The suite in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas was secure. It had been swept by a Secret Service team a couple of hours earlier. We had been thoroughly searched, including all of our cameras, lenses, and packs. The chairs were set, the lights were on, the audio checks complete. Now it was a waiting game.
The Secret Service agent by the door held his hand to his ear and whispered: “The motorcade is en route. Seven minutes out.”
A few minutes later, he keyed his mic again “The subject is in the building.”
Followed by, “The subject is in the elevator, thirty seconds out.”
My heart started to pound, my breath coming in short gulps. I don’t often get rattled, but then again, it’s not every day one gets an opportunity to sit down with possibly the next President of the United States.
Before I could fully panic, the door swung open and Donald J. Trump entered—all smiles, welcomes, and handshakes—and immediately put the room at ease. Never a man for wasting a second, he sat down and we quickly got to it. I had five questions I wanted to ask him regarding the Second Amendment, hunters’ rights, and Western land usage.
Within seconds, I learned why he has garnered such a commanding following among Americans disenchanted with the current political landscape. In a world of mealy-mouthed half-answers and politically correct speech, Trump is none of that. Ask him a question and you get an answer that doesn’t leave you scratching your head, wondering what he may or may not have said.
Donald Trump and the Second Amendment
On Second Amendment issues he was spot on—essentially echoing what gun owners have been saying for years. Gun-free zones create easy targets for criminals. If citizens were armed, there would be fewer casualties in mass shootings, and under his watch there would be no new federal gun laws.
If that wasn’t enough, he agreed unequivocally that law-abiding citizens should be allowed to buy, sell, and trade firearms and ammunition with other Americans without registrations and regulations imposed by federal agencies. This is in direct contrast to many politicians who commonly refer to this as “the gun show loophole” and look to regulate these private transactions.
Trump’s Take on Federal Land Sales
When it came to hunters’ rights and federal land sales, Donald Trump didn’t waffle, stating that a USFWS Director appointed by him would “ideally be a hunter” and under his watch there would be no sale of public Western lands. This is in direct opposition to Sen. Ted Cruz who filed an amendment to the Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act of 2014 that would force the federal government to sell off a significant portion of its holdings in the West. This includes national parks, forests, and BLM and wildlife management areas that would be sold to states or private companies, likely for mining, logging, and drilling.
Before I knew it, the interview was over, and Trump and his entourage rushed to the next meeting before making an appearance at the Outdoor Sportsman’s Group Awards banquet at the 2016 SHOT Show.
I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t a fawning Trump supporter going into the interview, but his appearance at the SHOT Show and granting Petersen’s HUNTING an exclusive interview says something about him.
It says he is smart. It says he realizes that 13 million hunters and 80 million gun owners represent a large voting block, one that will likely agree with his policies on hunting and protection of Second Amendment rights.
So what does this say about his opponents? Either they don’t agree with our goals, or they simply don’t care that much about our cause. Trump was the only candidate to make an effort to meet us face to face. That combined with his frank answers and direct responses to the issues that matter to hunters, anglers, and gun owners has earned him the endorsement of Petersen’s HUNTING for his policies on hunters’ rights and public lands.
Donald Trump Jr. Speaks Out
While Donald Trump Sr. has been extremely open regarding the Second Amendment and hunters’ issues, his son, Donald Trump Jr., granted Petersen’s HUNTING an exclusive interview going more in depth into the issues that concern sportsmen. Here are eleven questions that reveal what you probably didn’t know about the Trump family.
Many politicians have paid lip service to hunters over the past several presidential elections. The most notable (and obviously false) pandering statements were made by John Kerry regarding deer hunting: “I track and move and decoy and play games and try to outsmart them. You know, you kind of play the wind.” Since then, hunters have looked at politicians who claim to hunt with a jaundiced eye. To establish your bona fides, I have several questions.
MS: Please give my readers some background to your hunting life. Where have you hunted and for how long?
DT Jr: Hunting, fishing, and the outdoors was something that I got into at a very young age. My grandfather got me into the woods and wanted me to see a different side to the life I was living, being a city kid from New York.
He saw all the advantages of coming from a successful, wealthy family, but also saw the pitfalls and wanted to make sure I was able to experience the other side of life. He was a blue-collar electrician, from what was then Communist Czechoslovakia, and from the age of five, he would take me with him for six to eight weeks every summer, and it was a simple, “There’s the woods. Go play until it’s dark.”
I fell in love with it, and there has been no turning back. Since then, I have been very fortunate to hunt all over the world. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, but I got more into hunting in my teens, when someone took me on my real first upland hunt. From that point on, I read everything there was about the game and about the sport. From Theodore Roosevelt through Capstick and everything in between. I just completely immersed myself in the lifestyle and the culture.
Hunting has been a great way to see the world and really get into the culture of a country by getting out of the cities and into the woods. From bowhunting locally in my backyard up in Westchester County, New York, to out West, Alaska and the Yukon, Mexico, Latin America, Africa, and even Europe. I’ve been very fortunate to have had a great diversity of hunting experiences.
I have learned from all of them. As great as some of the adventures have been, though, I still really love the do-it-yourself stuff in the USA. I don’t just hunt with great guides and outfitters. I mostly do a lot of stuff alone or with buddies, and the preseason setting up of blinds and stands is as much fun to me as hunting them later in the fall. What hunting the world has done is lend perspective and appreciation for the amazing hunting opportunities, heritage, and freedom we have right here in the USA.
MS: What hunting organizations do you belong to or are you involved in?
DT Jr: I belong to a lot of organizations. I feel, for me, one of the charitable contributions I like to make is to the outdoors. I believe hunting, fishing, and the outdoor lifestyle, have kept me out of a lot of other trouble I would have gotten into, in my life, growing up in my family in New York City.
Knowing that I was going to be in a tree stand or a duck blind at five in the morning probably kept me out of some of those things. Now, that’s not to say that I was an angel, but it certainly minimized a lot of the damage.
It was something that was very important to me, giving back to all the nonprofit organizations that do all the great work to preserve our lands; to preserve public access; to bring youth, women, and others from different backgrounds into the game.
I am actually a board member of the Boone and Crockett Club, probably the youngest full-time member on that board, alongside some very impressive people that are doing great things as it relates to conservation.
I am also a member of Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, a lifetime member of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. And there’s a lot of other smaller organizations in between that I have joined and been a member of throughout the years—from NWTF, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and many others I have been a member of at some stage in my life. I usually maintain my memberships in all of them.
I’m also a Life Member of the NRA, as I also believe very strongly in our Second Amendment rights and in making sure that we preserve those same shooting traditions.
For me, it’s all about easy access, whether it be to hunting, fishing, recreating, or owning firearms. When I watch the liberal left try to eliminate the ease of access for law-abiding Americans—it’s a death by a thousand cuts mentality that I don’t like, so I support all of those organizations that directly or indirectly make accessibility a priority.
MS: If you could only do one type/species of hunting for the rest of your life, what would it be?
DT Jr: That’s a very, very tough question. Perhaps because about the time I’m getting a bit tired of one season, you go into the next and it reinvigorates you.
When turkey season’s over, I’m into trout fishing. When trout fishing starts winding down, it’s fall with early season goose, then deer season. The diversity that we are offered in the outdoors is what keeps things exciting for me.
If I could only choose one, it would be something that gives me a lot of time outdoors—the more the better. I would have to say bowhunting for whitetails because it is easy for me to roll out of bed and be in a tree stand only a few hundred yards from home. In New York, we have a long bow season. It’s convenient because it’s right there. I can do it on a lot of weekends.
Although if I could only do one as a vacation-type hunt, it would have to be something in the mountains, probably a sheep or elk hunt, something that’s an incredible exertion kind of hunt. I really just love being out in true wilderness. I love the test. You versus the mountain, you versus the animal, in those tricky environments, where you are gone for two weeks at a time, with no communication with the rest of the world.
Depending on the circumstances, it would be one of those two things. Again, it’s hard to think that I wouldn’t be able to do any more waterfowling, any more upland shooting, or many of the other numerous things I like to do. It would be a tough call.
MS: How did you get involved in hunting? Was it something your father got you into, a friend, relative or did you just get involved on your own?
DT Jr: As I mentioned in the earlier question, it relates to my grandfather getting me into the outdoors. But where he came from, in Communist Czechoslovakia, hunting was an elitist sport and was not for a blue-collar electrician like him. He got me to fall in love with the woods. He taught me how to shoot a bow, how to shoot an air gun, and he started the passion.
But I went to school in central Pennsylvania, and there was a gentleman there named Gordon McAlpin, who was the Dean of Students, a teacher, and a mentor. He saw my passion and love for it and took me on my first upland hunt. It was an interesting experience. He said, “Hey, meet me in the parking lot on Saturday at 6:00 a.m.” I really wasn’t sure what to expect; it was certainly rather unconventional. But I did what I was told. I was there at 6:00 a.m. I dressed warm, and I fell in love with the sport. From then on, I read every book there was. I got involved whenever I could, shot wherever I could. I introduced others to it, whenever the opportunity availed itself. It was just a snowball effect. That’s why I like to consider myself a pretty well-rounded outdoorsman.
From there, I got into competitive shooting as well as reloading and everything that goes along with the lifestyle. It’s not something I do once a year to talk about at a cocktail party. It’s something I do every weekend. I shoot thousands of rounds of centerfire ammo every year, many thousands of rounds of rimfire with my children, archery, 3D competitions, High Power competition. That doesn’t include the cases of shotgun shells that I shoot every weekend.
I love it all, and I just appreciate all the people that are mentors along the way—who got me into the sport and taught me what it’s all about. And I just to try to pass that on to as many other people, so they can have those same great experiences as I had. I hope others do the same. It’s not the easiest game to get into without a mentor. So for anyone reading this: Go out there and be a mentor to someone who shows interest.
MS: One of the biggest threats hunters are facing is the sale or transfer of “excess” public lands in the West. Sen. Ted Cruz filed an amendment to the Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act of 2014 to do just this in states where over 50 percent of the property is owned by the federal government. Would you or your father support any federal land sale?
DT Jr: In my opinion, Ted is 100 percent wrong to have Congress mandate a blanket approach to sell any percentage of federal lands to the states.
Clear back to Teddy Roosevelt, our federal lands were the American public’s greatest treasure. They are where our people love to hunt fish, hike, camp, snowmobile, and recreate.
Some advocates of selling don’t understand the millions and millions of recreation days and billions of dollars in tourism, hunting, fishing, and the outdoors generally bring in to the coffers. There is a lot of value in these lands to be kept public, and we need to care for them properly.
In rare cases—for example, if there was 1,000 acres of federal land around, say, Las Vegas, that was no good for wildlife or recreation and we could sell it for $500 million, where that money is funneled back to wildlife and conservation—we could do a lot of good, even buying a few private ranches for sale, and open lands currently closed to public access. That would be a win for sportsmen, but again, this would be a rare exception. I would never want to do this for true wilderness.
MS: When it comes to transferring land to the state, on the surface many sportsmen are initially in favor of the idea until they realize that the state has no intention of keeping the land or managing it for public use, such as hunting, fishing, or recreation. Some misguided legislators, such as Utah State Representative Ken Ivory and Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder, are pushing this flawed logic. Will these individuals fool the Trump administration?
DT Jr: I would never support selling our federal lands. As we know, many citizens out West are completely frustrated with federal overreach and lawsuits that hurt our federal lands and sportsmen.
Rather than transfer the lands, I want to change some laws and better invest current money to make our lands more productive, while having fewer wildfires. Well-managed lands, with thinned timber, food plots, and habitat improvements that help animals would be the goal.
The solution is to make our lands better and give people that live in these areas a say. Wade Boggs, a great baseball player, once said something to the effect of “the people of New Mexico don’t want to manage New York and the people in New York probably don’t know the lands as well as the people who live, work, and hunt or fish in New Mexico.”
MS: Proponents of federal land sales claim it will help balance the budget when in truth it is being pushed through at the state level by large multinational business interests who stand to profit off the sale. If balancing the budget were the goal, wouldn’t it be more effective to balance our budget by reducing our spending instead of raping our natural resources? I mean, if we sell off our assets now and don’t change our spending habits, what will we do in a decade when we have no land and still have a massive deficit?
DT Jr: Never do this. It’s like selling your gun to buy a deer tag!
There are plenty of places to cut billions of dollars of waste in all forms of the federal budget. We have to. We simply can’t have $20 trillion of debt.
What we want to do is take current money being wasted on endless studies or lawsuits. Big portions of the Department of Interior’s multibillion annual budget is fighting lawsuits, filed by radical environmental groups, just to pay attorneys. Let’s take this money, make our federal lands productive, increase our herds and flocks, and have more hunting.
MS: You mentioned you are an avid fly fisherman. My home state of Montana has the gold standard in stream access laws for anglers (essentially, public property for angling below the high water mark of any navigable river). Is this a law your father would support, where applicable, nationwide?
DT Jr: I know your home state well, and it’s a great place. I have some friends that have some land on the Bighorn River, and I love going out there and fishing, I’ve done it almost annually for quite a few years now. I’m actually probably the first graduate of the Wharton School of Finance to take a year off, right after college, to move out to Colorado, where I worked at a bar, and hunted and fished, for the year, just to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into in my day job here at The Trump Organization.
Again, I have lived the lifestyle. I’ve spent probably half a year of my life and then some, just living in the back of my truck. If I wasn’t able to camp out or get into the bush, I was sleeping in my truck, fishing all over that part of the world. I love the Rocky Mountains. I love all of those areas, and I know them intimately. I have put many miles under my boots there.
As to the public access, and water laws, we want every American sportsman to have great hunting and fishing with their family and friends. We know wildlife, waters, etc., are great public assets. We also understand there are private property rights. There are many conflicting values, rights, and opinions here.
Let’s focus on investing our hunting and fishing and excise tax dollars better, where we can incentivize private landowners to work in conjunction with sportsmen’s groups to increase access to hunting and fishing opportunities in a true partnership instead of through more laws.
MS: In recent years, many hunters have felt disenfranchised by the USFWS. What could be a great partnership between sportsmen and the federal government has turned into a contentious, anti-hunting-themed relationship. With overreaching regulations, such as the banning of importation of polar bears, lions, and elephants, even when international CITES committees have determined a well-regulated harvest is essential to their conservation and recovery, it seems USFWS is fighting its own war against American hunters. If your father were to become President, what would you do to reverse this course?
DT Jr: There seems to be a revolving door between the anti-hunting groups and leadership of the USFWS. Somehow, the federal biologists think they are smarter than state biologists and you end up with a mess.
In a Trump administration, avid hunters and anglers, who are proven conservationists, will be in the leadership of the USFWS. That solves lots of problems. Changing some bad laws, like the Equal Access to Justice Act, is a main goal of the Boone and Crockett Club.
It is very clear the USFWS biologists made a terrible error, perhaps deliberate, on wolf impacts to our herds of game. Moose hunting was cancelled in Minnesota—wolves a major cause. Elk and moose herds in parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana have been hammered. We need to reduce wolves and rebuild those herds. We can also get into a long debate about the arctic wolf that now resides in the U.S. vs. the wolf species that was here before, but perhaps that’s too granular for this.
Our waterfowl hunting areas are bought and paid for by sportsmen. Some people seem to have forgotten that. You can have watchable wildlife that is still huntable wildlife—it doesn’t have to be one or the other. We are not stopping hunting; our hunting and fishing dollars bought these places.
Looking globally, the economic help to the people in Africa for food, water wells, schools, and hospitals is tremendous through hunters’ dollars. American hunters are doing great things for people and wildlife wherever we go. USFWS should be encouraging American hunters legally and ethically hunting abroad, not hindering them.
MS: Why do sportsmen matter so much in this election?
DT Jr: This isn’t just about this election—it’s about all future elections. While this one is very important, so are all the others down the line. So often I hear from sportsmen how they don’t want to get involved in politics: “I don’t want those two worlds to collide.” And while I totally understand that, if they don’t make themselves heard, they will be left in the dust by the anti-hunters who are willing to be political and who do it all day every day, attacking our lifestyle and traditions nonstop. We have to make sure we’re heard. We have to show politicians that hunters and outdoorsmen can make a difference, that we can move the needle in elections, and that we will show up in the rain and snow to do so because that’s where we are most comfortable anyway. When we do that, we will get the politicians catering to us. Lately, we’ve been a forgotten group. I want to change that now and forever.
MS: If your father were elected President, how much of a role would you have in advising on policy in terms of hunter’s rights, Second Amendment issues, and public land usage?
DT Jr: I think my father has been very vocal about the Second Amendment. Under him, I don’t think anyone in the Second Amendment community has anything to worry about. It is something that he has been a strong advocate for, and frankly, he has been much more vocal than any of the other Republican Party contenders out there. That’s especially true in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino shootings—where he was the only one talking about the issue. The other GOP contenders…crickets! He was also the only presidential candidate at the SHOT Show, and he was the only person at the Outdoor Sportsman Awards. That in itself speaks volumes to his commitment to sportsmen and gun owners.
But as it relates to hunting and fishing rights and outdoor rights, I’m going to insert myself in it. The biggest family joke that we all had over the holidays was that the only job in government that I would actually want would be in the Department of the Interior.
Because I can make a difference, and I could do something to preserve the great traditions of the outdoors that are so vital to this country, and would be so vital to our youth, that have been shunned by the media and stigmatized in so many ways.
I believe so strongly in those traditions. If every kid that is playing video games was doing these things instead, we’d have a much better society in a few years. So you can be assured that if I’m not directly involved I’m going to be that very, very loud voice in his ear. Between my brother, and myself no one understands the issues better than us. No one in politics lives the lifestyle more than us.
And we are going to do whatever we can to make sure that any kind of Trump presidency is going to be the best since Theodore Roosevelt for outdoorsmen, for hunters, for our public lands, and for this country as it relates to anything in the great outdoors.
In closing, the most rewarding thing for Eric and me is that a bunch of hard-core hunting and conservation leaders have jumped on board to support us and sportsmen nationwide in a group called Sportsmen for Trump. Hundreds more will be getting on board, but we will lead out with Willie Robertson (Duck Dynasty); Michael Waddell (Bone Collector); Rob Keck, former CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation; Jason Hairston, founder and CEO of KUIU gear; and Lorenzo Sartini, CEO of GoHUNT. These guys eat, sleep, and breathe conservation, and they know a President Trump could rival what Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy did for sportsmen. It is time for a Roosevelt Reboot.
Perhaps my favorite quote that I have heard was from my friend KUIU founder Jason Hairston, who played in the NFL: “I know Don and Eric well, personally. At heart, they are blue-collar guys just like us, and we finally have a candidate, DJT, who will stand for our sport and conservation. I’m all in!”