With this column falling before Presidents’ Day, I figured I’d share a story of one of our leaders in ethical hunting.
President Theodore Roosevelt was an avid hunter.He was every bit of a ‘man’s man’, known in his days as a Rough Rider during the ‘Wild West’ as a true hero of the generation.Well, Roosevelt really wanted to take a black bear.In November 1902, Mississippi Governor Andrew Longino invited Roosevelt down for the bear season promising an enriching experience.Roosevelt accepted the invitation.
Clifford Berry's 1902 cartoon "Drawing the Line in Mississippi"
Roosevelt, and a hunting party selected to assist the President, set camp near the Mississippi River in an area full of underbrush, pines, and cane.Two men in the party had particularly strong reputations as hunters.Robert Bobo was a famous trapper who brought close to 50 top notch hunting dogs.Holt Collier was known as the best bear man in the Delta area.The night before the first hunt, the group sat around the campfire and discussed past adventures, with Roosevelt and Collier stealing the show.One gentleman suggested the roughness of a bear hunt in the swamp would be too difficult for Roosevelt.Roosevelt responded “This is exactly what I want!”
On November 15, Collier and the hounds picked up a scent of a bear.The party tracked for hours on end through thicket and mud only to break from the affair and head back to camp for a late lunch.Collier continued on, and finally caught up with the bear mid-afternoon.With the dogs baying the bear, Collier bugled for the party, and chased the bear into a water hole.With the bear exhausted and out of options, the beast fought back against the dogs, crushing the skull of one.Collier then retaliated by knocking the bear out with the butt of his rifle, and tying it to a tree.
When Roosevelt arrived, he saw a battered and beaten bruin lassoed to the pine.The party shouted for the President to take the bear, but instead, Roosevelt told one to cut the bear’s throat and put it out its misery.
The story spread quickly about Roosevelt’s ‘sportsmen’s code’ and the following Monday many newspapers carried the story of how the President refused to take the bear.One cartoonist’s portrayal of the event showed a small cub being held by another hunter, with Roosevelt holding the rifle butt toward the ground and waiving his other hand in disapproval.
In response to the popularity of the action, a toy company in New York designed a stuffed bear.It was an immediate hit, and the Teddy Bear became famous.
Bill Howard is a Hunter Education and Bowhunter Education Instructor, a Wildlife Representative and BCRS Program Chairman for the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, and an avid outdoorsman.Please forward any pictures or stories you would like shared to firstname.lastname@example.org.