Rep. Paul Broun's office feels like something between a zoo and a pet cemetery. The Georgia Republican's space in the Cannon House Office Building is decorated with eight dead, stuffed animals ' six heads and two full-sized creatures that look ready to pounce. [IMGCAP(1)]
'For the most part when people walk through that door ' it's almost universal ' they look and they say, 'Wow!'' Broun says.
The animals are trophies that the two-term Congressman has collected from hunting trips around the world. To the left of his desk stands a large stuffed lion and to the right a bear, while the head of a Dall sheep stares at him from across the room.
'I hunted that animal a couple of years ago,' Broun says pointing to the sheep, which he killed in Alaska. 'It's one of the best eating wild game animals anywhere in the world.'
Broun makes a point of eating all of his kills. He says it is a way of showing respect for the animal in addition to having a great meal. The hunt doesn't always translate to tasty eating, though. On a hunting trip to Zimbabwe a few years back, Broun shot, killed and, yes, ate the lion that now stands beside his desk.
'After eating this animal, the natives called me Boss Shumba, which means Boss Lion,' he says proudly. 'They'd never seen a guy come and actually eat a lion. It's not very good.' In fact, Broun says, lion meat was too chewy.
Of the animals in his office, the warthog that Broun shot in Africa was one of the best meals.
'They fixed this guy [like a] roasted ham, put some gourmet sauce over him, and it was astounding,' he says.
During his travels to Africa, Broun has hunted a variety of animals but is most proud of nabbing the lion and the Cape buffalo that now watch over staffers and visitors. Both animals are considered a part of the 'big five' in Africa, a group ' which includes lions, buffalo, elephants, leopards and black rhinos ' of extremely dangerous animals that are considered major hunting accomplishments. Broun has yet to kill the latter three on any of his safaris.
In addition to Zimbabwe, the Congressman has traveled to South Africa and Botswana in search of big game.
What doesn't make it to his Hill office gets put on display in his Georgia home.
'If you walk into the front door of my house, I've got a two-story wall that's just covered with moose, caribou, animals from Africa, sheep from Spain, white-tailed deer,' he says.
For Broun, these animals are more than trophies; they are reminders of his travels and his family.
'Some of the greatest memories of my dad was as a small child going out and shooting doves with him or going quail hunting,' Broun says. 'I can remember very clearly waking early before daylight and going getting breakfast to meet other dove hunters.'
Broun was given a shotgun for his 12th birthday and soon began hunting alongside his father. His grandfather taught him how to hunt deer, which led to his love of big game and eventually politics.
My dad 'instilled an outdoor ethic of hunting and fishing, and that's what has led me ... in my political career. So hunting's what brought me here,' Broun says.
Before being elected to Congress in 2007, Broun was a volunteer lobbyist for Safari Club International, an organization that addresses hunters' rights and gun control laws.
Broun's interest in gun laws in turn led him to explore his interpretation of the Constitution and the Second Amendment.
'I began to understand that the Second Amendment is more than about hunting and shooting. It was about freedom. It was about preventing tyranny in America,' he says, adding that he thinks the nation needs to conform to a more literal view of the Constitution. 'When I ran for office, I ran not only to protect hunting rights and gun owners' rights, I ran for my children and my grandchildren's future because we've got to return to a philosophy of limited government.'
Not only does the self-proclaimed 'freedom fighter' see hunting as political inspiration, he also sees it as a way of connecting with God.
'I really enjoy God's creation, and hunting is really a religious experience for me. I'm overwhelmed by the majesty of our creator,' he says, choking back tears. 'It's an episode for me to really get back to thinking about God.'
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