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Media Members Do Journalism a Disservice When They Trash Hunters

Gabriella Hoffman
by Gabriella Hoffman Read Profile arrow_right_alt

The American media are generally antagonistic towards firearms and hunting. Few outlets and personalities can report on these topics fairly. What a sad state of affairs.

It’s not hard to portray hunters in a fair light.

NPR rightly noted in March 2018 diminishing hunting numbers spell doom for conservation funding in this country. Last month, in a piece titled A New Breed of Hunters Focuses on the Cooking, New York Times noted how the allure of ethically-harvested game meat is drawing in new hunters. Back in January, Wall Street Journal published this tongue-and-chic article describing the success of Field-to-Fork programs luring more hipsters into the fold.

Sadly, many of our peers in media need to be enlightened on where their food comes from and why they shouldn’t dismiss true conservation efforts through sustainable hunting practices.

The latest attack on hunting comes from former MSNBC host and current ESPN personality Keith Olbermann, who is rabidly anti-gun and anti-hunting. Why this guy is still around should confound you. But alas, he still sadly has a platform.

Olbermann took it to Twitter to bash 22-year-old Mississippi turkey hunter Hunter Waltman for legally harvesting an “exceptionally rare” turkey.

He accused Walton of being a “pea-brained scumbag” and said “we should do our best to make sure the rest of his life is a living hell.”

He also called Clarion-Ledger Outdoor Editor Brian Broom a “nitwit clown” and suggested he should be fired.

I took a screen shot of the tweet in case he later deletes it:

The Clarion-Ledger responded in kind and offered this very strong rebuke of Olbermann’s unsettling tweet:

Who can forget former MSNBC political commentator Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World” segment during his 2003-2011 show, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann?”

But today, perhaps Olbermann earned that title himself. Why?

It all started with Outdoors writer Brian Broom writing a piece about a Mississippi hunter bagging a rare white turkey. The story has been extremely popular with Clarion Ledger readers. 

Olbermann, no fan of guns or hunting, retweeted the story today to his 1.08 million followers with the following comment:

The column added:

Keith, really? Our outdoors writer should be fired and people should make Hunter Walman’s life a living hell?

Good grief man, get a hold of yourself.

Hunting is very popular in the South. We get it. You are not into hunting. But calling for firings and lives in hell? That seems a little far.

Here’s how the Executive Editor of the publication responded:

The piece describes the turkey Waltman harvested in this manner:

The bird’s plumage was solid white. His spurs and nails were white, too. His beard was black. His eyes were the same as a normal turkey, so that ruled out albinism. He was an anomaly in the world of turkeys.

When a photo of the bird was posted on social media it was met with a mix of reactions. Some congratulated Waltman on taking such an unusual gobbler while others said it was someone’s pet or domestic livestock. Waltman said it was neither.

“I took it to a taxidermist in Louisiana and he said it was 100 percent wild turkey,” Waltman said.

The article included a wildlife biologist’s take, who confirmed that the gobbler most likely has a genetic anomaly—which is not uncharacteristic in popular game species like wild turkeys:

Instead of a cross with a domestic turkey, Eriksen said he believes it is partially albino. Also known as leucism, it is a genetic abnormality which causes animals to be pale or spotty in coloration. It is unlike true albinism because it causes a reduction in multiple types of pigment, not just melanin.

“Often this trait is expressed with patches of color as in a piebald deer, but this specimen does not exhibit patches,” Eriksen said. “Occasionally piebald deer are reported without brown patches but the eye and hoof color is retained as normal.”

In addition to the bird’s feathers, Eriksen said the legs suggest leucism rather than a crossbreed.

Broom also noted :

Adam Butler, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Wild Turkey Program coordinator, said he has never heard of or seen a wild white turkey in Mississippi, much less one that managed to survive to adulthood.

“I would say it’s exceptionally rare,” Butler said. “I would assume that occurs in one out of several hundred thousand individuals.”

Casual observers will comb through Broom’s article and find nothing wrong with the content or his intrigue about the legally-harvested turkey. People should instead have a problem with poached and illegally harvested animals.

“Journalists” like Olbermann are keen on attacking all forms of hunting, be it the more controversial big game hunting or conventional turkey hunting. Calling for people to make Walton’s life a living hell and for Broom to be fired should be roundly condemned. Perhaps it violates Twitters Terms & Conditions too? That language has no place in discourse, let alone in media.

Olbermann’s crass, alienating language could undermine the hunting industry further, which is on the mend after a period of diminishing participation numbers. These attacks on hunting can scare off future consumers. As NPR noted last spring, if hunting numbers continue to fall conservation funding will be hardest hit.

The inconvenient truth most anti-hunters don’t want to admit: Hunters, along with anglers, pay upwards of 60% of all conservation funding in this country. This should be celebrated and those who legally hunt shouldn’t have their lives made a living hell.


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