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Tag Archives: AHT8

AHT 8 Questions: Bill Winke

Bill Winke is among a large contingent of deer authorities who appear on TV talking about deer. But the founder of Midwest Whitetail is among my favorites for a number of reasons. He’s a family-first, God-fearing hunter, who is always a writer and photographer first, before he is a celebrity hunter.

Winke with "G5" - an amazing buck on his 2011 hit list

Since the day AHT Contributor Greg Johnston showed me Winke’s semi-live hunting show, I’ve been hooked. I expected I would after reading Winke’s writing for a number of years. Like his writing, his weekly shows are informative, entertaining and very well produced. Simply put, it represents the digital future of outdoors entertainment.

Winke gives AHT readers an inside look at where his passion for hunting came from and tells us where the 2011 season ranks within his top whitetail seasons of all time.

1) You’ve been writing about whitetails for a long time. Where did your interest in hunting come about? And even more specifically, how about the interest in writing about them?
My actual interest in hunting came from my dad. I remember the moment to this day. I was riding with him on the Farmall C heading out to get the cows to milk when I asked him what was his favorite thing to do outdoors. I thought that would give us an excuse to talk about fishing, which I loved. He said “hunting”.

I was probably 8 or 9 at the time and I had never known my dad to go hunting. He had given it up when he started raising us kids. I figured if it was better than fishing it must be a pretty awesome thing! So I asked my dad if he would take me hunting sometime. He took me squirrel hunting and I remember him shooting two or three with his .410 that day and I was hooked from then on.

My passion for writing started from my passion for reading. I used to read hunting magazines every evening for at least an hour before going to bed. In our house, the heat ducts didn’t reach my room so I set up a system for turning my light off at the end of my reading time without having to get out of the bed. (That was long before the clapper). We didn’t really have much money to spare so it never occurred to me to ask for a reading light. When I finished reading, I pulled on the fishing line that ran under a book and then was taped to the light switch. That way I could turn it off without getting out of the warm bed.

Winke with "Daggers" - the first of two bucks he killed this year - a season he calls his best ever

I always loved writing and took many writing courses in high school and college (I always wrote about hunting). I actually went to college for engineering but after four years in that field I wanted to see what was out there in the big world. My wife and I quit our jobs, traveled for several months all over western North America, living on $300 per week! It is amazing what you can do with nothing if you are creative. Along the way I met some people that led to part time jobs (always focused on hunting) and those jobs led to relationships and eventually God opened the right doors and closed the wrong ones and I ended up writing for a living. Believe me, it was not easy at all getting started, but I am sure glad I stuck with it now.

2) How did the idea for a semi-live, online hunting show come about?
I could see everything going to web and I felt that I needed to do something there. I had a video camera for a project I had been working on so I just thought “What would I like to watch if someone would just create it for me?” This is what I came up with. The path from idea to success was also twisted and never easy, but that will have to be a story for another day. Just bear in mind that giving birth to anything is never easy.

3) Producing a show in such a quick turnaround seems challenging – what kind of work goes into bringing a full segment to your viewers each week?
Obviously, we have to get the footage in, whether we shoot it or someone on the pro staff shoots it. Then we have to capture it to the computer, file it and watch it all to see where the best story or best lesson lies. Then you have to start the video editor and beginning laying it out. Once the footage is in the office, it takes about two days to turn that into a finished show. There are usually interviews needed so that also has to be figured in. I edited many of the first shows, but now I have employees that do all that. We have done it for so long now (four years) that it is just instinct. We don’t even think about it any more. It is just part of our lives.

4) Ok, outside of a weapon, what are the items you take to the treestand that you simply cannot live without?
I don’t carry much. I am a minimalist. I carry a knife, grunt call, facemask, tags, small penlight, tree harness and that is about it. I carry it all in my pockets! Camera and associated gear, of course, but that is not something that most people need. If I am putting up a stand, I carry a small fanny pack with a pull up rope, folding saw, tree steps. That is pretty much it. I use the harness with a rope as my climbing harness and would never leave the ground without it now.

5) You do several appearances and speaking engagements. What is the most-asked question you field, and what is your common answer?
I actually don’t do a lot of speaking. I like staying home with the family. When the kids are grown and on their own, I will likely travel more again. However, I do get a zillion questions on the website. Most often asked: “How can I get into this business?” Second most asked: “Which tree should I hunt from?” The answers obviously would take way too long to dive into here. They are varied. I generally just refer people to a blog I wrote on the website back in 2009, I think, about how to get into the industry so I don’t have to go through it each time. The opportunities are still there for people with skills and a work ethic.

6) Your 2011 season has shaped up to be quite remarkable – two amazing bucks that you have a history with. Is this among one of your most memorable seasons?
For sure, it is my best whitetail season ever. People have no idea how much luck goes into something like that, and how special it really is. You have to make a few good decisions, put in the time, but the rest is luck. You have to really take the time to enjoy the blessing when it finally all comes together.

7) What does a typical off season entail for you?
I do a lot of writing and photography, managing Midwest Whitetail (getting organized for any opportunities I see coming) and we spend time working on the TV shows now. I don’t do as much with the TV shows other than guidance and interviews. They guys are good enough now to handle it without much input from me. I spend a lot of time playing sports with our kids. I grew up playing sports. People probably don’t know it, because I don’t talk about it, but I really, really loved sports as a boy. I loved hunting more, but only slightly more. I had some scholarship offers to play college football but I didn’t want to give up my duck season for four years so I turned them down! I still never regret that decision. I loved (and still do) hunting.

8) Ok, long-time watchers need to know … when are you going to get that crack fixed on your windshield?
Maybe what I will do is take up a collection from the viewers to get it fixed. Actually, it still seems to be hanging in there and not spreading too much, so I just never think about it anymore. If it starts spreading again, I’ll have to fix it! Can’t have the wind blowing in the front windshield.

Cat Tales: If you have time, you should go vote for Midwest Whitetail as a write-in for Best Hunt Show on Sportsman Channel. Again, you need to fill in the Write in section as editors didn’t consider it (ridiculously) among the finalists. Here’s hoping hunters can make that adjustment!

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AHT 8 Questions: Matt Arey

Matt Arey has been flipping and pitching lures on the waters of North Carolina for over two decades. He started doing it professionally around the country nine years ago.

Arey at an FLW Major Tour weigh-in

Arey, 30, is a professional on the FLW Majors Tour where he’s averaged nearly $35,000 in sanctioned earnings each year since 2006. AHuntersTales connected with the Shelby, N.C., native recently to chat about the outdoors as part of an AHT 8. For him, that’s more than just fishing. Like a lot of professional anglers we talk with, hunting is as much of a passion for Arey as fishing. When he’s not fishing, he co-owns a guide service called Rack and Reel Outfitters.

1) Ok, truth be told … do you like fishing or hunting better? Why?
My favorite would have to be hunting, hands down. First of all, fishing has been my full time job during the past five years; hunting is a way for me to relax and enjoy God’s creation, while also giving me a break from life on the road. I bow hunt almost exclusively now and enjoy seeing wildlife up close and personal in their natural state. I am amazed at the sights and sounds that a person can witness from a deer stand or duck blind. If I could figure out a way to make a living hunting, I would be happy to make that transition.

2) What gets you excited about the future of the outdoors?
Hunting and fishing conservation improvements over the last few years with extremely active groups definitely excite me. For example, groups such as Ducks Unlimited and FishAmerica Foundation are always working hard to enhance duck and fish populations while restoring habitat and improving water quality.

Arey with a Kentucky bruiser

Something else that excites me, especially on the fishing side of things, are the new tackle, electronic, and equipment innovations over the last few years. Innovative products such as the Evinrude E-TEC outboard and StructureScan have taken bass fishing to a whole new level. One of the main reasons I run the Evinrude E-TEC is because of its low emissions. I am eager I to see what other amazing products these companies have in store for consumers.

3) What’s your fishing “must have”? How about when you’re hunting?
The two things I must have when I am on the water are my Evinrude E-TEC and my Costa Del Mar sunglasses. The success of my career is largely dependent on the reliability of my equipment, and I surround myself with the best products available.

Since I love to bow hunt, the number one piece of equipment for me in the woods is my range finder.

4) What is your first memory in the outdoors?
One of my very first memories in the outdoors is going on my first deer hunting trip down in Council, N.C. with my dad at the age of 9. We were deer hunting with dogs, and there was a small doe that was chased out of the brush toward our location. I shot twice with my youth 20 gauge pump that dad had given to me right before the hunt and missed. The club we were hunting with would hold a “trial” for those hunters who were rumored to have missed a deer during the hunt that day.

If you were indeed “found guilty” of missing a deer, they would punish you by cutting off a piece of your shirttail and then hanging it on a line that was full of shirttails from over the years (as a joke of course). Well, long story short, part of my shirt became a victim and joined the rest of the bad shots that hung on the line, and as far as I know, it is still hanging there to this day.

5) You guide fishing and hunting too, right? What’s your favorite memory that includes someone else in the lead role with you guiding?
This probably involves a young boy and his father on a trip I took to Lake Wylie (near Charlotte) one day. Neither one of them had ever caught a bass over 3 lbs. The very first thing that morning they had doubles on, and both fish ended up surpassing (in weight) their personal records. I have taken quite a few trips with father-son duos and I have never seen as big a grin as the ones that came across their faces when both of those fish came into the boat that day.

6) We hear from people all the time that want to “make a living” in the outdoors. What is your advice to them?
My advice would be to take it slow and keep an open mind. If your goal is competitive fishing, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start out fishing local events to gain experience and see how you stack up and go from there. Whether I am guiding or fishing a Tour event, there is always room to learn more. Always remember that every day in the woods or on the water is a learning experience no matter how knowledgeable you think you are.

7) Every pro angler has a morning launch story that involves getting to a spot they wanted. Tell us your favorite!
At the FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake, my wife surprised me for my 30th birthday, by flying to Arkansas and showing up to weigh-in. To top off the surprise, I was fortunate to have a good two days of fishing and make the top 20 cut. After day 3, I was sitting in third place and eager to start the final day of fishing.

I arrived to my first spot, went to get a couple of jerk bait rods out of my rod box and panic immediately set in. It was locked! I keep my truck and compartment keys on the same key ring, so normally my truck keys are always in the boat. My wife helped me launch the boat that morning and took my truck with her so she would not be without a vehicle at the tournament. She was headed to Rogers for the day and I knew I could not call her.

I debated on what to do and was hesitant to pry open the box, for fear of damaging my boat. After weighing my options and thinking about the opportunity to win $125,000, my mind was made up. Using a flat-head screwdriver and a lot of elbow grease, I was able to break the box open, while ripping through the gel coat and throwing fiberglass everywhere. It was instant relief to finally pull a rod out, but I was angry at myself for such a bone head move on such an important day.

8) Do you need an AHT deal for your boat? How about your truck?
As most pro anglers would tell you, sponsorship opportunities are few and far between, and my ears are always open. This doesn’t mean I have to put a picture of Kurt’s Tail on my truck or boat does it? … Oh wait, this is T-a-l-e-s, not Tails!

It was great to talk to you Kurt, Happy Hunting! Now it is off to Kentucky for me to chase some Christian County whitetails.

Thanks for the time, Matt. We look forward to seeing how you’re doing on the FLW Tour for many years to come. And keep us posted on your success in the woods. You’re welcome to share stories for the AHT readers anytime!