Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Former hunter Earle D. Hightower, 82, who recently sent 600 cards to property owners in Garrett County, Md., — ostensibly to show his displeasure with the much-ballyhooed black bear hunt — says 40 percent of all hunters are mentally unstable, drug addicts or drunks. It could be he meant they are all three.

Now, I don’t know about drug addicts or being a drunk. I have never touched mind-altering drugs and rarely imbibe. When I do take a sip, it’s usually no more than one beer or a glass of Riesling.

However, Mr. Hightower has an ally in his accusation that we hunters are mentally unstable: my wife.

There have been times when I left the house before daylight and didn’t return until long after sunset. “You’ve been where? Goose hunting for the past nine or 10 hours? You’re crazy,” she would say.

Or what about all the times when I sat in a duck blind in sleet, rain and wind and returned home without so much as a feather, never mind a whole duck. “You’re as nutty as a fruitcake,” she would say with a sneer.



How about all those days when I (and half the males in Maryland and Virginia and all of the guys in Pennsylvania) sit up in a tree, 12 or 13 feet off the ground, freezing while waiting for a deer for hours on end — and nothing shows up.

“Like I said,” my wife would counter. “You’re all chock full of nuts, crazy as a loon for doing that.”

So, Mr. Hightower, it could be you have a point, although you cannot cite any scientific studies to back your claim. Rest assured, however, our self-admitted craziness is of the nice variety. We love our families, take care of our children, instill solid values in them and enjoy our life to the fullest. Not only that, but thanks to tasty wild game, we also eat pretty well.

Those who disagree with hunters — people who would compare hunting to animal torture — might as well conclude that painting your house is no different than Rembrandt putting his brush to a canvas.

In short, where do people get such idiotic thoughts when nothing could be further from the truth?

Buddy up and fish for prizes — The Renegade Bassmasters of Maryland are hoping local bass anglers will participate in their 18th annual Fall Open Team Tournament on the Potomac River on Saturday at 7 a.m. The contestants’ boats will be launched at Smallwood State Park in Marbury. Get a pal and join the fun. It costs $80 a team, and the Renegade Bassmasters promise to pay back 80 percent of the entry fees in prize money. They also have $2,000 worth of door prizes, so it looks like everybody will walk away with something. Information: Steve Polli, 301/753-6015.

Women fly fishers festival — The Pocono Manor Golf Resort and Spa, in conjunction with the Orvis Rod & Gun Club, will play host to the International Women Fly Fishers’ 2004 Festival in Pocono Manor, Pa., tomorrow through Sunday. Joan Wulff, the world-famous first lady of fly-fishing, will give a class and a presentation at this year’s annual festival, which is expected to draw more than 100 attendees from across the United States, as well as Japan.

The IWFF is a nonprofit international women’s organization formed to promote fly-fishing for women. For more information, visit www.intlwomenflyfishers.org.

BASS moves to Florida — The Bass Angler Sportsman Society (BASS), the world’s largest fishing club and professional tournament organization, is moving its headquarters to Central Florida near Walt Disney World in spring 2005. The new BASS offices will be located in Celebration in Osceola County.

BASS, acquired by ESPN in 2001, eventually will bring 120 higher-wage jobs to Osceola County. BASS has been based in Montgomery, Ala., since its creation by Ray Scott in 1968. Roughly 20 to 25 employees involved with BASS membership fulfillment will remain in Montgomery.

Sportsmen vote with enthusiasm — The campaigns of both President Bush and Senator John Kerry have placed a high priority on winning the sportsmen’s vote during this campaign, but hunters and anglers may play an even greater role in the election than either camp had predicted, based on the findings of a survey released by the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).

A survey of licensed hunters and anglers in Florida, New Mexico and Ohio suggests the percentage of sportsmen who will cast votes in these key swing states will be well above the national average. Based on survey findings in Ohio, 75 percent of sportsmen are considered “likely voters.” The number jumps to 80 percent in New Mexico, and Florida tops the group with 82 percent.

“This survey re-emphasizes that hunters and anglers are an active and important constituency and that the attention that President Bush and Senator Kerry have been giving to sportsmen is well-aimed,” said Melinda Gable, executive director of the CSF.

EVENTS

• Renegade Bassmasters want you — Saturday, 7 a.m., the Renegade Bassmasters of Maryland invite local bass angler teams to participate in the 18th annual Renegade Fall Open Team Tournament on the Potomac River (out of Smallwood State Park) Cost: $80 a team (80 percent payback in prize money, plus $2,000 in door prizes). Information: Steve Polli, 301/753-6015.

• Trout Unlimited chapter meets — Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m. at the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department, 400 Center Street, Vienna. The Northern Virginia chapter of Trout Unlimited invites the public to meet Craig N. Roghair, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Forest Service in Blacksburg, Va., who will speak about coldwater fisheries research and management on National Forest lands. The main program will be preceded by a fly tying demonstration at 6:45 p.m. Check www.nvatu.org for details.

• Free firearms safety locks — Nov. 4-5, at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, Arundel Mills in Hanover, Md., noon to 6 p.m. Named Project ChildSafe, this is a national program which hopes to distribute 20 million gun safety kits nationwide. Bass Pro Shops will do its part. The safety lock giveaway is funded by a $50 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and is managed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).

Waterfowl Festival — Nov. 12-14, throughout the city of Easton on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Wildfowl art exhibits, decoy sales and swap shops, championship goose and duck calling contests, decoy auction, retriever demonstrations, wood carvers, shooting exhibition, local foods, children’s activities. Admission: $12 per day, or $22 for all 3 days. See details on the Web at www.waterfowlfestival.org or phone 410/822-4567.

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

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