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Sportsmen given credit in Montana's Dem governor win


Although not as highly watched as Montana’s seat in the US Senate, sportsmen are also being given partial credit for tipping the scales toward the Democratic victor, Steve Bullock, over Republican Rick Hill in the 2012 race for Montana Governor.

A Lee newspapers analysis quoted Bullock campaign manager Kevin O’Brien, as he passed around the credit.

“Overall, the constituencies supporting our campaign were motivated, energized and worked harder than I’ve ever seen groups work on the ground to turn out supporters, to communicate with undecided voters about the important issues in the race,” he said. “I think that’s what pushed us over the top.”

O’Brien went on to say that hunting, fishing and conservation groups helped because of Bullock’s clear support for access to public lands, streams and rivers.  

In Montana, hunting and fishing are deeply woven into the social fabric. Both candidates knew that, and worked hard to court the “hook and bullet” vote. 

Rick Hill tried to harness the negative energy stirring in some hunting camps around wolves and predators. He lambasted the state’s Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks and called for increasing efforts to kill off predators. 

Bullock, on the other hand, pointed to his track record working to defend Montana’s open stream access laws, which are some of the strongest in the country and the constant target of private landowners who want more privacy (and more profit) from streams that run across their land. 

At least by O’Brien’s calculus, Montanans’ love of freedom outweighs their fear of predators. 

By my analysis, it’s a good thing that neither political party can take the hunter/angler vote for granted in Montana. 

Image. Steve Bullock poses with a shotgun and an orange hat during his campaign. No wait. Those are law books. 

Ben Long is an outdoorsman, author and conservationist in Kalispell, Mont. He is senior program director for Resource Media.