Just 6 percent of Americans went hunting in 2011, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And according to the 2014 General Social Survey, just 15 percent of adults live in households where they or their spouse were hunters, down from a high of 32 percent in 1977. Despite its gun-friendly reputation, contemporary America is not exactly a nation of hunters.
But you’d never know that from the country’s political class, which loves to dress up in camouflage and hoist weapons for the cameras. Take the pheasant hunt hosted by Iowa congressman Steve King earlier this month in Akron, Iowa. King’s outing was no ordinary shooting excursion. Over the course of the weekend he was accompanied by about 50 hunters, including four presidential candidates and about a dozen members of the media. Mike Huckabee, who said he was on his third-ever pheasant hunt, downed a bird with his first shot. “He’s as dead as Elvis,” the former Arkansas governor quipped. Soon afterward, the Huckabee campaign released a video of their candidate making the kill.
In downing a bird for the cameras, Huckabee was participating not just in the age-old tradition of humans killing animals for food, but in a somewhat newer tradition of politicians hunting for publicity. We’ve seen President Obama shooting skeet, Sarah Palin supporting aerial wolf hunting, and then-vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan giving an interview to Deer & Deer Hunting magazine about his passion for (take a guess) deer hunting. King’s annual hunt itself has become its own political set piece. In 2011, he hosted primary candidates Rick Perry and Rick Santorum.