Dear sportsmen and sportswomen,
Thank you for your email in reference to my association with George Taulman, owner of US Outfitters, and my drawing of an Arizona elk tag.
I'll try to answer your questions.
As I see it, there are three separate endeavors that George Taulman is invoved in. There is George Taulman the outfitter, George Taulman the licensing agent, and George Taulman the litigant who sued in the Arizona court.
I've known George Taulman ever since he started outfitting about 15 years ago. My first hunt with Taulman was with General Chuck Yeager in 1989 as a fund raiser for RMEF. I've hunted with Taulman a number of times since then, and practically all those hunts were with my editors from New York who wanted an elk hunt, and also with Tony Knight, owner of Knight modern muzzleloaders. Tony and I hunted several times with George to test new firearms that Tony was developing. Most of those hunts were unguided on public land. George essentially provided a bunk and meals, but I had my personal vehicle, and Tony and I hunted on our own, mostly on the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico. For the record, I have not hunted elk with George Taulman for the last six years.
Taulman started his licensing business about 12 years ago, and he's been applying me to hunts since that time. This is how it works. For a fee, USO acts as my power of attorney and applies me to different units in different states. As one who makes a living writing about hunting, and now TV shows, I hunt in as many varied places as possible. It's not uncommon for me to hunt two dozen states each year. My average is 20 states per year, and I'm on the road 200 plus days a year. Obviously, it's an advantage for me to have a licensing agent to take care of the details and paperwork. As you and half the west now knows, I drew an elk tag in Arizona this year. I believe I had five bonus points when I drew the elk tag. The last tag I drew through USO was in 2001, and that was a moose tag in Utah. I had been applying for that tag for about 15 years. Since 2001, I have failed to draw at least 100 tags that I had applied for through USO.
As far as the court case, I am in no way involved in this litigation. Anyone who assumes that I am is misinformed. Here's my take on this. When Taulman first told me about this litigation effort, I was not in approval if it meant that I had to share equally my tag with nonresidents. As a Wyoming resident, for example, I have the privilege of having priority over tags because I'm a resident, as all of you do in your home states. I can buy an elk or deer tag at Walmart, but you, as a nonresident, must apply. I believe in states rights. Even though much wildlife ranges on federal land, I believe that a resident should have some sort of preference, but I also believe that you as a nonresident should be able to hunt here as well. In fact, I lived in Utah for 14 years, and continually applied for Wyoming tags, but couldn't draw. I became so frustrated that I moved here!
There are currently some unfair practices that discriminate against nonresidents. In North Dakota, nonresidents cannot hunt turkeys. In California and South Dakota, nonresidents cannot hunt elk. In Montana, nonresidents cannot apply for bighorn sheep tags in some of the top units in the state. In Idaho, only residents could hunt moose until two years ago, even though most moose lived on federal land. That law was rightfully changed recently. In my home state of Wyoming, a nonresident cannot hunt a wilderness area without a guide. That is a bad law, inferring that you nonresidents aren't as savvy about survival and woods skills as a resident is. I know some Wyoming hunters who would get lost when they got out of sight of a paved road, and I know nonresidents that are outstanding woodsmen.
I don't know where this litigation will go. From what I understand, it's possible that in the extreme scenario, in all states, the tags will be be allocated 50-50. In other words, a nonresident can have as much a chance to hunt here in Wyoming as I can. When that happens, I won't be a happy camper, if I cannot buy a general tag in my own state. You, as a nonresident, might be a very happy camper, but you won't like it when YOU have to draw against nonresidents on a 50-50 basis in your own state. Arizona is different, as are a few other states, where even residents have to draw, and cannot just buy a general license.So you see, this is a double-edged sword. Nobody wins. But we hunters lose. This is another example of how we shoot ourselves in the foot, by bickering and arguing. The animal rights people love it. Trust me, I've interviewed many of them, and situations like this are exactly what they want to see.
I can certainly understand why Arizona residents are upset. I would be, too, if I was in that situation. I'm not sure exactly how this draw worked, but I'm told that I, and other nonresidents, were drawn specifically because of Taulman's litigation. Frankly, I had no clue that this was all going on, and I was surprised to get the tag. I also believe I've been unfairly broadsided by some of you who have made erroneous assumptions with my relationship with George Taulman. Again, I had no part in the litigation.
For your information, I will not hunt Arizona for elk this year. This decision did not come about because of the negative communications I've received. I love a good fight, but this is not a good fight. It's divisive. It's bad for hunters and hunting. Sure, I could hunt Arizona and perhaps kill the biggest bull of my life. I will not hunt there to make my point.
I hope this all ends peacefully, but right now it is a volatile issue. Thanks again for writing, even those of you who want me tarred and feathered. Believe it or not, I try to represent all hunters in my work. I'm a board member of the United States Sportsmen's Alliance, a national group headed by Dick Cabela that lobbies for hunting everywhere against anti-hunters. I preach hunting ethics and fair chase in everything I write. I can assure you that I have never asked for or received favoritism. Many people believe that because of my status in a national hunting magazine, I get strings pulled. I have honestly never known that to happen.