Why you should care

Hunters may be able to save America’s public lands.

Sometimes the stereotypes are true. Most hunters really are rural, male, white, old … and conservative. Many are lifetime card-carrying members of the NRA and Second Amendment stalwarts. It’s safe to say there aren’t a lot of Hillary supporters in this good ole boys’ club.

But there’s another side to the story. Hunting folk are also dedicated conservationists and defenders of public land, which puts them in direct opposition to their Republican brethren. The reality is you can’t hunt without public land to track or animals to stalk — and it’s the Dems who have the better record on conservation and environmental issues. Hunters are told it’s either red or blue. Guns or land.

But what if America’s camo-shaded gunslingers, already standing on fissured political ground, took a full-on leap into the ideological abyss? Willie Robertson and the rest of the Duck Dynasty family, I dare you: Vote for Hillary.

If they did, I hazard, we might have a good, ahem, shot at saving America’s backcountry. And just maybe, guns will go back to what they once were — a survival tool, not a statement. “It’s not an either/or proposition,” says Randy Newberg, host of the popular hunting TV shows Fresh Tracks and On Your Own Adventures, as well as a born and bred conservative lifetime member of the NRA. “We’ve let ourselves be pigeonholed in the political world.”

It wasn’t always like this. Going back to the 1800s, hunters have been at the forefront of the conservation movement, and the reason is simple. Few understand the land or are as invested in its health as the ones who rely on it for food. To this day, hunters and anglers pay a huge chunk of nature restoration costs. At one point, the NRA was even on the same side as conservationists, but as politics have shifted and splintered, the same politicians seen as pro-gun champions of rural America are now the ones selling the land from right under their constituents. And I think most can agree that selling public land to private interests is not entirely based on ideological principle; it’s about the Benjamins.

So rather than see your dollars go to waste, remind the GOP it’s not just about AK-47s but also rifles and bighorn sheep and feeding families with fresh, organic game. Look, I’m not saying you have to lean left forever — just long enough to remind the ones at the top of the ladder who really has the power. After all, at stake is a way of life that goes back much farther than political parties. “We like to say you can get our guns when you pry them from our cold, dead hands,” Newberg says. “Well, you can get this land when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

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