Don’t dismiss Ted Nugent for being a windbag. The rock-star hunter is enviable to some degree because he’s so good at it.
Like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, The Nuge is a marketing genius with whom sportsmen must reckon.
The 63-year-old musician can drum up a few million ears to his often controversial opinions on guns or hunting as effectively as the Humane Society of the United States can milk money from little old ladies.
Sportsmen can’t ignore HSUS – or Ted Nugent.
During his ear-punishing concert in Spokane last Thursday, Nugent said his “Spirit of the Wild” TV hunting program is the No. 1 show on the Outdoor Channel.
He told me in a preconcert interview that he reached a potential audience of a billion people in one week when he was interviewed by the BBC, CNN’s Larry King, radio shock jock Howard Stern and a dozen national talk shows plus numerous publications.
He also told his fans the instrumental interlude he played last week after “Cat Scratch Fever” was “the greatest guitar lick in the history of the world.”
It’s all debatable.
But millions of people listen to what The Nuge says about hunting and game management, and some of them believe it.
Some sportsmen consider him a role model while others despise his foul-mouthed fanaticism.
That’s why I’m devoting a little more space to his passage through the Inland Northwest.
The Nuge – and too many others – are masters at dividing sportsmen in an age when it’s never been more important that they should come together to challenge development and preserve habitat.
“What is your common ground with all hunters, and on what main issues are you content to be divisive?” I asked him.
“First of all, if you’re divisive with me, you’re wrong,” he answered. “I’ve never missed a hunting season in 62 years. …
“If somebody tells me I can’t have a scope on my muzzleloader, he’s an idiot. …
“The divisiveness comes from an ignorance, a pettiness and a mean spiritedness.”
Nugent probably knows that anyone can mount a scope on a muzzleloader and hunt in a Washington modern rifle season, but that gun would not be allowed in the “primitive weapons” season.
He’s not divisive; regulations are, Nugent contends.
“So the government needs to stay out of everything” he said. “Let we the people decide.”
His no-compromise mantra whips his right-wing base into a rousing round of “Oh yeah!” and “Right on.”
But he conveniently neglects to mention that most of the rules he condemns were enacted at the request of sportsmen or at least with considerable support after discussion and debate.
“We the people,” is one of the most common phrases Nugent used in the interview I conducted before his Spokane concert. He’s also used the phrase when he’s shared stage spotlights with Sarah Palin and the president of the NRA.
“I think the most important political office in this country is we the people,” he told me.
“If (politicians) don’t respond to our evidence and demands, we the people vote them out….”
“The government needs to stay out of everything. Let we the people decide.”
But when he says we the people shouldn’t tolerate “more than about nine grizzly bears in Yellowstone Park” or we the people “should kill every coyote on sight” it’s clear that we the people isn’t an inclusive term.
Hunters across the country routinely dump their woes on him regarding overregulation and wildlife officer harassment, he said.
Maybe that’s a product of the hunters he attracts with his love for baiting and whacking and stacking large numbers of critters and slinging lead with semiauto and even automatic weapons.
In my hunting camp, we hoist a toast at the end of the rare day when we get checked by a wildlife enforcement officer. We play by the rules and we wish more officers were in the field making sure other hunters are doing the same.
During the Fred Bear song in his concert, The Nuge is featured in a video skewering about a dozen whitetail bucks with arrows, pumping his arms in victory and screaming with joy after each one.
“I’m an entertainer,” he said, explaining why he should be excused for his hyperbole or for suggesting Obama should suck on the end of a replica assault rifle he’s waved on stage.
That’s a pretty good pillow to fall back on for someone who’s a pro at shooting off his mouth.
It’s a cushion the politicians he criticizes don’t have; nor do the wildlife biologists who must make the hard decisions of matching science with the wide range of public opinion.
“I rock and roll all summer long,” he screams to his concert crowds. “The rest of the year I just kill (rhymes with fit).”
That approach to hunting is repulsive in my camp, where we still approach every downed animal with a sense of quiet respect.
We are thankful for what God has provided for the thrill of the stalk and the feast to follow.
We the (other) people who make up a significant segment of sportsmen don’t need to whack ’em and stack ’em to get that sense of fulfillment.