Q&A With Wyoming Governor Matt Mead

Guns and Gear | Contributor

Who introduced you to hunting/the shooting sports and at what age?

I grew up on my family’s ranching operation in Jackson Hole, in Teton County, Wyoming. My parents were hunters, my grandparents were hunters – my family hunted. I have two distinct memories from a very young age. My brother and I each received a single shot .22 rifle caliber rifle as a gift. We would go out with my grandfather and enjoy some sibling rivalry and competition with each other. To this day, that is one of the best Christmas presents I have received.

I also remember my first hunting trip, again with my grandfather. He had a side-by-side 20-gauge shotgun. He stood behind me to brace me because I was pretty young and I was able to get a mallard duck. It was fairly close range and I can still remember my grandmother picking all the pellets out to prepare it. They made a big deal out of it. Those memories from my childhood are more than just the fun of shooting. They are memories of family. That is such a big part of shooting sports.

What was your most recent shooting sports/hunting activity? With whom?

I hunt and shoot frequently. But recently I was able to go with my son on his first successful elk hunt – he’s 18. We’d gone in previous years but just didn’t have any luck. Memories like that are very special. You carry them with you forever. Those memories of family time, skills, responsibility and the ethics of hunting and safety – all are important things that come through shooting sports.

Describe your favorite shooting sport/hunting activity?

I enjoy lots of hunting and shooting activities. One of my favorites is just to shoot clay pigeons out at my ranch. We load an electric clay pigeon thrower into the back of a side-by-side and we’ll go out and shoot boxes and boxes of clays – so I do like good shotguns.

As Governor I also had the chance to be part of the One-Shot Antelope Hunt for the last seven years – this year will be the last time I participate as Governor. It is the longest running event of its kind in the world. Part of the tradition is a friendly competition between myself and the Governor of Colorado – we’ve had other Governors join us as well. The event raises awareness of hunting ethics, marksmanship and helps fund wildlife habitat improvements. It is a great opportunity to bring attention to the important role of hunters in conservation.

Which piece of pending legislation related to the firearms industry is particularly important to you and why?

As a Governor, I don’t typically get too involved in discussions about different pieces of pending federal legislation. There are good efforts out there that improve access and opportunity for hunting and shooting sports. I think those efforts are important.

While I won’t be Governor during Wyoming’s next legislative session, there are a number of pieces of legislation that I signed into law that I think were very important. For example, I signed a bill that legalized the use of suppressors in hunting. Other bills that I signed into law expanded legal concealed carry. But, what I hope I have accomplished in my time in office more than anything is to continue to promote hunting and shooting sports for all the great values they have.

What do you see as the challenges and opportunities for hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts in this legislative session?

As the Chair of the Western Governors Association, I lead an Endangered Species Act Initiative to ask how we could increase the effectiveness of the Act – helping more species on the ground while spending less time in the courtroom. I think there is a great opportunity for Congress to address some current shortcomings of the Act. It is important not just for sportsmen, but for everyone.

When you look at Wyoming, we are very protective of our wildlife. We have great conservation stories to tell. I look at the endangered or threatened species that we have protected and recovered in Wyoming, like wolves, grizzly bears and sage grouse – we need to tell how sportsmen contributed to these successes. Taking grizzly bears as an example, the State of Wyoming has spent over $50 million dollars on recovery and management. It is sportsmen who have paid for that. I am not sure that most people recognize that. People who participate in hunting, who practices fair chase, they want to want to see these species thrive for the long term. Even sportsmen and women who don’t hunt, those who just shoot paper, contributed millions each year to these conservation efforts – through the 11% tax on ammunition and firearms often called Pittman-Robertson funding. I think hunters and shooting enthusiasts can reach out to others and share their story.

Thanks to the National Shooting Sports Foundation for this contribution.

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