Hunter's Gathering at the Capitol

Oregon State Capital
Salem, OR
Photos by Wil Askew

Recently, I had the chance to take part in a rare opportunity. For a bowhunter who loves the lonely mountains, to say it was "rare" might be understating it. On Feb. 26, Oregon hunters had their chance to talk at the State Capitol. Members of the Oregon House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Communities Committee scheduled a hearing to give hunters an opportunity to discuss issues that are important to them. The hearing was set up by Committee Chairman Rep. Brian Clem (D-Salem) as he is an avid hunter himself. Other members of the eight-member panel include Terry Beyer,(D-Springfield) and Arnie Roblan, (D-Coos Bay).

I read the press release announcing the hearing... "It's an unprecedented opportunity for hunters in Oregon when the chairman of this powerful committee is holding a hearing to learn about the issues of concern to hunters," said Fred Craig, President of the Oregon Hunters Association. But, it was my good friend, Wayne Endicott, owner of The Bow Rack, that put it plainly. "Cam, you HAVE to go. You HAVE to take your books and give a copy to each representative. You Have to take your boys...this is our chance to make a difference." My first thought these days when anyone throws something additional my way is, "I don't have time," but he was right. I had to go.  Wayne is very active in protecting the rights of hunters in the state of Oregon, so following his lead, I made plans to head to the Capital on the 26th.

The turnout was impressive.  The main hearing room was packed full when the proceedings started, an overflow room outfitted with a big screen showing the going-ons was full as well. And there were TVs set up out in the hallway and lobby with hunters gathered around watching and listening to each hunter testify. I have never been so proud to be an Oregon hunter.

Most know, I have given quite a few seminars over the years and while I am not the most polished public speaking pro, I don't get too nervous anymore when talking of my bowhunting passion to a room full of bowhunters. Now, pleading my case to legislators at the State Capital, that is a different story. I don't ever remember being so nervous. I had a hard time forming those first few words, but finally got going.  I testified of the life changing impact hunting has had on me personally. How, until I started bowhunting, I was having a hard time finding my way in life. Bowhunting gave me direction. I embraced the challenge and wanted more. I shared how in the early years no one believed I could become a writer. But because of my bowhunting success, I believed in myself. Hunting gave me confidence to write from the heart of my experiences, the tough lessons, the successes and eventually I was a published author. Then ten years ago, I self-published my first book, Bowhunting Trophy Blacktail. Because of hunting, I was learning first hand, with hard work, ANYTHING is possible. I told them, the guy who, without hunting, probably would never have amounted to anything, was prospering. Building on this momentum, as they thumbed through my books, I told them I then earned the title of magazine editor. I shared with them the pride I feel knowing my second book, Backcountry Bowhunting, A Guide to the Wild Side, is now in its 5th printing and how I have went from a kid with no future to being the current TV host of Elk Chronicles, the television program of the highly regarded hunting conservation organization, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. I thanked them for the opportunities afforded us hunters in Oregon and hope they continue.

Because to guys like me the lessons learned in the woods carry over to everyday life. I was so thankful my youngest son, Truett, was there to take it all in with me. Our kids are the future of hunting...I urge you to expose them our cherished heritage every chance you can....all of it.  The remote mountains, the local hunting lands and even occasionally, events like at the Capital, which can help paint a clear picture of the challenges we face as hunters today and they will face in years to come.

I was so impressed by everyone I met that memorable night, from kids who spoke, to individuals representing hunting groups...Oregon Department of Fish & Game, to guys like Paul Askew, one of my bowhunting heroes, Larry D. Jones, and so on. I hope our passion came through, but I know it will take alot more than showing up for just one hearing. I have a lot of respect for all the guys working in the trenches, volunteering, researching and corresponding with legislators, man I was out of my comfort zone like I mentioned, but alot of guys there were in their element and at their best. My hat is off to them. To each one of you, I am thankful for all your hard work.

One of the personal highlights for me was when Rep. Vic Gilliam had me sign a copy of Backcountry Bowhunting for Rep. Arnie Roblan...I will never forget him weaving through the rows of attendees to find me, book and pen in hand. Pretty cool. As was watching hunting and non-hunting State Representatives alike reading through my books.  I never expected to see something like that.

Rep. Roblan said it right when he said, "Hunters and fishermen are the ones who maintain the fish and wildlife of this state, Hunters are the true activists. There's a culture in this state that really does care about the land."

Video coming soon...thanks for your handiwork Chris Stewart, it turned out great!!!
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