every habitat and with every legal weapon. I have hunted on public land and on private land. My passion has been to hunt public Crown land in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the climate is brutal, the hunting is very difficult and the deer are the most challenging. At the same time, I have worked with both small and large landowners to make their lands better for deer, rather than converting their properties to pastures or shopping malls. As a consequence, it has been amusing and frankly frustrating to read or hear someone pronounce me as favoring one group or interest over another; and especially disconcerting to be portrayed as being motivated by material rewards.
Although my deepest feelings are my own, I think this is the time to firmly and completely express what my values and philosophies are. First and foremost, every decision I make regarding deer is based on the answers to three basic questions: 1. Is this good for deer? 2. Is this good for the recreational activity of deer hunting? and 3. Does this save undeveloped land and the rural lifestyle? If the answer is no to any, I turn and walk away. Since I grew up in rural central Texas, I fully understand what being poor is! Hunting was more than recreation, it was a way of life. I am committed to the idea, in order for hunting/fishing to prevail, we have to develop ways to provide outdoor opportunities for all citizens. Public lands should be more than just space where hunters can spend time, they should be managed for quality experiences, especially by young boys and girls who may have grown up like me. Public lands often are the places where Native American hunters have to seek the plants and animals to which they have every right, by law and by what is fair. But providing public hunting and recreational opportunities is a challenge in today’s world, and will have to involve partnerships between agencies, landowners and hunters. That is why I asked Drs. David Guynn and Gary Alt to assist in this great venture; a capstone for our careers. They represent not only the breadth of experiences needed to assure we truly do develop a 21st Century model for deer management and hunting, beginning in Wisconsin, but also the integrity and moral character so common to sportsmen and women—a model in which there is a place for everyone wanting to enjoy our passion and lifestyle. There is no place in this model for pitting hunters against each other or hunters against landowners! There only is a place for a brotherhood and sisterhood of outdoors people who truly love the land and our deer.
Our report and recommendations will stand on the side of the public (hunters, landowners, and other stakeholders), offering a bottom-up approach to wildlife management; one in which individual hunters and landowners have a say in how resources are managed. Our recommendations will be delivered in June to the Governor’s office and will focus on this high ideal; one I never will back away from. My Dad would not be happy if I did.
One of the most egregious postings was on a self-proclaimed “liberal” blog. Until now, I never have read either a liberal or a conservative blog; no time for that nonsense. However, I was sent this posting and upset by the lies presented in it! Is this what has led to the contentious times we live in today? The “author” of the blog distorts the truth beyond belief. As a child, we played the game “gossip,” in which we got in a circle, whispered something in a friend’s ear, then repeated the message on around the circle. By the time the message got back to its source, it did not resemble the original. The blog report is a distorted misrepresentation of a distorted misrepresentation of a conversation more than ten years ago! In other words, it is a poor game of “adult” gossip. The blogger rails on about me hating public lands, hating public land hunters, and most egregiously being disdainful of hunters! All this is “based” on an article published at least 10 years ago by a liberal-leaning state magazine on the controversies between our state agency and private landowners wanting to manage deer. I spent about a day showing the reporter what was involved in deer management and during the tour discussed many issues.
The discussions were just between the two of us and many things were discussed. That was 10 years ago and obviously I cannot remember everything discussed, but I certainly can remember the material related to these accusations. When the article came out I was shocked by the things he attributed to me as saying. Among these were that I had a “200 acre spread,” was one of a handful of “deer breeders” who artificially inseminated deer, national parks were just “wildlife ghettos,” and some individuals in organizations are “cocktail conservationists.” Now, let’s examine the real content of the conversations I had on that day, and the opinions I hold to this day.
First of all my “200 acre spread” serves as our scientific research area, and is not some high dollar hunting ranch. In fact, my school teacher wife and I paid for the land over about 30 years, had some pretty tough times doing so, and have never made a profit on anything. It supports our research and extension work, has trained several graduate students, and hundreds of hunters and landowners come there each year to learn about the latest discoveries in deer and wildlife habitat management. The cost usually is their lunch. As to being a “deer breeder,” a significant part of our research focuses on antler genetics and we have published significant findings on the subject. The only deer that get sold from the facility are to fund our research. As to the part about national parks being wildlife ghettos, I discussed at length how the future of wildlife is not bright, with human population growth and fragmentation of land. I lamented international interests in protecting nature tend to think just setting aside some land as a park is going to solve the problem. It is not! The future of wildlife is to involve all interests, including private landowners in solutions to saving wild and undeveloped land. National parks and wilderness areas often are given over to agencies that lack the funds, expertise and interest in actively managing the land entrusted to them. My comment about “cocktail conservationists” was aimed at well-meaning, wealthy individuals who support establishing a park, kicking the native peoples off their land (or converting their lifestyle to agriculture in an arid land) and then go home thinking they have accomplished something great. In reality, these poor people, now divorced from their lands no longer have a reason to protect the wildlife on it. The much publicized poachers of the world are just poor people willing to risk their lives to feed their families.
The real solution to saving the undeveloped land, our rural and hunting lifestyle and the animals living there is to figure out ways to give all people (landowners, hunters, citizens) a proprietary interest in keeping wild places wild. That does not mean just landowners, it means people living on and around the land who do not own land, but depend on nature for a living; people such as Native Americans. The good example I used was what I saw in Africa, where in some countries people are given interest in the land and its wildlife and derive benefits from these lands. This does not have to mean hunting income, it can includes nature tourism, and other non-consumptive activities. I used the CAMPFIRE Program (Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources) in Zimbabwe as one such program. It is about keeping wildlife and rural communities in a state of coexistence. It began in 1982, when a rancher (Clive Stockil) came up with the idea that if indigenous people were allowed to use the benefits of wildlife, it would incentivize them to protect the land and game. Residents receive a percentage of meat and revenue from game, and wildlife prospered! The program grew to include non-consumptive recreational interviews. Yet, none of this got into the article! After all, it was a piece about mean old private landowners in Texas; and Wisconsin is NOT Texas.
The blog reports of what I said about “communism” is a distortion of my real feelings, as well. We discussed how the top-down approach to game management was the wrong approach (sound familiar in regard to Wisconsin?), and if you give people the incentives and support to manage game animals on private and public lands, as well as a say in how these resources are managed, it is a “win-win” for everyone. The unhappiness with the way whitetails have been managed in Wisconsin came the false idea government always knows best, especially when they have a computer program! The people (hunters, landowners and recreationists) on the land know what is happening there and desperately want to share what they know.
These are my heartfelt feelings about the future of wildlife and hunting; and, I do not apologize or retreat from any of them. Not only has this anonymous blog “toxic effluent” been misleading, it was troubling they could not even get my age straight: 65 rather than 55. I have been around and fought many battles for underdogs, so I can handle the criticism; even if it is distorted, but the one thing that upset me the most was the undertone of the writer demeaning hunters (red neck killers), which is strange since the goal obviously was to steal voters from the deer hunting community.
I cannot undo this slander, but I can be clear. If you read my words above carefully, you should understand where I stand. I STAND WITH THE SPORTSMEN/WOMEN OF WISCONSIN, I STAND WITH THE RURAL LIFESTYLE, I STAND WITH NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS, I STAND WITH HUNTING/FISHING RECREATION, AND I STAND WITH THE WHITE-TAILED DEER! Now, I hope that is clear.