Road rage: Cody billboard campaign recoils from interstate to internet

WYOMING – A billboard erected outside of Cody, Wyoming is causing quite the stir, setting at odds select groups intent on knocking heads via social media dialogue drama, and flooding the ads’ creator with both hate mail and ‘atta boy’ bumps in business.

Scott Weber

Scott Weber is the man behind the billboard welcoming travelers to the great state of Wyoming with a decidedly charged message: “Welcome to Wyoming! Here we hunt, trap, shoot, and wear fur. Enjoy All!”

Rubber-necking motorists have taken note and social media is afire with commentary calling the message everything from backwards thinking, to ignorant, to Trump-tinged hatred. Weber saw it all coming. It ain’t his first rodeo with what he calls “anti-hunting liberals.”

“I really hit a nerve with this one,” Weber admits. “There is a taunting nature to it no doubt.”

Earlier sign of Weber’s.

It’s the third in a series of billboards Weber has designed and paid up to $10,000 to place with Lamar Advertising. They have been drumming up business for his venture but that’s not the point. They are entirely meant to be a thumb in the eye to a crowd Weber fears is trying to change traditional Wyoming values.

“I like to knock them in the teeth, rile up those Californians and Jackson Holers,” Weber admits.

He began the billboard campaign with one in late 2016 that advocated for grizzly bear delisting and a wolf hunt.

Wyoming Wildlife Advocates of Jackson fired back in May 2017 with this message.

“I started with one about grizzly and wolf delisting. My buddy shot a wolf and had a photo of him holding it up so I used that,” Weber says. “It went international. I got about 8,500 hate emails from places like the UK, Norway, California. I was interviewed by about 15 papers.”

It surprised even Weber who knew it would illicit blowback. But he says he’s also received back-slapping support from conservative-minded sportsmen and sportswomen as well. A few gubernatorial candidates have stopped by Cody and mentioned they like it.

Weber said he looked into putting a similar sign up in the Jackson area until he found out an ordinance prohibits billboards.

“I didn’t realize Jackson has an ordinance against billboards…and I used to live there in Bondurant. That surprised me,” Weber says.

Who started it?

Opposition to Weber’s high caliber message jumped off Facebook pages and into a ‘fight fire with fire’ retort. In May 2017, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates of Jackson bought a board of its own near Cody and another in Bozeman, Montana.

The sign that may have started a war. It appeared in 2013 and was quickly removed after sparking controversy.

It featured a picture of three grizzlies and read: “Wanna See Bears? Say No! To Trophy Hunting.”

That tit-for-tat sparked an ongoing feud between WWA’s executive director Roger Hayden and Weber. The latter calling Hayden part of the “Jackson Holefornia group” that wants to see all hunting banned.

“Hayden speaks with forked tongue,” Weber wrote in response to a story in his hometown Cody Enterprise.

Hayden response was, “If you read any poll, most people are against trophy hunting.”

But that scrap wasn’t the first episode in the billboard battle. And Weber may not have been the instigator. Back in 2013, a graphic billboard on the West Cody Strip featured four bloodied wolf carcasses with the tag: “This is what is happening to your Yellowstone wolves. Do you care?”

It was paid for by a group called Project Wolf, and verbally supported by another called HOWL. It touched off an inflammatory debate in the Cody area and inspired hunters to fire back.

Smoking gun

Weber says Cody is very, very pro-gun.

With its 7,000+ firearms and more than 30,000 firearms-related artifacts, the Cody Firearms Museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world.

The municipality also recently made national news when the Cody School District adopted a policy to arm its teachers, becoming the first in Wyoming (similar policy in Uinta County was first but is hung-up on procedural matters) to do so.

And guess who was one of the four ‘yes’ votes on the school board?

Scott Weber, of course.

Bill Black with his monstrous grizzly harvest. (Bill Black Facebook)

Weber, however, is not your average gunslinger. Sure, he never leaves home without his NRA card, but the 62-year old is also a bit of a Hemingway throwback who juggles both pen and pistol with equal skill.

The UW grad is a published author (as Talton Weber, his middle name). He also has several award-winning short story works that have been published by glossies and journals.

Weber is also a former student teacher in Cody, and taught school in Casper from 1979 to 1985.

As for the billboard donnybrook, it’s likely not over yet. Weber may have found his next ‘poster child’ in Bill Black who recently came to his defense on a Facebook post by Mountain Journal that has sparked an impressive 526 reactions, 307 comments, and 122 shares to date.

Black posted a photo of an enormous grizzly kill that he said he would allow Weber to use on a future billboard.

It should serve just fine to enrage the other side. And, to Weber, that’s lock, stock and barrel powerful messaging.

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