FROM EISENHOWER TO BUSH: SPORTSMEN IN THE WHITE HOUSE

President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) is the undisputed leader of sportsmen in the White House, and he had lots of followers: Half the presidents in the past 50 years were avid hunters. Those same leaders loved to fish.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-61)

Ike began hunting in his youth, managed to arrange a partridge hunt in North Africa during World War II, and shot quail in Georgia nearly every February during his eight-year presidency. He loved fishing even more, for trout, muski and northern pike. Constituents sent lures, hooks, even fish. White House gift files contain some 200 entries for flies.

John F. Kennedy (1961-63)

An experienced sailor, JFK is known to have fished one time, when he caught a sailfish - off Acapulco on his honeymoon. He hunted once as well. As historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. recalled it, Lyndon B. Johnson "liked to impose tests of manhood, of which the most notorious was bringing politicians to his ranch and insisting that they kill deer. John Kennedy, filled with deep distaste, had killed his deer after the 1960 election."

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69)

A 1964 article headlined "LBJ - Outdoor Sportsman" recalled Johnson flying on Air Force One to Texas during a storm, his brows furrowed until he returned from the cockpit relieved that the pilot would "have us on the ranch in time to see the deer before dark." Johnson was known to go after only the biggest racks; dove hunting was his favorite blood sport. His lakes were stocked, and Johnson spent hours catching grasshoppers for his daughters to fish with.

Richard M. Nixon (1969-74)

Nixon was so ill-at-ease in nature that he walked on the beach in a suit and dress shoes. He was never known to hunt (although he did occasionally fish in the Bahamas with Robert Abplanalp and Bebe Rebozo). A search of the National Archives turns up a number of hits, such as this tape-recorded meeting with counsel John Dean on March 21, 1973, the height of the Watergate scandal (Dean has suggested he might go to jail to spare Nixon):

Gerald R. Ford (1974-77)

Although Ford's father and two brothers were big on hunting and fishing, the president's alpha male was expressed mainly through football and basketball. A complimentary Pennsylvania fishing license is in his White House files. Contacted recently, he had no memories of either.

Jimmy Carter (1977-81)

"I had a fishing pole in my hands as early as I can remember, and would go hunting with Daddy long before I could have anything to shoot other than a BB gun," Carter wrote in his memoir of growing up in the South. He hunted everything from possum to deer to duck, and has fished around the world. He helicoptered from the White House to Spruce Creek, Pa., where he still flyfishes every year.

Ronald Reagan (1981-89)

Known more for riding horses and chopping wood, both in Hollywood and as president at his Santa Barbara ranch, Reagan did recall fishing the Rock River as a boy. But biographer Lou Cannon wrote that he "was so caring of the wildlife at Rancho del Cielo that he had rattlesnakes near the ranch trapped and carted away, instead of following the usual ranching practice of simply killing them."

George H.W. Bush (1989-93)

Bush learned to hunt as a boy visiting his grandparents' lodge in South Carolina. His first love is the fishing of his Maine childhood. Equally at home on the ocean or by a stream, casting from a boat or on shore, he missed the 1992 Democratic convention and Ross Perot's ending of his third-party bid while by a creek. "The joy of fishing with your son in a river in Wyoming, I'll tell you, it's hard to compete with anything," he said upon returning to civilization.

Bill Clinton (1993-01)

In Clinton's rural Arkansas, deals are sealed over a duck hunt. He did go, both as governor and president, but friends said his heart wasn't in it. "He loves people, loves doing what people are doing," recalled a longtime friend and hunting buddy in Little Rock. "The actual going out there and seeing how many ducks you can kill is not part of his nature. The camaraderie part is." Clinton is not much into fishing, either.

George W. Bush (2001-)

The proprietors of the lodge where Carter flyfishes in Pennsylvania's Huntingdon County said No. 43 was rumored to be interested but a visit never materialized. Bush loves the bass fishing of his native Texas, and likes to spend New Year's Day hunting quail with his father (and high-powered family friend James A. Baker 3d) in south Texas. "I think I shot five," he told reporters on Jan. 1, 2004.

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