MIKE BRAUN Digging into the mailbag

Sometimes the ol' Vindicator Outdoors desk mailbag needs a thorough cleaning out.
Among the interesting items pulled out of the bag this week are a few press releases -- one on a large corporation's being taken to task for putting hunters in a bad light and another on a fantasy fishing league, information on an event for disabled hunters and where to get 10 free trees.
Irate hunters: DiamlerChrysler, the makers of the Jeep line of vehicles, incurred the wrath of hunters to the point that a particular ad campaign was canceled.
The maker of the popular off-road vehicle apparently was responsible for a television commercial that promoted an anti-hunting bias.
The commercial showed a Jeep driving through the woods with two deer tied to it. The Jeep passed by hunters in camo clothing and, after crossing to a location that had "No Hunting" signs posted, the driver released the apparently dead deer and told them they are safe. At that, the deer get up and bound off. Other Jeep drivers are shown in similar activity in the background.
What might have been humorous in some aspects was put in an entirely bad light after Chrysler officials initially said they saw no problem with the ad and that it would continue to run.
"Although this message was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it won't be taken that way by the 40 million sportsmen across America," said Bud Pidgeon, president of the former Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, one of the nation's largest sportsmen's rights groups.
Since the ad began airing, DiamlerChrysler phone lines at its Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters have been swamped, DiamlerChrysler officials confirmed.
In fact, on Friday, a spokesman in the company's customer service division acknowledged that a "significant" number of calls had been received; so much so, she said, that as of Monday, the ad had been pulled from use.
Name change: Speaking of the WLFA, the Columbus-based national organization recently changed its name.
The WLFA is now known as the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance.
Richard Cabela, chairman of the alliance, said the USSA will continue the long-standing tradition of the WLFA, which has been defending sportsmen and sportsmen's rights since 1978.
Fishing for $1 million: A fantasy fishing league is being formed by the FLW Tour, which is sponsored by Wal-Mart. Titled the Conseco Fishing Challenge, the league offers anglers a chance at $1 million if a participant correctly selects the top six anglers in their exact finishing order on the FLW Tour.
Information on participation is available online at flwoutdoors.com/conseco/index.cfm. No purchase is needed to participate. Potential winners will be shown live on PAX Television at the end of each of the seven FLW Tour stops, Saturday, Feb. 16, March 16, April 20, May 18, June 22 and Sept. 14.
Help for the disabled: A recent event in Alabama brought together several nationally prominent athletes and celebrities in the name of helping the disabled hunter.
Cleveland Indians first baseman Jim Thome, NASCAR driver Ward Burton, comedian Jeff Foxworthy and entertainer Irlene Mandrell came together at the behest of the nonprofit Buckmasters American Deer Foundation to give a terminally ill youngster a chance to go hunting with them.
The program connects celebrities with disabled or terminally ill hunters on a hunt or other outdoor activity of their choice. The BADF took up the program after the Make-A-Wish Foundation dropped a similar activity in the face of organized anti-hunter opposition.
Thome got involved with the BADF program after his nephew was severely injured and partially paralyzed in a swimming accident last summer.
To learn more about the program look on the Internet at www.badf.org, or call Buckmasters at (334) 215-3337.
Honorary chairman: In a related bit of news, Burton has been named the honorary chairman of the 2002 NRA-Beeman Grand Prix Championship for marksmen with physical disabilities.
The event, founded in 1997, is a national tour used to promote shooting sports opportunities for the disabled. The tour is planning on making a stop in eastern Ohio in March.
Free trees: Ten free flowering trees will be given to anyone who joins the National Arbor Day Foundation in January.
Two white flowering dogwoods, two flowering crabapples, two flowering pears, two Washington hawthorns and two American redbuds will be mailed to those who send in a $10 contribution to Ten Free Flowering Trees, National Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City, NE 68410, by Jan. 31.

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