Favorite pastime: Past presidents liked to hunt


Answer me this: What U.S. president, an avid hunter and even more avid fan of hunting dogs himself, once rescued a dog that had wondered its unlucky way into the midst of a raging battle?  Recognizing the hound as a hunting dog owned by the opposing commander, this eventual president, then a general, called a cease fire, and as only a true gentleman would and could, returned the dog unharmed to its owner.

At least that’s the story that has survived the test of time, and is widely recognized as a probable truism in the world of oral history.

The president is George Washington, the Battle of Germantown, a Red Coat victory in the Revolutionary War of Independence. Date was 1777, and the dog’s owner, British Gen. William Howe, was pleased and thankful to see his prized hound back in his kennel.

The story, perhaps heavily embellished, reads that George personally returned the dog to William during the short cease fire. Indeed Washington, before and after his legendary military career, was often found in pursuit of waterfowl and fox, a hunt he especially revered because much of the hunt was conducted on horseback.

But Washington was just one of several U.S. presidents who found hunting a favorite pastime.


Of them, Theodore Roosevelt is certainly the most renowned and accomplished as an outdoorsman and adventurer. Roosevelt is considered the father of conservation in this country and perhaps in the world.  He was a fundamental leader in the creation of the National Forest Service and in protecting millions of public acres from destruction and exploitation.

It is recorded that as a child, Roosevelt fought asthma by engaging in exercise in the outdoors. Later he hunted throughout North America and Africa, and in time, grew to legendary status as an adventurer and champion of sportsmanship.


Next up is Jimmy Carter, probably the most blue collar of our modern presidents. Carter took just 79 days off during his term of office, most of which he spent hunting or fishing, just as he did since childhood growing up in rural Georgia.

Carter was a vocal advocate of gun ownership and hunting. Although he owned just a handful of guns, he respected the rights of others who collected weapons, target shot and used guns in other recreational ways. He displayed a handmade muzzle loader in his private, White House office.


A Kansas child, Dwight D. Eisenhower, would often walk several miles to and from a local creek where he developed a love for fishing and later for hunting upland birds.

No need here to spell out Eisenhower’s importance as supreme commander of Allied Forces in Europe in World War II, but it is interesting that he found time away from battle to chase a partridge or two.

“Ike” claimed that he liked three sports and all for the same basic reason; golf, fishing and shooting. He said he enjoyed all three because they gave him the opportunity to go afield.


Grover Cleveland was another “hunting” U.S. president. He claimed that the outdoors became an obsession with him, whether it was hunting or fishing. He also wrote that certain people were born to hunt and fish, and only those whose instincts drove them outdoors, could understand how the outdoors provided the most satisfying of all pursuits.

Cleveland was so fond of his personal hunting rifles that he named each of them. He was truly in his element when outdoors.

While many other presidents may have tried to win favor with segments of the voting public by appearing to shoot, fish or hunt, the above five were actually the real deal.

(Much of the information here was extracted from the Outdoor Hub news service.)

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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