Where the Wild Things Are
Boren’s Office Testifies to Love Of Hunting
Rep. Dan Boren may be a mere freshman, but already he has plans to topple a couple of Congressional heavyweights.
Just not at the ballot box.
The 31-year-old Oklahoma Democrat, an avid sportsman, is gunning for a more attainable goal: king of the hunt.
Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) “are the two I’ve heard of that have a lot of heads,” says Boren, referring to stuffed hunting trophies. “We want to be the office with the most animals.”
To which Young replied, upon hearing the challenge: “He better get busy.”
From the looks of his second-floor office in the Cannon Building, Boren, who “harvested” his first deer at age 9, is off to a good start.
So far his personal office boasts two whitetail deerheads, a mule deerhead, three ducks, a Rio Grande wild turkey and a pheasant — not to mention the black bear rug on the floor.
That specimen he shot in Newfoundland, Canada, on a hunting trip about four years ago. “I’ve taken two or three bear. I want to go get a grizzly,” says Boren, adding that his fellow hunter and cousin, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), is “envious of all the big heads we have.”
Then there’s Boren’s Muskogee district office, which has “20 heads at least,” he says, ranging from deer to a full-mounted jackal.
“It’s his museum of natural history,” quips Boren’s press secretary, Michael Allen, referring to the collection.
Aside from the grizzly, Boren’s hunting wish list includes an elk for the west wall of his office, which he hopes to bag during a trip later this fall — though since his election to Congress he says his schedule no longer allows for “extended hunting trips.” (Boren’s also set to wed Andrea Heupel in July, and he insists his fiancée, who’s never been hunting, is “open to going. We just haven’t found the time.”)
Boren, son of former Sen. David Boren (D-Okla.) and grandson of the late Rep. Lyle Boren (D-Okla.), a founding member of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, says hunting also runs in his family — although Boren, whose favorite shot is a .300 Winchester Magnum, concedes his father may not be quite the gun enthusiast he is.
To illustrate this point, Boren, whose Congressional bid was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, pulls out a signed picture of Wayne LaPierre, the powerful gun lobby’s chief executive, from a nearby cabinet.
“It says, ‘To Dan Boren on your 21st birthday. Thanks for being such a loyal NRA member and for working so hard to get your dad to come around. Keep up the fight,’” Boren reads.
“He was probably not 100 percent on the NRA’s issues, but I will be,” adds Boren, whose lifetime membership in the NRA certificate dominates one wall of his office, in reference to his father.
Among Boren’s prized non-animal artifacts is a guitar bearing Toby Keith’s John Hancock, which sits near his desk. The country music star and Sooner State native stumped for Boren during his primary.
Boren laughs, recalling the Keith line from the campaign trail: “Dan and I are animal lovers — we think they are very tasty.”
While Boren’s office would probably render any card-carrying member of PETA apoplectic, he clearly isn’t concerned about alienating any constituents with his hobby.
“We don’t have too many animal rights activists that come from Eastern Oklahoma,” says Boren, a former Senate page and Congressional aide. “We understand that people that respect the outdoors, who are involved in hunting and fishing, are the people who actually invest dollars to conserve.
“Ducks Unlimited, the NRA — all of these groups actually spend more dollars than any of the extreme animal rights activists,” he continues, pointing to Teddy Roosevelt’s reputation as both a hunter and conservationist.
One item not on display, however, is the skin of a zebra, which Boren shot on an African hunting excursion in 1998. Instead, it sits neatly folded on a shelf in his office closet, just above a rack of dress shirts still in their dry-cleaning plastic.
“I just didn’t have any room for it,” he says. “Maybe, I’ll get a bigger office some day and be able to put it out.”