- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A national hunter advocacy group, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, is mad as an angry grizzly with claims by an animal-rights organization that the two are working hand-in-hand to stop a pet food company’s series of animal shows.

Bud Pidgeon, the Sportsmen’s Alliance’s president, said, “The most outrageous anti-hunting group in the United States is promoting a working relationship with the nation’s leading sportsmen’s advocacy group when, in fact, none exists.”

What happened was that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) published a report that stated the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance had added its voice to PETA’s call for a boycott of pet food maker Iams.

While it is true that the Sportsmen’s Alliance is encouraging sportsmen to contact the Iams Company (The Washington Times outdoors column, Jan.14), the hunters’ organization wants to make it clear that its call to action is in no way related to the anti-hunters’ objection to the Iams Company’s testing of pet food on animals, or to the objectives of any other animal-rights group.

All the Sportsmen’s Alliance wants is an opposition to Iams’ sponsorship of Pet Fest America, a series of animal shows developed by the country’s largest anti-hunting group, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

“Every dollar HSUS receives to fund programs represents money that is freed up for use in campaigns to end hunting, trapping and fishing,” said Pidgeon. “We continue to encourage sportsmen to participate in campaigns to educate corporate decision makers about the dangers of affiliating with animal-rights organizations and causes.”

For more information about the Sportsmen’s Alliance, ussportsmen.org.

Handicapped hunters had a ball — In mid-January, 11 hunters from seven states gathered at Sedgefield Plantation, near Selma, Ala., to enjoy fellowship, good food and exceptional deer hunting. So why is that a big deal? Each of the hunters lives with a severe handicap and a frequently uncertain medical future. Their dream wish had been to trade trips to hospitals and doctors offices for a soul-refreshing outing in the woods — to watch the forest come alive at dawn; to sit quietly and watch wildlife; to hunt deer.

They got their wishes and more. The head of the national Buckmasters organization, TV hunting star Jackie Bushman, joined with Sedgefield Plantation owner Jimmy Hinton and a number of entertainers to play host to the handicapped hunters on 12,000 acres of prime deer land.

Four of the attendees were in wheelchairs. One used a walker. Disabilities and illnesses included cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, spinal tumors, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), aplastic anemia, and quadriplegia. Despite all that, there was venison to take home if they wanted. Great success was enjoyed as the handicapped hunters sat in special blinds with volunteer guides who would coach them on whether to shoot whenever deer appeared — and at Sedgefield, deer show up at practically all hours of the day, that’s how plentiful they are.

For Bushman, who founded Buckmasters and its nonprofit arm, the Buckmasters American Deer Foundation (BADF), and who hunts all of North America, this is his favorite hunt. “We have 26 TV shows,” said Bushman, “and if they told me we could only do one, this would be it.”

Part of that hunter network includes Buckmasters BADF Disabled Hunter Services director David Sullivan’s “by-request-only” e-mail list. Thousands of disabled hunters subscribe to it. Every year Sullivan helps hundreds more to connect with other hunters and find ways to make their dreams reality. Interested? Sullivan can be reached at [email protected]

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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