NRA Fires Back at Columnist Wray, Defends Hunting Record
By Dave Workman
Republished with permission
An official with the National Rifle Association has issued a blistering rebuttal to Oregon outdoor writer Pat Wray, who asserted in two columns (Dec. 4 and Dec. 18) that the NRA is no friend to hunters because it supports politicians who put gun rights ahead of habitat protection.
Wray’s double-barrel barrage rekindled a debate that began almost two years ago and caused an earthquake in the outdoor writing community. At the time, Wray was a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) board of directors, which sent a letter to then-NRA President Kayne Robinson, castigating him for remarks he made about the Sierra Club during an NRA-sponsored breakfast at the 2004 OWAA annual conference. Wray wrote the original draft of that letter.
While it appeared that the controversy had all but died by late 2005, Wray’s columns turned the heat back up, and the situation now appears to have taken on the earmarks of a personal feud.
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Wray complained that the NRA had supported the Bush Administration’s effort to remove federal protection from millions of acres of roadless areas in the national forest system. He said new roads will open those areas to mining and other industries, and ultimately have a negative effect on big game animals, water quality and game fish.
“In effect, the NRA shilled for the most anti-environmental administration in history, knowing full well what the impact of their actions would be,” Wray wrote. “And why? For administration support of their right-to-bear-arms agenda.
“The bottom line is this,” Wray added, “the NRA is hoodwinking hunters into thinking they are working on our behalf, while they use our money on politicians and legislative efforts which will degrade hunting, now and in the future. Does this mean the NRA is an enemy of hunters? Not exactly. What it means is that they don’t care about hunters except as a cash cow. It means they will sell out hunters as often as necessary, if doing so will give them leverage in the fight over gun ownership rights. It means the NRA considers hunters too stupid to recognize how badly we are being used. Thus far, at least, they’ve been right.”
After reading about Wray’s assertions in the Jan. 20 issue of Gun Week, Dawson R. Hobbs, manager of Hunting Policy for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, fired back.
Insisting that Wray is wrong, and that the NRA does considerable work on behalf of hunters, Hobbs detailed some of those activities.
“NRA led efforts to create dove hunting seasons in Minnesota and Michigan,” Hobbs said. “We support federal legislation that will open public hunting access on private land; we help state wildlife agencies acquire new public hunting lands; and we are working to guarantee that every piece of public land is open to hunting.”
Where Hobbs took the greatest offense was at Wray’s insistence that roadless areas and wilderness be kept that way. Many areas that were once accessible to hunters have been shut off to many people by roadless area designations.
“Wray decries NRA for our opposition to the wholesale declaration of roadless areas across the West,” Hobbs said. “While he may have the time and the means to go hunting indefinitely, not every hunter can maintain a string of packhorses, and afford weeks needed for a backcountry hunt.
“The average American hunter hunts close to home and indulges in an out of state trip when he can,” Hobbs continued. “His kids cannot miss school for weeks and he only gets limited annual vacation. Therefore, hunting is limited to weekends and holidays.
“It does not serve the average hunter to have millions of acres of publicly owned land to be virtually inaccessible or to have to quit hunting earlier because hunting land is too rugged to access. Therefore, NRA works to ensure as many possible hunters have the most hunting opportunities possible. Wray, conversely, wants to ensure that the best hunting is accessible only to him and to those who can afford it.”
Wray, contacted by Gun Week for a reaction, stated, “The NRA’s response to my recent columns is as disappointing as it is unsurprising.”
A 20-year NRA member and author of a recent book on chukar hunting, Wray asserted that the NRA continues to trumpet their work on issues like dove hunts, Sunday hunting and hunting license ages, all the while actively campaigning for the opening of 58.5 million acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas to exploitation, an action that will cripple hunting opportunities for our children and grandchildren. They are beating very small drums loudly, in hopes we won’t notice while they sell out our hunting heritage.”
Wray criticized NRA’s support for road building in roadless areas. He said scientific evidence has repeatedly shown that “active roads diminish big game health, productivity and survival.” He accused the NRA leadership of knowing the biological implications of such support, and realizing it will hurt hunters.
“And yet they are doing it anyway,” he said.
Wray asserted that the NRA, in its reaction to his columns, is “blowing smoke.”
“When closely examined, the NRA’s efforts on behalf of hunters are empty, chosen more for their visibility than their impact,” he told Gun Week.
He further alleged that “average American hunters want to save some space where the animals are bigger, more numerous and healthier than in the places they can already drive.”
“Average American hunters are smarter than the NRA thinks they are and they’re beginning to realize how badly the NRA has misled and mistreated them,” Wray stated.
He also accused NRA of painting anyone, including him, who disagrees with NRA philosophy as “an elitist who cares nothing for the common man.”
“It would be laughable, if it hadn’t been effective so many times,” Wray said. “The truth is, I work for a living, own no horses or mules and have never been able to afford a guided trip or even a hunt on a bird preserve. I hunt almost totally on public land and, like most experienced hunters, actively seek out areas without roads or much human activity, so I can get away from the crowds and get into more and better animals. The NRA’s attempt to paint me as a hunting elitist is not just inaccurate, it is dishonest.”
He said the NRA “does not represent or work for hunters and is dishonest when it says it does.”
“It’s time the NRA went back to its roots and divest itself of American Hunter magazine and its other hunting-related publications,” Wray said. “The NRA should focus its energies on the Second Amendment and on gun ownership issues and leave our hunting heritage to people who really care about it, and don’t just mine it for their separate purposes.”