The Sportsmen Alliance, formerly the US Sportsmen Alliance, held the annual Ohio Rally at the Aladdin Shrine Temple in Columbus. The event brought together leading sportsmen and women, conservationists, gun-rights activists and organizations from across Ohio.
Senator Rob Portman addressed the crowd. Portman, who is a co-sponsor of the Congressional Sportsmen Act, said, “Thanks to the leadership team of the Sportsmen Alliance. We are fortunate to have them in Ohio as a national organization that does great work to protect our ability to hunt and have smart conservation policies. We need to pass some legislation in Washington DC that has been on the sidelines too long. It is the Sportsmen Act. It basically says let’s be sure we allow hunting and fishing on our public lands. It also removes the ability for the EPA to regulate lead in fishing tackle. It also states that the responsibility for managing our game belongs to the states. While we are taking a stand we need to stand up for the Second Amendment. We will continue to fight for our Second Amendment.”
Nick Pinizzotto Sportsman Alliance President welcomed the crowd to the event. Pinizzotto was recently on CBS This Morning show defending hunting following the uproar over the African lion hunt. He said, “One thing we are striving to do as an organization is be the go to source for information on these issues. We are leaders and want to get the right message out. We have to do a better job of getting our message out to the public. We are changing things. Most have seen the new logo. It’s not so much about where we are today but where we are going. It’s about taking a leadership position. I am here tonight to promise you we will be there and be better. This is the biggest fund raising event for us. We do it here in Ohio because this is where we were born. We are proud to be in the Buckeye State.”
Pinizzotto introduced the key note speaker saying, “Without hunting we don’t have wildlife and conservation. We need to start marketing our sport and what we do to everybody. The public needs to understand what we do for conservation. The very smallest thing we do is to set the hook or pull the trigger. No one has a better understanding of this than our keynote speaker. Anthony Licata, editor in chief of Field & Stream and Outdoor Life magazines. Not only does he oversee the production of the country’s top outdoor magazines, he walks the walk by being a passionate and accomplished outdoorsman. He also understands the challenges we face today,”
Licata began, “I am thrilled and honored to be at the Sportsmen Alliance. I’ve been surprised by many people I thought would be against hunting to actually have curiosity about it. I’ve also noticed attitudes have changed toward hunting in the last ten years. There has been studies that show the acceptance of hunting among the general population has been on the increase. There will always be a core of people who hate what we do. They may be part of a well-funded organization that wants to take away our heritage. They can only do that if they have support in the general population. We don’t need to convert them to sportsmen but we do need them to understand and respect what we do.”
Licata presented his views on five critical areas where sportsmen need to be especially involved to promote and protect our right to hunt. The areas included contacting politicians and elected officials. Licata noted, “it your voice that makes a difference. The voice of thousands of sportsmen is a powerful force. Write letters and making calls really does matter. We will not win every time but we will never win if we don’t write the letters and make the calls.” His next point noted that food is a driving factor in the acceptance of hunting. He emphasized that the interest in where our food comes from, organic farming and the demand for locally grown food sources is helping to drive this component.
The third point was about conservation. It was perhaps obvious to the concerned sportsmen at the Ohio Rally that conservation is a centerpiece of what we do. Licata’s emphasis was that sportsmen need to take the message to the general public who doesn’t understand what we do for conservation. Licata’s fourth point is all about mentorship. He said, “It is critical that we raise the next generation of sportsmen. We need more outreach to young people outside our families. It is a force multiplier when they talk about the hunting experience.”
Finally sportsmen should give and receive respect. He concluded, “What we are asking for is respect. Hunting is a critical part of our heritage and an honorable act. In order to get respect, we must give respect. We need to show respect to the animals. We need to demonstrate respect in our dialog with other. Finally the North American Model for conservation deserves respect for all it does for all of us.”
One thing I noticed was the absence of elected officials. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Senator Rob Portman were the two visible officials at the event. Only Senator Portman stayed for the entire evening. I’m sure others could readily tell that this isn’t an election year when the politicians turn out in force to meet the sportsmen. It was rather sad that no Ohio legislator attended to represent the Ohio General Assembly Sportsmen Caucus. They certainly missed an opportunity to talk with the most committed group of sportsmen in one location.
The evening was capped by a lively auction of some great hunting and fishing trips. Combined with the silent auction, critical monies were raised in support of the Sportsmen Alliance mission. Concluding the evening was the $10,000 grand-prize drawing sponsored by the B&N Coal Company.
Larry S. Moore is a local resident and guest columnist.