The Issues: Hunting & Fishing

CBS News continues an election-year series titled "What Does It Mean To You?" focused on where the presidential candidates stand on major issues and how a vote for one or the other candidate might affect average people's lives.

In this report, CBS News Correspondent Bob McNamara looks at how President Bush and Sen. Kerry are appealing to American outdoorsmen.



Ross Berglove's passion is duck hunting.

"Once you've experienced it and got out in the wild and done some hunting, you can't give it up," he says.

And his passion affects how he votes.

"We've got to pass this hunting, the rights of hunting and fishing, down to our kids. Otherwise it's going to disappear."

Berglove is part of an outdoor voting bloc – the so-called "hook and bullet" crowd – the candidates are gunning for.

"I think it tells you they know this is a powerful voting bloc," says Sid Evans of Field and Stream magazine. "I mean this is 38 million Americans who hunt and fish."

President Bush is Field and Stream's election-eve edition cover boy.

"I like to be in hunting and fishing country," Mr. Bush says.

"I've been a hunter since I was 12 years old," says his Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry.

And lately, Sen. Kerry is seldom seen in swing states without a gun.

"You need sportsmen to get into the White House and you need sportsmen to stay in the White House," says Evans.

Historically, hunters and fishermen have voted Republican largely because of the GOP's stand on gun rights. But this time around, there are signs that the hook and bullet bloc is not as one-dimensional as it used to be.

In fact, a recent poll of licensed fishermen and hunters says they're worried the Bush administration is risking the nation's water and air to suit oil and gas interests.

"Sportsmen believe the administration is talking to the wrong people in formulating conservation policy," Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation.

On conservation issues, like wetlands, the president has limited Clean Water Act guidelines from protecting 20 million acres of wetlands; while John Kerry signed two letters asking Mr. Bush to overturn that decision.

On forests, President Bush repealed a ban on the construction of new roads in some of the nation's timberlands; but Sen. Kerry wants the rule reinstated to protect wildlife habitat.

And on the protection of endangered species, while the president wants fewer restrictions on farmers and ranchers, challenger Kerry wants more money to support the Endangered Species Act.

Today, America's sportsmen are saying it isn't just about gun rights anymore.

"We have to vote for people that are for us are sportsmen," says Ross Berglove.

It is the one corner of the campaign where issues really are wild.