Legal hunting took a publicity hit this week in the form of the biggest PR disaster for Donald Trump.  Private Leaked Photos from Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump sons of famous real estate tycoon Donald Trump.  The situation started with TMZ taking leaked photos and publishing them online.  Both TMZ and The Huffington Post jumped on the bandwagon and threw around words like endangered species and the PR engines began to churn as suppossedly professional jounalists began to search out quotes from just about everyone.  Every news organization in the country jumped on the bandwagon continuing to spread the story far and wide.

Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of outdoor industry giant Good Sam Entertainment (Camping World and Good Sam Club) got tied up in this in a knee jerk reaction to the controversy this week as well with a comment that he would never give another nickel of advertising to Celebrity Apprentice caused an instant stir from both sides of the fence.  Anti-Hunters praised him and outdoorsmen and hunters from all over the world moved to boycott the 75 locations of camping world.

Some Facts in this situation:

  • Donald Jr and Eric Trump are hunters and have been hunters all across the world.  In every hunt they have participated in, all of the meat has been used for either personal consumption or has been donated to local villagers.
  • Private Pictures from Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump were leaked to TMZ.  These photos were private and the Trump brothers had no intention of releasing them to the public.
  • None of the animals that were hunted by the Trump Brothers were Endangered Species.
  • Every news organization covering this story rushed to cover the story and not one checked with a legitimate hunting organzation to verify if these animals were endangered.

Celebrity Apprentice and the producers of the show as well as Marcus Lemonis mishandled this PR disaster from the get-go. Donald Trump, Sr. did little to quell the fire from this situation by vehemently stating that he does not hunt and he was dissapointed in his son’s decisions to pursue thier passion of hunting.  Marcus Lemonis’s self proclaimed knee jerk reaction to the way in which this story broke and the lack of support from producers at Celebrity Apprentice and his own personal lack of education about legal hunting caused this PR disaster for his organization. His immediate response was to post up a comment on the companies Facebook Fan Page as well as comments to reporters put him smack dab in the middle of a massive controversy

The reality for Camping World is that they are already in the outdoor marketplace and Marcus as a Non-Hunter really did not understand that the majority of his clients are hunters, fishermen and outdoorsmen. Today Marcus Lemonis got an education, first from the king of Hunting Education Ted Nugent. Ted spent the better part of an hour of his busy schedule in conversations with Marcus Lemonis and released the following statement via his Facebook Page today. “After the controversy surrounding the xposure of the Trump boys safari photos of African game, CEO of Camping World Marcus Lemonis was contacted and educated by your fearless SpiritWild leader Uncle Ted & he upgraded his awareness to the reality of the pureness of hunting as the ultimate and only honest conservation tool to keep wildlife flourishing. Marcus is a good man and totally supports hunting and fishing as the wonderful lifestyle that it is. We support Camping World and recommend it to all our fellow sporters. Spread it far & wide-polite activism/education/upgrade works! Godspeed all!” quoted Ted Nugent.

Mr. Lemonis then dedicated an hour of his day to talk with 10 outdoor writers put together by Laurie Lee Dovey from the Professional Outdoor Media Association(POMA) of which I am a member and I got to sit in on this live conference today.  Mr. Marcus Lemonis was very sincere in his apology to the hunting community today and expressed first his apology to all hunters for his knee jerk reaction to this controversy.  As well he stated that he still has some frustration as a businessman about how this controversy came about, how the producers of Celebrity Apprentice lacked communication with him on the issues that were put out in the news as well as how he found out about the controversy.  As well as a non-hunter, he did not think about how each word of his reaction would be interpreted and did little to research the entire situation before reacting.

Mr. Lemonsis has never tried hunting but agreed that he would be willing to spend some time with an education team and he would be willing to go on a hunt privately with a group that would educate him and teach him about hunting.  As a major sponsor for NASCAR, Camping World currently sponsors the drivers and races weekly who are outdoorsmen and hunters and I am sure their will be no shortage in people who are going to be willing to help Marcus with a little bit of education and an upgrade in his perception of hunters and the outdoors.  Marcus seemed incredibly genuine and sincere in his desire to learn more and his own statement on the Camping World Facebook Fan Page:

To clarify our position, Camping World as America’s Largest Outdoor company, believes in personal freedom. In this country, people are free to choose. This issue at hand is not about whether people should be able to hunt or not. Our company is neither for nor against hunting. We are for personal choice and having people enjoy the outdoors in whatever fashion they choose. However, if and when the hunting of endangered species occurs, whether in the United States or abroad, it is not acceptable to even the most avid of hunters. We remain strong in our conviction of preserving the outdoors, protecting our great country’s lands and the freedom to choose.

I personally had the opportunity to ask Marcus if he was aware that in North America hunters could not knowingly participate in the wanton waste of meat from animals and he was unaware as a non-hunter that this was the law. Marcus was unaware of this.  I also asked if he was aware that when hunting abroad on safari if he knew that all meat from hunts was donated to local villagers or used by the hunters in camp.  In both situations as a non-hunter, he had no idea that the meat was donated or used in camp for all hunts.

I am hopeful that Donald Trump gets the opportunity to sit down with his two sons and a real expert on hunting and have a frank honest discussion about hunting and the real facts of how hunting is conservation and a little bit about the North American Conservation Model and how safari hunting all across the world benefits wildlife conservation as well as the local communities and countries that allow foreign hunting so that the next time a controversy like this happens Donald Trump is able to better react to the situation before him.

I think there is a whole lot to be learned here.  We as a hunting community need to do a much better job of spreading the message of who hunters are, what hunters do in the conservation world and the self imposed ethics that true hunters have.  I also think we need to do a better job of educating media and worldwide PR companies how to handle hunting issues and controversy when it happens.  We need to be quick to jump up and offer experts to talk about the difference between hunting and poaching and separate ourselves as true sportsmen.  What are your thoughts?