Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Taking Outdoors Background to DC; Hunters, Anglers Should Be Happy Because Rutherford Cares about Area's Sporting Traditions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Taking Outdoors Background to DC; Hunters, Anglers Should Be Happy Because Rutherford Cares about Area's Sporting Traditions

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob McNally

If you're a hunter, recreational shooter, angler or other outdoorsman, you should feel good about longtime Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford heading off to the nation's capital soon as Northeast Florida's newly elected 4th Congressional District Representative.

Rutherford, 64, is an ardent shooter, hunter and dedicated outdoorsman, who cares greatly about those First Coast sporting traditions.

Raised in Jacksonville, Rutherford learned to hunt while still in grade school from his father.

"I was born in Omaha, moved to Jacksonville in 1958, and my dad was in the Navy," he said. "I learned to hunt and camp with him and my two brothers, targeting squirrels in the Gulf Hammock area when I was just 7 or 8 years old.

"That part of the Florida Panhandle was pretty wild back then, and it was a real adventure camping along the wooded rivers like the Waccasassa and roaming the woods with him and my .22-caliber single-shot squirrel rifle. My father was quite an outdoorsman, and could slip through the woods without making a sound. He taught us those skills, and how to camp and live in wild places.

"But the best part of those early days was just being with my dad."

Like so many hunters who started young, Rutherford slowly graduated to hunting with a shotgun as he learned firearms safety and woodsmanship. By 9, he was using a shotgun, and began deer hunting in Camp Blanding with his father and brothers.

But the Rutherfords didn't own hounds for pursuing whitetails, and they used close-range shotguns, so they didn't do very well for deer. Plus when they'd see a squirrel, they shoot it, not caring if it diminished their odds for collecting a buck.

The family also hunted ducks in the Guana Lake and river salt marshes beginning in the late 1960s. It's still a wild area and famously popular with local waterfowlers.

Rutherford's father passed away of a heart attack in 1980 at the young age of 56. But he'd planted the hunting seed and love for the outdoors in his sons, especially John, who continued his passion for hunting all through his 41 years with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Rutherford joined JSO as a patrolman in 1974. He worked his way up through the ranks, becoming elected as Duval County sheriff in 2003, and serving as sheriff through 2015.

Through those years in law enforcement Rutherford made many outdoor friends, including sportsmen he hunted game with in woods, fields and marshes far and wide.

"My good friend with JSO, John Pialorsi, was buddies with J.P. Hall, who had law enforcement people over to his place to hunt near Camp Blanding, which is were I took my first buck," Rutherford said. "I had just changed to using a rifle with a scope and couldn't believe how far and how well I could see deer with that gun. …

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