What is the best shot you ever made, and we're not talking about alcohol?
Sh*t... the answer is in fact a particular tequila guzzled in Argentina while there with Mr. Mister - 1988. I have tried to beat it many, many times since... still working on it. But in seriousness (what a shame), the best "shots" I have ever made collectively are regarding wing shooting and I have shot millions of birds in my life... I occasionally get extremely lucky and make multiple difficult shots consecutively, you know doubles, triples (left/rights if you are in Great Britain)... even a blind pig... yada, yada, yada.. But any of these faceless moments were uprooted and put into secondary place when I killed a 197 6/8 inch white tail this past season. It was a very short but intense encounter. On the fourth straight day of hunting, after a heavy rain quit, I saw a glimpse of a shape behind the first layer of dense Russian olive trees. I picked up my glass and found him just as he moved to chase a doe. It was then that he exposed his enormous rack (antlers... this isn't rock & roll) and it was like the clouds actually parted, the rays came down, and you could hear the angels from heaven sing - "ahhhh". Oh my God! In my mind I was literally saying "that's the one". Not specifically... just there is the lifetime buck you day-dream about. He was chasing a doe behind the trees and brush as I dropped the binoculars, grabbed the sticks, and found him as fast as I could through my Leupold scope on my Sako A7 270.
I credit all the soft-shelled turtles, snakes, frogs, and everything else I taught myself to catch as a kid... all the ducks and geese, the quail and pheasants I hunted... all the trout on a dry fly my dad taught me to catch, and everything I have ever learned about the fact that with wild nature, there are very small windows of opportunity and if you can make your move confidently... there is NO hesitation if you want to ensure a "win"... you ACT! As soon as my crosshairs found the spot on his body I like to take, which was at that point chosen from a very limited view of his front and back leg and some torso as he was disappearing into the Netherworld of brush, I pulled the trigger. It was now or never and barely that. He bucked and I knew I'd hit him... but how well? He ran out into the open towards me and immediately back into the trees as I threw another one at him. Being a praying man, I spent the next 20 minutes (literally) on the ground and prayed. Had I nailed him? If I would have waited, would he have come out and presented the too easy perfect shot? Hell no... I'd probably never see him again. Is this going to be an all day tracking? Will he be dead? Will he jump up and give me a half second to finish him in the thick cover? With my gun half shouldered, I slowly sneaked towards the place of last sighting, stopping every two steps, using my glass to scour any visible areas for a glimpse of tynes in the tall grass. Inch by inch I went to the place he literally disappeared into the trees. The best shot I ever made was not the second one I took at this beautiful deer, but rather the first one that took out his proud heart and laid him dead at the first tree... and now at my feet. It was definitive and awesome! It was done. He was dead. And he was mine. Not the longest... not the fanciest... but certainly the best shot I ever made! (How the eff was that for an answer?)
What is your history/heritage in the hunting/outdoor industry?
My hunting and outdoor history begins when I was about 3 years old (50 years ago). My history in entertainment is extensive through my music career. But my history in the hunting "industry" as that regards to entertainment such as TV, etc., is a relatively short one. I met Chris Dorsey in 2005. He asked to film a hunt at one of my properties. We did. He immediately sent me to film others. The rest is my "history", as they say... at least mine anyway.
How would you define your perfect hunting day, from start to finish? Money's no object. Where would you go, what would you take and what would you hunt?
Hmmmm! Interesting! Can it involve two northern European women, a Darth Vader outfit, three bottles of Tequila and some Thai food? (Please, somebody stop me). Oh yes... hunting? I almost can't pin it down into a single game species or single place as "the" perfect hunt, because adventure is so key. But I can describe the necessary ingredients that would likely be present in any "perfect hunt day" for me anyway:
#1. It has to have involved preparation and effort. The best hunts are the ones that you have worked at for a long time. The perfect hunt must include hard work or effort such as perhaps habitat development... or food plots... or scouting... or trail cams... or studying flight lines and food source in a marsh... or picking the right spot and then building effective blinds or putting up the perfectly positioned stand. Doing your homework adds and creating you own outcome adds so much to the value of any successes in hunting.
#2. Hope. It has to have the anticipation of a child in what it might be or could be... not what it will be. This can come from the something like the first bad weather of the season the night before. Temperature is dropping... the wind is coming from the northwest... snow is starting to fall. You can be thinking - God, I wonder if this is pushing a new flight of waterfowl down from the north. Will the sky be black with them tomorrow? Or will the big bucks be on the move in the morning? Will this push the rut into full throttle? Anticipation, fantasizing, and "wondering" is very much a part of the build-up that helps make the perfect day.
#3. It has to involve getting up long before sane people do. This adds to the effort and reward feeling. Plus, the most magical time of the day is as the sun begins to shed light on your side of the earth and the world comes alive as you take a front seat view of it. The perfect hunt day begins early.
#4. Cold weather. I do not feel like I am hunting unless it is at least cool. I have trouble associating hunting with heat. Swimming yes, but not hunting. And I just plain don't like hot weather. I am from the "hearty" school... wool and fires in the fireplace... precipitation, etc. Great!! My favorite waterfowl hunt last season was on a blizzard day. The wind was so loud it kept waking me up in the middle of the night before. 30-mph and sideways-blowing-snow. It was going to be COLD and SO tempting not to get up out of that warm bed. But I had hunters to guide and I knew that though not for the faint of heart, it would be good... probably really good! And it was. SO COLD! Wind stinging the side of our face. Frozen facial hair from the first minute. Snow blowing. Tough and challenging even to put out decoys and get blind ready. But the birds, both ducks and geese would just appear out of the low-visibility gray atmosphere, responding perfectly and eagerly to the calling and the setup. Full and perfect limits of both greenheads and Canadas and even bonus ducks of bull sprigs (drake pintails). Taking my usual picture of the results did almost not even get done due to severe wind and a then a damaged camera as the tripod fell over. Long tear down of the setup and putting closing up the blind. COLD COLD COLD!! What a truly GREAT day. Nothing better the weather that tests one's convictions to make you appreciate your accomplishment... as well as the drink back at the fire and memories forever.
#5. Challenge. For me it is about the hunt, not the kill. We say at my waterfowl club, "we don't hunt 'em to kill 'em…we hunt 'em to fool 'em". I like shooting doves in foreign lands…a bit. I like shooting ducks that don't ever get hunted (again over seas)...a bit. I like shooting pheasants that have been put out and dogs find to flush... a bit. But I LOVE hunting hard to use every bit of knowledge and experience I have to fool five cherished mallard drakes from the test of my skills as a caller, a decoy placer, and my ability to read them in the effort and discipline, to bring them within 15 yards on their commitment to land with me so I have earned and deserve the shot! This is the essence of the perfect hunt. I as much LOVE sitting, freezing my a** off, in a tree stand, trying to hold perfectly still, making no noise, and using only my eyes as a deer gets cautiously closer on the 3rd or 4th day of long hunting, and finally inching my weapon into place as a deer presents himself and I have earned the right to take the shot. Challenge is the essence of the perfect hunt day.
#6. Goal. The perfect hunt day must have a specific goal. This is exemplified in trophy hunting. I refer to trophy even in the idea of taking that specie of duck you want for the collection just the same as a Boone & Crocket buck of other big game animal. It is one thing to take game in an opportunist fashion, but nothing makes you feel the accomplishment factor as setting out with a goal and achieving it.
#7. Clean execution. I want it to be cleanly done good shooting and very few shots to kill. High percentage. I am pissed at myself if I don't get at least two ducks or geese if a flock has come in to the "X". I have shot limits after having a bad day of shooting, and it doesn't feel good regardless of ultimate result. No, it feels good when it is clean. I have been on hunts where 4 guys all shoot at two ducks which haven't even decoyed closely, only to scrape down one that sails 150 yards away as some labrador chases it down. And after a miserable day of eventually acquiring a number of dead ducks that make up a "limit", you go back in stating that it was a good day... yikes! Those are worse than shooting nothing in my opinion. I don't like people doubling up on birds, or taking ridiculously long shots because you think that's going to be it. I can shoot long too... but who wants to? The perfect hunt includes every hunter taking his own shot and successfully bagging his quarry. No sky-busting or slop-ball shooting. Clean, excellent and class shooting is what I think contributes to the perfect hunt. If it isn't done right, I feel like I might as well be wearing a skirt if I am going to hunt like that.
#8. A Cigar. Smoking a cigar somewhere in the course of the hunt, or just after, is a fine addition to my perfect hunt day.
#9. Success. Of course the perfect day does include success... whatever that is for every individual. For me, it includes clean taking of whatever you are trying for. Some say a hunt is successful even without the taking of their quarry. I say all hunting is good, but it is best when you fully accomplish your goal and take your prize.
#10. Celebration. The perfect day/hunt always involves the "after hunt" which will minimally require a glass of Lagavulin single malt, a fire in the fireplace, and a simple but elegant meal of roast mallard with the orange sauce my wife makes. Oh yes, and good friends to share it all with…makes it even more perfect.
For you, is it about the journey or the destination?
I'm sorry, but it is most certainly about both. Neither is as rich as it is without including the other. You've heard me say it is about the hunt not the kill. Yes, but the successful hunt includes the kill as a part of it. Having said that, I get so little out of simply the kill, and a truly treasured kill needs to be the result of a hunt. It is the hunt that makes the kill so rich and the kill that makes you hunt.
If you weren't a professional hunter/sportsman, what would you be doing?
I'd be a male exotic dancer just like my parents wanted me to be.
What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
One time I wore black shoes with a brown tie. It was absolutely off the hook! Oh God... did I ever mention I was a professional rock star? Do I have to answer this? But in a hunting context the craziest thing I've ever done is wait lying on the Zimbabwe ground, very near smelly bait, with my gun perched 40 yards from me, while I held still as if inside a coffin for 14 hours hoping a leopard would chance upon the bait... throughout the black of African night to the sound of either lions roaring every half hour in different proximity to my soft tasty body of the crushing of bush vegetation as elephants passed by. Fu^%&*ing crazy alright! That one would have been about the destination, not the journey. But unsuccessfully in the hunt, it does leave me with a burning desire for a rematch.
If you could play the leading role in any film, past or present, which film would it be and why?
Never thought about it. I guess I always feel like my life is an ongoing movie...maybe I should try to get the lead role. But unfortunately I don't always feel I have fully prepared for it and clearly, I will never read the script. So really maybe I'm just the best supporting actor in my own life.
After so many years in the field, what is that keeps you going back?
Nature is my closest thing to heaven and peace I believe I will ever know. I am never any closer to God than I am when in the outdoors, nor am I anymore at home. I continue to revel and be fascinated with wildlife and interacting with them. Hunting is the greatest event of interaction I can think of. It requires knowledge, skill, patience, humility, and constant learning. It requires heightened awareness and discipline. Its rewards are some of the greatest I have known, and been so since I was old enough to be aware of anything on this earth. What keeps me going back? Where else could I possibly want to go?
Is there a moment in history, a time, era that you are fascinated with? Why?
Yes, I believe there probably is. I often imagine what it would have been like to hunt the world before civilization took its toll. I don't mean caveman, but what were the plains of America like when white man first came through? The accountings of it are incredible - game everywhere... oceans of it! And what would Africa have been like as recently as 100 years ago? My God! Can you imagine what it would have been like on those huge safaris and seeing certain animals for the first time? Or Alaska even 50 years ago? I have often thought I was born too late.
What are the life lessons you take away from hunting and apply every day?
Hunting involves working in an arena where you don't have control... you don't make the rules... the game you are pursuing does. It often amazes me how so many people don't react in their own situations in timely manners to ensure positive effects in their life. How they can work only in principals of their own human dynamic and how they "want" or "wish" things to be. Some who do hunt even try to accomplish it in human rules. But in a hunting dynamic, you have to learn to work on their terms not yours. This is also paramount in my life, which I believe is so often sculpted by a collection of many lessons learned in the field. They are cornerstones of my character and enter into countless scenarios in human interaction and decisions. You either react with conviction and successfully to those things you don't control or you don't succeed. Isn't that true in all life matters? It is also a matter of definitive realities that are involved in hunting... little or no gray area... little bulls**t. It is real... it is alive... and it is a matter of life and death for those you play the game with? Being a hunter helps me cut through the bulls**t. It hones my patience, endurance, tenacity, decisive ability and convictions for my actions. Hunting involves death, but it teaches you life.
What was the last big ticket techie item you purchased? Do you like it?
I'm sorry... dinosaur here... what? Techie item?
Tell us about your family and what they mean to you.
My family is several-fold. First of all the family I come from has had a profound effect on me and my life. I was raised to strive for achievement. I was nurtured in art, music, the outdoors, good food and humor. My parents, brother and sister and even my little brother who died when I was a boy have been incredibly a part of everything I am/do/accomplish. My immediate family now is simply my wife whom I love dearly. She takes great care of me, shares my excitement in the outdoors (or at least supports me) and brings new dimension to my life and social being. She is my great friend and gives me something to come home to. She has also brought a new family to my life with her grown kids and now a new grandson. I am lucky to have had and still have a great Family. It is a huge part of happiness...period!
Can you recall the first time in your life that you truly understood what it meant to be an American?
Let's launch this rocket - I love America so much. It is, or at least was, the greatest country in the world. It is one thing to hear someone say that who has never been out of their hometown. In some cases it is almost without credibility and comes off as simple fear and/or prejudice... though is probably sincere and just as good of reason as any. But I really knew how great it was to come from America when I started traveling as a musician; And I traveled a lot and a lot of places! It becomes easier to see it clearly when you spend a bit of time elsewhere, and to see how much the rest of the world benefits, admires, and needs America. Don't be fooled - the truly smart ones get it. My biggest worry in life is how we are letting our country go down in flames by voting such men as the one that i believe hates America to an embarrassing level into office to actually run America. What is wrong with us? The greatest spy ever lived. Yes, i believe we voted our own enemy into office to spend his presidency unraveling the power he hates and apologizing for everything America is and has ever done. Gosh, what a shame about electricity, the telephone, airplanes, automobiles, jazz, blues, and rock & roll? What a shame about saving the world from the greatest evil ever known such as Hitler and doing similar actions time and time again? My favorite is to listen to the French criticize America. We should have made a deal with Hitler - you can live and go free, as long as you keep France. What a shame about the radio, television, computers, and most of the leading breakthroughs in medical science? Eff, why should we be proud of anything? Let's apologize to those who want to destroy us. And model ourselves around the followers, not the leaders. Lets get socialized medicine maybe just so the Canadians won't come here anymore to escape theirs. Let's let everyone in across our borders and give them immunity... and better yet, let's feel obligated to teach their language and pay for their care because we are a bunch of soft-a** idiots. And most of all, let's turn our back on our national security at every opportunity to make a stand, but fight to make sure that gay people can get married. Let's make sure that rather than take leadership in a world who is fighting and building aggressive power, and that will cause us severe problems going forward, to instead fight for the "entitlement" mentality such as government union rights in Wisconsin in a time when people in the private sector are loosing jobs. Oh... wait a minute... that is what we are doing... or should we say someone and his bunch are doing. I love this land. I love our opportunity. I am a product of it... an example of American opportunity. I am fortunate and that is a result of America. I love my father who fought as did so many proud Americans in WWII. I love the freedom that this country provides and promotes, that has clearly overshadowed any other philosophy, government, or policy by factual results and accomplishments. There are other great countries on earth, but unless there is one we don't yet know about... this is the Greatest one on earth! Did I say I was pro American?
Got any good jokes you can share with us? Keep 'em clean this time!
Don't open this door. OK. A man gets pulled over by a patrolman who inquires, "Sir, did you know your wife fell out of the car about 20 miles ago?" He answers in relief, "Oh thank God... I thought I was going deaf!"
Can you give us your best impression (a la Rich Little) of another Orion Pro Staffer?
How can I do that in writing? OK here's one: Boodeep... Boodeep.... Bodeep, Boodeep. (That is Sean Mann calling geese.)
Have you been in a precarious situation that you were in where you weren't exactly sure of the outcome, hunting or otherwise?
Sh*t...I'm constantly in that situation...aren't you? Isn't anybody else? That's what makes it all fun.
Do you have any sports teams that you follow religiously? And why those teams?
There is really only one sports team - the Cornhuskers of Nebraska...Go Big Red!
At the end of the day, what's it all about?
Alfi? A friend of mine died some years ago. He was also a member in a new hunting club I had just barely formed. When he died it was cancer, quick, and happened before he even saw the land we had purchased together with other members. As I wrote to the other members to inform them of his death, one of them responded to me. He said and I quote: "Steve, that's why we gotta keep shootin' them mallards". It may seem out of place or even trivial on first hearing, but as I digested I realized how perfect it was. It sums it all up and it has stuck with me since. It was spoken by a very intelligent and extremely accomplished man whom I respect. Yep. That's why we gotta keep shootin' them mallards. Need more be said? What's it all about? We gotta get up every day and be the person that God made us to be. We have to be the best version of ourselves. Everyday in the unknown limit of the ones we have.