As we travel through the debates, primaries and political mud-slinging, one thing remains certain: The votes of the outdoors community matter to this year’s potential presidential candidates. They always have.

Hunters and anglers make up roughly 40 million votes, a big chunk these candidates are vying to attract when voters head to the poles.   According to the US Census Bureau, one in ten Americans hunt or fish each and every year and the outdoor market continues to thrive, pegged at roughly a $90B a year industry, and one that has many taking notice.

On the republican side, we have the polished urbanite in Donald Trump. His brash demeanor and no-holds-barred attitude have him surging in the poles. Despite stating that he disagreed with the killing of animals in the past, he has utilized his sons’ passion for hunting and the outdoors to aid his cause. Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have been outspoken about their love for shooting sports and have made numerous appearances alongside their father at a variety of outdoor trade shows and events across the country.

Trumps closest competitor, Ted Cruz is doing his best to get in on the action as well. After being endorsed by the matriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan, Camp Cruz released a video of he and Phil Robertson duck hunting together. Decked out in camo and face paint, Cruz and Phil highlighted the nominee’s dedication to both the bible, the 2nd Amendment and the United States Constitution.

Despite these actions, Cruz came under fire by sportsmen and women after announcing his plan to sell public lands or transfer them to the state level. The subject of public lands is a sensitive one among hunters, anglers and anyone who enjoys these untamed wild spaces and his sentiment has surely damaged his chances of securing the vote of the outdoor community.

Trump on the other hand has seemingly flip-flopped on the issue of public lands. He told Field & Stream in January that he believed they should remain under the management of the federal government, but then went on to mention it was not a subject he knew anything about while in Las Vegas. Currently, he seems to be leaning toward the former as he continues to hone in on sportsmen and women.

The coming months will paint a much clearer picture as to how the republican nomination will pan out as candidates on both sides will continue vying for the votes of the highly opinionated and passionate outdoor community. A community that always answers the call with absolute vigor.

Image: People.com