LAS VEGAS -- While celebrating its annual awards show, Outdoor Channel circled the wagons against anti-hunters and Second Amendment opposition.
Attacks on the hunting and shooting lifestyle in the past year were addressed by a number of attendees at the 14th Annual Golden Moose Awards powered by Ram Trucks, and there was a call to fight back.
At his first SHOT Show, new Outdoor Channel CEO Jim Liberatore explained to the GMA crowd that the network’s new owner, Stan Kroenke of Kroenke Sports Entertainment, is not just about his sports properties.
“He also owns hundreds of thousands of acres of commercial and private lands. He’s a hunter. He’s dedicated to conservation. He is into this space. He is going to be the best thing that’s happened to this space,” Liberatore said. “We have gone to him asking for resources and investments and he’s already approved those things. We are ready to take off as a network. He is going to be the real deal.
“Second, Outdoor Channel is going to be an aggressive advocate for this business. That is our No. 1 goal right now.”
Click image to see photos of the 14th Annual Golden Moose Awards powered by Ram Trucks
Upon accepting his third of four awards on the night, Jim Shockey gave a prime example of the new ownership. One of his crew on the “The Professionals,” Corey Knowlton, was top bidder in the Dallas Safari Club’s auction of a black rhino hunt in Namibia, which was offered at the behest of the south African nation and supported by entities like the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“In this room, there’s one person who spent $350,000, 100 percent of it to go to the conservation of black rhinos,” Shockey said. “That person has had hundreds of death threats.
“This person is putting their money, putting their life, everything they believe in, into hunting big game. This person is also alone for most of that. I’ve been on the receiving end of death threats and I’m sure some of you have as well.”
Knowlton’s name was leaked via social media, and he subsequently was asked to appear on “Piers Morgan Live” on CNN. Shockey said there was a high level meeting among Kroenke’s Outdoor Channel executives about the potential outcomes of the line of questioning from the Second Amendment critic.
Shockey said the discussion went something like this:
“If we’re too afraid to stand up and fight for hunters and what hunters believe in and conservation, then we should have never bought this company. We should have never bought in to this industry,” he said. “So, we support this man 100 percent.”
Knowlton came to the podium and gave an emotional speech, just hours after speaking to Morgan and his audience.
“Tonight I looked in the face of millions and millions of people, and they don’t believe in what we believe,” he said. “They don’t believe in freedom; they believe in control. They don’t believe in love and kindness and understanding as much as they like to say.
“What they believe in is trying to scare us. We have the facts on our side. We’re patient with them. They want to call us names. They want to threaten my 2-year-old child, my 7-year-old daughter, my beautiful wife.
“It’s really about freedom and control -- them trying to control our freedom.”
Knowlton said Morgan didn’t take issue with the facts behind the hunt – the money will be used by Namibia to bolster its preservation efforts of the black rhino – it was taking trophy shots after the hunt.
“I can tell you I take a lot of time and try to respect the animals in pictures, but he said it was standing over ‘slaughtered’ animals,” Knowlton said. “They’re calling us trash. They are calling us visceral names. They’re threatening to kill us.” (See CNN article on the appearance.)
Ted Nugent salutes Marcus Luttrell, the Navy SEAL behind 'Lone Survivor.' (James Overstreet photo)
Defending hunting and the Second Amendment is among Ted Nugent’s missions, and he didn’t miss the opportunity at the GMAs. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, subject of the book and movie “Lone Survivor,”' presented Nugent’s “Spirit of the Wild” with the award for Fan Favorite Best Overall series.
As he walked on stage, Nugent stopped to salute Luttrell. He said he spends sacred, moving time with military heroes like him every year on hunts and implored the crowd to acknowledge their service by standing alongside him in the fight.
“I would beseech you all to consider, the best way to say thank you for their sacrifices, their lost limbs, their singed flesh, and the crosses all across the country, is to stand up like you’ve never stood up before …and put pressure on (anti-hunters) like you’ve never done before, like I’ve been fighting all my life when they started threatening my family’s lives in the 1960s because I dared to carry a gun and ate venison,” Nugent said.
Nugent’s wife, Shemane, added another way to fight the good fight with an anecdote from her personal transition into the hunting lifestyle.
“Where it can start,” she said, “I was raised in a non-hunting family …”
“I fixed that,” Ted blurted out to huge laughs.
Shermane went on to tell about one of their first hunts together in Africa. Ted set her up in brush while he took position in a tree, telling her to stay until dark and he’d come and get her. Only an hour passed before he came down, but with good reason.
“There was a lion stalking her,” he said. “I didn’t want to get down too soon, but before he got into range, so I didn’t kill him, but I saved her.”
Shemane finished, striking a balance to Ted’s strong words with a call to positive interaction.“My point is, take a non-hunter hunting,” she said. “Expose them to the truth, to the spirit of the wild, to what you know and believe in your hearts. That’s how we’re going to win this fight.”
Earlier Luttrell said it was an honor to be back among country folks. He had been in Hollywood the past few weeks and said “I was about to lose my damn mind.”
Also from Hollywood came award-winning actor Joe Mantegna, host of “MidwayUSA’s Gun Stories,” who felt similarly of his Outdoor Channel brethren. He was introduced by Michael Waddell, who mentioned he just read that an anti-NRA movie is in the works the producer hopes will “make them wish they weren’t alive.”
Mantegna has been to award shows from the Oscars to Emmys, and said the GMAs provide a much more positive impression of the people of this nation.
“If you want to see the heart of America, the spirit of America, the strength, the true personality of America, this is the award show they should be watching, and I’m proud to a part of it,” Mantegna said.
Like he’s held his ground to charging bull elephants, profession hunter Ivan Carter took solid footing against anti-hunters, who have struck in the U.S. and in his beloved Africa.
The host of “Dallas Safari Club’s Tracks Across Africa” and “Hornaday’s Dark and Dangerous” explained how hunting is not just about the kill -- it’s the pursuit that drives “you to the top of that next mountain, wading through the coldest of water, tracking way beyond what you think your body is physically capable of.”
Carter applauded Outdoor Channel for its commitment and asked everyone to defend the hunting lifestyle.
“We like not just to look at the Outdoor Channel as a great platform to present what we do out there in the field, but a great platform to really back us up, through social media and through what we do,” Carter said, “and make the world understand that we’re not just killers -- we are people who love to hunt, and it’s the hunt that we’re all about.
“I’m always going to look at 2013 as the year the anti-hunters flexed their muscles through social media. Let’s make 2014 the year we flex our muscles back.”