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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Sportsmen - next time you vote

Sunday, April 27, 2003

I have always said: "Vote for the best person for the job." Either Republican or Democrat it does not matter -- just vote for the best person.

Believe it or not while attending the 27th Annual Wild Turkey Federation Convention in Nashville, the most inspirational speech on why honor, heritage, harvest and hope are the life force of sportsmen and conservationist across this great nation, came from a politician.

During the speech I had no clue whether this person was a Republican or Democrat and it did not matter. What mattered, is he told the truth about what hunting is all about.

I believe as a sportsmen and conservationist I have the obligation not to let one of the most historical speeches on the conservation of our wildlife and the heritage of hunting pass in the night.

The following is from a man, a sportsman, a conservationist, and a politician I had never met before the speech and you should not meet until the very end of his speech.

Read carefully and with the future of hunting in mind. Ask yourself one question next time you vote.

Has your governor, representative, congressman, etc. ever stood up for the sportsmen, or wildlife like this man does?

Speech at the National Wild Turkey Federation Convention (Feb. 15, 2003)


Though it's the love of turkey hunting that brings us here to Nashville… if you're a hunter, it really doesn't matter what your "game of choice" is.

Regardless of whether the hairs on the back of your neck respond to the snort of a whitetail buck…the chatter of a dozen green-heads coming in to light…or the cackle of an early morning Gobbler shaking off the morning chill…hunters tend to share some pretty important ideals about family, our heritage, our country, and our freedom that builds a powerful bond between us.

You can talk to a die-hard, third-generation Muley hunter in northern Colorado or a bundled-up, blue-nosed city slicker freezing his keaster off in a duck blind in South Arkansas…and I think you'll find a lot in common.

In my mind, the Hunter's America has a lot in common with the America our forefathers envisioned for us.

To me, the Hunter's America is the America that I call home. To me, the Hunter's America is one of HONOR, HERITAGE, HARVEST and HOPE.


We hear a lot about honor…We see it revered in a documentary about a fallen war hero who gave his life to protect a comrade.

We talk about honor as a virtue of the heroic and something that gains acclaim and commendation. And we're right to glorify those who make such conspicuous sacrifices in the name of honor.

But there's also another kind of honor. It's one that's no less important -- but which usually goes unnoticed by most. It's the honor that we live with in our daily lives -- the honor we try to build into our children's fiber not just to be triggered in times of drama or crisis, but as something they live with as part of their character.

We want them to be honorable not just when the world is looking, but just as importantly, when there's no one looking.

And the life of a hunter is one marked by honor. The very act of going into the great outdoors to play by the rules of Mother Nature honors the Creator in a very real and interactive way.

Who among us hasn't had a moment in the outdoors when we were alone amidst the wonder of creation and felt compelled to thank God for giving us that day -- that hour -- that special moment?

You may not have said it out loud, and you don't have to be an "every-Sunday-church-goer" to feel it, but in the life of every hunter, there comes a moment (hopefully many) when you truly understand the "JOY" of life and you honor your creator by honoring His creation.

And hunting teaches sportsmanship. It teaches our children to play by the rules -- the rules of man and the rules of nature. It teaches that life is something given by God and is to be respected, in all its forms.

We understand that God put man in a very special role of stewardship over this creation of His…a role that requires us to study his creation and play an active role in maintaining it. We don't simply kill game to practice the art of killing -- for there's no honor in that.

We harvest game to feed our families and to preserve and protect a species.

We teach our children to respect the firearm as a tool of freedom, not as an implement of careless destruction. A child who learns the doctrines of marksmanship and safe gun-handling from a parent or another caring adult will rarely ever misuse or abuse a firearm to hurt another human being.

To the hunter, the firearm is a means of providing for his family and protecting his way of life.

And in this day and age where that freedom is increasingly being threatened, it's simply not enough to teach our children to respect firearms - we must actively defend their right to own them when they come of age.

Let us not forget that the 2nd Amendment is the one that makes all other rights possible… and let us teach our children that being active in democracy is the surest and the only way to preserve it.


Hunting is also about heritage. How many of you had the great joy of being taught to hunt by a parent? I would guess the majority of us learned from a close relative.

The heritage of hunting is one of the most enduring and unchanging traditions of the American way of life. Though our guns may shoot a little straighter today…and we may wear more expensive clothing with better camouflage and use a GPS to keep from getting lost in the woods…the way we hunt is really not that different from the way Dad taught us.

It's really not that different from the way his Dad taught him. How many of you own a favorite shotgun or rifle that your Dad passed down to you?

It may not be the best gun in the world…it may not be in the best shape…it may have a split in the stock or some rust spots from too many long wet days in the winter weather…it may need more TLC than any other gun you own and you may not ever even really get to shoot it much. But my guess is -- that's the last gun on Earth you'd ever part with. Why? Because that gun is part of your family's heritage.

It connects you to your Dad or your Grandpa or your Uncle because you know that just as you hold that gun in your hands, they held it in theirs in some far-off field, taking quail on the wing or trudging through knee-deep snow tracking a 10-point buck. That well-worn piece of walnut and steel is a tangible connection to who you are and where you come from. Can you imagine a Dad passing down as a family heirloom a favorite video game?

I can't. Our heritage is truly precious and I hope we all treat it as such in our own individual ways.

Heritage is about family traditions and a way of life that makes a child feel connected to something larger than himself.

And for those of us in this room, Hunting is our heritage.


Hunting is also about the harvest…the satisfaction of planning for something, working hard and ultimately acquiring it. It's about a work ethic upon which success is predicated. When the National Turkey Federation was founded in 1973, there were an estimated 1.3 million turkeys inhabiting America's woodlands.

Thanks to the combined work of government wildlife agencies and the Turkey Federation's many volunteers and partners, that number has grown to an estimated 5.6 million. And the number of turkey hunters has doubled to nearly 3 million.

In my home state of Arkansas, our turkey numbers are at an all-time high -- surpassing 155,000 birds.

Our 74 Federation chapters have spent more than $1 million to enhance habitat, purchase equipment, acquire land and educate the public about conservation.

You see, a true hunter knows it's not just about the taking of game -- it's also about providing for game the next season. In almost every species of hunted animal in the United States, it's the hunters, hunting associations and wildlife agencies that protect and grow the population.

The environmentalists and tree-huggers may talk a good game, but it's the hunting men and women of this country that truly protect the wildlife they hunt.

That's a concept that many refuse to understand, but one that bears repeating…Conservation is deeply embedded in the heart of the hunter.

Planning and working for the harvest are essential to who we are.


And lastly, but maybe most importantly, hunting is about HOPE.

Hope is what guides us through life and what guides us through the woods on an early Spring morning. Hope is what we thrive on as human beings and without it, we simply perish.

A hunter never walked into the woods that didn't hope TODAY was the day that the big one -- a gobbler he could tell his grandkids about - was going to come clucking around that old walnut stump by the thicket.

I've never cast a spinner bait into the Arkansas River that I didn't think had at least a chance of pulling out a largemouth.

HOPE is the central element of the hunt…without it, we would just stay at home in a warm bed.

But the hope we imbue in our children through hunting is so much more meaningful in terms of their lives.

Kids who grow up with HOPE become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow -- the visionaries who understand that good things rarely ever come just out of sheer luck -- they almost always require patience, preparation and determination.

And these are the very qualities we teach them when we take them afield with us.

I believe God has a special place in his heart for the hunters and the fisherman of this world - for no one appreciates His creation more.

God watches these ever hopeful souls rise morning after morning in search of a dream that is as much about His wonder and greatness as it is about mounting a big rack on the wall or making a fan from turkey feathers. We have HOPE when we're hunting because we know that God has provided a bountiful world for us.

We know that in pursuing its rewards, we're fulfilling his charge to us to be good stewards and make the most out of the world He's created.

We HUNT and, in turn, we HOPE because He gives us reason to HOPE. And in our many years spent afield, we do an awful lot of living along the way.

-- Mike Huckabee, governor of Arkansas


If you answered yes to the question, the heritage of hunting and the preservation and conservation of our wildlife and it's habitat, will be reflected in your kid's eyes some day.

If you answered no to the question, you are left with two choices. You can the next time you vote find out who openly supports the heritage of hunting and the preservation and conservation of our wildlife and it's habitat, and make a change.

If you fall short of that goal you can just turn to you child and eventually your child's child and tell them sorry. Only you can have that power.

Hope to see you in the woods or on the waters. Horntagger.