Hunters Are Suspicious of Their New Best Friend Chuck Schumer

Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat with impeccable liberal credentials, is becoming the most fearsome hunter since Elmer Fudd or maybe Dick Cheney.The Brooklyn resident recently traveled to Nebraska to go on a hunting trip with his colleague and fellow Democrat Ben Nelson, reports At first, the novice hunter needed to understand the basics -- things like a shotgun won't shoot with the safety on, and that hunting dogs aren't there just to hang out, the website says.

Schumer, the chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, apparently looked rather Fudd-like in his orange safety vest and matching baseball hat. Politico says he refused to wear hunting boots.

Hitting The Target On Vote

But eventually he got the hang of it and ended up bagging three pheasants. More importantly, the Democrat was able to help secure Nelson's vote for the mammoth health-care reform bill six weeks later.

Schumer went on what seemed to be his first hunting trip in November. Around that same time, Schumer, who is also the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, weighed in on the issue of deer-meat taxation. He introduced a bill in the Senate that would allow hunters to deduct the cost of processing venison donated to homeless shelters.

"This legislation will provide hunters with an economic boost, combat overpopulation of deer and help the hungry all at the same time," he said in a statement.

Deer hunters, who number about 10.8 million, have donated venison to homeless shelters for decades. Some groups representing hunters and gun owners question whether Schumer's bill will encourage more donations. Non-profits including food banks have been hit with a surge in demand for their services as Americans continue to cope with double-digit unemployment.

A 'Johnny-Come-Lately'?

Though hunters are theoretically the beneficiaries of Schumer's bill, they are not welcoming it with open arms. Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association which has often clashed with Schumer, says "everybody kind of just rolled their eyes" when Schumer's bill was introduced. He called the New Yorker a "Johnny-come-lately."

"He has amassed a lifetime of voting against hunters and voting against gun owners," he says. A Schumer spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Striking a more diplomatic tone, Greg R. Lawson of the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, says the the bill was a "pleasant surprise" from a legislator whose record has "not been all that endearing."

Why is Schumer suddenly discovering his inner sportsman now? Perhaps because he's running for reelection next year. But that does not make much sense either. His biggest potential rival, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, recently decided to skip the race. He endorsed the likely Republican nominee, Rick Lazio, who got crushed by Hillary Clinton in 2000. It makes sense for him to reach out to potential new supporters.

Appealing To Rural New York

The population of his home borough of Brooklyn is roughly 2.5 million. Odds are strong that deer hunting is not a popular hobby among Schumer's friends and neighbors. Rural upstate New York, of course, is another story. Schumer's colleague from the region, Kirsten Gillibrand, was awarded an "A" by the NRA when she represented a district that included parts of 10 upstate counties in Congress.

According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, about 700,000 New Yorkers and 50,000 nonresidents hunt deer in the Empire State. These hunters contribute more than $1.5 billion annually to the state's economy and support thousands of jobs.

Schumer is one of the savviest political operators in Washington. Maybe he senses that his constituents are turning more conservative economically, even though the experts say the nation's financial condition is improving. The steady drumbeat of negative news about bailouts and excessive Wall Street bonuses has taken its toll on the American psyche. If Schumer needs to show these people he feels their pain by shooting birds, that's exactly what he will do.
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