MISSOULA, Mont.--The Boone and Crockett Club is celebrating the Oct. 25 dedication of the new Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge near Rolling Fork, Miss. The 6,600-acre refuge named for the Club’s iconic founder is the birthplace of fair-chase hunting ethics--and the Teddy bear.
Boone and Crockett Club regular member and Wildlife Mississippi executive director James L. Cummins of Stoneville, Miss., was instrumental in working with Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) in crafting legislation to create the refuge.
Lowell E. Baier, president of the Club, said, “The brightest legacy of the Boone and Crockett Club is the ongoing conservation leadership of its members. We’re proud of James and his crucial work to protect a piece of hallowed ground in America’s sporting history.”
In 1902, Roosevelt traveled to Mississippi to settle a border dispute between Mississippi and Louisiana. While there, he hunted bears in the Mississippi Delta in the same location that would later become Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge.
Because of the area’s wild and endless swamps, the hosts for the hunt were concerned for the President’s safety. Much to Roosevelt’s disappointment, they kept him in camp until a bear was treed. Roosevelt’s omission from the actual chase was unsettling to a man who believed the tougher the hunt, the better.
Once hounds had exhausted a small bear after a long chase, the guide Holt Collier, pictured at right, roped the bear, tied it to a tree and sent for the President.
When Roosevelt arrived on the scene, he refused to kill the defenseless bear.
The next day, a political cartoonist depicted the scene with Roosevelt and the bear. The caption, “Drawing the Line in Mississippi,” referred to both the border dispute and the hunting incident.
This cartoon sparked the imagination of the country and a shopkeeper in Brooklyn, N.Y., who crafted two plush stuffed bears for display in his shop’s window. The popularity of the novelty critters quickly grew and the Teddy bear was born.
More importantly, the concept of fair-chase was born, too. It became a key tenet of Boone and Crockett Club and remains so to this day.
Cummins said, “It was a series of events that changed hunting and conservation forever. It was the beginning of a modern hunting ethic that elevated sportsmen to that of hunter-conservationists by promoting taking game only in a respectful manner that did not give unfair advantage to the hunter. This ethic is the cornerstone of sportsmanship and the foundation for today’s game laws. I’m happy that the place where it all started is now in public ownership and protected forever.”
A nearby refuge, 22,000 acres in size, was named for Holt Collier. It is the only national wildlife refuge named for an African American. It also was the result of extensive efforts by Wildlife Mississippi and the Boone and Crockett Club.
The ceremony in Rolling Fork, held as part of the Great Delta Bear Affair festival, will include remarks by Cummins and Congressman Thompson.
Attendees also will celebrate Roosevelt’s 150th birthday, which is Oct. 27.