Voters, meet Paul Ryan, “diehard deer hunter.”
Branded as a budget hawk and policy wonk, Mitt Romney’s running mate is re-introducing himself as an avid outdoorsman in an interview for the October edition of Deer & Deer Hunting magazine. The upcoming issue—whose cover declares a camouflaged Ryan to be a “diehard deer hunter”—will not hit newsstands until Sept. 4, but the magazine published an online preview of the Ryan interview on Wednesday, the day he will accept the GOP vice presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Ryan gave the interview before Romney announced his selection of the Wisconsin congressman earlier this month. But the timing of its release dovetails with the Romney campaign’s apparent effort to market Ryan as a candidate whose support of gun rights is rooted in personal experience—an image Romney has tried unsuccessfully to project on his own.
Though he is known for strict budget proposals, Ryan is expected to focus largely on autobiography in his televised address Wednesday night. In remarks at his hometown high school in Janesville, Wis. Monday—billed as a preview of his convention speech—Ryan did not mention his much-debated plan for Medicare reform even once.
Instead, Ryan cast himself among those who “cling to guns or religion,” as President Obama described some voters in 2008.
“From a guy who goes to St. John Vianney over there, whose tree stand is over about six miles that direction and that direction, this Catholic deer hunter is guilty as charged and proud of that,” Ryan said, drawing cheers from supporters at his alma mater.
In the Deer & Deer Hunting magazine interview, Ryan describes his fascination with “deer strategy and habitat,” saying he owns a “whole row of books” on the subject. In Ryan’s basement are “some big chest freezers ... for my pheasants, ducks, deer and other game.”
His heroes include Chuck Adams, a member of the Bowhunters Hall of Fame, who was the first archer to shoot and kill all 27 species of North American big game—an accomplishment known as the “super slam.”
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to try [that], but one of my goals is to get a grand slam of sheep with a bow,” Ryan told the magazine. “It would be very tough and very expensive. But I’d love to do some of those great western hunts for sheep and deer.”
“I’m just pretty typical for a Wisconsin guy,” he added. “I love hunting and fishing. Bowhunting is my passion. Studying the strategy, preparing food plots, the strategy of where a dominant buck is living or will be moving and then being in position to get a shot, that’s really exciting. Half of it is getting ready for the shot.”
Romney has tried in the past to portray himself as an active hunter. In 2007, during his first White House run, Romney told a New Hampshire man wearing a National Rifle Association hat, “I’ve been a hunter pretty much all my life.”
Later, Romney acknowledged he had been hunting only twice in his life: once when he hunted rabbits with his cousins in Idaho at age 15 and again when he shot quail in Georgia with major donors to the Republican Governors Association in 2006.
During an address to the NRA in April, Romney pledged to “safeguard our Second Amendment.” After the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo. in July, Romney said in an NBC News interview that “I don’t happen to believe that America needs new gun laws.”
Some gun owners have remained skeptical of Romney’s professed zeal for the Second Amendment. They note that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed a state ban on assault weapons and raised gun license fees from $25 to $100. Running for US Senate in 1994, Romney endorsed a federal assault weapons ban and also backed the Brady Bill, which required background checks on people who purchase guns from federally licensed dealers.
Ryan’s hunting bona fides appear to be authentic. After he posed with bow drawn in his office for Time magazine last year, Archery Trade Association chief executive Jay McAninch wrote on his blog that Ryan is “the real deal; a hardcore bowhunter.”Callum Borchers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.