We interviewed Donald Trump Jr., an avid hunter and outdoorsman, and he shared thoughts about what the Trump administration means for the outdoor community.
I'll always remember where I was when I learned I was going to interview not only one of the foremost outdoorsmen in the United States, but also the son of the next president of the United States. Leading up to the phone call, it was hard to not let my nerves get the better of me, but knowing how much of an outdoorsman that Donald Trump Jr. is, I took comfort in the fact that we had some equal footing to share.
Questioning him on what a Trump administration means to outdoorsmen was somewhat intense. However, Trump Jr. could not have been more friendly, accommodating, and forthcoming with his responses. By the end of the phone call, it was hard to not feel like he was a long lost friend.
We got straight to the heart of some of the bigger debates, right alongside some good old-fashioned hunting talk.
Wide Open Spaces: Your father has said several times he is going to save the Second Amendment. Can you clarify exactly what he means by that? What are his plans?
Donald Trump Jr.: As we've seen, there's been a constant chipping away. It's been a death by one thousand cuts. One morning we're going to wake up and realize there's just nothing left. Many current laws are so stupid. We are preventing law abiding citizens from being able to defend themselves. The only people who actually follow these ridiculous rules are only the people who actually play by them. If you are a criminal, by definition, you are already not going to follow the law. We are going to stop this chipping away.
This is the Second Amendment. It's not like it was an afterthought. After Freedom of Speech and Religion, it was the first thing. It's been all about making it more difficult. The biggest problem is the people out there trying to take this stuff away; it's all they're doing. Their hobby is trying to stop you. It's trying to stop you from getting your kids into it. It's time we get vocal. A big part of me being out there with outdoorsmen is that it's not just about this election. It's about future elections. We have to show politicians that hunters and outdoorsmen will get out there and vote.
Where does the Trump Administration stand on making concealed carry legal across all state lines?
How many crimes are committed by people with valid concealed carry permits? They are not the ones committing crimes. It's just a fact. Registered and legal handguns are not the guns being used in crimes. We are all for reciprocity and making it available for all Americans.
What is going on with keeping public lands public? We have been hearing different things lately, can you set things straight on what the Trump team plans to do?
The platform is we have to keep public lands public. Utah has done a great job with state land. Other states have not. The typical Republican platform has been to transfer that land to the states. The problem is some of these states would just sell this land to people and then you have a private hunting reserve. If know you have to drive three hours to go hunting, you may not do it anymore. It doesn't really matter if the state has it or the government has it, so long as that land stays truly public and the access stay open to everyone.
Some guy on our campaign that I don't even know said something about selling land outside of Las Vegas. I don't know this guy, we heard about it from others. Maybe that makes sense in certain circumstances, but our policy is to keep wild lands wild and accessible. Wild lands that are inaccessible does not help the outdoorsman's cause.
SporstmenforTrump.com makes several comparisons between Donald Trump Sr. and Teddy Roosevelt. Why should outdoorsmen of America support a Trump administration?
We are going to make sure these things are taken care of. The big joke at Christmas this year was that the only job in government that I would want is with the Department of Interior. I understand these issues. It's something I'm passionate about. I will be the very loud voice about these issues in my father's ear. No one gets it more than us. Despite what any of the other candidates may say, none of them actually lived that lifestyle. They'll show up for a hunting photo op, I've done those too, but I'd also been hunting for the past week in Iowa beforehand.
We are going to make sure our issues are taken care of. We are going to take care of our lands. Even with the federal lands, they haven't been managed, they haven't been taken care of, and they've been beaten up and abused. There's something to be said about industry on these lands, but there are cases where we can have it both ways. Look at Utah. You can have it all in some cases. You just need someone with common sense that actually knows the issues instead of looking for the soundbite and leaving.
We are going to be about making sure that Americans can get out and enjoy hunting and streams. These are all our woods and waters. It belongs to all of us and we all have to be able to access it.
You recently finished a turkey hunt out in Covington, Indiana. How did it go?
It was great! To be able to do something in two days is pretty nice especially when it all comes together. We had a good blind setup over a freshly tilled field but birds came in early and were very non-vocal. The low pressure system that came through really kept them quiet.
Two gobblers came in with two hens and they just weren't interested in us. They just wandered on and off after about a half hour of strutting around. Then, about an hour and half later, they came back in with the hens, 120 yards out and locked up. We had one of those reaping half umbrella decoys and I looked at the guys and said we got to go to them. So there I went straight through the muddy, freshly tilled field after 14 hours of rain. I crawled about 100 yards out to close the gap from 120, popped out, and made it happen. I kept hoping the sucking sound from my knees coming out of the mud wouldn't spook them!
Outside of Indiana, where is your favorite place to hunt in the world?
There is something magical about the do-it-yourself stuff in my backyard in New York. A huge whitetail where I'm at would be a 130-class whitetail. Getting that deer after putting up your own stands, cutting your own shooting lanes, and putting in the work is special. Obviously I love the travel hunts all over the world, but there's something about a season that starts in October and goes through the end of the year that requires the work to get it done.
Indiana just recently legalized crossbows. What kind of bow guy are you?
It depends on the hunt. My effective range with a compound is much greater than a recurve. At home, it's more about the challenge than the hunt. I don't have the opportunity at a 185-inch monster that could be around the corner like you do in Indiana, so I like to hunt traditional. I can shoot 25 to 30 yards effectively with traditional gear. Can I shoot further? Yes. Will I hunt further? No.
Getting off the hunting subject for just a second, how did the Bobby Knight endorsement come about?
Actually, Bob Knight reached out to my father before we even knew Indiana would really come into play. He came out and told my father that when or if he was ready, he wanted to support him. He told my father that he was like him, he speaks his mind, he speaks the truth, and he's not afraid of stopping the nonsense. We are very much in line with that. A few weeks ago my father remembered that phone call and reached back out. In Indiana, who else can you think of? It's amazing! It's as good as it gets.
What about your most memorable hunt?
That has to be my first elk. After I graduated college, I moved to Colorado for 18 months to be a bartender so I could hunt and fish. I put in 28 straight days chasing elk with a few buddies and a bow. The amount of vertical feet we logged on a daily basis was crazy. The elk I ended up getting, I shot at four-and-half to five yards after some pretty cool calling. I was at such a steep incline that a bush, which normally would have been two feet off the ground, shielded us completely. All we could see were footsteps through the bottom of the bush. I just drew my bow and waited for him to clear, then closed the deal.
By the end of our conversation, one thing became very clear to me; Donald Trump Jr. knows what he is talking about. As one of the youngest board members of the Boone and Crockett Club, and a widely accomplished hunter with plenty of experience under his belt, he has earned his reputation.
Despite where your political allegiances lie, if you love hunting, fishing, and shooting in the great outdoors, only one candidate's campaign is saying the words you want to hear. Just like Donald Trump Jr. said, this vote is not about just this election, but future elections as well.
All images via Donald Trump Jr. and David Eder