MISSOULA, Mont. – The Boone and Crockett Club's initiative, Hunt Right; Hunt Fair Chase, today walked back 115 years to a Mississippi swamp to celebrate the birth of Fair Chase. It was here that a U.S. president set the tone for how hunting was to be conducted from that day forward.
Our 26th president and Club founder, Theodore Roosevelt, traveled from the White House on November 14, 1902, to Mississippi to settle a border dispute between Mississippi and neighboring Louisiana. Knowing Roosevelt was an avid sportsman, his host arranged a black bear hunt for the president during his visit.
"The Mississippi swamps were a notoriously tough piece of country to get around in, let alone hunt a black bear," explained James L. Cummins, vice president of the Boone and Crockett Club and resident of Mississippi. "Over a concern for the president's safety his hosts insisted that Roosevelt stay in camp until a bear had been brought to bay by the houndsmen. This did not sit well with Roosevelt."
The houndsmen were able to capture a bear, get a rope around it and secure it to a tree, and then sent for the president. Upon arrival, much to the shock of everyone on hand, Roosevelt refused to shoot the defenseless bear.
"The need for a new fair and ethical approach to hunting was discussed at the very first meeting when Roosevelt formed the Boone and Crockett Club in 1887," Cummins continued. "Back then, no such standard existed nor was hunting governed by any science, laws or concern for wildlife's future like we have today. Commercial market hunting was also rampant at the time. There was no room for any kind of ethics when the objective was not the hunt, but how much game one could take with the least effort."
Having been omitted from the chase itself was unsettling to Roosevelt, who believed an animal should only been taken when earned honestly, because a hunt was much more than just killing. By not acquiescing to the common practice of the day, the press corps, who was traveling with the president, now had something more interesting to write about than a border dispute.
When news of Roosevelt's decision hit the newspapers, a shopkeeper in New York asked his wife to sew a stuffed kid's toy that looked like a bear. He then sent a letter to the president asking his permission to call his invention, "Teddy's Bear." Clifford Berryman, a political cartoonist also grabbed the opportunity and penned a drawing of Roosevelt, with the caption, "Drawing the Line in Mississippi," referring to both the border dispute and the president defining what wasn't hunting.
Cummins said, "We do not know the exact reason why Roosevelt gave permission to use his name for the Teddy Bear but we do know that he and other Club members were looking for a way to nationalize the concept of fair chase to get more sportsmen of the day on board with an ethical and sporting approach to hunting – an approach that would exhibit restraint and work with, instead of against, the wildlife recovery and conservation efforts the Club was proposing. We also know that the Club was looking for a catalyst that would help separate sportsmen who hunted for the right reasons from those who killed for commercial profits."
Fair chase would become the code of hunters, and defined what it meant to be a sportsman; one who hunted for personal reasons and carried with them a sporting approach.
"Even though the Teddy Bear is now famous around the world, to responsible sportsmen around the world fair chase is what we have to hold onto that in no small measure is the reason why we can freely hunt today," Cummins concluded. "Our society rightfully expects an ethical approach to everything, including hunting."
About Hunt Right; Hunt Fair Chase
The Boone and Crockett Club and its partners launched this initiative in August of 2017 to remind all sportsmen of their heritage and the principles of fair chase, which are foundational to overall conservation ethic. Its purpose is to highlight the values and the moral connection sportsmen have had with the game they hunt—a commitment that spans over a century that is an shining example for all those whose cherish wildlife. Hunt Right is sponsored by Leupold & Stevens, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, YETI, Sitka, the Wild Sheep Foundation, Realtree, Under Armour, Buck Knives, Boyt Harness Company, and a host of media partners. For details, visit www.huntfairchase.com
Media contact: Greg Duncan, Blue Heron Communications, 405-364-3433, firstname.lastname@example.org