Officials in the four states where Mitt Romney has lived say the Republican presidential contender, who calls himself a lifelong hunter, never took out a license. Romney says that's because he has seldom hunted where he needed one.
Questions about his hunting activities trailed Romney this week after he remarked at a campaign stop that he has been a hunter nearly all his life. The next day, his campaign said Romney had been hunting only twice, once as a teenager in Idaho and again last year with GOP donors in Georgia.
That was wrong, Romney said the day after that, adding that he had hunted rabbits and other small animals for many years, mainly in Utah. Hunting certain small game there doesn't require a license.
Hunting history not released
"The report that I only hunted twice is incorrect," Romney said in a statement issued Friday. "I've hunted small game numerous times, as a young man and as an adult. I'm by no means a big game hunter. I'm more Jed Clampett than Teddy Roosevelt."
Romney has been criticized for changing positions on issues such as abortion and gay rights during his campaign for the Republican nomination for president. Although he once supported strict gun control measures, he has spoken in favor of gun ownership rights while on the campaign trail and joined the National Rifle Association as a "Lifetime" member last year.
His staff refused Friday to provide details about his hunting history, including whose gun he used, with whom he hunted and whether he hunted in Utah as a college student or as an adult. He does not own a firearm, despite claiming to earlier this year.
The former Massachusetts governor issued the statement Friday after The Associated Press asked wildlife officials in Michigan, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Utah for any documentation verifying Romney had been a registered hunter.
Rodent and rabbit hunter
Romney was born in Michigan, where he lived in the wealthy Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. After completing his undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, he moved to Massachusetts in 1971. He received a joint law-business degree from Harvard University, launched a successful business career and raised his family.
Romney and his wife, Ann, have two vacation homes, a lake house in New Hampshire and a ski house outside Park City, Utah.
Officials from Michigan, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where a license is necessary to hunt such small game, said they could not immediately locate any license for Romney. An official in Utah said a change in state law last year blocked public access to license records.
Of the four states, Utah has the most liberal hunting regulations for small game. Jack rabbits can be hunted without a license and killed without limit, but cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares require a license.
When he corrected his staff's statement during a news conference Thursday in Indianapolis, Romney said: "I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter, small varmints, if you will." He added: "I began when I was 15 or so and I have hunted those kinds of varmints since then. More than two times."