In the shadow of a towering polar bear full body mount, Dennis Anderson handed me the well-weathered Weatherby Mark V rifle – one of the rifles used extensively on hard hunts around the world by Safari Club International Founder C.J. McElroy. Hunters may pass on, but hunting continues. The rifle, perhaps merely a manifestation of that reality, brought home a simple truth: what we do matters.
As I grasped the scratched and worn rifle from Anderson’s outreached hands, it felt good. The right things were happening for the right reasons. Although that rifle’s hunting days may be over, its mission on behalf of hunters and hunting continue as a new chapter in its existence now opens. It, along with other memorabilia, will be on permanent display at SCI World Headquarters for the world see, so others can understand.
The place was Anderson’s freestanding trophy room in Southern California. Time was last summer. Occasion was Anderson’s donation of the rifle to SCI. That .300 magnum rifle, obtained years ago by Anderson when McElroy parted with various personal items, would return to SCI Headquarters in Arizona where it would go on display as part of a continuing reminder to the world about the heritage of the finest organization of hunters the world has ever known.
His donating the rifle to help the cause came as no surprise. Anderson is that kind of guy. Living the hunting tradition and then keeping it alive for future generations are not only what he is, they are who he is.
I don’t recall exactly when I first met Dennis Anderson, but I think it was in the 1970s when Myron Dubee, a fellow staffer with Hearst newspapers, and I were involved in varmint hunting in the Southern California/Nevada region. Dennis was a hardcore varminter back then, and we were all just working Joes.
There was an organization named the California Varmint Callers Association, which during the ‘70s was renamed California State Varmint Callers Association. Although Dennis and I didn’t hunt together in those days, I am confident that we did cross paths during that era.
The reason I bring up this point is that during a visit to Anderson’s trophy room, I noticed a photo he had of himself back in those days, and I instantly recognized him – the way he looked at that time.
The point is that Anderson did not start life, nor his hunting career, with a silver spoon. But through hard work and dedication in his profession as well as in his passion, results have been golden.
Anderson is a straightforward, no-nonsense kind of a guy who still can fathom the differences between black and white in a world where all too often things are measured in shades of gray. Want to know what he thinks? Just ask him. He’ll give a direct, substantive answer.
Those attributes have served Anderson well, both in his business and in his hunting activities.
Dennis went on to found and expand Anderson Seafoods, making it a major company in that industry. During the ‘80s, we’d cross paths at Mike Raahauge’s pheasant hunting operation in Norco, California – an operation that Mike took over when his father, Linc, retired.
For those unfamiliar with the shooting sports in Southern California, Mike Raahauge did more to promote, expand and protect the shooting sports in that part of the country than anyone else in history. And, the Raahauge connection played significantly into Anderson’s work and successes, both with the Orange County Chapter of SCI and with SCI overall.
Meanwhile, over the decades, Anderson became one of the foremost international hunters of the time. There is not room here for a comprehensive listing, but suffice to note that Anderson has submitted 254 species to the SCI Record Book, and has received numerous major awards, including:
World Conservation and Hunting Award 2012
Hall of Fame Award 2011
World Hunting Award Ring 2010
Crowning of Achievement Award 2010
Zenith Award 2009
Africa 29 – 2010
North America 29 – 2004
Fourth, Third, Second, and First Pinnacle of Achievement 2006
As he hunted all six continents, Anderson concurrently became more involved with SCI, first at the chapter level and then at the international level where he served as SCI President in 2007-2008. During his presidency, added focus was put onto business processes for the organization and the organization is better now for that.
Throughout his life, Anderson has delivered the goods when needed. For example, year after year he has furnished seafood feasts for the volunteers during the Work Weekend each spring at the American Wilderness Leadership School at Granite Ranch in Wyoming.
Anderson was an early Hunter Legacy Fund donor and champion (one of 100, each of whom donated $100,000 to create an endowment to support the hunting heritage).
Then 15 years ago, Anderson and Mike Raahauge put their heads together and created the annual Youth Safari Day at Raahauge’s facilities where parents could take their children to an exciting day of outdoor sports. That event has been conducted each year as a combined effort of the Los Angeles and Orange County Chapters of SCI.
This past July, the 15th Annual Youth Safari Day was the biggest and best ever – hosting more than 4,000 youth and their parents. It was held in memory of Mike Raahauge, who passed away earlier in the year.
During the first decade-and-a-half of Youth Safari Day, Anderson was instrumental in exposing tens of thousands of urban-area youngsters to the outdoor sports, hunting and how those activities fit into the overall society. Literally, the outdoor sports came alive vividly for youngsters who otherwise likely would never know they existed, let alone appreciate their value and enjoyment.
Beyond that, Anderson continues to host groups of youngsters in his “trophy room,” a freestanding building of robust proportions on the other side of the swimming pool behind his multi-level house in the Peralta Hills not far from his seafood processing facility in Southern California.
When one opens the massive wood doors to the trophy room, it becomes obvious instantly which of his trophies has the most meaning to him: A full-mount polar bear standing on its hind feet is front and center, greeting those who visit. That hunt was a true adventure, and was detailed in the article “White Death” in the May/June 2006 issue of SAFARI Magazine.
Animals from throughout the world are displayed tastefully throughout the spacious two-story trophy room. Next to the lower side entrance, a waterfall and coy pond separate the trophy room building from outside stairs and a lower level patio.
The trophy room also serves other purposes, including a place to host fundraisers and other events for local and national politicians. Anderson has been politically active for decades, doing all he can to advocate for hunting and to help preserve the hunting heritage from attacks at the various legislative levels – always ready to thank friends and engage foes.
Some 20 years ago Anderson was instrumental in forming the California SCI Chapters into a coalition to retain their own state lobbyist for California Legislative issues. He continues with that position today.
Local Congressman Ken Calvert might not be in office absent the efforts of Anderson, who also has been active in the SCI Political Action Committee (SCI-PAC), and more recently in the newly formed Hunter Defense Fund Super-PAC.
But Anderson’s influence is not limited to Southern California, or even Washington, D.C. Although he likely would not offer such a suggestion, observers have noted that Anderson very well may hold more sway in places like Azerbaijan than does the U.S. government. That association, of course, came about because of Anderson’s global hunting presence.
That is a factoid many folks fail to understand about SCI and its members. SCI members are significant factors in the lives of millions around the world in ways that far transcend mere hunting expeditions. But it is the hunting and hunting heritage that bring us all together and keep us on the same team through the years.
Anderson still hunts internationally, but now it is likely that the hunting party will include his grandchildren as he personifies the ethic of the hunter and keeps that ethic alive in his own life, as well as through all of the other organized efforts of both SCI and the SCI Foundation.
Dennis Anderson is the real deal. And the more one knows him, the more one appreciates the breadth and depth of his efforts and commitments to everything dear to him and his family. Yes, he’s a hunter – and a whole lot more.– Steve Comus