Whitetail SOTU Pt. 3: The Tour & Final Thoughts

Paul Sawyer of Whitetail Properties holds the first-ever Whitetail State of The Union which will bring together the brightest minds in the world of white-tailed deer to address the most pressing issues facing deer and deer hunters. Disease, predators, anti-hunting groups and dozens of other issues are looming large over America’s most popular game species.

The Camera Tour

BDP30758_DramaAs you can imagine, the group above is a group of men who stay busy. And I mean BUSY.

We knew this project would require lots of travel and filming in different locations.

With the help of the guys at QDMA, I assembled a list of 17 questions to ask every member of the panel. These 17 questions represent to most urgent and pressing issues facing white-tailed deer and whitetail hunters.

We started off in Michigan with the Keefers brothers. We shot outside in a barn and it was cold.  This was my first shot at doing an interview.  Not being a investigative reporter by trade, I was trying to find my groove. I want to be fair, get the facts, and hear every opinion.

Next we sat down with Kip Adams in our studio in Illinois. I was happy Kip was next because I was still getting my legs under me as an interviewer. We could have talked to Kip for 10 hours because his understanding of the issues and his ability to deliver easy-to-understand information is second to none. Kip has a wonderful vision for the future of deer hunting and deer management that all starts with the kids.

Next we talked to Jeff Propst. Jeff is quite a storyteller. I guess what touched me the most about Jeff was his stories about his son, Chris, and how he taught him to be deer hunter. It’s very moving to listen to Jeff talk about being a father to Chris and I think viewers will agree.

Then, we were off to Iowa to chat with Gabe and Rich.  I will never forget the story Gabe told about rabbits and coyotes when I ask him about the current deer population.  Rich, on the other hand, totally surprised me with his take on predators.

We had another stop in Iowa on Bill Winke’s porch. He quickly impressed with his knowledge across the board, there was no doubt in my mind that he has done his homework as a journalist.

The next destination was the Ozark Mountains where we met up with Dr. Grant Woods at his personal farm, “The Proving Grounds.”

Dr. Woods was incredibly insightful we talked with him for nearly 4 hours. His knowledge and ability to answer every question in detail and without hesitation blew me away.  I guess that’s what more than 30 years working around deer, deer habitat and the hunting industry gets you. Lots of knowledge.

From Grant’s place, the camera crew and I headed to the St. Louis airport where we flew to Atlanta where we met up with Brian Murphy at QDMA’s national headquarters. Brian is a wildlife biologist by trade. It was very clear that he has his finger directly on the pulse of the whitetail across its range. My biggest take away from my conversation with Brian was that he was championing a new organization founded by QDMA called the National Deer Alliance (NDA).

NDA has one goal and that is to unite deer hunters of all backgrounds whether you’re a crossbow hunter, bow hunter or gun hunter. NDA will be one unified voice representing all deer hunters.

Interviewing one of our experts.

Interviewing one of our experts.

From there we headed to the University of Georgia in Athens where we met Dr. Karl Miller at his renowned Deer Lab. I am convinced that there is not a man on the planet that knows more about whitetail deer behavior than Dr. Miller. His passion and insight were extremely deep. In fact, some of his answers were so complex and detailed that it was over my head and I’ve been deer hunting for more than twenty years.

Our next stop was at the offices of North American Whitetail magazine. My first conversation was with Dr. James Kroll. “Dr. Deer” as he’s widely known, was extremely insightful, passionate and confident. It was an absolute pleasure to interview a man with so many years of experience with whitetails.

I then spoke with the last two journalists on our list Gordon Whittington and Patrick Hogan. These two writers literally live and breath whitetails. It is their job to disseminate the most accurate information about whitetails to their readers. And their interviews did not disappoint. As you can imagine their perspective was a bit different from the doctors and the wildlife biologists. I believe that is because on a daily basis they talk to the everyday hunter in the field.

Our last stop took us to Mississippi or we were fortunate to spend the night at Will Primos’ personal farm. Will and Brad Farris took us on a tour of the farm which was absolutely incredible. We followed that up with a insightful interview in his lodge.

After talking to Will there’s no doubt my mind why he is where he is in life. This is a man who built a career in the hunting industry from scratch. He’s seen gimmicks come and go while his company has thrived and innovated. Primos has been trusted by millions of hunters over the years.

Will’s compassion for both fellow hunters and the whitetail were extraordinary. As he told me stories from his long career I almost forgot I was interviewing him. It was a perfect way to finish up this three-week tour across the country.


Final Thoughts

This is an experience that I will never forget. After talking and interviewing this expert panel I believe the future of the whitetail and whitetail hunting is bright.

I have two big takeaways after this experience.

We now have a greater calling. The role of the private landowner is more important than ever. We have to recognize and embrace this fact. We must help hunters, landowners and the next generation shift from deer hunter to deer manger then ultimately to be a land steward and conservationist.

The second take away is that we can each have a role to play. When we are sitting in the field we are the ultimate manager. Not a state agency not a conservation group. As hunters, when we pull the trigger we are ultimately making a management decision.

I believe that if we can all come together and do our part based on our own situation that we can make a huge difference!

Our hope and desire is that the 2014 Whitetail State Of The Union is the first of many. Our sport is far too important not to address the issues and address them often as they can change from year to year.

Be sure to tune in for the part-two  airing of Whitetail State of the Union  9/30 at 9:30PM E/P.