I was driving to visit a wounded U.S. Navy Corpsman I had covered in Afghanistan. Shortly after passing a sign that read “Welcome to Chippewa Falls,” I pulled into a fast-food restaurant and said, “I know Minnesota is an Indian word meaning ‘sky-colored water.’ How do I pronounce the name of this place?” The fellow behind the counter looked, shrugged and said very slowly: “Burr-gurr King.” Thank you, Sven, for reminding me of one of the most important skills a hunter can have: situational awareness.” —Lt. Col. Oliver North, NRA president and combat-decorated U.S. Marine 2019 SCI Hunters’ Convention in Reno, Nev., Jan. 9, 2019
Saving the best for last doesn’t apply to an SCI Hunters’ Convention, considering the speaker at last night’s opening banquet at the Peppermill Hotel and Casino in Reno, Nev., was NRA President Lt. Col. Oliver North. No stranger to being first in line—or on the front line—to protect American freedom, North drew a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd.
A recipient of the Silver Star, Bronze Star for Valor and two Purple Hearts, North—who assumed the NRA presidency at the 2018 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits last May—was proud to be there. “I have spent my life telling my Marines, my kids and now my 17 grandkids, we are defined by the company we keep. I have spent my entire life keeping company with American heroes and hunters—my dad, my uncles, my Marines and the best and bravest of the current generation.”
Sharing video clips from 17 years spent with Fox News covering our brave military’s fight against radical Islamic terrorists, he said, “There is a special bond we hunters share…an appreciation for field and country and God’s natural beauty and resources.” On a personal note, North said he relishes the excitement and surprise of the hunt because “you really never know what you might bring back.” Case in point was his wife, Betsy. “It took forever to get a date, but like all of us who have hunted a particular target know, patience is a virtue. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in November.”
North also celebrated that our founders forged a new nation with an expectation that we are, indeed, hunters endowed by our Creator with the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit. “Yes, they wrote about the pursuit of happiness,” he said, “but happiness is all about pursuing all that makes us vibrant, individual, alive—and American. Our founders knew it is fundamental to the American spirit to hunt,” building into our psyche the idea it is up to us to decide the course in pursuing our own destiny. Illustrating hunting’s role in defining our relationship with the world—and ourselves—North showed the NRA video “A Right to Be Human.”
Sadly, while North and the rest of us may have grown up hunting, most kids today can’t say that. “I’m proud that the NRA has taught more than 50 million young Americans the responsibilities and ethics of hunting, safety and the shooting sports … but we must do better. American kids have learned from Hollywood and the Internet how to mistreat a woman, light a joint, rob a convenience store, make a bomb, mistreat animals and misuse a firearm. Hunters are portrayed as bumbling, bloodthirsty, backwoods losers. Young people have been influenced by video games on how to relate to the world. …They don’t read books, they don’t go out and play, they can’t tell north from south, upwind from downwind. They haven’t even learned patience…Their world is delivered. They don’t have to hunt—seeking searching, pursuing, self-determining is not part of their passive sedentary world.”
North said this is why we are seeing a decrease in the numbers of hunters, citing the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) survey showing that only about five percent of Americans ages 16 and older now hunt—half of what it was 50 years ago. In 1982, there were 17 million hunters but by 2016, the USFWS reported only 11.5 million people hunted—less than four percent of the population.
Noting that women represent the fastest growing hunting demographic nationwide, “That is important,” he said. “Where young women go, so will young men. If women of this country lead us back to our hunting roots, back to the very nature of individual liberty, then I say God Bless and the NRA is here to help.”
How does North foster freedom in his family? He gives each person a box on his or her 14th birthday with a message: “Learn to use everything in this box and you will never go hungry, never be lost and never need fear anything.” Inside the box is an NRA Life membership card, a Holy Bible, a compass and map of the Appalachian Trail and a 20-gauge shotgun.
“Now that works for the 27 members of the North clan. We’re committed to hunting, shooting sports and the Second Amendment. So is the NRA, but we need your help,” he said, or our Second Amendment and our hunting freedom will be lost, pointing to members of the international hunting community who have no Second Amendment.
Referencing Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Chuck Shumer, Michael Bloomberg, Elisabeth Warren and the newest media darling, Alexandra Ocasis-Cortez—the leaders of the disarm America movement—he asked, “Do you think they care about our hunting heritage or value our firearms freedoms? Just a few days ago, news headlines proclaimed, ‘Get ready for a massive fight over gun control in Congress in 2019.’ They won’t rest until every civilian-owned firearm in America is confiscated—that means your and my shotguns and hunting rifles.” Like the situational awareness that combat veterans, soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines with whom North has served possess—or they would not have survived in battle—we hunters had better act on ours—both on and off the hunting field. North said that means knowing everything possible about what is going on around us—and having a plan to address it.
As a U.S. Marine, North learned the only way to rout a determined enemy is to stand and fight. “I’m here to tell you the only organization with the strength and proven resolve to defeat the disarm America movement is the NRA—and we are going to stand and fight like hell. My wife, Betsy, and I have skin in this fight. We have 17 grandchildren. We want them to grow up in a country where the Bill of Rights—all of it—is intact. That’s why I agreed to serve as president of the NRA and that’s why I’m here tonight.
He asked NRA members in the crowd to raise their hands. Then he asked why everyone else was not a member, adding it is time for everyone who cares about freedom to join the NRA. With five-million-plus members, North seeks to double the number and beat back the “disarm America” crowd with the mightiest NRA in history.
Though we live in the freest nation on earth, he warned we cannot take it easy. “We know hunting is not easy, either. It’s hard—and it’s supposed to be. That’s what makes it so fulfilling. Freedom has never been easy either. It has always been a struggle to achieve—and difficult to keep. And it has always been our calling as Americans to hunt and chase and grasp our freedom with every bit of energy we can muster."
North connected with the crowd in touting our unabashed pursuit of freedom and defense of all of our rights as we stand with hands over our hearts for the National Anthem. “We believe our U.S. Constitution is the law of the land… and we must never let anyone take away the individual rights that have made America the freest nation on earth,” he said. “As hunters, we must stand together, fight together—and win together.”
So again, whether you’re talking first in line or first on the front line, aren’t we American hunters fortunate to have fellow hunter, patriot and NRA President Lt. Col. Oliver North helping to lead the charge?