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Wars And War Horses

There are times when a historic event occurs and suddenly writing about anything else seems pointless and irrelevant. This is one of those times.

Once a journalist, always a journalist, and when a war breaks out, even old war horses that are safely out to pasture will prick up their ears, paw the ground, and nicker once or twice. How do I know this? I are one, as the saying goes.

I’m writing this on March 6. By the time you read it, sometime in April, events may have long since overtaken it, but a couple of things are worth noting regardless.

A few days ago, I received two emails. In the first, four American ammunition companies jointly announced they were sending $1 million in ammunition to Ukraine to aid in their war effort against the invasion. In the second, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) asked for help funding humanitarian aid, mostly in the form of food, for refugees streaming out of Ukraine and into neighboring Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.

This aid will mostly take the form of food and equipment. The CIC is working in partnership with national organizations such as the Hungarian National Charity Hunting Organization. It’s a coordinated group effort, and the details can be found at the CIC website, www. cic-wildlife.org, where you also can donate online.

Many countries and states, as well as SCIF, have hunters’ organizations, with names such as Hunters Against Hunger, dedicated to donating game meat to people who need food. It’s great to see an outfit like CIC, whose raison d’être is game conservation rather than aiding refugees, getting involved in this situation.

At the other end of the spectrum, we find Federal, CCI, Remington and Speer — all part of the Vista Outdoor group — pledging 1 million rounds of ammunition in answer to President Zelensky’s plea for more munitions. Ukraine’s military has been a customer of Federal, CCI and Remington for a long time, so this is truly a case of helping one’s friends.

The Putin invasion of Ukraine has provoked everyone except scattered chapters of the Vladimir Putin Personality Cult, to do something, anything, to help Ukraine or harm Russia. The International Judo Federation has expelled Vladimir Putin personally; the International Cat Federation will not allow Russian cats to participate in events. (Their owners may be annoyed, but I doubt the cats themselves will care much.) Chanel and Hermès, among others, are pulling out of Russia. In cases like this, its cumulative effect, not individual impact that counts.

Considering what is happening in Ukraine itself as I write this, even commenting about a looming drought of Chanel No. 5 in the Kremlin seems unbelievably trivial — much like Ralph Lauren, after the fall of Kabul in 2001, pronouncing Hamid Karzai “the chic-est man in the world.” Really, Ralph?

Off and on since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, I have received invitations to hunt in Russia, Belarus and Romania. For a variety of reasons, I never went. A major factor, however, was the horror stories emanating almost immediately from places like Kamchatka and the Pamirs.

I know efforts have been made to clean up Russian big-game hunting in the years since, by game-conservation groups and others, and people tell me it’s better now than it was. Somehow, though, I don’t think planning to get on a plane to Moscow with a high-powered rifle is a very good idea at this juncture. Where all this will leave the situation, between getting visas and gun licenses, and getting trophies back to the U.S., is anyone’s guess and, for that matter, probably not very high on anyone’s list of priorities.

For those who are not sure where Ukraine is, what its real relationship is with Russia and why, or are wondering how Vladimir Putin got to power in the first place, I highly recommend Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine, Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror and Harvest of Sorrow, and The Man Without a Face — Vladimir Putin’s Unlikely Rise to Power, by Masha Gessen.

No one is sure who first said, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I’ll go with Sir Winston Churchill and also quote Anne Applebaum: “History explains everything.”

Terry Wieland is a writer specializing in fine firearms. He has hunted on four continents, including 14 trips to Africa, and has written for Safari Times for 25 years. His latest book is Great Hunting Rifles — Victorian to the Present. Wieland’s biography of Robert Ruark, A View From A Tall Hill, was recently reprinted in paperback by Skyhorse.

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