Melissa Bachman, star of the Winchester Deadly Passion show on the cable Sportsmen Channel, was the keynote speaker for the Sportsmen Alliance annual rally in Columbus. Sportsmen and women from across Ohio flocked to the event anxious to see friends, win a gun and meet the hunting show star. Conspicuously absent from the event were the Division of Wildlife leadership at the Chief and Assist Chief level. Also absent were any officials from the Kasich Administration and the appointed ODNR leadership. The absences appear to underscore the canyon-like riff between sportsmen and the administration.
While the sportsmen were gearing up for the fall hunting season, the Republican gubernatorial candidates were out in force aiming for the sportsmen votes. Attending the rally were candidates Jon Husted, Mike DeWine and Mary Taylor. While the candidates toured the floor, it is a safe bet they heard an earful of concerns and questions regarding the direction of the ODNR under a future Governor.
Sportsmen Alliance President and CEO, Evan Heusinkveld, welcomed the crowd. He provided an overview of the legal and legislative challenges facing hunters, anglers and trappers not only in Ohio but across the country. He noted, “All across this country animal rights and anti-hunting organizations are attacking our way of life.
Earlier this year the Sportsmen Alliance, along with 41 organizations from across the state, came together to address the financial cliff the Division of Wildlife is facing. We wanted to increase funding for the Division of Wildlife which is facing a $221 million deficit over the next ten years. This funding is critical for shooting ranges, boating access and replacing Wildlife Officers. I thank the organizations who have contributed to this fight already. I commit that we will continue to work toward those goals.”
Introducing the key note speaker, Heusinkveld said, “Our featured speaker tonight is someone who is an avid hunter and the real deal to the outdoor industry. She works tirelessly to send a positive message. What you might not know is that she is not immune to the attacks of the anti-hunting crowd. She is truly an ambassador for the outdoors and a model of how each of us can protect our passion from the animal rights movement. Please join me in welcoming the host of Winchester Deadly Passion Miss Melissa Bachman.”
Bachman provided insight into how she was introduced to hunting saying, “I’m often asked is how in the world did you get into hunting and why did you want to get into it. I grew up in a central Minnesota small town of about 2000 people. I love to hunt. One of the reasons is that Mom and Dad did such a good job with us. I have a younger brother and they took us everywhere they went. Nobody ever pushed us to be into hunting. Not only did they take us out hunting with them but they had us be part of the processing. The important thing is we did all this together as a family.”
Her passion for hunting lead her to get a college degree in television broadcasting. She had her sights set on a hunting show. However, after graduating with honors, she couldn’t get an interview after sending out seventy-four resumes. She wasn’t ready to abandon her dream so she finally convinced the North American Hunting Club to allow her to work for free. After four-months of working a night job to pay her bills and driving 150-miles each day, they finally offered her a job as a cameraman. Still her burning desire was to be in front of the camera. So she worked thirty-days straight on her job and had five days off. On those five days she filmed her hunts and edited the footage. Whenever a guide didn’t meet a deadline, Bachman had footage to give them. Finally sponsors started to take note and she got her show. The next hurdle was an unexpected firestorm of attacks.
Bachman continued, “So after all the work to get the show, four years ago in October, I was suddenly attacked by the anti-hunting community over a lion I shot in Africa. It was completely legal but they didn’t like it. They actually got 750,000 people to sign a petition to ban me from South Africa. Everything was blowing up around me. I’m thinking that I’ve worked so hard and only to watch it all disappear just because these people didn’t like shooting a lion. It was a pretty scary time. I had around 35,000 death threats. It became so over the top. Sometimes it was hunters who hunt deer but don’t agree with shooting a lion. Hunters were not backing each other.
The Sportsmen Alliance rallied and helped me get through it. The number one thing I’ve learned is the importance of helping each other. Maybe you don’t want to go to Africa and that’s fine. But there is nothing wrong if it’s a legal well done hunt. As this was going on, I thought maybe it’s time for me to be done. I questioned if it is worth it. Then I call a call from Wishes and More about a young girl whose dream was to go hunting with me. I realized that I could make a difference. It was the common bond of hunting that brought us together. It was one of the most special things I’ve ever been a part of. So just as I thought about giving it up, this little girl made a difference for me. We hunted for three weeks together before she was able to get a beautiful buck. Putting the hunt footage together for the show brought tears to my eyes. It shows how strong the hunting bond can be. I want to thank you for being here tonight and helping to make a difference.”
Heusinkveld concluded, “It was a fantastic evening. We were especially pleased to have Melissa Bachman join us. She is a terrific spokesperson and role model for sportsmen. the money we raised will go right back into the fight to protect hunting, fishing and trapping. There are threats across the country and we certainly have our hands full right here in Ohio. Sportsmen and women have always been the on the front lines of paying their own way. They are the champions of wildlife conservation, management and protecting wild spaces for the next generation. It’s a user pay and public benefit system. We are happy to do it.”
Larry S. Moore is a local resident and wekly historical columnist.