Randy Newberg Public Land Hunter Interview
Randy Newberg Public Land Hunter
We are absolutely honored to interview Randy Newberg. We have been following and watching his progression through the industry over the last decade. Randy works hard to represent hunters throughout North America and his television shows like On Your Own Adventures and Fresh Tracks as well as his Hunt Talk Podcast and Hunttalk forum are best in class. Here is our interview with Randy Newberg Hunter.
Who taught you how to hunt?
Randy Newberg – My family and my community. For me, coming from a hunting family and a hunting culture, hunting was learned from many mentors, both family and friends. My Dad was the first to take me, but on almost all trips we were joined by Uncles and Grandpas and cousins. And very often it was a neighbor or school teacher who had some skills to pass along.
What is the most important lesson you learned from that person?
It took me until my late 30’s to realize what I find as the most valuable lesson, but the lesson is this – I am a Hunter. That is who I am and where I come from. It is in my DNA, going back to when my great-great-grandparents lived in the bogs of Finland and Sweden. I wish I had understood that earlier.
Being a hunter is not about grabbing my rifle or bow for a month each fall. It is a lifetime experience. It is being a leader. Being a hunter is an everyday acceptance of the responsibility that hunters have relished; teaching, providing, caring for the land, advocating for all wild creatures, and being a spokesman for the natural world in a society that has become very “unnatural.”
What is a hunting lesson you would like to share?
That hunting is far more important to our society than just filling a tag or what size buck/bull you shot last season. Hunting is one of the most important activities in our society, a society that understands less about hunting as society becomes more disconnected from the landscape.
If hunting is to have a bright future, it requires all of us to work toward that goal. Hunting will prosper or struggle based on our own action or inaction. Every one of us is an ambassador who will form the image and future of hunting. Think about that in your actions, your allocation of your time and volunteerism, and what that means for your family.
For your kids and grandkids to have the same hunting future you had, requires your engagement. The days of buying a license and calling that your contribution to hunting and conservation are long-since gone.
How did your 2016 hunting season go?
It was one of our best seasons ever. Sometimes you work your tail off and things just won’t roll your way. Sometimes you work just as hard and everything lands in your lap. Just how hunting is. I’ll take the good luck in years like 2016. It offsets the terrible luck we had in 2015.
Of course, we have to ask about that Monster Bull you took that we have all seen all across Facebook. Tell us about the struggle of getting that bull packed out of the valley?
My body hurts just recounting the story. Anyone who hunted Colorado 3rd season in 2016 knows how hot it was. Elk, already in winter coats, don’t do well in those temps. They head to dark north-facing canyons. You either go in there to get ‘em or you go home with your tag unpunched.
We (may camera man Marcus Hockett was with me) had glassed some bulls and spent most the day trying to find an easy way to them. There was no easy way. Having invested 19 preference points for the tag, I passed some nice bulls that I still question.
When I saw this bull, he was almost straight down in a canyon. Big elk cause grown men to do some stupid things. Shooting this bull in that canyon was one of those stupid things.
We were already 600’ down into the canyon. To where the bull stood, it was another 800’ of vertical and a quarter mile horizontal down to where he got hung up in some oak brush (thankfully). Words do not adequately describe the terrain, mostly rocks and cliffs, we had to navigate just to get him quartered and hanging in game bags. Then, to come out in the dark, through oak brush jungles, was probably as dangerous as it was excruciating.
We shot him just before dark on a Sunday night. We got back to camp that night around 1:30 am, having only hauled out all our production gear due to the dangers of traversing this unknown terrain in the dark. We woke the next morning, questioning what the hell we had just done.
With the weather being so warm, we knew we had to get back down in there and start the boning and extraction. That first day of packing, we got all of it boned and trimmed. We shuttled both hinds, one front, and all the trim and loins to a bench about midway out of the canyon, leaving the head and one front down in the bottom for the next day. On our way out that night, we took with us a hind and the trim/loin bags, leaving the rest on that bench.
The second morning, we got down to the bench and extracted the other hind and a front. That left us the head and one front that was still all the way in the bottom. That was the hardest load. We were physically spent by this time and the oak brush kept ripping at the antlers on my pack. Yet, we made it out by late afternoon.
Two long hard days for one elk is not the norm. Usually we take some of it out when we first head back to camp. I felt it was going to be tough enough to navigate this brush and cliffs with our packs full of production gear, especially in the dark. And normally I will take heavier loads, such that we can get it in four pack loads, or in this case, two trips. The terrain and brush was just too tough for that.
I suspect the elk got the last laugh on this one. I’m 52 years old. I’m too old for those kind of extractions.
What has hunting taught you about yourself?
That failure is one life’s most valuable events. I did not realize this, but growing up as a hunter prepared me for business life.
In hunting, you go out with the understanding that you will fail 9 out or 10 times, yet you go after it with the same missionary zeal every time you leave the trailhead. I’ve never feared failure and I think a large part of that is because I have hunted all my life, I come from a culture and community of hunters. I use failure as a teaching tool.
Hunting requires critical analysis of large amounts of information, often times with many variables and unknowns, and usually requiring quick decisions that involve risk analysis. How I process this information is often a function of my past failures. Failure helps guide me from the wrong decisions, which over time, result in more correct decisions.
Sounds to me like self-guided public land elk hunting should be a requirement of every business school curriculum. Maybe we need to teach and MBA class based on the decisions required of hunters to be successful, many of which are built on past failures and adapting to rapidly changing landscapes.
What is one thing you would really like our readers to learn about you?
Hmmm. That’s hard. I would like them to know that I consider myself very average at hunting. I work hard at it. I practice. I research. I try to do more listening than talking. I fail a lot. I enjoy the success of others far more than my own successes.
My life revolves around a few things; my family, my passion for public lands that make it possible for Americans to be hunters, the future of hunting, and wildlife conservation for all species. Some would add Dairy Queen Blizzards to that list of life priorities.
You surpassed 3 million views on YouTube – congrats!! What do you see for the future of hunting videos online?
Let’s face it, if you are not delivering online content in the style and format that online requires, you are on the train to nowhere. Many forces far more powerful than the hunting media world are driving media consumption habits.
In our first year, our YouTube views have exceeded what most popular outdoor TV shows will accomplish in a season. That’s pretty revealing. The analytics I’ve acquired in this first year are even more revealing. Being a CPA, I analyze data like I do a fresh elk track. I cannot get this level of analytic detail from TV. These analytics are driving our platform direction and that direction is DIGITAL!
TV and other platforms will always have some relevance. Yet, given we as hunters are a cross segment of greater society, any media business better be looking at what is going on in our greater society. I gain a ton of insight from hanging out with Millennials, such as my son, and some of my production crew. I want to know how they are consuming media, why they consume what they do, what appeals to them and what doesn’t.
They are the early adopters. Any person in this business should read the theories and studies on Innovation Theory and early adoption. The rapidly changing world of media consumption is a text book example. The wide open frontier for media consumption, the future of media consumption, including hunting media consumption, is digital. That’s where my compass is headed.
What advice would you give out to aspiring film makers/videographers?
Don’t do it! Just kidding. My first advice would be, “Don’t quit your day job.” Thankfully for me, as a CPA, this is not my livelihood. That allows me to make the best decisions for my brand without the worry that those decisions could impact the ability to make a mortgage payment.
Make sure your spouse is all in. He/she is the biggest ally you have. And trust me, you will need all the support you can find.
Do not compromise on your message or your brand. When I first presented the idea of self-guided public land hunting as a hunting brand, I was laughed at by the industry experts. I knew what I wanted for a message and a style. No amount of financial or peer pressure was going to change that. I would either succeed or fail, based on my ability to promote that message. Molding the message to meet some industry demand was not an option. It would have made this effort too much of a job, rather than a passion of purpose.
Point being, this is going to be hard enough to succeed. Make sure the 16 hour days, the missed family time, the months on the road, are spent following your dream, your vision, not the vision dictated by someone else.
What is the number one rookie mistake public land and DIY hunters make that you see most often?
I’ve been doing this out-of-state DIY public land gig for 25 years. I still make rookie mistakes and almost every mistake I make is mental.
Adopting the correct mental mindset is the most helpful thing to get beyond the “rookie” mistakes. By that I mean coming to your hunt with the expectation that public land hunting is tough; there are no shortcuts; that 8 out of 10 hunters fail.
I see many people show up without a plan, with very superficial understanding of the needs their quarry has for the season in which they are hunting. They have watched too much TV and think there is some gadget, some doo-dad, some trick that will bring the big bull right to their lap. It ain’t happenin’. And the sooner they come to that realization, the closer they are to success.
Expect the hunt to be physically demanding, to a point that every day has some moment you want to turn around and head back to the truck. Expect that each day will have some mental frustrations that cause you to cuss yourself, the game, or the conditions. Expect the weather, conditions, terrain, and hunting pressure to make your task four times harder than you would like.
With that mindset as the expectation, when those instances happen, you are mentally prepared and you push through it, most often resulting in success. When success comes easier than that, it seems like a cake walk. Summarily, the 20% of public land hunters who are killing 80% of the elk are mentally as tough as the terrain they navigate. They accept that no short cuts exist. They do their homework. They thrive on challenge and difficulty.
Your podcast, Randy Newberg Unfiltered, is also doing very well. It is hard to break out in the podcast market as it is so crowded – why do you think your podcast is so popular?
I think there are three key reasons. First, we take on topics most podcasts are hesitant to dive into. Listeners don’t need another podcast of “Ten ways to kill a buck.” They are inundated with that in print and video. They want something that makes them think. Policy, politics, and other topics that push the mind to places it is uncomfortable are the issues we want to discuss.
Second, we do all of our podcasts face-to-face. I can tell a call-in podcast the second I start listening. The engagement level when face-to-face is far greater. That translates well to the listener and it helps build a bit of the feeling that they are sitting around the campfires listening to the conversation.
Third, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. I am below-average at everything in life, other than choosing a wife; I hit a grand slam on that one. Podcast style and form is still evolving, making podcasts the perfect platform for just being who you are. Anyone who knows me or hunts with me knows that I really don’t have time to take myself, or others, very seriously. In today’s world of guys sporting the “Johnny Badass” face paint, giving the “I’m too cool to smile” photo image, Neanderthal grunting, and clown-like victory dances, it is a welcome addition when somebody just wants to laugh, smile, and make fun of themselves.
What content are you providing that is really resonating with listeners?
On a more serious note, I think our content can be serious, delivered with some humor and humility. Two types of content seem to be resonating.
Public land issues are very popular. Reason being, our audience knows what is at stake if Congress goes through with the dumb ass idea of selling or transferring the Federal lands. 70%+ of Western hunters use Federal lands as their primary hunting locations. Sale, or the sterilized term “State Transfer,” will mean 70% of western hunting is seriously impaired. That gets a hunter’s attention.
Add in the fact that we hunters are right-of-center, if measured on the political spectrum, and that the efforts to sell/transfer/dispose of public lands is coming from the right, and you have a lot of our media platforms that are too chicken shit to speak up. I’m not a R or D. I don’t belong to any party. Well, I do have a party; it’s the Party of Hunting Fishing and Public Access. Screw with that and I will direct the focus of my platforms your direction. If that pressure surprises a politician, then they’ve mistaken me for someone who cares about their political party crap.
The other form of content that seems to be a big hit is the “From the field” podcasts. We do these while we are out on hunts. We talk about how the hunt is going, how we got the tags, how we found the public land to hunt, etc. Add in all of that, along with some serious tangents that take listeners through the weeds a time or two and the unfiltered style of the podcast delivers a good balance of useful information and entertainment.
How can people follow you on the web?
We’ve really grown our digital platforms that last year. In addition to the Hunt Talk Radio podcast and the Fresh Tracks TV show, you can find us on YouTube.
Our YouTube channel, Randy Newberg Hunter, will get more full-length views in 2016 than most TV shows get. We will be doing some YouTube exclusives in the next year. We also post a lot of videos that are “how to,” satisfying a huge demand from viewers that cannot be met in the time constraints of TV.
When we really want to get into the depth of topics and share a lot of advice, that gets done over on our big western public land hunting forum, Hunt Talk (www.HuntTalk.com).
Our Facebook and Instagram platforms have been a focus in the last year, increasing by 500% in just one year. All that growth has been organic, so our audience is both growing and highly engaged. I would put our listeners/viewers/followers up against any audience in the hunting world, in terms of avidity and engagement. That is good for us. They keep me in line, keep us authentic, and serve as a great sounding board for what is going on in the hunting world.
Watch ‘Leopold’s Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg’ on Sportsman Channel. Check local listings for times.