Photo courtesy of WisPolitics.com.
Many political pundits identified the June 5 recall election of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as a bellwether to the November 2012 general election.
If that’s the case, hunters and sportsmen better hang on to their camo caps, considering the shenanigans employed by supporters of Walker’s challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, just days before voters went to the polls.
Barrett’s campaign targeted the state’s estimated 700,000 deer hunters—a dedicated electorate, to be sure—with online advertisements and statements claiming their right to hunt whitetails on public land was in jeopardy under Walker’s administration.
At the center of the campaign against Walker was Dr. James Kroll, a Texas biologist and professor who was hired by the governor for $125,000 annually to recommend improvements to the state’s deer management. Kroll is known as “Dr. Deer” from his articles in hunting magazines and his appearances on hunting shows and at public events.
About 10 days before the election, anti-Walker forces seized on a decade-old Texas Monthly magazine article about high-fence hunting in the Lone Star State in which Kroll was quoted saying “game management is the last bastion of communism.”
Soon thereafter, Barrett’s campaign website stated: “Scott Walker has a plan to privatize state lands. Don’t let Scott Walker take away your right to hunt deer on public lands!”
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported a Facebook page, “Save Wisconsin Hunting” was also connected with the effort. Further, the Barrett campaign purchased a Google ad, so when “James Kroll” was entered in a search, the message “Scott Walker wants to sell our deer to the highest bidder” appeared, with a link that directed readers to the campaign website.
Paul Smith, the respected outdoors editor for the Milwaukee paper, found the claims of the Barrett campaign to be baseless, and he quoted Kroll directly.
“The last thing I want is to make it harder for hunters to participate in the great sport of deer hunting in Wisconsin on public land,” he said.
The Journal Sentinel’s “Politifact” column investigating Barrett’s campaign claims also determined them less than accurate. In fact, it rated them “pants-on-fire” misleading.
“Governor Walker supports hunting on public land, always has supported hunting on public land, and will continue to in the future,” Walker spokesman Cullen Werwire wrote to the paper in an e-mail. “Governor Walker will not enact ‘steep fees’ to hunt on public lands. That is crazy.”
Walker survived his recall election by a substantial 60-40 margin.