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Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Ted Nugent would make a good cult leader. He’s got all the ingredients: charisma, fame in a popular art form, a highly articulate and highly singular worldview and a badass public persona. Also, the man is heavily armed.
Nugent (aka The Motor City Madman, Uncle Ted, The Nuge, leader of Tribe Nuge) started bowhunting, at the age of 5, in 1953 and started playing guitar in 1956. Since then, he’s pretty much conquered a world of his own making, a world in which seemingly contradictory beliefs are fused in a bath of undeniable testosterone. He’s a rock star (since releasing his first album in 1967) who has been clean and sober (no drugs, alcohol or tobacco) his entire life; a Christian, a hunter and a conservationist. He hosts a radio show, edits and publishes a magazine (Ted Nugent Adventure Outdoors Magazine), produced a PBS series (“Ted Nugent’s Spirit of the Wild”), is a board member at the National Rifle Association, and is a national spokesman for Rush Limbaugh, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, DARE and MADD. He’s the founder of Ted Nugent United Sportsmen of America, Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids, Ted Nugent Bowhunting School and Sunrize Safaris. He is also the author of three books, “Bloodtrails: The Truth About Bowhunting” (1990), “God, Guns and Rock n’ Roll” (2000, and a New York Times bestseller) and now — what else was left? — a very special cookbook.
“Kill It and Grill It,” coauthored by Nugent and his wife, Shemane Nugent, is probably the only cookbook you will read this year in which the instructions read: “First step: Kill something!” After you’ve taken down a beast with your own two hands, you too can move on to such concoctions as Sweet ‘n’ Sour Antelope, Pheasant Chow Mein and Bubble Bean Piranha à la Colorado Moose, then finish with Banana Chocolate Crepes, adapted from Caviarteria, Ted and Shemane’s favorite Vegas restaurant. (Shemane advises: “Oh and ladies, you’ll need high heels and a nightie to serve this.”)
Needless to say, this is not a book for vegetarians. (Though Nugent writes in the first chapter, “Vegetarians are cool. All I eat are vegetarians — except for the occasional mountain lion steak.”) It is, however, an extreme take on the natural foods movement. (“I got your whole foods right here!” reads the caption under a photo of a beaming Ted holding up the carcass of what looks like a rather large buffalo.) Tribe Nuge (i.e. Ted and his relatives) have not eaten commercial meat for over 30 years, a practice that is certainly easier when one lives on a 2,000 acre ranch stocked with fish and game, as the Nugents do, and when one makes a habit of exotic hunting safaris.
Hunting is undeniably an outlet for the Nuge’s animal instincts. “I hump the wild to take it all in,” writes Nugent, “there is no bag limit on happiness.” Ted and his trusty Labrador retriever, Gonzo the Wonderdog, get a “full predator spiritual erection” from pursuing “bear, lions, coons, housecats, escaped chimps, small children, scared women, and everything else that can be chased and/or hunted.” He also takes plenty of predatory digs at those he considers to be his human prey: He names a wild boar after Janet Reno (“the only thing missing was the purple dress and he-man haircut”), and describes the same boar as emitting a “Courtney Love-like squeal,” while the remaining boars mill around like “a throng of stoned, lost Grateful Dead fans.”
But Nugent also argues, to some degree persuasively, that if you are going to eat meat at all, getting the stuff yourself is better morally, ecologically and nutritionally than relying on a factory farm to provide it for you. (Though for a guy who touts the organic purity of his protein, he sure seems to rely heavily on such nutritionally suspect ingredients as Velveeta, Lipton onion soup, Accent seasonings and garlic salt in his recipes.) “Freerange chicken aint [sic] free and that aint no range,” writes Nugent. “Chickens are incarcerated; some are more feces-pecking, deathrow toxic than others.”
Not content to simply call for a revolution in American diet, Nugent takes on the English language as well. In his “Note on Style,” he explains that George Bernard Shaw, “a sandal-wearing socialist vegetarian,” tried to reform the spelling of the English language. But that isn’t good “enuf” for Ted, who claims to have Nugetized it. Ted’s Nugetization mostly takes the form of replacing “s” with “z” and “gh” with “f,” devising his own contractions and a whole host of nicknames (Sir Tuskerdo McPork, Mr. TuffGuy Hawk), not to mention his tendency to exclaim “YOWZA, YOWZA” at appropriate intervals.
To judge from his book jacket, fans of the man who Aerosmith’s Joe Perry refers to as “good old Uncle Ted” include Charlton Heston and most of the Bush administration — he has blurbs from Tommy Thompson, the secretary of health and human services; Tom Ridge, the director of homeland security; and even W. himself, who writes of Nugent, “We’re glad you’re here. You are a good man.” Nuge returns the praise, if not obliquely, saying, “He did an amazing job in Texas with improving the air, soil and water quality.” Conservative radio attack dog Rush Limbaugh is a Nuge pal.
But even those who aren’t eager to join Tribe Nuge still have respect for the man: Mitch Albom, author of “Tuesdays with Morrie,” writes, “I’ve known Ted for years, and I can’t say I always agree with him. I can’t even say I often agree with him. But I respect him for this reason: In a world where fame makes people fat and satisfied, Ted continues to fight for his beliefs.”
The Motor City Madman recently took time off between interviews for MTV and “Politically Incorrect” to deliver a mini-sermon on those beliefs for Salon readers. The man is a straight shooter: It’s clear in this interview that he loves nature, his family, wilderness, God, guns and guitar, and that he loathes animal rights activists, bag limits, hunting restrictions, factory farms, drugs, alcohol and the rock star lifestyle as epitomized by the Osbournes (though he took time out to pray that the Osbournes would renounce their soulless lifestyle and find salvation).
So it’s lunchtime. What are you eating?
I’m eating this most miraculous protein. I can only tell you it was made by my buddy, Pete the butcher, in Reed City, Michigan. This guy is my favorite Pollack. He creates a wild boar-venison combination kielbasa to die for. [Squeals] It’s so good, it’s almost like sex! And yes, I cooked it myself, because I am very independent. I breed my own wife, play my own guitar, shovel my own horseshit, chop my own wood, grow my own trees and scare my own white people. Thank you very much.
Do you spend a lot of time breeding your own animals?
One of our buffalo just had two babies in the last couple days. It’s a magic time on the Nugent Swamp. We live right out here in the middle of a beautiful 2,000-acre swamp here in Michigan. I dedicate my life to what I what I lovingly refer to as an “environmental orgy,” celebrating the responsibility for stewardship. We plant over 1,000 trees every spring; we’ve done so since 1970. We have a herd of buffalo on our property and every indigenous flora and fauna, we have as perfect biodiversity as any chunk of ground could possibly produce. It’s a big part of our life.
I still tour like a man possessed, because I am. And I tour like a horndog from now till September. I’ll be promoting “Kill It and Grill It,” and the new CD, “Craveman.” Now that’s Crave man, C-R-A-V-E-M-A-N.
I noticed that. Do many people ask you about “your new CD, ‘Caveman?’”
Yes, they do. Last year, we had “Full Bluntal Nugity.” Now how old are you?
OK. You respect your elders. I can feel it over the phone. Now, has mankind become fat? Is anyone’s radar working out there? It’s so obvious that “Full Bluntal Nugity” is just a slight twist, utilizing my namesake, to play games and bastardize the phrase “full frontal nudity.” Does it really need explanation?
I got it.
You got it, I got it. But over the last two years, I’ve had to explain it over and over. It’s like the Special Olympics of interviews sometimes. I have to walk these people through it! No, not “full frontal” — that’s the original colloquialism — it’s Full! Bluntal! Nugity! Not nudity! It’s Nugity, because my name is Nugent, get it? It’s unbelievable! It’s like I’ve landed in “The Planet of the Apes,” and I have to teach people to wipe themselves after they shit. And be that as it may, “Craveman” has already started the same kind of shit! People will say, “Tell me about your new Caveman CD. Are you like a caveman?” I go, “Do you see the ‘r’? Do you know what an ‘r’ looks like? Did your eye see it? Did your mouth respond?”
I certainly qualify as the ultimate 2002 caveman. But ultimately, what my new book, “Kill It and Grill It,” and what my life celebrates — what I did this morning with the buffalo, and the geese, and the deer, and the pheasants, and my dogs, and my horses, and my children, and my wife — I crave the American dream. The American dream is about optimal partying. Not puking and dying — that’s not a party, unless of course “The Osbournes” is your favorite show. The life that God has blessed us with should be celebrated with attentiveness, and goodwill towards utilizing his precious gifts in a responsible fashion. How’s that for the Motor City Madman’s take on the world around us?
My point is that “Craveman,” like “Kill It and Grill It,” is a huge shout from the top of the top mountain. Mankind: A quality of life upgrade is available to each and every one of you. It should give you a quality of life upgrade, which means no drugs, no alcohol, no fast food — unless, of course, it’s a mallard.
I write for over 50 publications now. My writings are, you know, I am a goofball, I am the Motor City Madman, I scare white people with my guitar, yet even I, old lowly guitar player from the streets of Motown, have figured out that the quality of your enjoyment, your quality of life overall is going to be based upon a desire to maximize your level of awareness, to be aware of the honest cause and effect of your daily activities. So yes, we don’t just have fun with the hunting, the trapping, the planting of trees, the filleting of bluegills; we celebrate it. Because not only is there a pandemic of obesity of the body in America, but I believe that there is a pandemic of the soul as well — once again, I’ll reference the popularity of the show “The Osbournes.”
So how do you feel about “The Osbournes”?
I think the success of “The Osbournes” as a TV show is an indictment of the soullessness of mankind. Now, I’m just a guitar player, but when I see a train wreck, I don’t look at it and laugh — I try to save injured people. You’re not supposed to wring entertainment out of tragedy. Ozzy is a nice man, he is a kind man, he is an extremely talented man, extremely tenacious, obviously. But he is the poster boy of why I never touched poisons in my life. Because I don’t want to drool, nor do I want to allow a woman in my life to take advantage of my drooling condition to make millions of dollars from people laughing at me. That’s what she has done. And no one is laughing with the Osbournes; they are laughing at them. I find that soulless.
Being a guitar man yourself, have you found that the Osbournes represent the family life that people think most rock stars have?
That’s the worst thing! There’s three levels. Well, there’s obviously a million levels. But let’s go with the obvious three. There’s Jerry Garcia’s level: They did so many drugs they died. You don’t have enough tape and I don’t have enough time to list all the dead assholes. That’s Level 1: The ultimate failure of individuals and society to identify deadly conduct. Horrifically, not only didn’t they identify it, they fucking celebrated it. They encouraged it, they wrote about it, they danced about it, they drew people into it. So now, you have death and mayhem out of control. That’s not an opinion, that’s an observation of 53 years clean and sober. I’d like to go see Jimi Hendrix, I’d like to go see John Belushi, I’d like to, well, I wouldn’t like to go see Jerry Garcia, he’s not one of my favorite guitar players. But that’s the ultimate stupidity: Poison yourself to death for no other reason except that some trendy asshole thought it was groovy, baby.
The second level is Ozzy: You’re not dead, but damn close. And again, I’m to repeat this: I LIKE OZZY. He is a good guy. He is an extremely talented man. More talented for the fact that he took those talents he does have, which are moderate, and sold 50 million records with them. He surrounded himself with the Randy Rhodes and the Tommy Aldridges and the Zack Wilds and mastered building a million homes out of timber that most people couldn’t have built a barn with. That’s real talent.
So that’s Level 2: You did all the stupid things, but you survived. Great.
Then there is Level 3: Ted. He defied the stupidity and his American dream soars on the wings of an American eagle. Because my happiness — the content, the fiber, the joys, the emotion — is all thriving in my life, because I discipline myself. Aha! That’s what Jerry and Ozzy didn’t have: The big “D.” Discipline. My parents taught me to shoot a gun conscientiously, safely, and responsibly, and disciplined me if I didn’t. I would get my block knocked off, which is what Ozzy’s little brats need a good dose of. God, I wish my dad was still alive. He could fix those kids in one night. I’d just say, Dad, could you fix those assholes for me? Thank you very much.
Level 3 is those who are smart enough not to drink and drive, not to poison their God-given gifts, and to live the American dream of seeking excellence, and the resulting happiness that can not be stopped.
I comment on this stuff, and I’m on the phone with Salon.com. And CNN, and Fox and MSNBC and CNBC and ABC and NBC and CBS and Stern and Holmes and ABC radio and Ollie North and Larry King and G. Gordon Liddy and Rush Limbaugh. I plunge into the major media every day of my life because I am a funny guy. I’m an entertaining sonofabitch. In fact, I got the ultimate compliment the other day: You ready? This is it. This is the mountaintop. You ready? I’m so funny, I’m funnier than Richard Pryor on fire.
I write my books, and my articles for all these publications from the Wall Street Journal to Razor to Deer & Deer Hunting and Bowhunting magazine because I really have the American dream licked. And that’s based on discipline, a conscientious aspiration to maximum level of awareness, the application of that observation in celebration of truth and reality that an optimum level of awareness brings. Hence, the bowhunting lifestyle. I don’t partake in assembly-line convenience. I don’t say that killing things is bad while I hire people to kill things for me. I won’t take part in that. And though I salute and have great respect for the farmers of America, because they feed the world, it isn’t good enough for me. I want to look the beast in the eye. When I want a dinner, I kill an animal. I don’t want to have dinner, and hire somebody to kill 10 billion chickens.
What would happen if everyone who reads “Kill It and Grill It” decides that they want to get their own dinner too? How many hunting disciples can we reasonably expect to support running around in the woods with guns?
Oh, it’s already happening. I just spent the weekend with Shemane Nugent, the coauthor of “Kill It and Grill It,” and my own Queen of the Forest. She has this nonprofit charity called Shemane Nugent’s Queen of the Forest. We just had 20-some babes — I can’t believe it — and we had them out at our Sunrize Acres — Sunrize with a “z” — our little sacred Nugent hunting grounds, where we just shared a campfire and created a campfire in the souls of a couple dozen women, many of which have never been off the pavement before. Many of which were angry at anyone who would kill Bambi. But when we were done with them at Queen of the Forest, they realized that Bambi is a fucking cartoon. And that real, living flesh-and-blood creatures created by God should never be reduced — much less managed — based on a cartoon character. These women were empowered to know that spirituality comes from acknowledging this precious creation, that we have an intellectual and moral responsibility to identify in an honest way — not a convenient, ignorant, comfortable way, but tooth, fang and claw reality.
We’ve already recruited thousands. I have a Sunrize Safari where I take people — last year it was 340-some people — on guided hunting trips into Alaska, Africa, Canada, Texas, California, Michigan, Florida, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota. When people read “Kill It and Grill It,” I hope they do go down to their local sporting goods shop, and they do learn about nature’s reality and they do go hunting, because you know what? Right now in America, there are more white-tail deer, there are more turkey, there are more bear — mark this down! I want this in Salon.com! — in 2002, it is irrefutably documented that there are more deer, more turkey, more Canadian geese, more mountain lion, more bear than ever in recorded history in North America.
Pure, perfect-quality protein is available to everyone who wants to flex their natural instinct to be self-sufficient, independent, more honestly in tune with the source of their sustenance. There’s plenty of critters to go around, plenty of land to go around. There’s not a farmer in America that if approached by a reasonably groomed, decent, courteous family wouldn’t be pleased as punch to have you come in and help reduce the damned deer population! Or the mountain lion, or the elk — there’s more elk, there’s more moose, there’s more buffalo than in over 150 years. Everybody’s got too many geese! Everybody’s got too many turkeys! Everybody’s got too many deer! Kill ‘em and grill ‘em!
That’s not just a clever title. I really mean it! If you want your body to be healthier, get off the salmonella, e-coli, mad cow, assembly-line toxic hell train! God I love that statement. What did I just say? The salmonella, e-coli, runaway toxic hell train of mass assembly-line slaughter! It’s indecent. What I do is pure.
So what if this catches on in, say, Manhattan? I’m trying to imagine what would happen if 8 million Manhattan residents suddenly decide it’s trendy to take to the woods.
You’re not listening to me. Within 45 minutes of Manhattan is some of the best deer hunting, the best turkey hunting, best bear hunting. New Jersey is overrun with bears right now. And idiots in New Jersey — lunatic fringe animal rights idiots — are stopping a scientifically supported hunting season, because they refer to these living creatures as “Boo-Boo.” That’s just soulless. These are the same people who think that the Osbournes’ TV show is entertainment. It’s not entertainment; it’s a tragedy.
Go to TedNugent.com and go to Talk Back. You’ll find people who come in who hate hunting, hate me, hate guns, hate the NRA, and within hours, sometimes even within minutes, they go, “Oh, I didn’t know that, Oh, I didn’t know that, Oh, I didn’t know that. How can I go hunting? How can I get a bow and arrow?” We get that every single day. Because ignorance can sometimes be comforting, can’t it? And we shouldn’t allow that, because if there is a gangrenous appendage, putting it behind your back and pretending it doesn’t exist will get you dead. The pain of cleaning the wound, and maybe even amputating that gangrenous appendage, may be painful. But it will save your life.
And that’s what the “Kill It and Grill It” celebration is about. God has blessed us with these incredible renewable resources. I use wood, but I promise you this: I am the only guy you will talk to — unless you talk to a bunch of people at Weyerhauser or a timber operation — who has planted in excess of 100,000 trees with my two hands. So for every tree that I used to keep my house warm, or to build my house, for every tree that Nugent has used, I have planted at least 10,000. I want you to call me the minute you find someone who has put back in more than they take, like I do. Cause you won’t.
The environmental squawkers at Greenpeace and Sierra Club, though there are many hardcore, well intentioned, and even very effective activists in those green organizations, I don’t think any of them can hold a candle to what I do. I balance the land. The Mitchell-Satcher butterfly is thriving on my property based on the scientific report that I kill enough deer to save the Christmas tree fern so that they can produce and breed! That’s how you do that! It’s not heh-heh, the deer’s in danger heh-heh, let’s save Bambi! Let’s live forever! Heh-heh Shut the fuck up! Have some more LSD on your Cheerios and go jam with Jerry Garcia! That’s nonsense!
If you want to do good, you will take part in a conscientious, intellectual, hands-on relationship with this lovely thing called the cycle of life and death. It’s not just one or the other.
Do you feel personally at odds with a number of green organizations with whom you should have some common ground, given that you are both engaged in environmental conservation? And if so, then who are your people?
Yes, I do feel at odds. Not overwhelmingly so, but more than is acceptable. I believe there is some great common ground, and I have dedicated the last 30 years of my life to offer and expose that common ground. If you truly want to save animals, you can’t just save Bambi. What does that mean? Are you going to go out and save every fawn individually? You can’t do it! You have to save the habitat, you have to save the population — not individual animals. What you want to save is the foundation, the basic infrastructure from which resources are produced. You can’t save Fifi and Boo-Boo and Thumper. You have to save ground. And that’s what Ted Nugent and Sportsmen of America do. That’s what the hunting community has always done. We’ve always been on the frontlines.
I can show you trillions of dollars — and that number is accurate, by the way — tens of trillions of dollars that have changed hands for environmental upgrade. And the source of the money in the vast majority of situations is a hunter, a fisherman, a birder, because we restrict it and regulate it ourselves, taxed ourselves, and demanded scientists, and the telemetry equipment and the trucks and the towers and the buildings and the insurance and the research and the laboratories — we the sportsmen did this. And that’s why there is thriving wildlife, because we are using science to manage these precious resources and the success is irrefutable.
So yes, I’m at odds with environmentalists to some degree, but the common ground is: How ’bout this: Do you like hunting? Know hunting? Hate hunting? You need quality water. The hunters, the fishers, the trappers may be the last line to provide that for us. Because from one source, will our air, soil and water quality be determined: wildlife habitat. And guess who craves that? Guess who craves the flesh of a pheasant? Guess who craves the screaming, testosterone-infested bull elk of September? Guess who craves the soaring eagle over a morning campfire of hot coffee in a deer woods? The hunters, the fisherman, the trappers. We crave it, and we tax ourselves and we pay big time to safeguard it.
And not only to safeguard it, but to rehabilitate already destroyed habitat. The Rocky Mountain Elks Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Federation of North American Wild Sheep, Pheasants Forever, Quail Unlimited, Trout Unlimited. I could show you billions of dollars, just in the waterfowl organizations, all of which are hunters, which have completely rehabilitated the prairie waterfowl breeding grounds of the Canadian provinces. We did that; the hunters did that. The anti-hunters haven’t bought one cattail! They haven’t saved a blade of grass! They have way more money than we do, and all they do is create a literature of propaganda with ugly bitches who say they’d rather be naked than wear a fur coat! I’d rather cover them with poop — whatever it takes, cover those bitches up!
We are often shackled by these so-called animal rights, anti-hunting organizations, many of them are unlimited financially — their propaganda feels so good and sounds so good that they get more and more money all the time. So even though we need to increase the goose-hunting season, we can’t, because politicians are being inundated with propaganda from these animal rights organizations. So our tax dollars go out to shoot surplus deer, surplus bear and surplus mountain lions. In California, they’ve killed more mountain lions since hunting was banned than they ever did during the hunting season! No one’s been saved! But they kill them after they’ve killed a hiker, after they’ve killed a kid at the bus stop, after they’ve killed livestock, after they’ve killed an entire neighborhood’s pets! So we scramble for damage control, because it’s politically correct, and it feels good, and they get to do it behind closed doors. We use our tax dollars to pay some bureaucrat to kill a mountain lion, dig a hole and bury this precious beast. No one gets to eat it, nobody gets to buy licenses, fees and taxes themselves. And that’s only after a mountain lion has killed somebody! Oh my God! And the Osbournes are still No. 1!
You refer to the “common ground” you have with some environmental organizations on the left. And yet you are affiliated with many people and organizations on the right — Rush Limbaugh, the NRA, the Republican Party — who are not perceived to have an interest in environmental preservation. How does that work?
Just today I spent an hour on the phone with an organization I’ve been a life member of for 20 years. This is the National Wildlife Foundation. They are on the frontlines of preserving air, water and soil quality. I am workin’ hand in hand with many Michigan and national conservation and environmental organizations to educate and activate Americans to the pivotal issue of air, soil and water quality.
I do not feel disconnected from the true environmentalists. Here’s what I have to say: If you turn on a light, you are mining for coal. If you have ever used a consumer product in your life — which is everybody — then you are drilling for oil. I would challenge your readers to ask them who among you has planted more than a hundred thousand trees with their own hands? Who amongst my critics has donated literally millions and millions of dollars to save critical wildlife habitat?
It all gets down to the fact that all those who criticize me are a bunch of hippies and hypocrites. And I’d like to ask them: Do you want to feel good, or do you want to do good?
I’ll never forget this time when I was on “Politically Incorrect,” and I met this Butterfly gal [Julia Butterfly Hill]. She had just come down from spending a year in a tree. I shook her hand, and I said, “Congratulations. You’ve got balls, kid. I like that.” But during the time she was sitting in that tree, my Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids charity program planted over 50,000 trees. And I’ve got to ask you: Would you rather spend 10 years sitting in one tree, or 10 years planting over 10,000,000 trees? We have the figures back, and they say that by the spring of ’99, my Kamp for Kids and other hunting, sporting and conservation groups were responsible for planting over 10 million trees. So I’d like to ask my critics: How many trees have you planted? How many acres of wildlife habitat have you restored?
So I don’t see a disconnect at all. I am the most connected person there may be. I defy you to come up with someone who has done more for the environment than I have.
Mostly, my critics are just idiots. Last week, I was being interviewed on BBC radio, and this guy comes on and says, “You are affiliated with the NRA. You tell people to hunt deer with Uzis.”
And I say, What in God’s name are you talking about? No one in the history of the world has tried to hunt deer with an Uzi. The NRA is the organization who would stop people from doing such a foolish thing.
How do you feel about the environmental record of the Bush administration and the Republican party?
George W’s record is good. He did an amazing job in Texas with improving the air, soil and water quality. Of course, there is room for improvement. But when it comes to policy, there is always the pragmatic issue of balancing environmental upgrades with the American Dream. If we really adopted all the policies proposed by Greenpeace and the Sierra Club and Ralph Nader, the American Dream would come to a screeching halt. It would look the Ukraine in 1965. It would be worse than the Dust Bowl Era in the ’30s.
We all know that pollution is a problem, but you could see a dramatic environmental upgrade without spending one increased dime if we just enforced the existing laws we have honestly and effectively. We need to demand that industry lives up to the laws we’ve already got in place. It’s not about being on the left or the right, but about confronting corruption in the industry and government. We have to get people involved. If everyone living downstream from a stinky river went to the stinky company upstream and demanded that they shut down, we would see results. I’ve seen it right here in Michigan. The Rouge River is the river in which I was first baptized into the spirit of the wild. In the ’60s, Lake Erie was so polluted it would catch on fire. Now it provides the greatest walleye fishing in the world.
We the people did that. Not by pissing and moaning. We did it by being activists with intelligent, practical, yet intensely demanded upgrade. But I hate to see the federal government pushed and shoved by so-called environmental protection regulations. There are farmers who see their farms confiscated because a little patch of cat tails starts growing on their land. One season a muskrat shits a cattail seed and suddenly their farms are classified as a wetland! Give me a break! That’s not a wetland! It’s a puddle! These are the kind of atrocities promoted by groups like Greenpeace, but it has nothing to do with environmental protection. It’s just people jacking off so they can feel good.
Do you know how they test to see if fish are edible? They take the whole, live fish and throw it in a blender. Then you are testing the brains, the eyeballs, the spine, the guts, the backbone. But I don’t eat any of those parts! I only eat the meat. If you want to test to see if a fish is fit for human consumption, you should test only the parts that humans consume. The purity of the fish in the Great Lakes has increased dramatically since the 1950s. But then we hear all these scare stories about mercury levels in fish eyeballs. Who gives a shit? I don’t eat fish eyeballs! I’m not the extremist here, I am the moderate. I say to all the environmentalists, if you test your shit, you will probably find mercury levels in there too. Why? Because your body throws out the toxins. And unless you are planning to eat your own shit, you have nothing to worry about.
Decades ago, the environmentalists adopted a bird as their symbol — the condor. The hunters got a bird too — the wild turkey. When the environmentalists adopted the condor, there were a couple dozen left in existence. And today, there are still a couple dozen. When the hunters adopted the wild turkey, there were a couple thousand. Now there are more than 20 million wild turkeys in North America. Today, we kill more wild turkey each year in Michigan alone during the legal hunting season than there were in existence in the 20s and 30s. And that’s with regulations to harvest just the surplus!
Look at Africa. After they banned the hunting of elephant and lions, the Africans started using their habitat to grow mangos and peaches and dates. It happens everywhere: Once you ban hunting, a species loses its value. People would just as soon use the land to grow cotton, because cotton has more value than the wildlife.
Just last week, Rush Limbaugh and I celebrated a truth on the radio: If you want to save a species, simply decide to eat it. Then it will be managed — like chickens, like turkeys, like deer, like Canadian geese.
I know you run a hunting camp for children. How do you feel about kids and hunting?
The kids love my attitude, they love my energy, they love my passion. I have brought the truth to these kids. They crave stimuli. Don’t we all? Isn’t that the American dream? To be stimulated emotionally, physically, spiritually? We want stimuli, we want adventure, we want challenge. Every kid wants the extreme of all of the above. There is nothing more extreme than penetrating the almost impenetrable defense mechanism of the game animal, and making that mystical flight of the arrow go where you want it to. That is your ultimate stimuli, ultimate extreme, ultimate challenge, ultimate joy, ultimate frustration, ultimate gratification, because you are bringing home the purest of flesh when the arrow pierces.
If you want to be environmentally responsible and progressive, you’ve got to be hands-on, or at least vote for hands-on policies. The kids are looking for this, they are looking for independence and individuality. Every human’s instinct is to be independent and self-sufficient. There’s nothing in us that really wants to be wimps and bloodsuckers and dependent. Regardless of what Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan and — what’s his name? — Reverend Al — yeah, he’s a fucking reverend, and I’m the Dalai Lama — say. These people have created an entire culture celebrating dependency. And Jesse Jackson will make sure that those who follow him remain dependent so he can keep his Armani.
But no one wants to be dependent; we all want to be independent. And independence is incredibly attractive to children. Our Ted Nugent Kamp for Kidz was started in 1989, right after Fred Bear died. Fred Bear was my hero and my mentor and one of the greatest conservationists ever, and a wonderful man, and an amazing, stealthy predator. He hunted with a bow and arrow and taught an entire generation to get back to nature as a healer. And what Fred Bear taught me was to promote hunting, not defend it. We don’t have anything to defend! I promote it to the young people via my rock ‘n’ roll energy and attitude.
I keep in touch with these kids. Some of them are young adults now, raising kids on their own now. And they keep us posted on how they are channeling their own children’s energies into an environmentally healthy lifestyle — hunting, fishing, shooting, marksmanship, archery, planting trees.
How old were your own children when they started hunting?
I have four children: Star is 31, Sasha is 28, Toby, my oldest boy, is 25, and Rocco will be 12 this summer. All my children started the marksmanship discipline when they were 4 and 5 years old, with BB guns and pellet guns. They began archery shortly thereafter, around 5 or 6. Discipline is the next step: the next BB, the bullet, the next arrow, the next shot, can you make it more controlled than the previous one? That discipline went deep into their souls, to utilize that same focus on other endeavors, whether academic or love, or passions, or diet. My children are healthy and giving and upbeat and independent. And they all started killing deer when they were 5 or 6 years old.
Many parents are pretty afraid of introducing their children to toy guns, much less teaching them how to shoot real ones.
Here’s the thing with that: In “God, Guns, and Rock n’ Roll” I devote several chapters to the inescapable truism that everybody is fascinated with guns. There is not a human being in the world who isn’t interested from one angle or another in guns. Every child will want and every child will end up getting their hands on a gun. With that reality in mind, now what? Of course, I’ll tell you what: You supervise their handling of fire, and gasoline and power tools and lawnmowers, and baseball bats, and vehicles, and guns. You supervise and train them and — here we go again — discipline them with a conscientious, safety approach towards all things that could be dangerous.
There are hundreds of millions of gun owners in this country, and not one of them will have an accident today. The only misuse of guns comes in environments where there are drugs, alcohol, bad parents, and undisciplined children. Period. Let’s make a note of this, shall we? You can refer to this over the course of your wonderful journalist career: Here it is, Monday the 20th of May, 2002, 1:06 Eastern time: Though I pray for Ozzy and Sharon and the children, the success of their show is the manifestation of our cultural deprivation. I pray for their safety, I pray for their happiness, I pray that they get off the drugs and the alcohol and the tobacco.
But you mark my words: It is very likely that you will have chills and goosebumps on your arms when the time comes — I pray that it does not come — that there will be a tragedy, perhaps even a death, in the Osbourne family, because of their out-of-control, irresponsible lifestyle. Last night, we saw Jack, the boy, dressed up as an Army man — which is cool, all my kids do that. But he was taking a large bayonet, and violently stabbing it into a box. Now hopefully, it was just a scripted, goofy moment. And I’m sure there are a lot of children who do similar things, mine included — today we will do farm chores, we will use knives, we will use wheat-whips, we will use a lawnmower, we will go out and train with our guns — but I see a gross lack of supervision in many households.
Again, I reference the Osbournes. People think it’s cute! People think aberrant, dangerous behavior is cute! It’s not cute! Let’s hope it doesn’t happen. But you know, I think at some point, you and I, Amy, are going to say, “Oh my God. Ted said this would happen.” They are going to get in a car wreck, they are going to drink and drive, they are going to be hanging around with some dope dealer, and they are going to get shot. They’re going to snap, because they have no discipline, they have no good will that guides their lifestyle. I’m sure that Ozzy and Sharon all love each other, and that’s wonderful. But there is no discipline. And when you have no discipline, tragedy is waiting to happen.
You’re in San Francisco, so you owe those people out there to enlighten them to these things that they have tried to distance themselves from. And they are paying for it: in the crime rate, in the AIDS rate, in the molestation rate, in the allowing-dog-to-kill-people rate. A dog couldn’t possibly kill someone while I’m around. Wanna know why? Because I have a Glock in my belt and if I saw a dog endangering some person, I’d shoot the motherfucker. There you go. Case closed, drive safely. Dogs nothing, people 1.
Give my best to Salon.com, and tell Salon.commers to come to Ted Nugent.com and they’ll get a dose of reality that they will either love and make them celebrate the truth, or it will make them shit blood. Both reactions which I love, by the way.
Amy Benfer is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.More Amy Benfer.
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)