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Talking to Nugent was a great experience

Conservationist. Marksman. Spokesman for the far right. Author. Loyal husband. Loving father. Patriot. Wild-eyed rock and roll maniac. I am describing the incredible Ted Nugent. Love Ted or hate him, he often is misunderstood.

Rock and roll’s “No. 1 Guitar Showman,” Nugent has released 34 albums, selling more than 30 million records. He’s toured annually since 1958, and should log at least 125 concerts in 2010. 

Nugent has been honored on the floor of the U.S. Senate. He’s been the host of a top-rated radio show. He has been named Michigan’s Conservationist of the Year. He’s fought valiantly against drugs and alcohol abuse. He founded Ted Nugent’s Adventure Outdoors Magazine. He’s creator of Spirit of the Wild TV show. He serves on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association. He has received countless awards from the Drug Enforcement Administration, police and sheriff’s departments and the military. He’s delivered the keynote address for the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society. Ted has been nominated for the handgun hunter’s Hall of Fame. That is quite a résumé.

I had the opportunity to spend 45 minutes on the phone with Nugent a few years ago and still it ranks as my all-time favorite interview because Nugent’s true passion is the world of the outdoors.

He picked up his first bow at age 5 and has been a constant hunter and shooter since. In this age of political correctness, Nugent stands out as a spokesman for outdoors sport and the Second Amendment.  

Nugent considers his defense of our rights extremely important.

“The greatest threat to America is apathy,” Nugent said. “In fact, apathy is the curse of America, not the anti-hunters, not the animal right groups, it’s apathy. We have designed through our apathy the systems and policies that actually bring attrition to our honorable lifestyle. We lose votes, we lose rights, and we lose opportunities by not being involved. We are getting what we get, because we are not standing up for our rights.”

Does Nugent have an impact on his detractors, or is he just preaching to the choir?

“You just go to Tednugent.com. You go there and witness what is going on. I have people who go there who hate me. They hate my music, they hate guns and “killing Bambi” and all this silliness. After a couple of times they are handed so much truth that in such a believable, articulate, compassionate nature that they end up joining the NRA, teaching their kids to hunt and fish, registering to vote, communicating with elected officials, why it’s just beautiful. They actually come to realize that the American dream is based on “one nation under God.” The American dream is determined by your effort, your own individual work ethic. It’s so simple, it’s stupid.”

I asked Nugent whether he ever lost control on those who differ with his opinion.

“Sometimes my inclination is to just ream these people. Instead, I say, ‘You want a salad? I’ll make you a salad. If you want a field cleared and all of the animals dead so that you can have beans for your tofu, I’ll make sure that the tractor operator kills all those animals so you can make beans for your tofu. Then, I’ll actually make you your damn salad. But, when it comes to my choice of protein, shut up!’ ”

Nugent often is portrayed as a fringe lunatic who insanely spouts the dogma of conservatism. His wild eyes and machine gun speaking style merely are signs of his fervor and that he has so much to say. Take away the rock-and-roll craziness and you will not find anyone who speaks more lucidly, politely or with more sensibility than Nugent.

One of Ted’s pet projects is Ted Nugent’s Kamp For Kids. He believes that today’s youth are the future of America and will determine the fate of conservation and outdoor sports, including hunting. 

The program introduces the wonder of the outdoors to children who otherwise might not have gotten such an opportunity. Nugent considers the greatest honor ever bestowed on him to be, “When a dying child requests that I take them on their last wish, a hunt-of-a-lifetime through the Kamp For Kids program. To have these children facing the outrage and emotion of imminent death, and to actually think of me and to invite me to be a part of their final outdoor experience is beyond my grasp. I don’t know how I could ever deserve that.”

Is Nugent always “on?” Does he ever slow down? The answer to my question as to what is his favorite place on Earth, Nugent said.

“The best place is right here, looking out on my lake. I love the outdoors. I live on a sacred, sacred 2,000-acre mystical wildlife paradise in Michigan. (He since has moved to Texas.)

“We are involved with the animals every day. We are involved with the ground every day. We plant trees. We bale hay. We live the good Earth life. We share a campfire. We share a barbecue every day. We see the sunrise. We run with the buffalo. It’s my dream and I am living the American dream. My American dream is right here.”

SBlt Northwest Herald outdoors columnist Steve Sarley’s radio show, “The Outdoors Experience,” airs live at 5 a.m. Sundays on AM-560. Sarley also runs a website for outdoors enthusiasts, OExperience.com. He can be reached by e-mail at sarfishing@yahoo.com.

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