Nick Pinizzotto, CEO of the National Deer Alliance
Nick Pinizzotto is President and CEO of the National Deer Alliance. Before coming to NDA, he was President and CEO of the Sportsmen’s Alliance, based in Columbus, OH. He also served as CEO of Delta Waterfowl Foundation based in Bismarck, ND and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and prior to that was an Associate Vice President at Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for 11 years. Pinizzotto also started and later sold two private enterprises.
A native of western Pennsylvania, he had the fortune of growing up in an outdoors-oriented family. In addition to raising English red-tick coonhounds, he helped his father raise pheasants, quail, chuckars and doves. Pinizzotto is a lifelong outdoorsman with particular fondness for archery hunting whitetail deer and mule deer, but he enjoys all types of hunting and fishing around the country. He is also a published outdoor writer, photographer and videographer.
Pinizzotto has served as a national advocate for the hunting industry and has appeared on CNN, CBS Morning News, Fox News, the Today Show, Sportsmen’s Channel, and NRA TV. He is a member of the U.S. Delegation of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, and he recently received a Smart Business Magazine Smart 50 Award for his work at Sportsmen’s Alliance. Pinizzotto holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental geography, and a master’s degree in psychology. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife, Angela, and son, Will.
Q: Who taught you how to hunt and what was the most important lesson you learned from that person?
I think I was hooked on hunting as soon as I knew what it was, and I have my dad to thank for that. Well before I was old enough to hunt myself, I would wait by the window watching for his truck to return home so that I could interrogate him about the experience. He seemed to have a lot of mishaps, especially during archery season, so the stories were always interesting. When he did bring home a deer, I was out of my mind with excitement. Despite all of the tips and hunting advice he gave me, I think what was most important was his focus on safe, ethical hunting. My brother and I had very strict gun handling rules growing up, and the thought of breaking a game law never crossed our minds. I’m grateful for that.
Q: How did your 2016 hunting season go? And you were expecting during that time! Did you stay closer to home for your hunts?
I had a really good hunting season, even if it didn’t take me to as many places as usual. I actually filled my 2015 buck tag in January in Ohio as I finally met up with a massive 8-point I had been chasing for months. In the spring, I killed gobblers in Ohio, Georgia, and Kansas, and then a beautiful blonde-colored black bear with my bow in Idaho. I spent a week on a solo backpack mule deer hunt in the North Dakota badlands in September, and with my wife being due with our first child in late November, I hunted whitetails close to home in Ohio. Despite the limited time, I was still able to take one of my target bucks during the rut, and I also filled my two antlerless tags.
Q: What has hunting taught you about yourself?
Hunting is the ultimate activity for learning about yourself because you’re constantly confronted with opportunities to test your ethics when nobody is watching. I love being able to look at my mounts and hunting photos with the satisfaction of knowing that the animals were taken legally, ethically, and in a fair chase environment. That means a lot to me. It has also taught me a lot about perseverance. I’ve been fortunate to have some success over the years, but it has much less to do with my skill as a hunter, and more to do with my level of commitment and refusal to give up.
When I am speaking at an event or being interviewed, I often mention that I hesitate to think about where I would be right now if it wasn’t for hunting. Deer hunting in particular has defined who I am today, and I am grateful for having grown up in a hunting culture.
Q: What is the best tip that has been given to you by another hunter?
Wow, great question! I would say the best tip I ever received is to not take shortcuts. You get out what you put in. That can be said about any facet of life, but I’ve learned that it’s particularly true of hunting. I work hard all year to prepare myself for hunting, and that includes working out, scouting, shooting, and studying. I remember a few years ago going into deer season out of shape. I ended up blowing a great opportunity, and my season overall was a disaster. I am angry at myself to this day for not being adequately prepared, and I vowed to never let that happen again. If you’re going to take the time to do something, why not give it everything you’ve got?
Q: What is one thing you would really like our readers to know about you?
I have the deepest level of respect for the animals I pursue. I’m not big on outrageous celebrations when I take an animal. It really bothers me to see how our sport has become so commercialized, and the resulting behavior of some. I’m routinely moved to tears after taking game, and I’m proud of that. It’s an emotional activity for me, and I take my position as a hunter in the greater picture of wildlife management very seriously.
Q: You’ve been the CEO for National Deer Alliance for almost a year now – tell us what you’ve learned in 2016 and what you are looking forward to in 2017?
I think the first thing that I learned is that there are a lot more threats to the future of deer hunting than I realized. A lot of people just assume that deer hunting is safe, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Factors such as degraded habitat, loss of hunting land, declining herds, diseases, and even anti-hunters are really taking their toll on our sport. That’s bad for deer, hunters, and the hunting industry. In 2017, I’m looking forward to getting deeper into key issues now that we have almost a full year of our strategic plan behind us. We will be deeply engaged in chronic wasting disease (CWD) issues, as that is the biggest threat to healthy deer herds we’re facing right now. We also intend to market the organization a lot more in the coming year because we’re still very new, and a lot of hunters simply don’t know about us yet. We’re planning on holding our third North American Deer Summit in 2017, which will help raise awareness. I’m excited about where we’re going.
Q: National Deer Alliance was formed to help ensure deer herds are healthy – can you give a few specific action items you are focused on now?
Our key focus areas as outlined by our strategic plan are wild deer conservation, diseases, hunter access, state and federal land management, and predators and competitors. While we’re involved in current issues that reach across each of these areas, the bulk of our time has been focused on CWD. In addition to working to ensure that we have the right regulations in place to protect wild deer, we have to inform hunters about regulations that impact them, such as transporting deer out of CWD-positive states, and help them understand what they can do to help prevent further spread of the disease. There is also a lot that we still don’t know about the disease, and I’m hopeful we can help drive much needed funding toward research.
Q: How can hunters get involved with NDA?
Joining NDA is easy, and free! Simply go to www.nationaldeeralliance.com, and sign up for your free membership. Members get a weekly e-newsletter, and more importantly, are notified when there is an opportunity to take action on an issue that impacts them. For example, if there is legislation in your state that’s going to have a negative impact on deer or hunting, we will contact you via email and make it easy for you to contact legislators and other decision makers to make your voice heard. We now live in a time when the political science carries more weight than the biological science. We will only be as effective as our members make us by participating in important issues that impact deer and hunting. More than ever, it’s critical that deer hunters are informed about issues, and are willing to take action when called upon. The more members we have, the easier it will be to get the word out.