For a recent profile in “Time” magazine (“The Prophet,” Dec. 26, 2011), Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., posed for a picture that portrays him not only as a nationally known policymaker, but a proud bowhunter too. The photo shows him in his office wearing the “uniform” of the U.S. Congress – a dark suit – while holding a hunting bow at full draw. The photo’s message is clear and unflinching: Paul Ryan is a congressman, statesman and policymaker at our nation’s highest levels; AND he bowhunts. To my knowledge, that’s never happened before.
I’m aware of many VIPs, celebrities, musicians, political figures, professional athletes, and stars of the screen and stage who enjoy bowhunting. I’ve seen autographed pictures of many of them adorning walls of archery shops and manufacturers’ offices. The autographs often include a thanks for a hunt or the privilege of shooting some of the best equipment in the industry. Yet as I watch this list grow over the years, I don’t recall anyone of Paul Ryan’s stature making public statements in the mainstream press about their support for bowhunting. In fact, take just one look at Paul Ryan holding a bow at full draw, and you know he’s the real deal; a hardcore bowhunter. He’s not just another politician holding a gun or bow for the first time – maybe the only time – while currying favor with our country’s large hunting bloc.
No, Paul Ryan posed for this photo of his own volition, and in a low-key way. He didn’t ask a manufacturer for the bow or “fish” for an invitation to a great hunt somewhere. The truth is, Congressman Ryan has never asked for anything from the archery industry when he’s done things for bowhunting. Nearly 10 years ago, he led an effort to change the tax on arrows and level the playing field for arrow manufacturers, especially those making arrows on American soil. For that, he took nothing from us except our thanks and gratitude.
Ever since meeting Congressman Ryan in the late 1990s, I’ve noticed he pays for everything he requests. In fact, he insists on paying. This struck me as unique, even unusual. That’s because I’ve often seen professional athletes, singers and celebrities EXPECT to receive equipment just for showing up at an event. This contrast is especially noteworthy, given that our society assumes all politicians are on the take.
When I look at “Time” magazine’s photo of Congressman Ryan at full draw, here’s what I think: Every bowhunter should be proud to talk about bowhunting at home, at work, in the community and among peers in their profession. How many of us talk about bowhunting when we’re with lawyers, accountants, bankers and business people while working or socializing? How many of us talk about bowhunting with our kids’ teachers, school administrators, or those directing our kids’ recreational programs? Do we talk about bowhunting with our pastor or priest, neighbors, community leaders, aldermen, mayor or other politicians? Do we even share our love of “stick and string” with family and friends? If not, why? Do we fear bowhunting doesn’t “fit” or is somehow socially unacceptable?
Perhaps the best part about Congressman Ryan’s bow-shooting appearance in “Time” is that it’s done with pride and self-confidence. In the magazine’s accompanying text, there’s no defensiveness or “in your face” aggression we sometimes see when other bowhunters step into public forums. If any well known folks ever do express their love for archery or bowhunting, few do it so professionally and with such grace and dignity. Ryan assumes folks get that bowhunting is an activity he enjoys and one that is part of his precious few hours of personal time. He doesn’t make bowhunting a crusade or an activity that is right for everyone. In “Time”, he simply showed the world that bowhunting is an important part of his life – just like his family and his work to put American on the path to prosperity. Pretty cool.