Rancho Cucamonga’s Dan Richards is drawing heat for posing with a mountain lion he shot, but here he holds up a trophy 29 1/2-inch rainbow trout he caught and released on the Snake River near his cabin in Idaho.

Written by
Ed Zieralski
2:23 p.m., March 2, 2012
Updated 3:06 p.m.

ONTARIO, Calif. — It’s symbolic that Dan Richards, California’s most embattled official right now because he killed a mountain lion legally in Idaho when it is illegal to do so in this state, has five of his father’s antique muzzleloaders on a wall in his well-appointed real estate office in Ontario.

Stacked horizontally, each gun represents something to him, like the one his teenage son, Drew, was given before he was tragically killed in a car accident. Adjacent to that gun wall, there’s a hand-stitched, 1863 American flag with 35 stars. Beneath the flag is another relic from the Civil War, a cannonball.

“Growing up in West Virginia, I’ve been to every Civil War battle site there and a ton in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland,” said Richards, 59, in an interview earlier this week in his office. “That’s what we did. We didn’t’ have any money, so for a weekend getaway, we’d go to a Civil War site, and they’d have a display or a reenactment.”

The flag is symbolic, too. It represents the 35th state, West Virginia, a state with resource-rich ground that produces bituminous coal by the train load, black gold, and turned out Mountaineers like Richards, all-time NBA great Jerry West and football coaching legend Lou Holtz. Richards has a NBA basketball signed by West and a football signed by Holtz in his office that also features his first banded drake mallard he ever shot.

Richards went from firing a BB gun, to a .22, quickly, he said, and then onto shotguns and rifles. He hunted with his brother, father, other family members and friends. Their favorite place was a magical plateau, Dolly Sods Wilderness, a game-rich plateau in Eastern West Virginia. He hunted squirrels and rabbits with his sportsman father, a man Richards says walks as quietly and stealthily as a ghost in the woods. Richards played halfback for his high school team that ran the T-formation. A photo of that unit also graces his office wall. Richards can recite what each player did after high school. Amazingly, most of them are successful professionals like him.

“That’s where I came from,” Richards said. “We walked along railroad tracks and chewed tobacco. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were happy. We had clean clothes and food on the table. Most of the kids I grew up with were sportsmen and had guns. We went camping. We’d drive to get to the top on Dolly Sods to where my family had a cabin, put a chunk of West Virginia bituminous in the pot belly stove, went to bed and woke up to eight to 10 inches of snow on the ground. We’d hunt Dolly Sods, a phenomenal plateau with stuff growing on it that doesn’t grow anywhere else. There are beaver ponds, deer, bear, bobcats, squirrels, everything.

“We had an idyllic childhood. My brother and I graduated from BB guns to .22s very quickly. We’d throw a handful of shells into our pockets, go out into the woods, and we were the great white hunters. Those were the first conservationists I met. We were around guns all the time. We had a beagle and we hunted. We learned to leave the campsite cleaner than we found it. We learned hunter safety.”

To read entire story, click here.