Dick Lattimer, left, and Merrill “Pete” Petoskey, discuss the need to do a better job nationally in getting across the place that professional wildlife and fisheries management plays in today’s outdoors in order to counter the usually misguided attempts by the anti-hunters to use emotion, rather than logic, to manage America’s wildlife. This meeting between the two of us was set up by Fred Bear in about 1975. Fred felt it was important that the two of us talk about this and figure out what to do. This photo was taken in my office in the “Swamp” in Grayling. At the time Pete was the director of the Wildlife Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Another example of Papa Bear’s quiet way of getting things to happen with two people he knew “would take the ball and run with it!” More Fred Bear magic at work! Several years later Pete and I were appointed co-chairmen of the Communications Committee of the International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies.
THE GUNS OF AUTUMN
Following World War II, modern wildlife management in this country really took off. Many of our returning veterans opted to study the subject in college when they returned from the War. As they grew older and assumed levels of high responsibility in the professional fisheries and wildlife ranks at both the state and national level, they ensured the continued practice of our long traditions of hunting and fishing. Many became state fish and game directors.
In addition, new wildlife management techniques and strategies were developed, and this led to healthier and larger wildlife populations. In turn, this stimulated and supported the logical need to keep these critters within reasonable carrying capacities through regulated hunting.
Since so many millions of men returned from the War experienced in firearms, and with outdoor experience from having been forced to learn it during their difficult days in battle, this greatly increased the number of hunters going afield each fall. By the early 1970s there were 20 million hunters afield annually.
With the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy in the 1960’s, some in Congress immediately set out to limit the accessibility and use of firearms. The first ad I ever wrote for Bear Archery in 1966 addressed the right of Americans to keep and bear arms! Concurrent with these assassinations was the public disgust with the on-going war in Vietnam.
The disgust with the “establishment” grew even more vociferous when America received word of the massacre at My Lai, a small Vietnamese village. On March 16, 1968, 105 soldiers from Charley Company, 1st Battalion, Twentieth Infantry, Eleventh Brigade of the Americal Division swooped in aboard eight helicopters on the small Vietnamese village and slaughtered 504 innocent old men, women, children and infants. They were led by Lt. William Laws Calley, Jr.
The soldiers were looking for Viet Cong soldiers from the North and were supposed to land at a place designated as the My Lai (1) village on their maps, but instead landed at the My Lai (4) village by mistake. Officially this village was known as Xom Lang – “Peace, The Place Where Trouble Does Not Come.” It was near the shore of the South China Sea in Quang Ngai Province.
Lt. Calley was personally charged with 102 counts of premeditated murder. His court martial began Nov. 17, 1970, and ran until March 11, 1971. He was sentenced to life at hard labor, but instead served just 40 months, most of it under house arrest at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He then returned to civilian life as an insurance salesman in Columbus, Georgia.
This whole sad event really polarized America even further, with many supporting the American soldiers for their mistaken actions, while pointing to the culpability of higher-ups. President Nixon even got involved in the mess. And this led to even more campus unrest around the U.S.
By the spring of 1970 there were 760 colleges and universities across America that were either closed or considering closing due to anti-war demonstrations. And on one of those campuses something happened that so sickened most of the American public that it added additional fuel to the anti-gun fervor sweeping Congress.
On a Monday noon, May 4, 1970, 103 enlisted men and 10 officers of the Ohio National Guard were on the scene of an anti-war protest at Kent State University in the northeast corner of the state. Hundreds of students were milling around, most of them just spectators on their way to class wondering what was going on.
Suddenly the troops opened fire at 12:24 p.m. with a burst of gunfire that lasted just 13 seconds. There were 55 M1 rifle shots and five pistol shots fired into the students. No one ever found out why the troops opened fire. At least no one ever admitted they really knew the reason. But in that short time four students were killed and nine more wounded. None of the four dead could have possibly posed any threat to the soldiers.
Allison Beth Krause, a 19-year-old student studying special education, in preparation for a career working with handicapped students, was struck in the heart and died as she crouched behind a car 343 feet from the troops.
Sandy Scheuer, age 20, a speech & hearing major on her way to class, was struck by a stray bullet as she lay on the ground to protect herself. She was 390 feet from the soldiers. She, too, died.
Jeff Miller, 20, was simply standing there taking photographs of the event and he was struck in the face by a bullet and killed instantly. He was 265 feet from the troops.
And, Bill Schroeder, 20, at Kent State on an ROTC scholarship was shot in the back and killed as he lay on the ground. He, too, had just stopped by to see what was going on. He was 382 feet from the fireline.
Many parents applauded this killing of “hippie students” and told their own youngsters that the Kent State students had deserved exactly what they got for going against the policy of the U.S. government. That is how warped and polarized our society was in those days.
My wife and I especially felt the enormity of this tragic event since a mutual friend of ours was the dean of students at Kent State at the time. His name was David Ambler. Dave and I had been working on our masters degrees in counseling & guidance together at Indiana University following my graduation from business school there. And when Alice and I lived in nearby North Canton, Ohio, a few years earlier, we had driven up one summer evening to see the small Kent State campus, thinking that some of our three small children might someday want to go to that quiet, peaceful campus.
For my own part, while I wore a three-piece suit and tie at work in the conservative advertising world of the 1960s, on the weekends I wore Indian print flares, Jesus peace sandals and long sideburns. And I wore a T-shirt that read “Jesus is coming, and is he pissed.” But I also wore a silver POW bracelet during those turbulent days as my way of supporting our fighting men overseas, and I wore it for another 20 years after the Vietnam War ended.
My missing G.I. was Lt. William Christianson … and, to the best of my knowledge, he still has never been accounted for. My wife also wore one of the bracelets, and we had the joy of seeing her G.I. step off the plane when the POW’s were finally freed. My oldest son, Michael, still wears his Vietnam POW bracelet to this day.
Guns, Hunters in Crosshairs
Those are just a couple of the events that fueled the anti-gun, anti-establishment crowd in America, including most of the mass media. They were then, and usually still are, anxious to take potshots at honest gun owners whenever they get a chance. There seems to be little fairness among the liberal national media when it comes to hunters and firearms owners in this country, even now, 40 years later!
Add the publicity that the first Earth Day received in the early 1970s and all of the environmental implications that went along with it. In addition, America had turned from an agrarian to an urban society, and people were far from the farm, from nature and the realities of growing things to eat—animals and vegetables.
Fred, Kelly and I were all very concerned about this change in the public’s perception, and we devoted the entire issue of “The Big Sky” to it in our Winter, 1974, issue under the banner of “RARE & ENDANGERED SPECIES … IS HUNTING TO BLAME?” We published a piece by Dr. John L. Schmidt, extension wildlife specialist of Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado.
The bottom line of Dr. Schmidt’s article in our publication was that “… legal hunting for sport has not caused a single species to be added to the list of rare and endangered species.” He went on in the conclusion of his article to state, “Let’s not attack the hunter because he harvests 177 million birds and mammals each year. The species he hunts are some of the most common we have, mainly because he has paid for their management, habitat acquisition, research, and for wildlife law enforcement. Let’s get at the real problems: pesticides and other environmental pollutants, drainage of marshes, municipal and industrial developments and all other land use changes that are altering our environment and destroying its ability to produce wildlife.”
Then in our next issue of “The Big Sky” our headline read: “THE HUNTING CONTROVERSY: ATTITUDES AND ARGUMENTS.” This article was a report by Dr. Dale Shaw, also of Colorado State University, containing information from his doctoral dissertation. He personally gave questionnaires to 937 college students at 10 universities.
Three-fourths of those questioned held some degree of anti-hunting or anti-hunter sentiment. Major objections voiced related to trophy hunting, wasting of game meat, endangering of species, hunters killing more than the legal limit, and hunting for sport or pleasure instead of a need for meat.
The major reason the students were against hunting was that they thought sport hunting endangers some species. Next, 74 percent of the females and 47 percent of the males were against trophy hunting. About half said they were against hunting because meat from wild game is too often wasted. And 70 percent of the females and 45 percent of the males were against hunting because they “don’t believe in killing wild animals for pleasure or sport.”
Influences initiating or reinforcing anti-hunting or anti-hunter sentiment, in order of magnitude, were TV and personal experiences, parents, movies, magazines and friends.
Dr. Shaw said, “the increasing anti-hunting sentiment, in general, appears to be related to urbanization, disassociation with the land, and a trend toward adoption of a preservationist philosophy toward all natural resources. A combination of these factors is resulting in a change in social values in our society away from consumptive use and toward appreciative uses of all wildlife.”
In January 1975, I attended a meeting in Lansing, Michigan with our DNR officials, the Michigan United Conservation Club (the largest state organization of sportsmen in the U.S. at the time, with more than 100,000 members), and the Webb & Athey Advertising Agency from Richmond, Virginia regarding a “Pro-Hunting Advertising Campaign.”
Then in May 1975, at the invitation of our friends at the NRA, I attended the first Communications Strategy Conference in the board room at the old NRA headquarters a few blocks north of the White House. The Webb & Athey ad campaign was presented and discussed. In attendance were all of the interested national hunting organizations and gun manufacturers.
The Washington Post incorrectly tabbed it as a “Summit Conference on Gun Control.” It was not! It was strictly on the hunting issue. And to tell you how paranoid our gun manufacturers were by that time, I was sitting with Gen. Maxwell Rich, the head of the NRA in those days, and Gen. Rich leaned over and asked me to take a photo of the assembled group.
When I stood up to take the photo, some of the firearms manufacturers cried out, “Who’s he? We don’t want any photographs taken of this meeting!” They were really upset and became very agitated. Gen. Rich stood up and said, “Hey, take it easy guys, he’s one of us. I just asked him to take a photo to record who all was at this meeting.” I didn’t take the photo.
In June 1975, I submitted our ideas to the above group for a 10-year plan to communicate the positive aspects of hunting to the non-committed public. I had put this together with both Fred and Kelly’s help.
Next: CBS HATCHET JOB