Larry Weishuhn, a North American outdoor legend, is a humble man from Northern Texas who has seen great success during his career in outdoor media. Larry who started out as a wildlife biologist soon became a well-known outdoor writer, speaker, and television host. He acquired the nickname “Mr. Whitetail” because of his extraordinary work in the field of management, research, and hunting of whitetail deer. In his years as an outdoorsman, he has harvested countless different big animals with a handgun, a feat that only few have accomplished. Larry has hosted shows on networks such as TNN, Versus, ESPN, and is currently the host of the Outdoor Channels “Outfitters Rating TV” as well as the Sportsman Channels “A Hunters Life with Larry Weishuhn.” In 2007, Larry became a member of the National Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame. For more information on Larry, check him out on Facebook.
How did you get started in the media portion of the outdoor world?
I grew up loving to read and the outdoors, my heroes were writers such as Jack O'Connor, Warren Page, Hemingway, Ruark and many others. I wrote stories about my hunts while still in high school. My first national article was published in 1970 about Texas' desert bighorn sheep. I had numerous articles in Texas Parks & Wildlife while working as a biologist, also did a lot of public speaking, did some in front of the camera things for the game department and the like. Always knew I wanted to some day write for national hunting and shooting publications...at the time never ever really thought about tv...but then Jerry Smith, John Wootters and I started doing some really high quality videos...then started working with Realtree when they got into videos (I was the biologist to address whitetails and management), then Bass Pro Pro Hunting Team, but had long since served on many different shooting and hunting publications... but it started with a desire, and working hard, being at the right place at the right time...timing is everything. I was there when the interest in quality deer got started, met the right people, John Wootters, J. Wayne Fears, etc.
Are there any species of game that you have not hunted but wish to someday?
I've been fortunate and hunted many of the big game species I really wanted to hunt in North America, Africa, Europe, South America and New Zealand, and going to Asia this year for mid-Altai Ibes. I've hunted big horn sheep in North America but have yet to take one..so one of the animals I still hope to take in North America is a big horn sheep. I'd love to take a desert bighorn but doubt seriously it will ever happen because of the cost involved, so I'll again try to take Dall sheep in the next couple of years. I've taken African lion and Cape buffalo and I love hunting greater kudu, and have taken several that barely miss the 60 inch measurement. I'd dearly like to take a 60+ inch kudu. I'd also like to hunt elephant, something I've not yet done, but I have been chased my many of them. I dearly love hunting the North American deer particularly whitetail and mule deer. I'd like to take a really big beyond 200 B&C mule deer. Beyond that, I'd really like to continue hunting mule deer, whitetails, Coues deer and go back to again hunt Sitka blacktail and Columbian blacktail. I love hunting big game animals, so as long as they have horns, antlers, claws and/or teeth, I'm going to pursue the as long a my health will allow me to...and then even after that!
Where do you see the state of hunting in the near future?
I think hunting will be around for a long time to come..although perhaps a bit different than what many of us would like...I think we'll see North America going more to an European type system where most of the hunting will occur on private lands, because as we continue in our urban society where the masses are not connected to the land they'll not understand the importance of hunting to the habitat and the animals themselves. I think we'll see fewer and fewer public hunting areas.. Hunting will become increasingly expensive...unfortunately.
Who was your biggest outdoor influence growing up?
I grew up in the country and roamed the woods and creeks as a mere youngster. My maternal granddad, A. J. Aschenbeck took me fishing numerous times a week until I started school and my dad, Lester, took me hunting. My mother read to me from the pages of Outdoor Life and Sports Afield when I was small, when my Dad worked at night (which he often did). And as I mentioned my heros were the hunting writers of the day.
If you could hunt with anyone, past or present, who would it be?
I've been fortunate and hunted with many famous outdoor people such as John Wootters, Craig Boddington, J. Wayne Fears, Jim Zumbo, etc. Wayne, Jim and Craig remain good friends... I would have liked to have been able to do a hunt with Elmer Keith using handguns, Jack O'Connor using rifles and I would loved to have shared a campfire with Teddy Roosevelt. As to why? I dearly love hunting with handguns, particularly the .44 Mag which Elmer Keith essentially developed. I'm told he was a great story teller as well. O'Connor was a childhood hero, my greatest pleasure is when my Dad on rare occasions called me "O'Connor" because of all the time I spent reading his words, quoting him and wanting to be like him. Roosevelt was a truly unique individual who if he lived today would probably face hard times, but he was a man with great vision, great energy and like Keith and O'Connor could spin a good yarn around the campfire! Plus all three had a genuine love of life and adventure!
What do you think is the best way to introduce youth and new hunters to the sport?
I think it's tremendously important to introduce youth to hunting and the outdoors, but also people of all ages. We live in a time when there are organized games going on 365 days a year and if a child misses practice, he or she is told by coaches they will not be allowed to play for missing practice. The first thing we need to do is to get rid of that attitude and get rid of such "coaches", and tell them the kids belong to the parents and grandparents and guardians... NOT them! Then i think it's important to give them good experience. Don't put pressure on them to shoot or shoot something, take them to the field and try to spoil them with "goodies", the things their mom won't let them eat or drink any other time. Make the outdoor experience something special! Let them shoot whatever they want in terms of deer, don't worry about antler size. Do all we can to make it an experience they'll want to repeat in the future and tell their friends about.
What do you think needs to remain the same or be changed or remain the same in our country to manage our wildlife and natural resources?
The first any DNR should ask their potential employees is, "Do you fish and or hunt?" If the answer is "No!' stop the interview and go look for someone else. Most DNR's have been infiltrated by anti-hunters. When it comes to decision making only those who contribute and who hunt or fish should be involved! We need to re-evaluate the Endangered Species Act and re-vamp it completely. We need to also essentially do away with the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, their's is a duplication of state efforts and un-needed. We need to start making "hunter safety" a required course in ALL SCHOOLS. Only those who buy hunting and fishing licenses should be allowed to serve on state commissions which "regulate" fish and wildlife in those states. These are things I would do if I was in charge only for a short period of time. We need to as hunters and fishermen need to become pro-active in politics!
As someone who was part of the original whitetail deer boom, both in interest and species population, how do you feel about the sudden surge in “antler addiction” towards them?
I was fortunate to have done some of the more or less original research in terms of antler development regarding genetics, age and nutrition. I never dreamed we would come to where we are today, where many speak only in terms of scores, rather than hunting experiences. I dearly love big antlers, they are a sign of a healthy animal and healthy habitat. The only reason I measure racks is so I can compare those measurement of the same cohort or age class from the past years to the present year....comparing 3 1/2 to 3 1/2 year old bucks year after year and other cohorts to determine whether antler size is increasing, remaining the same or decreasing... this as a measurement of the management program or habitat and herd.
As mentioned I love big antlers, but I think today too much emphasis is placed on the score of the deer, rather than the hunting experience...
You are the handgun king. What made you decide to go the handgun route versus the archery route that everyone else seems to have taken?
I did a fair amount of archery hunting years ago...shot my last deer with a bow in 1984 and have no intention of ever again hunting with a bow. Although I'm tickled a lot of other people do hunt with a bow. I want there to be more and more hunters every year, regardless of what they use. But bowhunting isn't for me personally.
I became enamored with handguns as a child, watching cowboy movies. I love the challenge of hunting with a handgun, getting relatively close to the game before pulling the trigger. To me the finest perfume or aroma in the world is freshly burned gunpowder fired at a big game animal. I never got that with a bow and arrow.
How did you get started in the media portion of the outdoor world?
My advice is generally to get a degree in wildlife with minors in business, English, journalism, photo/cinema then get as much real world advice as possible. Learn to know where of you speak, speak properly and use proper English...then never try to be like anyone else, particularly already in the outdoor field. Establish your own identity, don't be a follower, be a leader! Be respectful of people, the animals you hunt, the habitat and the great tradition of hunting. Upon taking an animal don't OVER CELEBRATE, with laughing, high 5's, ridiculous jubilation! You've just taken a life, be respectful. Learn to love people and make yourself available to them... when approached about something you've done, say Thank You, then ask them questions about themselves and their hunting or outdoor experience. When working a manufacturer's booth, make everything about their product rather than "you"! Always remember you're getting to do what you do because of those who read and watch your stuff! Say THANK YOU!
With such competition in the outdoor television world, what do you do to stay at the top of your game?
I pretty much follow the advice I just gave above. I try to work with the best in the field, procure sponsors whose products I use and believe in, and show misses and the like...and always be myself, instead of trying to be someone else or be like someone else. I shoot straight with the public, on tv and in real life. Plus I make myself available to the public and again make certain they know how much I appreciate them..and that I always have time for them...and again say THANK YOU!
Are you still active in the management portion of your career? If so, can you tell us about it?
I am still active in some wildlife management programs, serve on various state and national boards relative to wildlife management. I don't do quite as much as much as I once did, because I simply don't have time to be as involved in many wildlife management programs as I once was. These days I spend more time fielding questions about management programs rather than hands on like I used to do...
Where do you go from here in your career?
More of the same as the past many years... I have a new show I'm working on which I own personally, "Trailing the Hunter's Moon" which will run 13 originals with repeats on Sportsman Channel, beginning 2013. This show will replace others I've been involved in. I'll also do some occasional co-hosting or guest hosting in the future. I'll continue being directly involved in all facets of the new show. I've written several books in the past and I'll hopefully do several more in the next few years, based on my hunting experiences, and possibly even what some might describe as a novel. I'll continue doing a fair amount of magazine writing, guest hosting some radio shows, doing a BUNCH of personal appearances to publicize what I do and some choice products such as those from Ruger, Zeiss, Nature Blinds and at every turn promote the National Rifle Association and the Dallas Safari Club. I have no intention of slowing down all that much for another five to eight years, after that, I'll start slowing down a bit. but I have not intention of retiring, never will. Life is fun and I intend to enjoy it to the fullest. Only change I may make is to spend a bit more time with old friends....
On behalf of the entire Examiner team, Christian would like to thank Larry for taking the time to let us know a little bit about himself.