Gov. Jesse Ventura is taking some hits from
hunters and conservationists for comparing recreational hunting to
"hunting man" in wartime.
"I know dozens of hunters who served their country in war and don't go around making a big deal about the fact they hunted man," said Mike Furtman, a Duluth hunter and conservationist. "They don't equate shooting someone in defense of your country with hunting animals. It's borderline psychotic to make that leap."
On Tuesday, Ventura summoned outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson of the Star Tribune of Minneapolis to his office for an hourlong dressing down, aided by Ventura's natural resources commissioner and other officials.
In the confrontation, Ventura fell back on his military background as he lambasted the columnist for questioning his commitment to conservation.
‘If You Haven’t Hunted Man, You Haven’t Hunted’
"And I'll just tell you this: Until you've hunted man, you haven't hunted yet," Ventura told Anderson. "Because you need to hunt something that can shoot back at you to really classify yourself as a hunter. You need to understand the feeling of what it's like to go into the field and know your opposition can take you out. Not just go out there and shoot Bambi."
During his weekly radio show Friday, Ventura said he didn't mean to offend anyone with the comments.
"I don't oppose hunting in any way, shape or form. If that's what you enjoy doing, you are free to do it," Ventura said. "It's just those were my personal opinions. I think we're all entitled to them and I'm not going to change because I'm a governor."
Ventura often invokes his background as a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War era but has never revealed what he actually did during the war, or whether he saw combat.
Spokesman: Ventura Meant No Harm
On Thursday, Ventura spokesman John Wodele said the governor "meant no harm to anyone or didn't mean to insult anyone. … In no way did the governor insinuate it as a stab at hunters. It was a way for the governor to explain his personal experiences. It's his life experiences he can call upon most readily."
Ventura requested the meeting with Anderson after the columnist outlined his ideas for citizen's natural resources commission in an April 2 article. The story made no specific mention of hunting, but the columnist said Ventura didn't understand the importance of the state's natural resources.
"I just got irritated with this Dennis Anderson because he forever takes cheap shots, mostly on my commissioner Al Garber," Ventura said on the radio show. "He apparently doesn't like Mr. Garber for whatever reasons, so he's always nailing him for somehow not being a conservationist. Just because he doesn't hunt or fish, he's unqualified to run a department, which is totally absurd."
Minnesota has about 500,000 licensed hunters who pursue everything from deer to ruffed grouse.
Hunter Advocates Insulted, Puzzled
"The initial reaction from our members is that they are insulted," said Mark Johnson, executive director of the 20,000-member Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. "I'm disappointed. Deer hunting is a passion and way of life for many in our population. I don't think the governor understands how deeply that goes."
Johnson said some of his members who voted for Ventura "are finding it harder to support him."
Mike McGinty, executive director of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, said he was perplexed by the governor's remarks.
"Hunting is hunting. It's not wartime actions," he said. "I have had such a hard time with the governor. Sometimes I think he's politically astute, and sometimes I think he's from another planet."
Sen. Bob Lessard of International Falls, an ardent advocate of hunting and fishing issues and the only legislator who belongs to Ventura's Independence Party, was also puzzled by Ventura's remarks.
"This hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm stunned," Lessard said. "I don't know how you can equate hunting with shooting men."
Ventura made a similar remark in his first Playboy magazine interview in 1999, in which he said he didn't hunt deer.
"That's not really hunting," he told Playboy. "I prefer when the opposition can shoot back — that's hunting."