Tell us about your first bow kill?
I remember the first muskrat I ever caught.. the first raccoon.. the first fox. In the beginning I was an archer, then a trapper, then a bowhunter. My first bow kill was like most guys.... it was a whitetail doe on an early fall morning. The leaves were just turning and she had no idea I was in the world. The arrow killed quickly and I remember feelings of elation as well as remorse...
It had become commonplace for me to kill an animal in a trap- but the reality of being witness to the arrow impact, the sheer panic of the deer as it fled gave me feelings that I never had trapping. The outdoors has a way of imprinting your brain... as not only does one remember the firsts' but everything.
Trappers and bowhunters have a lot in common, there is a huge amount of intimacy with nature. As one embarks on these field sports- there is a immense feeling of responsibility to the animals. I have killed numerous animals in my years of trapping and hunting... yet with each and every kill, I have always felt a reverence toward my prey. I love nature, wildlife and the outdoors and each new hunt in every new area brings me a sense of awe for their creation and the kingdom which they live.
Bowhunters have a window on life that many never see..... and we understand the "circle of life" more than most. I honestly feel that it's these deep emotional feelings about animals and the outdoors that compels us to hunt....
A good pal of mine- Stan Potts- once told me that the day he gets too old to climb & bowhunt from a treestand- he'll just sit and bowhunt off the ground. That pretty much sums up the lifestyle and commitment of all the bowhunters I know.
Who were your boyhood hunting heroes?
My hero growing up was baseball great, Johnny Bench. Living in central Ohio and growing up during the heyday of the BIG RED MACHINE.... well... baseball was the American pasttime back then - and as a kid, I couldn't get enough.
Hunting heros included of course Fred Bear and Gene & Barry Wensel. Jack O'Connor was a great author and likely Kurt Gowdy was my inspiration to pursue outdoors with a passion. The "American Sportsman" TV series took me around the globe on exciting adventures and even today I strive to produce my TV series with the same passion and professionalism Gowdy brought to the sport.
I would also be amiss not to mention Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. As an adventure hunter, a huge motivation to me is the excitement of going places I've never been and hunting animals I have never hunted. Armstrong's courage to travel to the moon in 1969- was the ultimate adventure. I was 11 years old in 1969 and running a trapline beneath a moon of wonder- exploring the wild places near my home........
Even today I think about how Armstrong's bravery and American Patriotism affects me and my pursuit to be the best I can be at what ever I attempt.
What made you decide to pursue a bow slam on video?
I interviewed Chuck Adams for my ESPN series in 1993 and his bowhunting stories were amazing. My bowhunting at that time was limited to whitetails, black bears, and elk. Never in my wildest dreams did I think a SUPER SLAM was possible for me.
But as a TV bowhunter, each year I would hunt a different animal and began to gain more diverse experiences. In the late 1990's I began to extend my bowhunting into new species like cape buffalo, brown bear and other adventurous hunts. By 2005 I had 9 North American species... by 2007 I had 15, including 2 sheep and a polar bear- all on video. It was at this time that I felt like I could accomplish the SUPER SLAM. My goal was to be the first to capture all the hunts on high quality video- with the arrow impacts.
Those who pursue huge goals like a SUPER SLAM... usually are "type A" personalities and individuals who are driven. Fifteen species meant I was halfway to 29 and from that point forward, I was literally "bent" on getting it done.
What is your favorite bow kill?
Wow.... I've had some incredible hunts. My first Brown bear was adrenaline charged, my first cape buffalo amazing ....black mamba's and all. Killing an elephant with a well placed arrow might be the hunt of hunts..... and the solace of the high arctic and white bears is truly our continents foremost adventure. I guess if I had to point a finger -my favorite bow hunt would be my first brown bear. I remember the bear walking into range in the rain and I was so nervous my right leg twitched and bounced.
The bear wasn't a giant- but at the time looked huge.... [8 footer] I remember lung shooting him as he climbed onto a moose kill and the bear roared biting his side then standing there for just a second looking my way. I had ducked back into tall grass and was nocking a second arrow when he wheeled and ran off. It was my first taste of a serious dangerous game hunt in North America.
Of course I had shot rutting bucks that just stood motionless after the arrow passed thru their lungs seemingly not knowing what had happened. But with all the horror stories of dangerous bears- the fact that that bear didn't just run off on the impact - well it put the fear of God in an already nervous bowhunter. I've killed quite a few dangerous bears since- but that first successful brownie hunt was super charged with adrenaline..[I actually had went on 2 other brown bear hunts before killing that first one]
You don’t seem to fit the mould of today’s typical hunting celebrity - what is your opinion of hunting TV today?
I don't really like the term celebrity. If being recognized in the airport, or at a restaurant is a celebrity, ok..... yet outdoor TV is my career. I take it very seriously. ESPN took me into 100 million living rooms every weekend for 20 years. I have made, produced or edited nearly a thousand outdoor TV episodes.... Hunts and adventures that have impacted peoples lives. The secret to my longevity has always been a strong work ethic and a sincere effort to take viewers on a magic carpet into new lands... learning all the while that bowhunting is adventurous and fun. The exec's at ESPN related with me as a true hunter- not a sports icon that also hunted or a guy who liked to see his face on TV.. I was fortunate to have grown up an outdoorsman and was able to carry that passion into a career that blossomed because my passion for bowhunting showed thru- the excitement was real.
When I started, there were few hunting shows......... Today there are hundreds.
My thoughts on TV hunters today are that most get into it for the wrong reasons. There's a sort of "self serving" attitude that exudes from many outdoor shows airing today. Most aren't career hunters and are seeking out some sort of fame, or promise of fortune, and true outdoorsmen see this. The sheer number of poorly made shows have put a bad light on outdoor TV in the eyes of some.
My analogy is that TV hosts today are a lot like lawyers. Lawyers often get stereotyped as ambulance chasers and money grubbers using the legal loopholes to spin a living. TV Hunters today are also looked at as ego-maniacs who think they know everything about hunting and obviously don't.... but yet they parade into the living rooms of the world, selling hunting gear and downgrading the sport.
The reality is that a few ambulance chasing lawyers have ruined it for all the others- and a few TV hunters have too. Remember that a TV hunter has to be a "self promoter" to make it in the business side of outdoor TV, and often this self promotion comes across as arrogant, ego driven, and self serving... Bottom line: it's not an easy business. People either like you and your show- or they don't. Longevity in the TV industry is all about ratings and the viewer's acceptance. Few shows ever stand the test of time in any TV genre- Three seasons, five seasons and that's it. The shows that endure ten years, twenty years or more are the measure of success in the broadcast industry............... Sorry to get on a soapbox on that...........
What slam animal was the hardest to kill and why?
Hardest is always open to interpretation. Sheep hunts are always difficult- as are mountain goats. Animals that must be hunted spot and stalk are usually tougher than stand or blind hunts. It took me five different 10 day hunts to finally arrow a moose. Two Alaskan and three Canadian trips. That's nearly 50 days hunting.. Roosevelt elk took four different hunts. My Slam was different than most as the added difficulty of capturing the hunt on video compounded every inch of every hunt. My first sheep hunt was in the Canmore bow zone for bighorn. I consider that the toughest hunt I ever did. 14 days at 10,000 feet during November in Canada was cold and uncomfortable. Hiking in the snow on slippery slopes exhausting. Sheep hunting is difficult as it is, but the elements really made that hunt ridiculous. I missed several sheep at distances of 60-80 yards- long shots in wind and snow.. but the reality was there was no getting closer. The stress of long cold climbs, frozen fingers and toes as well as stalk after stalk ending on the edge of effective bow range made that hunt a brutal combination of winter mountain climbing and constant stress.
Do you ever wish you can just leave the camera behind and just hunt for yourself?
For me, to hunt with-out a camera would be like a soldier going to battle without his gun. My career is outdoor TV and the time I leave the camera behind will be the time I see my first 200 class buck in range...... or whopper moose. Truth is I don't hunt for relaxation. Face it, for me to hunt on vacation is like an accountant doing his tax return on his day off! I enjoy exercise, swimming, spear fishing, I'm an avid book collector.... My time away from work is precious, yet I dearly love my job and can't picture doing anything else.
If you could hunt only one animal, what would that be?
It would be easy to say dangerous bears.. or mountain sheep.. or even a screaming rutting elk. But I think if there was only one animal to hunt, I would want it to be whitetails. They're challenging, unique, accessible and always a thrill with a bow.
Every huntable specie of the world has unique qualities and lives in a unique habitat. All present challenges that test a bowhunter's skill and patience. It's the variety of hunting different animals that compelled me to push and hunt the North American 29.
But if I could hunt only one I'll vote for North America's number one game animal.
What equipment are you currently using?
I'm a Mathews shooter and have shot nearly all their bows on big game hunts. I'm currently shooting a Z7 extreme w/ 28 inch draw 72 pound & right hand. I use the IQ bowsight, the QAD Ultra rest, b-stinger stabilizer, TruBall hook on trigger release, Gold Tip Kinetic Pro shafts with Rage 125 grain Titanium heads. Nikon 10x42 binos & rangefinder, and of course Realtree camo. I like Max 1 the best but it's getting tougher to find. Under Armor is making a suit now with it and this set up is tops. In my business loyalty is everything. I have the best of television partners - some dating back as early as 1988.
What is the greatest threat to hunting as you see it?
This might sound a bit philosophical, but honestly I feel that the expanding human population is the greatest threat. As global populations expand, there is less available habitat for wildlife. Combine that with populations growing in urban centers and you have a continuous tide of people who are not exposed to hunting or fishing. The demand for quality hunting areas has already increased to where there is little private hunting permission... it's all leased lands. And in the last game rich areas of the world- demand has driven the cost to hunt higher and higher.... There's no end to it. As corporations buy farms, remove fence rows and toss cattle into woodlots to feed the expanding population- there will be little room or value for wildlife.
There was a song back in the late sixties- us older bow hunters know it... "In the year 25- 25" by Zager & Evans... think about it. Even this internet has exploded- technology is everywhere. I'm not a doomsday guy at all... and in the short term for my kids any grandchildren or great grandchildren..... there are things we can do to stay active and support this sport we all love.....
But in the long term- the handwriting is on the wall.
While most “celebrity” hunters seem to avoid the Internet - you interact on Bowsite quite a bit (Thank you for that, by the way) how do you view the internet and its impact on hunting?
There's anonymity on line. People have a screen name and can post almost anything they want with out fear of rejection or retaliation. If I were to post under a screen name say... bowman99, besides my pals - no one would know it's me. Likely there's more TV guys on Bowsite than one might think - yet they're a fly on the wall. It's safe. Think about it....... of course everyone has an opinion, but if a guy walks into a bar he is hesitant to just speak his mind, to throw a punch, or slander a statement. Yet in the comfort of ones living room it's easy to throw darts at people in a forum. Often posts are a knee jerk reaction and once these posts are sent, they can't be retrieved or taken back.
As to why there's not more TV hunters speaking out in forums? I think it's a fear of rejection. Maybe the fear of a sucker punch comment that escalates into bad publicity. Or maybe (in some cases) an ego living in a bubble. Some people can't deal with negative comments.
For hunters, the internet is a wealth of information. From what I've seen, the Bowsite community is an amazing cross section of bowhunters. Die Hard DIY guys who work there butt off to support their families and live for that feeling of true bowhunting solitude. There's no doubt that the internet has changed everyone's life and the way people network. Now you can have a bowhunting pal across the state, nation, or even in another country. Lots of good ideas pass in these chats and discussions.
As a side bar- please realize that TV hunters are often put under a microscope. If we say something, do something, make a bad shot, anything - it's there for the world to see. The average guy can shoot a buck in the rump, recover it, and get great photos and none of his pals or other forum buddies are the wiser. If I shoot a buck in the rump, I'll get 4000 negative emails and am pounded in the chat rooms of cyberspace.
I learned a long time ago that there would be guys who think I'm a phoney - guys who won't like my show, my looks, my voice or anything I say. But there are others who appreciate what I bring to hunting and the challenges of adventure I strive to portray in each episode. My dad taught me to be true to myself - so I stay focused, honest and always give my level best.. It's all I can do.
What’s next now that you completed your slam on video?
Next??? Why more bow hunting of course!
Actually, I have a couple animals in my Super Slam that don't make the P&Y minimum score.. so I plan to re-hunt these. Currently of all the registered archery SUPER SLAMS which I believe there are 19 now, only Jack Frost, Tom Hoffman and Walter Palmer's complete 29 make the book. That's a huge accomplishment. I also need a lion & leopard to complete my archery BIG SIX of Africa's Dangerous Game. I also plan to bowhunt Europe and Asia to begin an SCI quest to bowhunt the six continents. I have an Ibex hunt booked in 2012.... as well as Africa's cats... and I hope to capture all on video........... Wish me Luck!
How would you like to be remembered?
I think everyone wants to be remembered in a positive way. Because of my rigid devotion to archery and bowhunting and the length of time I've been hunting on TV... Somehow now, I am associated as somewhat of an ambassador of bowhunting. I have tirelessly promoted bowhunting for years on TV and know that I have brought thousands of guys into the ranks.
I know on my headstone it won't say "Here lies a great bowhunter"....... But I hope It will say "Here lies a God fearing man... a loving husband and devoted father"......
Of course I missed most of my kids childhood chasing the dream of being a TV hunter, but it's what we all do. Striving to be the best we can be in all walks of life is huge. My dad taught me to be passionate and go after my dreams. That passion was found in the outdoors, first trapping and now bowhunting. My mom instilled an emotional side in me to be true to myself and follow the golden rule. My wife has taught me to love and has shown the true meaning of being a partner..... giving everything and expecting nothing in return. With-out Sandy's unwavering support, most of my accomplishments wouldn't have been possible. And of course my three children have taught me that a strong family is everything.
Thanks to everyone on Bowsite who has accepted me for who I am... just another hunter who nocks an arrow & chases a dream.