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Shoot to eat

click to enlarge Photo courtesy of Robert Okie Rutherford
  • Photo courtesy of Robert Okie Rutherford

Robert Rutherford, "Okie" to his friends, tells the story about the time he went to a sports bar up the pass and got offended.

"I went in, and there was not one mounted head or fish on the wall," he says. "They got all kinds of posters of sports teams from New York and New Jersey, and I told the owner, 'This isn't what Divide, Colorado, is all about.'

"Our heritage is hunting. Long before skiing, this is the true Colorado sport. When hunting season comes, people come from all over the world to spend money."

Okie, 46, originally is from the Ozarks in Oklahoma, hence his nickname. He has bagged some big game in his day. He likes Colorado hunting just fine, but also has been to Alaska three times for moose and caribou, and just got back from a hunting trip to Africa.

There, he harvested a rare blue wildebeest, pictured above, along with a huge zebra ("it kind of tastes almost like pork, not like chicken") a baboon and monkeys ("they are almost like rats over there; they encourage you to shoot them").

Most of the meat that Rutherford harvests goes to charities. Every May, he and some friends throw a Wild Hog Boogie, where they roast a wild pig and host a hog-calling contest for the ladies. The winner is crowned Miss Javelina, after the wild pig-like animals found in the United States. They also do a cowboy Christmas ball, with hunters and sportsmen donating the proceeds to charity.

Rutherford is polite about people who don't take kindly to his sport.

"Well, they have a right to their opinion, but I don't think the folks understand that I'm the first to fight for conservationists and for endangered species. Ninety percent of the money that supports wildlife comes from hunters' dollars."

-- Cara DeGette

photo courtesy of Robert "Okie" Rutherford

  • Shoot to eat

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