With such a thick anti-hunting attitude delivered in so many films these days, except those written by hunters themselves, such as playwright and screenwriter David Mamet, it’s hard to think that Hollywood was once a hotbed of hunting, fishing and other forms of wildlife management. This was when Clark Gable took David Niven up to Grants Pass for steelhead and then later studio public relations photos of Carole Lombard and Clark Gable often captured them with a string of mallards and snow geese proudly held up to the photographer. In a black and white studio promotional photo, Ginger Rogers lay seductively, with a cane pole and in cutoffs and flannel shirt, like a tomboy on a lush lawn, a full stringer of rainbow trout by her side—probably taken at her 1,000-acre Rogers’s Rogue River Ranch purchased in 1940, that I had the opportunity to see last week on a trip for steelhead and salmon with my friends Paul Winterbottom and Jeff Manuel, in a drift boat loaned by mutual friend, Dave Dedrick. Even interviews of Fred Astaire, included a reporter being told that he was going up to his duck club east of Los Angeles to take care of a coyote problem.
As a writer, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and become friends with those contemporary actors and stars who still shine not only as actors but also as hunters. Some I’ve had a long hunting and fishing relationship with, like my wild boar hunting buddy Patrick Kilpatrick. Some I’ve even had the help and endorsement of, like the dear departed Charlton Heston, who was kind enough to write a plug for the inside cover of my memoir that went to #2 for three weeks in 2004 on Amazon.com. Over the last couple years, I’ve come to know and admire an actor by the name of Tim Abell, who so reminds me of that dashing adventurous actor reminiscent of a time when Hollywood’s elite lived such amazing lives off the set themselves (Errol Flynn, David Niven, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin, Audie Murphy, Clark Gable and directors John Ford and William A. Wellman quickly come to mind) that sometimes their film roles seemed to not even come close.
To say that someone like Tim Abell is a military veteran, hunter and member of the Screen Actors Guild is very refreshing. Haven’t you also gotten fed up with actors who are terrified of guns, or prominently tout their anti-gun or anti-hunting status, but hire well-armed bodyguards, eat meat killed by someone else, and make their millions off movies in which they kill people by the truckloads on screen? An ex-Army Ranger, Abell, knows exactly what those real bullets do in real-life. A hunter and solid conservationist, he understands clearly where his sustenance comes from.
Born and raised on the East Coast, near Quantico, VA, Tim Abell learned to hunt with his Marine uncle and even took his first deer on the Marine Corps base. And after reading the book that has inspired so many young American men since the Vietnam War, Robin Moore’s Green Berets (made into a film by John Wayne in 1968), Abell enlisted in the US Army and became a Ranger. While in university, seeking a degree that would offer him the opportunity to try for a full commission, Abell found a love for the arts, specifically theater. And the rest is history as many are oft to say of those who make it in Hollywood.
While putting in his dues, and not finding many willing to speak openly about their affinity for hunting or firearms, Abell’s hunting went by the wayside as he went through the required networking parties and dinners, keeping mum about hunting and shooting. But when called out on the floor about beliefs that don’t fit perfectly with the rest of the Hollywood-types programmed by the anti-hunting industry (PETA/HSUS), or more accurately unwilling to speak up for fear of ramifications to their own employment (doesn’t this remind you of the fear during the McCarthy years?), Abell speaks his mind when asked…even when it might not get him invited again to the same house…
It takes guts to speak up in Hollywood these days, the pendulum swing of the McCarthy Red Communist hunts of the 1950s gone completely to the other extreme: it’s not those who supported the Soviet Union during the Cold War who are blacklisted now; but instead, those who support the 2nd Amendment of The Constitution, hunting as a solid component of wildlife conservation, the United States’s right (like every nation) to defend itself, and those men and women serving in that military action…Is it truly being patriotic, or military-friendly, when it’s convenient, as so blatantly with the change in attitudes in Hollywood after the recent sweeping win at the Academy Awards of a military movie: Hunt Locker?…It’s easy to be patriotic when the masses are with you; it’s courageous when they aren’t.
…As one who enjoys studying cycles of history, I’m very intrigued by how long it’ll be before that pendulum swings once again away from that anti-hunting, anti-military mass thought, it had swung to in an unnatural extreme during the 1970s and 1980s and back to the pro-hunting, efficient wildlife conservation practices it espoused during the 1920s to 1960s.
Surprisingly, Abell found his way back to hunting while working on his first break as a ex-Marine sniper Benny Ray Riddle on Bruckheimer Productions’s Soldier of Fortune for NBC. As they were filming in Canada, co-star Brad Johnson invited Abell on a hunt into Northern Canada for caribou and black bear. For Abell, the adventure was like breathing fresh air after too long a time submerged. From then on he was part of the small, but proud to be publicly recognized as those in the film business who also hunt and believe in the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution: Tom Selleck, Charlton Heston, Patrick Kilpatrick, John Milius, Steve Kanaly, Gary Sinise, Adam Baldwin, DB Sweeney, to name a few.
To say Tim Abell became a hunting enthusiast is an understatement, as I’m sure anyone can relate to, who is passionate about hunting, been away from it then once again renewed that bond with such an important part of the human psyche as well, because of fund from taxed hunters, so supportive of all animals. To correct all that anti-hunting malarkey taken for fact, all of hunting taxes and fees go to the buying and supporting lands for ALL wildlife, while most, if not all, of the money collected by anti-hunting groups such as PETA and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) goes to advertising…if these anti-hunting groups actually succeed in wiping out hunting in the world, it’ll be the wildlife that suffers the most!
For many the idea of having combat veterans out in the field, hunting with a firearm, may seem out of place. As a combat veteran who attributes my own healing of four years in the Central America War, through the immediately following experience as a subsistence hunter, living with and learning from a Native community in Alaska, I am thrilled that people are beginning to get it…again.
Until the Vietnam War, hunting was an activity that a majority of combat veterans participated in upon their return home: it’s one of the reasons that the bolt-action and semi-auto rifles took over as the hunting rifles of choice in America after WWI, from the previously preferred lever-action-many of those returning young men were introduced to bolt-action rifles in the military (explains why presently so many black rifles have become hunting rifles with so many hunters introduced to firearms an assault rifle). The surge is what led to the megamillion dollar surge in business for hunting, fishing and camping products manufacturers from 1920 to 1970. As a combat veteran myself, I noticed how being in the woods with a rifle brought up memories of war that I was able to confront on my time as compared to a sudden sideswiping PTS (post-traumatic stress) flashback or nightmare.
Later, as a counselor specializing in helping veterans and other types of trauma survivors dealing with PTS and the symptoms of what I prefer to call the PTSR, I truly understood how going into the field, carrying that firearm, much as might have occurred only weeks and months before in battle, but now instead hunting game for the table, creates a new subconscious imprint, in the healing of the wilds, on an activity that if not dealt with, comes up weeks, month or even many years later in an uncontrollable event.
For some this uncontrollable event can be as benign as becoming completely overcome by a seemingly uncontrollable mega-wave of sadness and guilt, for others it can manifest as an uncontrollable rockslide of rage that ends in someone getting killed. For many though, especially those who’ve drunk the Kool-Aid disseminated by anti-hunting groups, the fact that hunting can actually help a trauma survivor confront and overcome the contemporary effects of conscious and subconscious memories and interpretations of the past trauma seems so contrary to what many think.
That Orion Multimedia, LLC. produced Federal Premium’s Grateful Nation was brave. That ESPN2 would broadcast a program that touches on the controversial subject of putting a firearm in the hands of a newly returned combat veteran (much less anything that brings the reality of a war nearing 10 years long into American public’s living room in addendum to daily news), and have them go through a form of healing and self-awareness spurred on by the host’s questions, on camera is amazing!
The premise of Grateful Nation is very simple and like we used to say when deep in a fierce fight: the quickest path to victory is a forward-moving straight line—keep it simple, stupid (KISS). Invited out on a hunt, the combat veteran is followed by the camera crew as Abell asks the right questions at the right time to open up a world that the majority of the viewing public have only learned of through the images and words, often distant from those combatants actually being reported on, to support a news producer’s theme.
Abell makes this much more personal, which actually might turn off many because of the graphic description. Personally, I’m very much for it. There has been a great avoidance in the world about dealing with the realities of the world, much of it starting with children led to believe their hamburgers and fish sticks come from a cellophane wrapping machine, instead of a steer getting a cattle prod to the brain, or a salmon a metal club to the top of its head and a quick evisceration.
There’s something very honest about knowing where your meat comes from, and knowing what your sons and daughters are getting themselves into when they go off to war. Do I think this stops war? No. Even with all the news stories, books, and broadcast over the last 50 years, there are more wars happening around the world now than there were during the Cold War. My hope is that the American public gains a better awareness of what a combat veteran has gone through and recognizes it, and lets them deal with it in a healthy and effective manner (and not only offer politically correct, and often, ineffective options) during their homecoming.
For those of us who remember vividly how unjustly military personnel, and especially Vietnam veterans (takes a lot of mass harassment for a veteran to not even be willing to mention military service on their job resume—the case for many returning Vietnam veterans, a historical fact forgotten by many), were treated in those 15 years after the fall of Saigon, Grateful Nation is a media and cultural waymark long overdue…something to ponder as we come upon Memorial Day, an annual event meant for remembrance of those we’ve lost in war, either those right next to us in combat, or far off in a distant land.
For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy Tim Abell’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:
Track 1: Tim Abell talks about Grateful Nation and next production at Flying B Ranch.
Track 2: Tim Abell reminisces about first times hunting, enlistment in the US Army and achievement of Rangers, paying dues in Hollywood, and return to hunting.
Track 3: Tim Abell chats about pro-2nd Amendment/hunting Hollywood players, and upcoming film projects he’ll be participating in.