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February 22, 2007

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ZUMBOMANIA: David E. Petzal’s take on the Jim Zumbo fiasco

In case you just emerged from a coma and have not heard, the shooting world is agog over a blog posted by Jim Zumbo, former contributing editor at Outdoor Life, over the weekend of February 17. In it, Jim stated that any semiauto rifle with an AR or AK prefix was a terrorist rifle, had no place in hunting, and should be outlawed for that purpose. Then, courtesy of the Internet and all its blogs and chatrooms, the roof fell in.

The speed with which Zumbomania spread, the number of comments it drew, and the rabid nature of same were a revelation. Overnight, this thing became as big as Janet Jackson’s clothing failure or—dare I say it?—Britney Spears’ shaved head. Jim Zumbo is now as employable as the Unabomber, and Sarah Brady will no doubt adopt his comments to her own gun-control purposes.

For the last several days I’ve been visiting all manner of blogs and chatrooms, which has reminded me of when I used to deliver used clothing to the local mental hospital. I’ve tried to make some sense of it all, but because the waters are still full of blood and body parts continue to rain from the sky, I haven’t come up with any Great Truths. Lacking that, here are some Lesser Truths.

What Jim said was ill-considered. He’s entitled to his beliefs, but when a writer of his stature comes out against black guns, it sure as hell does not help our cause.

Even so, Jim made an immediate apology. He did not equivocate, or qualify, or make excuses. He acted like a gentleman and said he was wrong, and he was sorry. Apparently this is not enough anymore. We now live in the era of one strike and you're out.

For 40 years, Jim has been a spokesman and ambassador of good will for hunting. Through his tireless efforts as a teacher and lecturer on hunting and hunting skills, he has done more for the sport than any 250 of the yahoos who called for his blood.

Jim has paid dearly for what he said. He has lost his blog and his association with Remington. Cabela’s has suspended its sponsorship of his TV show; and Outdoor Life has accepted his offer to sever ties. To all the chatroom heroes who made him unemployable, I have a word of warning: You’ve been swinging a two-edged sword. A United States in which someone can be ruined for voicing an unpopular opinion is a dangerous place. Today it was Jim’s turn. Tomorrow it may be yours.

If Sarah Brady is smart—and she is very smart—she will comb through the same blogs and chatrooms I’ve been reading, excerpt some of the most vicious and foul-mouthed entries, print them up, and distribute them to Congress. Then it will be interesting to see how the men and women who wrote that stuff enjoy seeing their efforts being put to use by every anti-gunner in America.

Stay tuned.

Editor's Note: Read Dave's response to your comments here


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Craig Michael

I am a member of the NRA and many other hunting and conservation organizations but I would never use an AK or AR for deer hunting. Why? Because it's just stupid. I might as well hunt in a petting zoo and tie my animals to a pole. We have thousands of very excellent options for hunting and AK's and AR's are not one of them.


Semi-automatic rifles have been being used for hunting for 45 or more years that I know of.

With the new premium bullets, even a 223 can be effective with consideration of range, etc.

Zumbo apparetantly was quite ignorant to the firearm political scene. He was definately in a "vacuum." He also maybe should had held off on the booze if he was going to write.

He may have been a fine fellow to those he thought was within his elitist world and those working within those bounderies. But I still remember when he felt he was above the average hunter. At a book signing for his first mule deer hunting book in 1981, when he was living in Vernal, UT. I felt humiliated just trying to communicate with him. He couldn't lower himself to the level of the average hunter. It was apparent.

While the anti-gunners may try and use this firestorm for political gain, it isn't going to work. They also see that we can can come out fighting with our gloves on. Now if we will just band together this strongly on the political front! Perhaps this circumstance can actually make us stronger. Think a little more positive!

Jim in Pa

Well all i can say is he went about it the wrong way, But who out there hasn't said something without thinking? I myself would like to see every hunter from age 12 on up carrying an assault rifle into the woods. They say there are too many deer anyway, this would cut out the need for multiple licensing. Just think if we did hunt that way we could not only drag out ten deer at a time, but we could take out other hunters that get too damn close to us. I'm all for gun rights, but we need to be realistic here. We should not condemn the man for his opinion. We do live in a free country. At least i thought we did.


What a sad commentary for this country, when somone can't offer a differing opinion. Those that disagreed with Jim Zumbo go climb in your made elsewhere vehicles, and tow your made elsewhere four-wheelers, and don't forget to take your made elsewhere semi-auto's, and then spend your day in the woods, never getting your fat, lazy behinds off your four-wheelers for the entire hunt and continue to think, I just can't believe what this country is coming to. Jim Zumbo spent the better part of his life hunting, shooting, and defending both, how many of us can say the same? Jim, your welcome at my house anytime, and by the way, I agree with you, semi-auto's have no place in the hunting woods, whether they are referred to as Assault rifles or not.

Galen Burgett

My perpsective on the reaction to Zumbo's comments is that it is no surprise that the responses achieved manic proportions. This was a supposed elder of the hunting tribe that literally turned on his fellows with an ill-informed opinion about the type of firearms that should be allowed in hunting, with initimations on the type of person (bad people) who would use such a weapon. At a time when gun owners are very worried about the future of 2nd Amendment rights, it is bad enough to be attacked by the opposition. When one our own turns on us, it is a betrayal of the highest order. The reaction is no surprise.


Zumbo was definately an elitest but also a darn good writer. I will miss his work. I think that all people should be able to hunt with whatever they want; however; i would never consider someone an ethical hunter if they were carrying an AR or AK.

Guns kill people like spoons make rosie O'Donalle fat

LCDR Jim Dodd, USN (Ret.)

Mr. Petzal,

You told us you would ban assault weapons the last time around, and I expect your editors deflected the storm of replies (maybe the shower of written, snail mail replies in those days).

Mr. Zumbo was buried by a blogswarm, you can be the next old and lame MSM type to learn bloggin 101 as my friend says.

I did a career in the military making the world safe, and keeping you free to say what you want. I don't have to like what you say, and I don't.

You are an elitist, and a poor writer who must depend on name calling because your position is bereft of logic.

Say "hello" to Sarah on the way out.

LCDR Jim Dodd, USN (Ret.)

Richard A. Smith

I really like Jim and his writing (I've spoken with his wife and she is an absolute sweetheart). He's got good, well-written stories with good advice, .

I feel for him, and appreciate his apology, but, unfortunately, having said what he said, the damage has been done. The anti's will use it to their benefit and our detriment. Let the chips fall where they may.

I hope things improve for him, or that he's ready to retire. Maybe another several million retractions and apologies will help, one for each ignoramus who doesn't understand reality and believes everything that Sarah Brady and her buddies say.

Sherrill Philip Neese

I just found out about this today. I can't believe it!!!! Zumbo got dumped for what he wrote in one of his columns? This is crazy! Since when can't we have contrary opinions?!?!?

I've been a hunter for over 30 years, a member of the NRA, and I also did almost 22 years in the Marine Corps. I've shot M-16's, M-14's, 50 cal's, 9mm, .45s, M289s, etc etc. I have no problem with JZ saying what he said. I also wouldn't take any of the military type weapons with me when I go deer hunting. Having said that, I don't agree with him on everything he wrote in his post, but that's ok.

Our being able to discuss things and have differing opinions is half the fun of sitting around a camp fire and being around other outdoorsmen. Even though I am absolutely correct in everything I say, 100 percent of the time, some folks aren't smart enough to agree with me.... Sad, but true. ;-) Seriously though, since when has any of us ever agreed with everything someone says? We argue errr... ahhh.... discuss the best rifle, shotgun, bow... the best shot placement, who cooks the best stew, the best wood for fires, where to put the tent, what cammo to wear, which boots are best, which socks are better, what stand is best, where are the biggest deer, etc etc etc. I can't think of a single thing that we haven't had differing opinions about. Jeez.... we've even argued about which toilet paper is the best for camp!!! However, that's all part of being hunters and being Americans.... having the right to disagree and to be able to talk about it. Can you imagine what deer and elk camp would be like if everybody agreed about everything? It would be totally boring.

The bad part about all of this is that we holler and yell about how "all of these other people" are so politically correct and make a mountain out of a molehill. Look at us. We are just the same as them. For this to happen to Zumbo, for just expressing his opinion, is just sad...

Dennis Bender

There are many Rem 30.06, 308, and 35 semiautos. They are effective deer hunting weapons. I have used one for many years but can no longer do so. I will defend my grandson's constitutional right to inherit it. Having said that I have learned much from Jim Zumbo's writings and I hope he gets another chance. We have all made mistakes.

Simon Kenton

When he sues the Brady Bunch for copyright infringment, to make them take his materials down, I'll be more inclined to believe the apology.

Sciuricidus Maximus

Aren't you the same Dave Petzal who supported the "assault weapon" ban back about 12-14 years ago? Seems to me you have no call to be defending Zumbo against the wrath of those he betrayed by giving Sarah Brady something to work with. Nor do I believe that his comments--or yours the last time--were in any way inadvertent. I think both of you knew exactly what you were doing...and so does eveyone else.

Jim Hall

Right or wrong I believe Jim had a right to give his opinion. I have most all of his books and will continue buying them if he writes more. I'll most likely give up on OL for letting him go. As if they never said something they wanted to take back later.

Blair Minning

I think we all understand the theoretical second amendment arguments on both sides. As a practical matter I have been in the deer woods before Ohio restricted shotguns to 3 shells. It was spray and pray and there were way too may guys who took multiple pokes just hoping to hit a running deer that was beyond aim and shoot range. It was scary enough that I haven't gone out during the deer gun season since. I understand it's much better now but mainly because of inline muzzle loaders. People actually aim when they have one shot. I would feel far safer if everybody was shooting a single shot centerfire rifle.

I have absolutely no problem with AR type rifles. I just don't want to be in the woods on opening day of deer season in an Eastern state if a lot of guys are using them. I can only comment on how I have seen AR type rifles used at the range. While I'm waiting for my barrel to cool between shots, most (not all) guys rapid fire a couple hundred rounds and pack up before I've shot 5-10. Just how accurate are these guns after heating up barrels like that? From what I've seen through my spotting scope the guys are incredibly good shots because all the bullets seemed to be going through 5 or 6 holes on their targets. That's not to say that you have to have a black rifle to be scary. When I've hunted public land in SD I've seen six guys pile out of a Suburban and not have to load their guns before they started sky blasting at geese. I couldn't get out of that field fast enough either.

I still buy an Ohio deer tag every year just for the princple of supporting wildlife, and who knows, I may someday get up enough nerve to venture back out.
I enjoy hunting and shooting. But,
I believe that the need to fill air time on the outdoor channels has blurred the line between the two. Carrying a gun in the field does not make you a hunter, and having the fanciest gun on the line doesn't make you a shooter. There are too many semi-tame, high fenced animals being shot from extreme range. Using quadrupeds as live targets, proposed hunting leagues, etc.? Hunting is a blood sport and when you engage in it you have to accept that. But respect for the rules of fair chase, and respecting the lethality of your chosen weapon is our best chance at convincing the non hunting, non shooting public that we pose no danger to them. It's not just what we say or write, its how we practice our sports in public that ultimately will determine what will become of our passion.

A. S. Moeggs

Man, I feel like the hunting community just lost a good bird dog here. OL without Zumbo just dosn't seem right. We have definately lost something great here. Hopefully Cablas uses their heads and keeps him. There are only a few writers around as good as he his. Zumbo is entitled to his opinion. What he posted is not ammuntion for the anti-gunners, the rants on the blogs from the nutzos are.

Tom Glidden

A little common sense would go along ways. They always have the gun it is us who supply the bullits.


It seems the Hunting and Shooting Set ate one of their own.

J. Zumbo may have been very caustic in his rant, but essentially he was correct. AR and AK prefixed rifles are basically inaccurate because the chambers cut so large to operate. Guess the days where we have John Browning’s are over. These guns’ chamberings really have no place in the field, neither. Plus, seldom do hunters have confrontations with large, attacking enmasse whitetail deer, pronghorn, or elk requiring large capacity magazines. Declaring these guns as sporting arms is fanciful.

It gives me pause how totally Mr. Zumbo was deserted by his publisher and sponsors. It’s rather chilling on free speech within the Hunting and Shooting Set. In fact, I wonder which noted writer is next on the block for writing some hasty sentence that is perceived to have defiled our Inner Temple Sanctum.

As I recall didn’t F&S under the leadership of its Editor, David. E. Petzal, break ranks with NRA policy some years ago? Would these same people dared to have taken such a position nowadays?

I foresee a break in the ranks. There will be “Hunters”. There will be “Shooter’s”. Why? Our basically philosophies are polarized. Likely why there are so many specialized conservation groups for birds, big game, and then for shooting.

To Jim Zumbo: Don’t sweat it, Brother. Within a month someone else will screw up and your sins will be forgotten. Press on!!!! See you on Campus!!!


So now we learn that Petzal would ban military looking rifles as well? Screw that, this place is shot through with elitist. I am cancelling my subscription.

Micheal May

Jim Zumbo is one of the great outdoors writer. I've always liked and I wish and his family the best. How many people that have wrote to crucify the haven't made some dumb comment or decision before that was off the mark. I know I have, but haven't been under the microscope like J.Z. and I doubt many of you others have. I hope he's back soon.


Too many of you on here are deer hunters only and applying what Jim said to deer hutning.

That was not what he said. He said to "ban them from hunting".

Deer were not mentioned at all in his blog.Let's forget whether they may not be ample caliber for deer hunting.It is not relevent to the discussion.

In fact the original blog Jim came to his idiotic conclusion after talking to young guides on a coyote hunt. The guides said that a lot of folks were using the AR15s for varmint guns..

They are 100% right.

CLUE - They are very fine varmint HUNTING rifles.

But, Jim wanted the states to ban them from all hunting.

The salt in the wound was to lable them "terrorist's guns".

Did he somehow forget that we are at war now with terrorists?


You got off lucky because your missives were pre-internet. Make the same statement today that you made 10 or 12 years ago and see what happens. The Democrats are trying to re-introduce that ban again aren't they? You going to join them again?

This is a hill to die on. Either people are with us or against us.

Your choice.

Kathy Etling

Jim Zumbo is my friend. I've hunted with him and my family has been to his home. Heck, my daughter spent a couple of weeks with his family fishing, hiking and shooting out in Utah, back when Zumbo still lived in Utah.

Zumbo is a great guy; crazy, but a great guy. I believe that what Jim really meant when he came down on assault weapons being used to hunt prairie dogs was simply that he doesn't consider those types of guns to be sporting if people use them to simply aim and spray.

Zumbo is a busy, busy man. He is also inordinately nice. And therein lies the problem. Zumbo finds it difficult -- if not impossible -- to tell other people 'no.' In other words, he'll run himself ragged going to every function, all over the country, to which he is invited, or to any benefit for which he can do some good such as the upcoming "Hunting for a Cure" Tennessee Turkey Hunt. Zumbo does all these things, hunts all over the world, writes myriad books -- about one or two a year; writes for Outdoor Life as well as other magazines AND hosts a TV show. The man is spread THIN, I tell you, and he's no longer a spring chicken (unlike me)! (smile)

He probably wrote that blog when he had been up for 48 hours, chasing airliners, catching up on family time, cooking elk stew for the neighbors and while packing to get yet another somewhere on time PLUS get his articles all filed before deadline.

Even if the comments stated his beliefs truly, shouldn't he have the right to express HIS OPINIONS?

This country has gone haywire when the mob can bring down one of the best friends the NRA -- and hunting -- has ever had. In 40 years, he had one slip-up; the rest of us should be so lucky.

I hope that Jim will be back bigger and better and more in demand than ever before. He's a great guy!

Dave the Rave

Here is the message that nobody seems to be understanding:

The 2nd Amendment has NOTHING to do with hunting.It isn't mentioned, it wasn't the intention, period.

Now if hunters want to throw the rest of us under the bus in an effort to appease the anti-gunners in the ill-conceived notion that they won't come after your wooden stocked fancy rifles when they are finished with us, you do so at your peril.

If you work against us, we will work against you.If you would like to be one shooting/hunting community, we can do that too.

Fluffy Buck

You're next!

Greg Gritsch

The choice of what to hunt with is often dependant on the hunting regulations in our respective states. Opinions vary, and always will. Regardless, JZ comments were ill chosen.

Folk's, we have dark days ahead. The Black rifles have been the target, the scoped will be next. Many of you need to think about the Democrat / Republican candidates and be strong on this. If one type falls they all will fall.

Chris Ciccone

When will you hunters figure out that the 2nd Amendment is NOT about hunting?

That is my biggest problem with Zumbo and his apologists.

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