I sent the following letter to the editor of Field & Stream in response to an article, Sarah Palin’s Shooting by David E. Petzal, posted at their site. It’s disappointing that the letter even had to be written to a publication such as theirs, but the inaccuracies will not go unanswered.
February 13, 2013
As a fan of Field and Stream dating back to my childhood, it was very disheartening to read David Petzal’s hit piece on my father Chuck Heath, and my sister Sarah Palin’s caribou hunt in the TLC show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Why Mr. Petzal chose to write something like this nearly three years after the fact is perplexing…a cry for attention perhaps?
I shared the article with my parents and my mother responded by saying, “This is so ridiculous that it doesn’t even merit a response.”
Mom’s probably right but I guess I’m too stubborn to drop it that easily.
Petzal implying that Sarah has no experience with guns is akin to the bogus Washington Post story this week that said Sarah is going to work for Al Jazeera. Even a tiny bit of digging would have lead Mr. Petzal to a completely different conclusion.
So please allow me to set some facts straight:
First of all, I can’t recall the first time my sisters and I ever pulled the trigger on a rifle. We were too young to remember. Guns have been a part of my family for generations. My father and I recently wrote a book (Our Sarah: Made in Alaska) that chronicles some of our early hunting experiences.
So what are the facts? For one, Mr. Petzal leads the reader to believe that Sarah didn’t sight her gun in before the hunt. Totally untrue. The day before they set out after their prey, Sarah and Dad were consistently “driving tacks from 100 yards” (as Dad put it) with Sarah’s .225 Winchester. Those of you who watched the show in its entirety know that while walking across the tundra, Dad slipped and fell while carrying Sarah’s gun. He didn’t realize at the time that he had knocked the scope askew.
When it came time for Sarah to take her shot, she took aim, fired, and missed badly. Dad (or one of the nitwits as Petzal cruely refers to him) is visibly frustrated. After sixty-plus years of continual hunting and big game guiding, he has earned that right. Even at nearly 75 years old, I doubt Petzal could keep up with him. When it becomes obvious that Sarah’s scope is out of whack, she switches guns with Dad’s buddy, Becker. (By the way, Becker is not a guide as Petzal mentions in his piece, nor is he a nitwit).
As Sarah gets ready to fire Becker’s Remington 7mm Magnum, she asks if it has much of a kick. Why? Because her .225 doesn’t kick and she can keep her eye closer to the scope. My mom once had a nasty circle cut around her eye doing the same thing and Sarah never forgot that.
Once Sarah settled in with the 7mm, she dropped her caribou in one shot.
By the way, the day after the hunt, Dad set up some paper plates at fifty yards and couldn’t hit them with the .225. The scope was that far off.
If you doubt any of the things I’ve said perhaps you should talk to some of the people that were actually there. Here are a few of them:
-Stryker Overly – guide from Tok, Alaska
-Greg Jennen – owner of Alaska Glacier Mountain Outfitters in Two Rivers, Alaska
-John Pontz – bush pilot from Unalakleet, Alaska
-Mitch Tanen – Television Producer with Mark Burnett Productions
-Steve Becker – commercial fisherman and hunting buddy
Mitch Tanen in particular had this to say: “I’m sorry to hear that the magazine is calling into question the authenticity of the hunt we showed in that episode. I don’t know how to say it plain enough…the actual hunt and the story of all the events of that hunt as laid out in the episode are all true. There were always no less then ten people following Sarah, your father and Steve Becker during the four-day shoot. So in addition to your father and Steve Becker, an additional producer, at least two camera operators, two audio mixers, several PA’s, a coordinator, medical personnel, safety personnel and at least one of the two bush pilots we depended on to get us out into the bush from Kavik Camp, were there and had eyes on Sarah at the moment she shot the caribou. To suggest that somehow all of these individuals (including me) with our own differing political views would risk the professional reputations some of us have spent a life time building to make up something like that for the good of a television show is both ignorant and insulting.”
Petzal’s piece is full of gaping holes and tarnishes the reputation of everyone who was involved in that hunt.
As Sarah explains, “He’s the typical lying SOB-type that I’ve been dealing with since 2008. I’m very disappointed in Field & Stream for printing his garbage. This made-up fantasy of the columnist ranks right up there with yesterday’s report in the Washington Post that claims I’m working for Al Jazeera. My retort to that one was: ‘Uum, right… and tomorrow I’m having coffee with Elvis at the Mocha Moose in Wasilla.’ Really, these silly people need to get a life!”
Chuck Heath, Jr.
Cross-posted at The SPJ