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Coloring in between the NRA lines

Last year the NRA experienced staff and leadership upheaval at its national office in Virginia. Internecine palace intrigue and open warfare cleared out some good patriots and some dedicated, accomplished professionals from NRA staff and leadership roles. Lots of hard feelings permeated the entire organization. Most of it appeared like a petty high school dispute, and asking people who are much more in-the-know about why things worked out the way they did only elicited vehement responses. I was angrily scolded for even asking.

We are not supposed to question why or what!

And that kind of emotion-heavy, non-intellectual response was enough for me to conclude that whatever had happened was a bunch of BS, shallow, power-tussle stuff. The kind of behavior that professional adults should be above, especially with so much on the line for everyone else who loves freedom and liberty.

This is not the first time the NRA has undergone civil war, nor have most other non-profit organizations avoided internal bloodshed for that matter. A supposedly lily-white non-profit I worked for many years ago saw incredible professional bloodshed as a power struggle unfolded. Lots of innocent people there had their careers demolished or severely sidetracked, as they became collateral damage. But the NRA has much more on the line, and we cannot afford these kinds of unforced errors. Power should always be shared, not hoarded; long-long-long time staff should maybe think about passing the torch to younger people; and disputes should be held behind closed doors. We gun owners have enough enemies in the media and the entire Democrat Party to take up all of our time; we don’t need, nor can we afford this kind of infighting.

What exactly happened at NRA HQ will probably never become public information, but the bottom line is that EVP Wayne LaPierre was outed for spending $30,000 of NRA member money a year on expensive suits, NRA president Ollie North tried to play hardball about it and then literally gave up and walked off the field when things didn’t immediately go his way. Collateral damage extended to Chris Cox, the effective longtime NRA/ILA director, who was publicly forced to resign. Over a meaningless text message into which only the most paranoid person could read evil intent. Was like watching Caligula or Herod off their own children to retain complete power.

My impression (impression, not direct knowledge) is that LaPierre brooks absolutely no questioning of his absolute authority and dominance of the organization. And that he will utterly crush anyone who dares to challenge him, even in private, even on small matters. I leave it to you to determine if this is a healthy management style. Or not.

At least that is the way that LaPierre’s illuminating lawsuit against North, Cox, and some others reads. Like a political manifesto, not a legal document. And don’t misunderstand me, I do appreciate Wayne’s long service to the Constitution and the American people.

Out of all this shake-up we (I am a proud NRA Life Member and always will be) got another NRA/ILA executive director. With Chris Cox gone and now operating his own lobbying outfit in DC, the hunt was on for a new face of NRA’s political activism. Out of all of the atomic energy emitted from the great shakeup, nothing really changed. We, the NRA, could have gotten a whole host of people in that position – women, Asians, Blacks, Jews, American Indians, because there are a large number of articulate, intelligent, knowledgeable, experienced, good looking, charismatic pro-Second Amendment activists from each of those groups who could have easily moved into the NRA/ILA position and immediately started moving the ball down the field.

No, I am not into “diversity.” I am into maximizing effectiveness and expanding the NRA’s appeal.

Having some different public faces at NRA would not hurt our beloved organization, and in fact those kinds of small changes would help it a great deal. Think of how a non-Caucasian face might help sell the Second Amendment to non-Caucasian people (and yes, I know this may be a surprise to some, but there are actually a lot of non-Caucasian people legally living in America). It’s a thought, maybe a radical one, but I am sticking to it. Out of love for the Second Amendment, and the NRA; and for America.

Instead of getting someone totally new and different in the NRA/ILA position, we got yet another cookie cutter Caucasian guy, Jason Ouimet. He looks like Chris Cox’s twin, and like Cox, Jason also seems like a very nice man. He is articulate, knowledgeable, and he is not shy (“step on the throat of your opponent”). These are admirable traits. But Ouimet is just another Caucasian guy out of a bazillion Caucasian guys walking the halls of Congress, wearing charcoal suits, and appearing in gunfomercials. NRA needs a little change in this area. We do, we really do.

This time, while we may have missed an opportunity to hire someone different than the usual at the NRA/ILA, and therefore to better promote and market our beloved NRA, I suggest that in the future we, the NRA, consider adding one or two of the following individuals to the NRA public face and payroll. Let’s start grooming them for it now, so their move into that very public role is seamless.

Candidate Number One: Colion Noir (born Collins Idehen, Jr.). Colion is an attorney, he is knowledgeable about all kinds of guns, he is charismatic, funny, chatty, personable, physically fit, articulate, a very good shot, relatable, and unafraid of debate. He is experienced in TV and press. And Colion is cool, like most black people are cool. Cool black people inspire 93.7% of America’s Caucasian and Asian and Hispanic youth to want to be just as cool, just as hip, so there is something to it. Try some of it, you might like it, stiff Caucasian people.

Candidate Number Two: Col. Allen West. Allen is a well-known political quantity , with a long history of bucking the political and US Army establishment for all the right red-blooded patriotic reasons. Allen West has served with distinction in Congress and the US Army, and he has been a tireless and outspoken fighter for civil rights and good governance. He is articulate, charming, plain spoken, experienced, conservative, independent-minded, a strong leader, and a very good speaker. He would be a perfect NRA/ILA executive director.

And that is what I have to say about that.

Great American Outdoor Show Day Six – Fired Up Trump Supporters

Having worked as a volunteer at two different booths and at a separate nearby event at the Great American Outdoor Show here in Harrisburg this week, there is one big takeaway: Attendees are overwhelmingly passionate about President Donald Trump and seeing him be re-elected.

At first the constant parade of Trump 2020 hats going past my eyes did not hit home. Ya know, it’s the biggest outdoor show and gathering in the world, and outdoors folk are naturally conservative, so why not expect to see them…is what I unconsciously thought.

And then as the first day ticked through the first hours, my mind began to start its own “clicker” count of Trump and Trump-Pence hats going by. And mind you, this particular booth is in the Fishing Hall, and a lot of GAOS visitors are there for the hunting guides, the demonstrations, and the opportunity to handle and try out lots and lots of firearms. So this spot I was in is hardly representative of the overall visitor population.

And the mental “clicks” immediately surpassed my ability to keep counting. Somewhere around 150 my mind said that it had had enough of trying to keep track of Trump hats while also greeting visitors and engaging with them on issues of wildlife policy and politics and raffle tickets for guns. So if I saw 150 Trump hats on heads in about 30 minutes, and the rest of the day was just as filled with them, then about 2,600 went by in the day in that particular location.

Another stint at another GAOS booth on another day reinforced the same observation, except I have to admit up front that it was the Trump Campaign booth I was volunteering in. And of course the visitors here naturally self-selected for visits, and about fifty percent had Trump hats. Even those visitors to the Trump Campaign booth who did not have Trump hats were just as FIRED UP as the hat wearers, however.

The Trump Campaign booth was a non-stop feeding frenzy of activity. If you sat down to take a breather, you had to get right back up again to help someone fill out a form. And at any given time there were half a dozen of us working that booth. We were constantly busy.

I know, I know, the GAOS naturally attracts exactly the kind of people who are going to support president Trump anyhow – outdoorsmen, gun owners, pickup truck drivers, etc. But, having attended and volunteered at this show in both of its forms for many years (I started the 2012 vendor boycott that ended the prior Reed Expositions representation of the show, and which eventually resulted in the NRA taking over) I have never before seen anywhere near this level of politicized, politically aware, FIRED UP attendees.

In fact, in years past, it was rare if you got into any kind of political discussion with attendees beyond wildlife policies. Even Second Amendment rights were largely passe to the vast majority of past attendees, who seemed to just want to look at new RVs, camping gear, duck calls, and hunting rifles without being hassled about politics. Politics was off everyone’s radar in the past.

So if this politicized crowd with its nonstop stream of Trump hats is any indication, Trump’s voter base is both larger than in 2016, and a lot more passionate and politically involved. In fact, all of the people I registered to vote or spoke with felt personally invested in the outcome of this November’s election.

And personally dedicated to Donald J. Trump’s re-election.

This bodes very well for President Trump’s re-election prospects.

So God bless flyover country and the NRA.

Thank you Sunday Hunting activists!

Despite many last minute bold-faced betrayals and stabs-in-the-back by the PA Farm Bureau that delayed and delayed and delayed the passage of SB 147, which allowed for hunting on just three Sundays, the bill finally passed the PA House today.

It now goes to the PA Senate for a concurrence vote.  It has already passed the PA senate once before, thanks to the bold leadership of Senator Dan Laughlin from Erie, so this should be a perfunctory and symbolic vote, some time in the next few weeks. After that it goes to Governor Wolf, who has said he will sign it.

Unfortunately, because of the PA Farm Bureau’s vindictive approach, where they knew they were going to lose this issue so they tried to delay its implementation for as long as they could, to deny hunters the pleasure of more hunting time afield with our children, we will not get Sunday hunting this big game season. It will have to come into play in the spring of 2020.

As some of you know, my son and I do not hunt on Saturdays. This put us at a disadvantage with other hunters who do hunt on Saturdays. We would happily trade our Saturdays for the following Sundays, but that was never considered by the PA Farm Bureau, who simply demanded that everyone goose-step in unison and follow their marching orders.

So Isaac and I very much appreciate those Pennsylvanians who empathized with our plight these many years, and who felt our pain when official state law excluded us from participating equally with all other Pennsylvanians in something we love to do, and who stood with us and advocated for our equal rights all this time.

Rosa Parks did not NEED to sit at the front of the bus, but she wanted to, and she deserved to have that choice. For at least three days next year, my son and I will not have to sit at the back of the hunting bus.

Thank you to all who got this done.

Special appreciation goes to Robb Miller, the Governor’s Sportsmen’s Advisor and a long-long time professional politico who has championed Sunday hunting through thick and thin for at least twenty years; to Kathy Davis Gehman, who founded HUSH (Hunters United for Sunday Hunting) and led the legal charge and associated fundraising, in which I was one of the plaintiffs; to Harold Daub, who picked up the HUSH gauntlet when the rest of us were dispirited, donned his armor, and led the next political and social charge; to Kevin Askew and Jahred Klahre, two young guys who joined Harold at HUSH and really put the fine touches on the public outreach that became so effective. National Shooting Sports Foundation staff, the NRA, Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania, PFSC – the PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs (now Conservationists), United Bow Hunters of PA, and many other groups and individuals also helped in both big ways and small to get this passed.

In these politically divided days, it is important to note that this effort took hard work from professional political partisans in both the Democrat and Republicans parties, and also from generic registered Republicans and Democrats at the grass roots level. It is truly a bi-partisan issue, and it took members of both political parties working together to get it this far. In the sense that America and states like Pennsylvania are well served when diverse people find common political ground to solve big issues, this is a victory.

Above all else, this is a victory for individual liberty over Big Government.

And if you don’t like Sunday hunting, you do not have to hunt on Sunday. That is your choice, your freedom.

God bless America.

ACLU: America’s Public Enemy #1

If you love America, and if you are concerned about serious damage done to Americans by individual groups, then there is one organization that really deserves your hatred: The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU.

The ACLU was never really about civil liberties, but it has done enough related legal work over the decades to earn a modicum of credibility. Enough to perhaps justify its name. OK.

But what the ACLU is really and most truly focused on is destroying America’s legal and cultural fabric from the inside.

There is not one bizarre, weird, contradictory, contrarian, way-out-there case the ACLU has not taken in order to further damage America. The ACLU has no inherent right to its subversive anti-America activities; the absence of law enforcement oversight of the ACLU simply reflects Americans’ big-hearted if misplaced tolerance for all kinds of behavior. Even treason. This derives from most Americans’ overconfident sense that America is too big to fail, that we can allow ourselves to be subjected to all kinds of destructive forces, even illegal forces, as part of our open-minded democratic process.

If there is one area where the ACLU has done the most damage to the average American citizen, it is on illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is a health issue for American citizens. Illegal aliens have stabbed, raped, shot, driven over, and tortured countless innocent American citizens, not to mention the billions of tax dollars illegal aliens take from taxpayers every year through their use of schools, hospitals, police services, and other public and semi-public resources. All without paying the same taxes we pay.

It is all take, take, take, and no give.

Illegal aliens are illegal by law. This is not some philosophical jousting match. Illegal entry to any nation is a huge deal. Just look at how Mexico deals with illegal entry from both its south and north: Jail time in the worst conditions. Or worse. There are many illegal immigrants who enter Mexico from southern countries like El Salvador and Colombia who are summarily executed by Mexican police.

But here in America, a free-for-all is under way, where one political party wants as many illegal aliens as possible, in order to then make them legal so they can vote, or give them voting rights even if they do not eventually become legal citizens. This is treasonous behavior, and the ACLU is fighting every day for this to occur.

Dreamers? Are they kidding? What about my own kids, born here in America to law-abiding tax-paying citizen parents? Do they not have their own dreams? Why do the “dreams” of illegal aliens matter more than the dreams and hopes of my own children? And why does the ACLU put the interests of all these illegal invaders above and beyond the rights and interests of American law and of my own family?

Now that so many Americans are angry at the NRA, for what reason I cannot tell, all I can say is fine. If you are going to vilify and seek to destroy a group of gun owners who stand with and for the basic written meaning of the American Constitution, then I am going to seek to destroy a truly evil organization that enjoys seeing average good Americans hurt and killed every day by illegal invaders: The ACLU.

The ACLU has no right to behave the way it does. No American law anywhere says the ACLU can behave as a seditious, treasonous foreign agent. Every ACLU office should be raided by law enforcement looking for the obvious evidence of crimes against the American people. Every ACLU lawyer should be disbarred and jailed for obstruction of justice. Every ACLU bank account must be frozen and liquidated for damages against the American taxpayer.

We Americans can start this process with a good old-fashioned boycott of all ACLU allies and funders. Let’s picket their offices, pelt their staff with rotten eggs, and disrupt their meetings. Let’s call them publicly what they are, murderers, lawless enemies of a law-based nation, using our legal system to artificially advance an unjust cause of government destruction and actual physical warfare against America’s citizens from within.

Bullies with Salami Slicers

Matyas Rakosi was “Stalin’s man in Hungary” in the 1930s-1950s.

Although his Hungarian Communist Party and its allied Socialists earned positions in only about 20% of the Hungarian government in the 1930s through election results, despite making their case to the Hungarian people in election after election, the Communists slowly bullied their way into controlling more positions of societal control, like the Hungarian police and the courts.

And yes, they literally bullied their way into these powerful positions by publicly whining, and complaining, and feigning hurt when rejected, with real displays of petulance and foot-stomping, and crying how unfair it was that they could not fully participate in public life, even though their views were repudiated over and over at the ballot box.

They falsely appealed to good people’s sense of fairness, and lied about their true intentions. Slowly they gained traction.

Technically their police and judicial roles were just twenty percent of the government functions, but in reality, they were critical choke and control points, where legal matters met criminal punishment matters, and where people’s careers and lives could summarily end.

Mind you, the people in these police and judicial roles were Communists and Socialists. Thus, due process, human rights, fairness, facts, the rule of law, etc. did not matter to them. What did matter to them was control, absolute iron-fisted control of everything, and especially of the government, but also the things that make a government run well, like citizens’ free speech rights, the right to peaceably assemble, etc.

From those police and judicial roles, the Hungarian Communists and Socialists picked off their political opponents, one by one. By creating fake accusations based on mere hearsay and insinuations, they frog-marched innocent people into court rooms where honest and fair justice was the very last thing anyone could expect to encounter.

[we are seeing the same process play out in Washington, DC, where the security apparatus has been captured, politicized, and used to destroy political opposition]

In those courts, where the falsely accused defendants were frequently unable to defend themselves, and where clearly manufactured “evidence” was presented against them, the Communist judges handed down arbitrary and cruel sentences. Usually it was death by strangulation, but sometimes by firing squad. One way or another, people who had been Hungarian nationalists, patriots, leaders, good men and women all, were criminally ensnared by their political opponents.

One by one by one, political opponents of the Communists were literally eliminated, and the remaining fence-sitters were bullied into silence and acquiescence.

Person by person, office by office, Hungary’s Communists gained control of new parts of Hungary’s government, and one by one they bent those new offices into reaching their goal of complete political and social domination.

Eventually, Hungary went from one of Europe’s oldest, greatest, most creative, most successful nations, to one of darkness, where freedom and liberty were unimaginable. And where the cruelest physical tortures and public humiliations were not only imaginable, they were happening nearly daily across the nation.

What better way to bully a populace than to make public examples of people?

[here in central Pennsylvania we had one notable attempt at public shaming and modern public execution some years ago when the thugs at PennFuture tried to get a local meteorologist fired from his TV weather news job because he refused to publicly bow before their claim of man-made global warming…same old same old!]

From Soviet Russia, uber tyrant Josef Stalin smiled, as his minions in Hungary slowly dismantled a free nation and put it under the control of Soviet Communism. Stalin’s chief architect and implementer of Communism in Hungary was Matyas Rakosi.

Rakosi joked about slowly but surely eliminating his political opponents by “slicing them like salami,” one at a time, until the entire group opposing him was gone.

Exactly this is now happening in America. Right now. Under our feet and in front of our noses.

We don’t call it Communism here, but the Political Correctness now slowly taking over our nation is just as cruel, fascist, and intolerant as any Communist regime in Europe ever was. PC’s minions here in America are just as devoted to getting full control of everything as their European counterparts were just two generations ago.

It is worse in Europe now, where fascism is roaring back to life, reincarnated as PC. Two days ago a British court held a man guilty (of something vague and subjective) and DESTINED FOR JAIL for the awful crime of teaching his cute little dog to do the Hitler salute on YouTube. No lie. Meanwhile, England is disintegrating under the weight of petty crime, which cannot be punished, because the perpetrators are overwhelmingly “protected populations.”

America’s best institutions have been completely captured by PC: The media, the educational system from top to bottom, government, the military, communal institutions, even places like Chautauqua Institution. All turned into weapons, implementing PC and control, and the elimination of political opposition.

Nearly all of these places have routine public humiliations, shaming, and summary “executions” of political misfits. Chautauqua Institution fired one of its best vice presidents because she was too supportive of Israel’s right to exist. Universities routinely fire professors who exhibit any free thought beyond the arbitrary bounds set by PC.

This weekend we will see another Communist public bullying event in Washington, DC.

It is a fake march about nothing, though on the outside this march is against private gun ownership and the NRA. The march is not about the actual facts, actions, processes and programs (like “PROMISE”) that resulted in Nikolas Cruz shooting his fellow Parkland students.

Rather, the march is aimed at falsely accusing and publicly shaming America’s legal gun owners and their chosen private organization, the NRA, of having been complicit in Cruz’s massacre.

When in fact, it is the gun control groups and their political enablers who are the most responsible for that massacre.

We are seeing Rakosi’s old “salami tactics” right here in front of us, playing out again. Trial-by-media, false accusations, public shaming, bullied citizens slowly giving up more and more of their control of their government to tyrants, who really just “mean well.”

We have one political party aggressively acting as the official vehicle for PC, and the other political party pretending to put up a fight, while focused on its pensions, power, secret pay-offs, and crony capitalism.

The question is, will we be complacent and compliant, like the Hungarians, and watch our freedoms be slowly pried away from us by career politicians and unaccountable bureaucrats, under false pretenses?

Or will we fight back?

One way you can fight back is to not stand on the sideline while the salami slices are being made. When you see your neighbor, friend, colleague or fellow activist get picked up and picked off and spirited away for the kangaroo court event, you can and should intervene.

Stop Sacrificing Our Children on the Altar of Gun Control

http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2018/02/making_schools_gun-free_just_t.html#incart_river_index

Making schools gun-free just turns them into killing fields | Opinion

Updated Feb 27; Posted Feb 27, 2018

By Guest Editorial

By Josh First

If public schools are dangerous sitting duck areas, falsely called “gun-free zones,” it is solely the fault of the myriad gun-control groups that have tried to stigmatize firearms to the point of demanding that historic reenactors use sticks and brooms, instead of historic muzzleloaders.

If the public is angry about lax school security, they can blame groups like CeaseFirePA, who hate guns so much that they would rather see children remain at dire risk than admit guns have a constructive and valuable role in America, and especially in public schools.

Gun control advocates increasingly admit they are anti-gun prohibitionists, who would really like to see guns removed from private ownership, or so heavily regulated to the point where government bureaucrats determine our individual liberties.

These wealthy, control-freak pressure groups are responsible for insane policies like “gun-free zones” at places like Parkland High School.

Time after heartbreaking time we see that a gun-free zone is anything but that, and crime after crime America’s gun control groups pull political stunts and try to blame lawful gun ownership and the NRA for the heartbreaking results of disarming law-abiding citizens and placing them at the mercy of criminals.

A gun-free zone is a foolish, impractical pipe dream promoted by gun prohibitionists.

In reality, it is a killing field, where only the criminal attacker has a gun, and where the victims can at best put up token resistance, like Parkland’s heroic football coach, Aaron Feis (imagine if Feis had a gun, instead of his body, to defend the students with).

Effectively defending gun-free zones, such as schools, is an impossibility that society does not inflict on other public venues, like planes, museums, government buildings, politicians, sports events and music concerts.

Trying to end the problem by blaming guns, the NRA, and then disarming the law-abiding citizenry, is an indication that gun control groups are not serious about finding a solution to Columbine or Parkland. Rather, they are shamelessly exploiting a situation they alone created to advance their unconstitutional and anti-America agenda.

Guns are protected in our Second Amendment for a reason, and not because our founders were afraid of deer or ducks. Our founders knew that an adequately armed citizenry was all that stood between freedom and tyranny. Yes, gun ownership in America is unlike any other nation, with good reason.

It was an armed citizenry that created the unique freedoms we all enjoy today, and that will never change.

It is time for serious people to hold gun control groups accountable for the carnage in our schools and demand that they stop sacrificing our schoolchildren on their altar of gun control.

Dear CeaseFirePA, stop standing in the way of safe schools; schools are not the place to teach children your anti-gun message.

Josh First, a businessman, writes from Harrisburg

[This was originally titled “Stop Sacrificing our Schoolchildren on the Altar of Gun Control,” but the openly liberal Patriot News opinion editor apparently believed that was too persuasive, and changed it]

Our dear friend, Don Heckman

Don Heckman needs little introduction in the sporting circles of Pennsylvania and the East Coast.

A founding member and long time leader of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Don’s cheerful, generous and kind personality and locomotive work ethic helped re-establish wild turkeys to Pennsylvania in the 1970s, when the conventional wisdom said it was impossible.

Don was also a powerful advocate for the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, the National Rifle Association, and many other similar groups to which he was a devoted life member.

He was a persuasive advocate for the continued success of the Pennsylvania Game Commission on the whole, and its land acquisition and science-based habitat management programs in particular.

Don was both an incredibly good hunter, and at times also exasperating to hunt with. This is because of his own unique standards: He refused to shoot a gobbler (male turkey), unless it was both strutting and gobbling at the same time. Sneaking toms, peeping toms, cautious toms, running or flying toms he would not shoot, no matter how close or in range of his gun. None of those were sporting birds, in his estimation. Only a completely unaware longbeard was worthy.

Don and I turkey hunted together a number of times over the years, mostly in the central Pennsylvania farmland we both love. While it would be easy to regale Don’s skill as a caller and hunter, two instances come to mind that sum up the attraction of having Don as your hunting partner.

First was his wry humor. He meant it with love, of course.

“Mmmmmm, uh huh. That sounds like a turkey,” was a frequent back handed compliment from Don as I was scratching away on a friction call, mostly slates.

He wouldn’t care that my calling had actually lured in a nice longbeard to within range. That was no inoculation against the compliment. For Don, it was important to remind me that my calling could always improve, whenever he had the chance. And he was right, of course, as much as I do not like to admit it.  That’s what good teachers are about. He was, after all, a many time champion caller whose skill I could only marvel at and never hope to replicate.

And just to prove his point by spiking the ball, Don might decide to stand up and switch locations even as the gobbler was determinedly marching across a cut corn field directly to us.

Watching the alarmed bird take wing and sail to the other side of the valley, the now standing Don said to my sitting figure, “Yeah, he must’ve seen you move.”

Movement is the biggest no-no of all in turkey hunting, and rookies move a lot. Even veterans get caught moving their eyeballs by wary gobblers fifty yards out. To attribute the alarmed and rushed exit of a wild turkey to a hunter’s movement is a gentle way of saying “Your hunting skill needs some work.” Even if it didn’t at that very moment.

And then there was that truly exasperating standard of his, the one where he would only shoot a gobbler in full strut AND gobbling. That performance is like looking up in the sky and seeing the sun and moon align, because a longbeard gobbler that is both strutting and gobbling is completely in the moment. He feels no fear or wariness that usually accompanies most alluring hen calls by hunters.

As I am not ever going to approach Don’s skill as a turkey hunter (he has racked up more annual grand slam turkey hunts species-wise and across multiple states than anyone else I know), I feel fortunate to shoot any gobbler, strutting or not.

And it is a fact that my poor skill as a turkey caller usually results in birds sneaking in, peering in, or darting in for a quick look before running like hell to get out of Dodge, or “putting” (turkeys make a putt-putt alarm call when they are suspicious enough to flee) from 40 yards out, so that most of the gobblers I have killed were shot mid-stride to the next county.

Not in full strut AND gobbling, like Don would have.

One morning in Dauphin County about four or five years ago, Don and I were lying in a field while I called to turkeys below us. They came well within range, but the lead gobbler, a huge bruiser boss bird, stopped gobbling and was “only” fanned out and puffed up, strutting. Such an impressive performance was insufficient to move Don’s trigger finger backwards, despite my harsh whispers of expletive-laced encouragement.

Nope. Instead, Don stood up in plain view of the flock, maybe thirty yards away, with his shotgun trained on the head of the strutting gobbler, and he began simultaneously calling with his mouth diaphragm call.

Wild turkey hunters know that at the sight of a man standing up within two hundred yards, let alone thirty, wild turkeys scatter like dust in a hurricane. They are gone in the blink of an eye.

Not these birds. Don’s calling was so good, so realistic, so enticing that the entire flock turned to look at us with concern for the grossly misshapen hen addressing them, and then they calmly walked away.

Don never shot, though he would have easily bagged any of the gobblers there. He just said “Oh, well, let’s go try another spot.”

Don is now in another spot, a turkey chaser’s dream spot, I am sure. He was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor in late January this year, and he rode it out with the help of his devoted wife, Sandy, for the next few months, until he died on the night of May 17th, in the central Pennsylvania region he loved so much.

Like all of his friends and acquaintances, I will miss Don Heckman enormously. Sitting in a turkey blind I cried yesterday, thinking about his loss. Don died way too young, barely into his retirement, and not in time for me to prove to him that really, I can get a gobbler to strut AND gobble in range. But that is what I will continue to do, to aspire to, in Don’s memory, as representative as it was of one of the last great generational wildlife conservation leaders in Pennsylvania and in America.

Bye, old friend, boy do I miss you.

 

Risk & Sacrifice separate grass roots activists from insulated party professionals

In 2009, like many other citizens shocked at the sudden, dramatic changes and corruption re-shaping America, I greatly increased my political activity.

Part of a grass-roots wave of citizen activists that year, I ran in a four-way US Congressional primary.  It’s a long story, and in short I ended up liking one of my opponents so much I hoped he would win.  Along the way, several people closely affiliated with the Republican Party tried to dissuade me from running, assuring me that a certain sitting state senator would beat the incumbent Democrat, congressman Tim Holden.

Our campaign still netted about 25% of the vote in a four-way race, which is solid performance, especially considering that one of the candidates had run before, one was a sitting state senator, one was a well-known political activist, and we had gotten a late start and spent little money.

In the general election, Holden crushed the Republican state senator who won that primary race by 400 votes.

Fast forward to January 2012, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejects a new, heavily gerrymandered Republican redistricting plan.  At the heart of the court’s decision was the “egregious” and grossly unnatural shape of the 15th state senate district, where I happened to then reside, and still do now, too.

The PA Supreme Court called the new district “the iron cross,” and indeed it looked like a cross shape and was iron clad against upstart citizens asserting themselves in political races reserved for establishment members only.

(My current congressional district is the same, with only about ten blocks of Harrisburg City included in what is otherwise a large, rural district reaching the Maryland state line. Guess who lives in that ten-block area. Yes. Me. )

Given my previous public interest in running for the 15th senate seat, it was obvious that excluding our family’s home from that district was purposeful: It was an attempt by political bosses to artificially silence and thwart an otherwise good candidate who does not see his job as serving political bosses.

The court’s ruling allowed a handful of us to wage a tremendous grass roots 11th hour campaign for that senate seat, getting our start two days into the three-week ballot petition process.

Although we did not win, we did give the political bosses a hell of a challenge by winning a huge number of votes with only pennies spent.

A year later, York businessman Scott Wagner beat those same political bosses for his state senate seat, in a historic write-in campaign against a million dollars of party money. The race, and its remarkable result, drew national attention.  Clearly the voters responded to Wagner’s grass roots campaign in the face of a party juggernaut.

This evening I spent some time speaking with an NRA staffer.  We met at the Great American Outdoor Show, which is the former Eastern Outdoors Show and now NRA-run at the PA Farm Show complex, and he gave me an opportunity to vent a bit and explain my frustration with the NRA.

To wit: An increasing number of grass roots activists now perceive the NRA as merely an arm of the Republican Party establishment political bosses.  The same bosses who oppose conservative/ independent candidates like me and Wagner.

See, back in 2012, I was the only NRA member in that three-way primary race (to be fair, one candidate had been an NRA member for several months, which could never, ever be construed as a political move, even though he was the candidate selected by the same political bosses who created a safe district for him to run in), but the NRA refused to get involved.

If there was any endorsement that was deserved in that race, it would have been the NRA endorsing their one and only member, and a decades-long member at that – Me. (Firearm Owners Against Crime did endorse the one pro-Second Amendment candidate, thank you very much, Kim Stolfer)

And then tonight it dawned on me on the way home from the Farm Show complex…two basic but defining experiences separate grass roots activists and candidates from the party establishment: Risk taking and making sacrifices.

By definition, grass roots candidates take many risks and make many sacrifices, both of which are seen as signs of weakness by the establishment.

Self-starters motivated by principle and passion for good government, the grass roots candidates and activists have to reach into their own pockets to get any traction, and they often risk their jobs and businesses in challenging the establishment power structure.  To get invitations to events, they have to reach out and ask, knock on doors, make phone calls.  They have to cobble together campaigns made of volunteers and pennies, and they usually are grossly under-funded now matter how successful they are.

On the other hand, party establishment candidates have the ready-made party machine in their sails from the get-go.  Money, experienced volunteers, paid staffers, refined walking lists, the establishment can muster a tremendous force in a relatively short time.  Establishment candidates also enjoy artificial party endorsements (formal or informal) that give them access to huge pots of party campaign funds or a leg-up in other ways.

Establishment groups like NRA view grass roots candidates the same way as the party establishment views them- trouble makers.

In short, few if any establishment candidates put in their own money to drive their campaigns, take risks, or make sacrifices in their pursuit of elected office. Everything is done for them by other people.

So long as party establishment staff and officials and groups like NRA maintain this artificial lifestyle and view, this alternate reality, this disconnect between the grass roots voters and the party that needs their votes will continue and deepen.

So long as the voters see grass roots activists and candidates struggling against an unfair arrangement that is created solely for the preservation of political power and profit, they will continue to migrate away from the party and support people they can relate to the most.

An elder in my family once told me that taking risks and making sacrifices build character and lead to success, and although a 26-year career full of both risks and sacrifices has often left me wondering at the truth of that claim, I increasingly see it bearing out in electoral politics.

The voters are not dumb; they can see the pure American earnestness in their fellow citizen fighting City Hall.  They respect risk-taking and sacrifices made in the pursuit of saving America.  That is a strong character which no establishment candidate can or ever will have.

Those political parties and groups that ignore that strong American character do so at their own risk, because they will lose the supporters they need to be successful.

 

On Being a Dinosaur

I am a dinosaur.

In so many ways, my beliefs, ideals, values, education, outlook, hobbies, lifestyle, and behavior seem as outdated and as uncommon as the dinosaurs that died out long ago.

Put another way, I am one of the Last of the Mohicans, certainly not THE last, but one of a dwindling group that sees the world differently than the corrosive pop culture fed daily to Americans by Hollywood.

And I am proud to be this way, to be a patriot, to exalt individual citizen rights and liberties above government intervention, to take risks and make sacrifices in a free market capitalist society that rewards hard work and penalizes laziness.  American Sniper, Act of Valor, and Lone Survivor are the only movies that moved me in many years because I believe in military heroes, although the Lord of the Rings productions are highly entertaining.

Meanwhile, pop culture would have every American equally unhappy, equally deprived of their rights and liberties, equally planted on a couch eating junk food and watching mindless TV shows that are at war with the underpinnings of Western Civilization.

(A short, hard-hitting article about Hollywood’s destructiveness by one of its most famous writers is here.)

And I am also an old-fashioned “Hook-and-Bullet” conservationist, a hunter, life-long gun owner and fisherman, an NRA member and even more so, a FOAC member who means it when I say “You can have my guns when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.”

But did I mention that conservation is a huge part of my identity? You know, farmland preservation, wildlife habitat protection, forest land acquisition for public ownership, and wilderness areas where I can hunt, fish, camp, and hike without seeing or hearing another human being for as long as I am out there.

And why is it so hard for so many traditionalists to see that traditional American values are directly tied to, and derive from, rural landscapes? And that our remaining rural landscapes are precious fragments of the great American frontier, on which our national identity and Constitution were forged?

So why wouldn’t a conservative want to conserve those rural landscapes that gave birth to his identity and values, that enshrine Constitutional rights and self-reliance?

For some strange reason, an increasing number of gun owners are not hunters, and do not really show that they care about wildlife populations or wildlife habitat, or about land and water conservation.  When I attend meetings at different sportsmen’s clubs, like Duncannon Sportsmen, and I hear the Conservationist’s Pledge, my heart wells up and I nearly get as teary-eyed as when I hear the national anthem, or the Pledge of Allegiance.  It doesn’t help that most of us in the room are sporting lots of white in our beards and on our heads.  The next generation seems to have taken a lot for granted, because all of the battles we fought decades ago bore such abundant fruit.

All this makes me a dinosaur, and although I recognize it, I am not happy about it.  I feel like I am watching the greatest nation on Planet Earth disintegrate under my feet, and it scares me, makes me sad, and makes me want to do what I can to try to prevent it from happening.

I do not want traditional American values to go extinct, like the dinosaurs, because although those values may not be in vogue right now, America was founded on them and the nation cannot successfully continue on without them.

Should I riot? Burn my neighborhood?

The other day a cop stepped out in front of my vehicle and motioned me to pull over.

“Explosives checkpoint,” he said, leaning into the truck cab and looking around.

“Got a driver’s license?” he asked.

Policemen stood all around, serious faces, thumbs hooked into gear belts, a dog, a strange looking machine pointed at the truck.

“Sure,” I said, digging through my Benjamin Franklin replica wallet for the ID. “Anything to help you guys.”

And I meant it, even while I did not like being pulled over for nothing. It feels like a police state.  And we hunt. The truck is full of high powered rifle rounds, shotgun shells, tools, knives. What happens if the police find these things? They’re not explosives, but in the context of their search, they might be alarming.

And consider that the bumper has NRA stickers, Don’t Tread on Me, etc. My politics might be provocative.  Who knows where that can lead.

A couple minutes later, a different officer walked over to the cab, handed me my license, and said thanks. He apologized for the inconvenience. We made chit chat about our kids, the high cost of college, and other stuff.

We parted ways on friendly terms.

Was I profiled?

Was it my pickup truck? My conservative stickers? My tough guy appearance?

Do they think I’m a “domestic terrorist”?

Should I get mad about this? Riot? Burn down my neighborhood?

I went and ate lunch. And forgot about this uncomfortable moment until now. Nope, I never took it personally