Some of the basic tenets of journalism are to take nothing for granted, expect the unexpected and never assume anything.
Those rules are well-suited to anglers and hunters, too, as we are under the constantly watchful eyes of well-funded, politically savvy groups dedicated to putting a stop to hunting, gun ownership - even fishing.
This is America, of course, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Mine, which I'm sharing here, is that outdoorsmen and women need to be aware of what these groups are up to.
Just this year, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) erected billboards in two fishing tournament venues - Spanish Fork, Utah, and Bossier City, Ala. - to promote its anti-fishing message.
The signs portrayed a dog with a fishhook through its lip. The message: "If you wouldn't do this to a dog, why do it to a fish?"
The Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, which provides news to wildlife professionals, reported on PETA's unusual campaign in its July newsletter, where it quoted PETA's spokeswoman as comparing fishing to "beating a puppy."
Ludicrous? You decide. PETA reported $15.7 million in revenues last year.
There are plenty of other anti-hunting and anti-fishing groups that spend a great deal of time - and money - keeping tabs on anglers and hunters, too.
That's why we should be as aware of their actions as they are of ours.
Jim Beers, a wildlife biologist and former game warden from Virginia, decided to do just that last month, when he attended the 2001 Animal Rights Conference in McLean, Va.
His reporting on the event, which annoyed fellow conventioneers who labeled him "the infiltrator," is quite telling:
There were handouts and commentary on civil disobedience; reports on how wildlife agencies fail to protect wildlife; instruction on the use of economic threats and peer pressure; and programs designed to portray any gun owner as someone who wants to kill.
Tactical discussions addressed strategies such as bomb threats, how to find out where people live, raids on stockholder meetings - even the use of propaganda to incite impressionable young people into action.
It isn't exactly the kind of rhetoric that might emerge during the next monthly gathering of your hunting club or bass tournament committee.
Admittedly, the topics explored at the gathering branched into livestock practices, treatment of pets and the trapping, fur and leather industries, too.
But most frightening was Beers' report on discussions of strategies to help ban fishing and hunting. Here are just a few:
Stress issues that divide hunters, like "canned" hunts.
Dog hunting and baiting divide hunters, so use those topics, too.
Be successful in influencing young children to hate hunting.
Confront anyone wearing fur, and intimidate them.
All killing of fish must be stopped.
Personalize animals to children and the public.
Beers summed up his experience by comparing his stay at the conference to attending a communist training program of the '50s or '60s.
"These selected comments are but a few of what I heard over five days," he wrote. "Frightening is too weak a word to sum up what it is like to watch this take place in a luxury hotel in a free country."
His message: Our rights to sit in a deer stand on a fall morning, or to take our kids flyfishing for summer bluegills, are guaranteed - until and unless someone changes them.
Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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