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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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BIG GAME ARGENTINA by Craig Boddington [Book&DVD Review/Radio Interview]

Posted on 26 March 2010 by Cork Graham

Craig Boddington, and his guide Cano St. Antonin, with a fine red stag taken on the Huemul Peninsula.

Craig Boddington, and his guide, Cano St. Antonin, with a fine red stag taken on the Huemul Peninsula.

Argentina conjures a variety of images for those who’ve never been there. There’re the gauchos, the Pampas, and tango. For the angler there are the monster-sized trout and salmon in rivers that seem untouched because of the stretch of land that fills the borders of the country as well as its meager population that centers around Buenos Aires. For the hunter, there are the photos and images of ducks and big-game that have graced magazines, and as of late, those through the onslaught of 24-hour outdoors satellite programming.

It wasn’t always like this. Yes, there were the trout, back in the 1970s when South American was truly only a blip on the salmonid fanatic’s radar; but when I first saw the images of red deer antlers grace the pages of hunting magazines in the late 70s and early 80s, they were nowhere near the size and impressiveness they are now.

Much of this has to do with how well they’ve managed the herds that were previously left to roam without any real predation-like bluegills in a pond, they quickly overpopulated and their rack size dwindled in response to the lack of food and nutrients.

Because of the new land and wildlife management practices implemented in Argentina during the last 20 years, Argentina is really giving New Zealand’s Utopian red stag hunting a run for the money. Culling the scrawny genetics, and managing for quality instead of quantity, has created a balance between feed and minerals: showing how good management practices benefit not just game animals but non-game peripherals, adding to the grand beauty of the land  and hospitality for which Argentina has always been known.

What better way to cook meat than in a traditional parrillada?

What better way to cook meat than in a traditional parrillada?

Big Game Argentina records the results of this improved bounty for the outdoors enthusiast wanting to travel Argentina and is the latest offering from Gen. Craig Boddington USMC (ret.). An outdoor writer, book author, show host I’ve admired and respected for years, a man who offered me words to live by back in 1994 as an newbie outdoor writer for The Times of San Mateo County, Boddington’s credentials speak for themselves with over 30 years in what is one of the harder and becoming more and more the hardest writing profession to create longevity.

In his book and DVD collection about hunting in Argentina, Big Game Argentina, Boddington and the photographer, Guillermo Zorraquin, deliver a plethora of what’s available in striking detail (what we in the business call “NGC”, National Geographic Color). From the province of Patagonia, north to Chaco and Santiago Del Estero, west to La Pampa and finally east to the province of Buenos Aires, Boddington and the publishers John John Reynal  and Juan Pablo Reynal took on an enviable, yet sobering project that took two years to complete.

In the offering, they delivered what I consider the most informative and beautifully illustrated book in years on Argentina and hunting red stag, white-lipped javelina (peccary), ducks, doves, water buffalo, puma, blackbuck, capybara, brocket deer, and feral sheep, goats and hogs.

Boddington's fine example of a white-lipped peccary

Boddington’s fine example of a white-lipped peccary

In a world in which text is not enough, and as a result traditional printed magazines are going the way of the dinosaurs, and multimedia is king (explaining why Cork’s Outdoors gets 11,000 hits a day) Big Game Argentina is nicely matched with a DVD that fills in the dialogue and action that can’t really be captured in text, and yet video doesn’t try to replace the informative quality of text delivered by Boddington’s honed skills as a writer.

A quick mention of the charcoal artwork by Esteban Diaz Mathé must be made: the work is superb and really adds to the quality of those images not captured in photographs, making the book anyone would be proud to have sitting on their coffee table for friends to enjoy.

Often, many of those traveling think that hunting Argentina only involves staying at estancias and hunting open Pampas. Big Game Argentina lays that stereotype to rest with text and photos covering with dramatic flare the many options of hunting Argentina: like French Alps-like mountains and New Zealand’s Fjordland-like lake and sea area to the south on horseback, or the low brush options further north, reminiscent of eastern Colorado, and the flat brush of Texas, to name a few.

A sampling of the dramatic views the hunting lands of Argentina offer

A sampling of the dramatic views the hunting lands of Argentina offer

As for capturing the adventure and drama a place like Argentina on the DVD, one of the most striking scenes is one in which Boddington, while on stand, waiting for dogs to drive out a collared peccary, sees a brocket deer break from the brushline. Swinging on the brocket with a shotgun, he dramatically takes a nice deer that reminds me of the dik-dik of Africa. In another scene he makes an amazing shot on a capybara, also on a full run. Kudos to the videographer for his skill catching all the action over Boddington’s shoulder.

In contrast to the native species, and aside from the more famous red deer, there are the fallow deer, feral hogs and water buffalo. Raised in Southeast Asia, I was always amazed that the animal I always saw as a child pulling a plow across a rice field had become such a prized game animal in places such as a Australia and Argentina. While the ones from Australia have a much larger sweep and are originally from the wild strain. The ones in South America descend from the farmed water buffalo that were originally brought to what would become Italy by the Ancient Romans, for their milk and the best mozzarella resulting from that water buffalo milk.

Through centuries of genetic selection, much in the same way Herefords are these days chosen over the original Spanish Texas Longhorn as cattle type, the farmed water buffalo has a much smaller horn, with a much less ominous wide curve of its originally wild cousin in Southeast Asia and Australia, which ironically makes it look more African cape buffalo and trophy in its own right in the feral and very wild form covered in Big Game Argentina.

If you’re planning on hunting or even just traveling or Argentina, or prefer the armchair traveler’s voyage to South America, I’d highly recommend adding the book and DVD pairing of Big Game Argentina by Craig Boddington to your collection.

Books are available through www.craigboddington.com

Book and DVD are available through www.patagoniapublishing.com

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy Craig Boddington’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

 Topics: Hunting Argentina, helpful advice for neophyte outdoor writers, hunting Africa and Boddington’s two shows broadcast on The Sportman’s Channel and Outdoor Channel, and finally what’s new with Boddington’s writing and adventures in the coming weeks and months.

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Where There be Ducks, There be Billy G!

Posted on 23 January 2010 by Cork Graham

Duckmaster Billy Gianquinto hammering the mallard call at his ISE seminar in San Mateo
Duckmaster Billy Gianquinto hammering the mallard call at his ISE seminar in San Mateo

Imagine a 13-year-old in a new land, dreaming of doing what his father had done at his age. The teen arrived in the US after spending all his previous years in foreign countries and reading late-arriving Boy’s Life, Outdoor Life and Field & Streams, thinking that when he returned to the nation of his nationality, he’d get to experience what his father had been blessed with from the 1930s to the late 1940s.

How wrong was that kid!

California in the late 1970s was quickly on its way to becoming the most expensive state within which to reside. Land prices forced out family-run ranches and farms, forcing sales to foreign-owned corporations. In the process, a simple handshake and promise to leave each cattle gate as found (normally closed), perhaps a bit of the meat or fish from the day’s take to the landowner, no longer led to an automatic permission to hunt privately-owned land, i.e. most often the best land to hunt and fish in the United States.

No, no, no. Instead, large club were formed to purchase hunting and fishing rights at thousands of dollars, something a young teen couldn’t even imagine of paying then. The only options were to hunt public national forests for deer, and bear, (pigs focus on free eats and safety on private land, so were never really an option unless you had access), and the waterfowl refuges.

If my parents hadn’t stepped in to get a family membership with the now long gone American Sportsman’s Club (most of the properties went under the Golden Ram and Wilderness Unlimited domain), I probably would have spent years on public land getting skunked like so many neophyte hunters experience on public land. What was more important wasn’t the access to private land, but the education available from the much more experienced hunters and anglers on the membership roles, and, too, the hunting seminars.

Billy Gianquinto conducted one of them. This is the man in 1977, who taught me to how to get ducks!

There are some people in life that you meet who just have that charismatic quality about them that makes an impression on you. When it comes to duck hunting, the one who made the best impression on me was Billy Gianquinto.

The next time I met Gianquinto after that instruction in 1977, was right after I had returned from hiding out and healing in Alaska to find that my old friend, Mark Eveslage, a cameraman well decorated with awards like the Emmy and just last year the Edward R. Murrow, was working on a new show, called the Charlie West’s Outdoor Gazette TV show. Better known for ducks, Gianquinto was their hunting host, and went off well with his own Billy and Buck waterfowl hunting show that I would enjoy regularly during the 1990s.

Nowadays, Gianquinto and I both write and host for e4outdoors.com. And all this time, he never knew that I was one of those kids he taught way back, until just a few weeks ago.

…That’s Billy Gianquinto’s gift: working with and teaching young hunters how to get their ducks—making sure the hunting line doesn’t die out with each succeeding generation. In all honesty, with all the “master” duck hunters I’ve interviewed and hunted with, my knowledge of duck hunting always ends up coming back to the tried and true teachings of Billy G.

From him, I learned how to call pintails and whistle widgeon and teal. With his knowledge I got my mallards. Though he no longer teaches it, because he can’t reach those notes anymore; I can still call in honkers with my voice. And when steel shot first came in, he taught me to “open up that choke!”

With an initial knowledge of hunting built through reading and rereading classics like Hunting the Lawless and The Outlaw Gunner, and formed by great writers, many long dead, like Nash Buckingham, Ed Neal, and Walt Christensen, Billy G’s hunting history reaches back to when he was eight years old and saw a film starring matinee idol Errol Flynn, called “Robin Hood”. With a full costume like his favorite character and a bow, he ventured by bicycle to Golden Gate Park for the squirrels and pygmy rabbits hiding in the trees and brush. Soon, he went on a “real” hunt, a duck hunt with a boss at the Boy Scout camp he worked at during his youth.

The article on that life forming event, shows exactly that mad, yet endearing, quality that duck hunters have over other hunters: who else actively anticipates the worst weather of winter and fall, and talks to themselves all the rest of the year with a duck call in their hands, and spends untold amounts of cash on the latest piece of waterfowl hunting equipment, and risks divorce just to get into a blind when the birds are in?

Personally, my own waterfowl madness started with a friend from high school in Belmont, who pestered me to join him in the sucking San Francisco Bay mud flats and islands off Redwood Shores, right after I learned to call from Billy G. I can really relate to Billy G’s conversion to duckhood—with all its pain and self-questioning. There’s just something about seeing a bright greenhead cupped and floating down into your dekes, or my favorite, as I’m at heart a goose hunter, flagging a distant flock of Canada geese that break off the main flock and almost land on your head as you lay on your back in a dry barley or wheat field, waiting to make a clean headshot.

And that doesn’t even call up memories of great meals prepared with the waterfowl taken over grain and green pastures that make me think of mallard and honkers as “filet mignon the wing.”

If you’d like to be converted to sitting in bad weather (though that can be a myth, too: many a mallard has fallen to guns on blue birds skies), and learn the tricks and tips that keep you from coming home cold and skunked, check out Billy G’s seminars at ISE Sacramento this weekend, and check out his website full of useful information and articles. And if you want to get a pintail whistle that will actually pull ducks away from others calling (it’s made of metal which is why it’s so loud), I can’t say enough good things about Billy G’s pintail whistle!

ISE

The days of having a relative teach you how to hunt and fish are sadly going the way of the California condor. Thankfully, there are still shows in California and around the country that provide that education by experienced professionals. Waterfowl, big-game, trout, salmon, steelhead, and most of the equipment you need to actually go out and do it with are available for purchase and or trying out at shows like the International Sportsmen’s Show—no, the traditional name doesn’t just mean for men, as the quickest increasing population of hunters are women!

While chatting at our mutual friend, Michael Riddle’s Native Hunt booth; black cowboy hat-wearing, fellow pig fanatic of The Hog Blog, Phillip Loughlin, shared the same hope that these shows will keep the hunter’s torch blazing and lighting the way for new hunters to get hte right information and a solid opportunity to hunt private lands locked off from the public.

The Hog Blog's Phillip Loughlin, Michael Riddle and the Native Hunt Team

The Hog Blog's Phillip Loughlin, Michael Riddle and the Native Hunt Team

Every year I wait to see what’s new and interesting and to see what new guiding operations are out there to provide the best bang for your buck experience: I’m always for a newbie hunter or angler signing up with a guide or outfitter for their first time, especially in an area that you might want to try on your own-why in the world would you want to spend more money reinventing the wheel, when overall, you can pay much less for a trip with a guide that takes care of all that time lost on trial and errors, so that you can be in the field as someone who is an important component of wildlife management and conservation?

While the San Mateo ISE show is a week over, Sacramento is still raging well: where else can you get the opportunity to meet in person outfitters that can make your dream of hunting or fishing in lands of wonders, like New Zealand, Alaska and Africa?

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  1. Shot Show 2010 Recap
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