Monday, December 01, 2008

The Outdoor Interview with Mike Hanback

© By Othmar Vohringer

To most whitetail deer enthusiasts Mike Hanback is a household name that stands for big whitetail deer hunting but also for down to earth advice and well-written hunting articles published in hunting magazines throughout North America. Recently Mike Hanback has become very popular with avid whitetail deer hunters through his television show where he can be seen weekly on Versus Country in Whitetail Deer Evolution. In short on the whitetail deer hunting list of who’s who Mike Hanback is at the very top.

A few weeks ago I contacted Mike Hanback to ask him if he would be interested in an e-mail interview for my series of “The Outdoor Interview” on this blog. On the same day I got a reply from Mike saying, “I would be glad to, please send me your questions.” Just before Mike had to leave for a hunt in to his favorite big buck location in Saskatchewan he managed to answer my questions.

Q: Mike, you’ve hunted many species of wildlife from many different regions. What draws you to the whitetail deer?

A: I caught the big-buck bug about 20 years ago, when I hunted in Saskatchewan for the first time. I was one of the first American writers to go to the province and hunt big deer. Sask. was known for great bear hunting and fishing in those days, but not deer hunting. I killed a 170-inch buck and wrote a story for American Hunter magazine—it got the outfitter more than 5,000 letters and phone calls, in the days before email!
Now of course Sask. is legendary for its monster deer.

Q: Do you prefer to hunt alone or with a party? On camera or off? (please explain)

A: I definitely prefer to hunt alone, but most of the time I now hunt with a cameraman for my new show on the Versus network (it will air summer 2009). I always thought hunting should be a lonesome and personal pursuit, where you sit in the woods and think about all sorts of things going on in your life—if you shoot a deer, great but that is not the end all. I’ve hunted with a cameraman so long now that sometimes I can block him out and still get some of that loner feel, but it’s pretty weird. One think I know, it’s definitely harder to kill a big buck with 2 people and big HD camera/tripod in a stand or blind! Double the scent, noise and bulk makes it hard, esp. with a bow!

Q: You were an English major at Carson-Newman College. Have you always been interested in writing? Could you please reflect on how you became a leader in the world of outdoor writing?

A: One of my HS English teachers in the 70s told me that I had a gift for the language, so I took her advice and majored in English. Writing has always been pretty easy for me. I started as an assistant editor at American Hunter magazine and worked my way up to executive editor. I stayed there almost 10 years. They let me travel all over the US and Canada to hunt on their dime, and they let me write big feature articles that really got me started. Then I went out on my own and started writing for other magazines, including Outdoor Life. Funny how things come full circle. I just parted ways with OL and now am back with American Hunter writing columns and feature articles, mostly on big bucks of course.

Q: When did you first realize that you could make a living as a hunter?

A: Scary when I jumped out on my own more than 20 years ago. I did it because I thought I had made enough industry contacts to hunt and write for a living. It was tough at first—I made about 10 grand my first years—and it’s still tough and hard work. But I work out of my house and hunt for weeks a year in some of the best deer country in the world. I know I am lucky and never take that for granted.

Q: Having written 3 books, served as editor for numerous magazines, and written hundreds of articles, it goes without saying that you’re an accomplished writer. The past few years, you’ve also taken the blogosphere by storm. How do you think blogging will impact the world of outdoor writing? How has it influenced your writing?

A: Blogging now comprises some 60 percent of my work time, and I envision it going up to 80 percent in the next few years. I have in fact put my whole future in blogging and website work, and I’ll bolster that with my TV work for Versus. There will always be a place for outdoor magazines, but I see there numbers dwindling. People and hunters want real-time information, and you get that through the Internet and blogs. That will only increase; almost everybody will have high-speed in a few years. One drawback is that you write most blog posts short and sweet for information. I do miss writing 3,000 word “mood and emotion” pieces about hunting and being out in the wilderness, but there are not a lot of markets for that anymore. People want info, and lots of fast info. I cannot imagine a kid starting out in this business without having a blog as a major component, it’s just the future.

Q: What advice would you give to children who aspire to be like you – a trophy hunter?

A: It’s the biggest question I get—how can I hunt for a living like you? I tell them to get a college degree (combo business and English/communications would be great). Then get a real job with a company, maybe in the outdoor industry. Start writing for magazines and blogging on the side part-time. Oh yes, hunt like hell and take lots of good pictures. Network with other writers/bloggers. Hope you get lucky like I did.

Q: You mention on your blog that you and your wife have 2 sons. How are the boys taking to hunting? Do they realize that you’re not the average hunter? (That is, do they get that Dad is Mike Hanback?)

A: My boys like to hunt and love to fish. Like most kids today they are busy with other stuff, but they go when they can. Funny, they see me hunting on TV but don’t make a big deal about it with their friends. I like that.

Q: On your blog, you have the following quote in your Bio: “I am finally at that point in life where the killing of an animal has become secondary to the challenge of hunting it.” Could you please share a little about your journey to this point as a hunter?

A: Like most young guys it was all about shooting as many deer, turkeys, birds as I could when I was a teenager and in my 20s (legal numbers). By the time I got into my 30s the lust to kill game became less important. By the time a true hunter hits 40, the killing of an animal becomes secondary to the challenge/experience of just being out there. At least that is the way I think it ought to be.

Q: What’s your favorite venison recipe?

A: We get all our deer ground up into burger these days (yes, even the tenderloin). We love deer burger in everything—meat loaf, spaghetti sauce, etc. Favorite—thaw burger, mix in WOrchershire so=auce and Lawrey’s Season Salt and make patties. Grill outside over gas, but charcoal is better. It’s hard to beat a medium-well grilled deer burger!

Q: What about your new website and blog?

A: I started my BIG DEER blog in January 2008 and it just exploded in popularity, so I decided to expand it into a full-blown website, which launched in October 2008. We have a Big Deer Forum and a unique RUT REPORT that I am really excited about. A hunter can go into the RUT REPORT every day after he hunts and report on what he saw in the woods—if he shot a buck, he can post the picture. This way we can monitor the various stages of the rut in various regions of the county as guys report in from all around. The goal of my new website and blog is to make it the most interactive site on the Web for hard-core whitetail hunters.

You can visit Mike Hanback’s Big Deer Website here.

Related Posts on Outdoors with Othmar Vohringer:
Versus offers all year long hunting seasons
Mike Hanback Blog

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SimplyOutdoors said...

Great interview Othmar. What an opportunity - getting to interview Mr. Hanback.

You asked great questions and I really enjoyed the whole thing.

Matt said...

Excellent interview Othmar!

Adam said...

That is a very good interview, Othmar. I admire Mike and enjoy his work. He has some great big deer stories and photos on his blog.

Anonymous said...

Great interview Othmar. Mike is a great guy. He does what he can to support hunters and outdoor businesses.

bushman said...

Great interview Othmar - but I thought you were the top of the whitetail deer hunting list of who’s who!

Man! Grinding up backstraps n' tenderloin! That's like litin yer ceegar with hundred dollar bills!

mHanback said...

Hanback here, just back off the hunting road for a few days and saw this, I am humbled and honored, thanks for the post and comments, happy blogging and Christmas to all!

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