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Hunting Hollywood for a GRATEFUL NATION [Radio Interview]

Posted on 25 May 2010 by Cork Graham

Tim Abell on assignment for GRATEFUL NATION
Tim Abell on assignment for GRATEFUL NATION in Namibia

 

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.

One of many of Cork Graham's war memories: Las Aranas, El Salvador; 1986

Cork Graham’s Cold War memories: Salvadoran Navy SEALs — Las Arañas, El Salvador; 1986

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!

GRATEFUL NATION

Abell's succcess .338 RCM on wild boar on GRATEFUL NATION

Tim Abell’s succcess with a new .338 Federal on wild boar on GRATEFUL NATION

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.

corkalaskahunting

Cork Graham healing war memories as a subsistence hunter in Alaska, circa 1990

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:

 Topics:

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.

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Harvesting from the Earth

Posted on 10 April 2009 by Cork Graham

Many of you have written me after watching cooking show after cooking show, asking:
“Why?”

It all goes back to my understanding of conservation, and real conservation goes back to
the origins of stewardship of the land. Originally  just a king or landowner, or  a
farmer or rancher who the conservationists who worked or had someone work with the land and reaped
the rewards of that labor.

Nowadays, we pay agencies and corporations to do that work for us. For many of us now,
conservation really means preservation, practicing catch-release. For others like me, the
cycle of life, building water collection sites, clearing out pollutants and fencing it off
from cattle, planting feed plots for deer and then harvesting from those endeavors is
most rewarding: not only on a societal plane, but also environmentally for all other
game and non-game animals, birds and fish that benefit.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a very important place for catch-release programs,
especially in areas with no restocking programs that are close enough to urban
populations that non-stocking or catch-keep practices would wipe out an in a week. It’s just that we can’t forget how we got here and what works best, where, and when…

As for the cooking shows, I’m a firm believer in what I heard Master Chef, hunter, and
entrepreneur Marco Pierre White
comment on cooking game. He was walking with
Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations and showed how to cook a rabbit with a filling
of grass taken from the land where the rabbit had been shot: match the game and fish to the land.

For us here in Northern California, that’s wine and grapes, and blackberries and hops and
madrone and alder. Take a steelhead from the river and cut a few of the many stands of
alder (be sure to remove the bark or you’ll get sick) from the waterway which you’d
taken the trout, add a sugar and salt brine and you’ve got the makings for an amazing
smoked steelhead.

Take a Chardonnay from the Napa, Sonoma or Russian River Valley, match it with garlic, and a
turkey taken from the same vineyards that produced those wine grapes and you’ve got the
makings for a heavenly “Turkey Scallopini”! Or, as we just did in our latest episode with a
Russian River Valley 2007 Chardonnay from Peters Vineyards and bottled by Papapietro
Perry Winery
, a steelhead poached in wine and served with a phenomenal wine-butter
sauce!

The more that I can re-instill that pride of gathering and preparation that used to be so
prevalent all over the world, before children began thinking that their burgers, chicken
patties and fish sticks magically came from a machine that made food from cellophane
wrappings, I’ll do it!

Our friend and fellow outdoorsman John Putnam at Gauge Wines let us in on what’s
happening up in the Mendocino area. There’s an organic foods movement that has been
rising in strength, starting in Northern California, with such culinary luminaries and
Thomas Keller at The French Laundry and land shephards Don and Sally Schmitt at
The Filo Apple Farm
: The Philo Apple Farm prides itself on not even making produce deliveries
further than a tank of gas away out of respect for local grown food freshness.

With more activity like that, our populations will eat more healthily and the land will benefit
through that enlightened husbandry—and what better way to make sure that our following
generations will have a great place to live than to bring back that understanding that all
our ancestors automatically received from day-to-day life on family farms and ranches!

Well, amazingly realistic photo-imaged, inflatable decoys from Cherokee Sports just came in and so we’re off to Lakeport at the north end of Clearlake to match them with the Decoy Sled for our next Remington Arms turkey production!

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Two in the Can…Two More This Weekend!

Posted on 03 April 2009 by Cork Graham

Ziggy's first half of hunt birds.

Ziggy's first half of hunt birds.

If I could only shoot and not have to deal with editing, creating episodes would be a complete slam-dunk: but it’s in the editing that shows are made or destroyed!

And sometimes it just fun going out for a hunting or fishing trip and enjoying it for what it is. Two weeks ago Ziggy and I went to Birds Landing Hunting Preserve to make sure the Zig-meister had a last chance at pheasants during their shoot-out. First time trying the place: great place to hunt, with nice folks…but make sure your pup has its Frontline–ticks galore!

For an 8 months old pup he pointed 8 birds, two of which were dead. As can happen, other hunters lose their birds, either because their vest is flimsy or the bird falls out as they’re bending over. Or, more often, a bird is crippled and never found–if you’ve ever wondered why a good bird-dog can cost so much this is why… If a bird is killed that day, I have no problems adding it to my bag.

If you feel the same, feel free to pick up those birds and add them to your limit [this was an end of season “Shoot-out”, so there was no limit, hence 8 birds!] What I do is smell the bird to make sure it’s fresh, though.  And as a sign of age, if I see maggots already at work, I know for sure it’s been a day since the bird was killed and that’s where I don’t retain the dead bird. 

Funny part was that I’m now getting an idea of what he’s pointing. If Ziggy’s tail’s up, it’s a live bird holding. If his tail’s down, it’s a dead bird, time of death not yet determined. Needless to say we’ve got a lot of birds to work smoking and BBQ recipes with. Just did a couple birds in the 10 year old Model 8 Cookshack smoker: bulgogi marinated and applewood smoked–came back from my year working for the ROK Army to find it kaput, but a replacement of the heating element and that’s all it needed!

As for other show’s we’ve getting ready for release, we’ve been editing the wine-poached steelhead that we used a wonderful  Papapietro-Perry Chardonnay on. It came out very well as you’ll see in the coming how-to episode.

Hope your turkey opener was spectacular! I was the cameraman on the lastest episode we shot for our friends at Mathews last weekend. Started off with a perfect ground blind setup, but devolved into a call and run and shoot: wait ’til you see how Marv DeAngelis shoots at 15 yards, if that!

Marv DeAngelis with his trophy gobbler

Marv DeAngelis with his trophy gobbler

For this weekend’s shoot, our friends at a Rvfshr Products and Kramer Tackle and Guide sent a collection of lures to try on steelhead. So, we’re dedicating a couple episodes to jigs and pink worms, and spoons and spinners. Can’t wait to try them! They look fishy and you’ll notice that many lures meant to catch fish, as compared to anglers ,can seem very muted when you use them, jigs and worms aside. More on that later in an actual feature article…

It’s kind of a bittersweet as we move into later parts of the season. The Russian is lowering and we’ve probably just got another two weeks left of steelheading there. The American is still on, and perhaps another two weeks after than and it too will be done. Then it’s trout and bass and halibut and spearfishing and so many great activities to do in the outdoors that put  you in the thick of it as a true conservationist–preservationists need not apply… 😉

As for hunting, we’ve definitely got many opportunities for turkey, mainly Rio Grandes, but a few Easterns in the mix through cross-breeding. Briley and Kick’s Industries sent us their special turkey chokes to try on my trusty Remington SP-10. You may be surprised to know that I actually enjoy shooting the SP-10. It’s more enjoyable to shoot than many 26″ barrel 12 gauges. Yes, it’s heavy, but as you know from my comments about shooting heavy-kicking firearms, I’ll definitely take the weight any day. And what I love most is when that load from a 10 hits, it’s lights out: turkey or geese–perfect load/perfect pattern! It’s the magnum shooter’s 16 gauge…

More on program scheduling: my favorite, wild pigs, is still on the menu this spring, though with the rapid heating/non-winter and lack of water it’s a question of what it’ll carryon to be…

Well back to the Russian for steelies on jigs, pink worms, spoons and spinners!

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