An exclusive Bowsite.com Interview
by Pat Lefemine
There is no doubt that most bowhunters know about Tred Barta. And there is also no doubt that, like Tred himself, there are no shortage of opinions. We hear a lot about what people think about Tred but very few actually know him. We set out to do just that.
How did you get started Bowhunting? Listen
I was born in Bronxville, New York, which is part of Westchester County. And as a young boy, my dad hunted and fished. Like so many, there’s really no miracle story here. The family owned a very small cabin in Rangeley, Maine, where we went in the summer. And I was basically born to hunt and fish. I always loved it, I loved the solitude of the woods and I loved doing it with my dad. And like so many of us, the process just started. And that led from the BB gun to the recurve, to the longbow, to the compound, and back to the long bow. So it’s no miracle story. We moved to eastern Long Island later in my life, which was right on the ocean, and some of the best fishing of the world. So I really was immersed in outdoor sports my whole life.
Tell us about your first kill?
My first big game kill was with a shotgun. As I recall, it was a 20-guage Savage – or maybe it was a Marlin. I don’t remember. It was a 20-guage on the bottom and a 22-long rifle on the top. And it was in Rangeley, Maine in the depths of winter, and we were running a beagle and it was the first time that my dad allowed me to go just out of sight of him. We all split up and let the hounds work. They were running beagles. And I can remember how proud I was. As I close my eyes I can see my small L.L. Bean red and black hunting boots. I had taken over a friend’s pair of rubber boots that were three sizes too big so I stuffed newspaper in the front of them. I had shot at a red squirrel. It was the only animal that I’d shot at and missed, and here come the beagles and here comes the ear of the rabbit. I’ll never forget it. The sun was shining off the snow. In a snowshoe rabbit’s ear there is one large vein that runs the inside of his ear, and the sun had just set and that rabbit’s ear almost looked red. It came through and I shot and the rabbit went down. I yelled and I screamed and my father came running – he had a little L.L. Bean hunting coat too. I remember we hugged and I remember my dad’s tears coming out of his eyes and I couldn’t understand why my dad would have tears out of his eyes. He was a World War II B-29 pilot, and I had never seen him cry in his life. But, you know, that was my first game animal, I was so excited. It was just wonderful. I truly, truly remember every single detail of that day. What about your first big game kill with a bow? First big game kill with a bow was a white-tail deer. I was just at legal bowhunting age, I think I was 14. I might be wrong. But it was the first big game animal. It was blowing 35-40 knots and raining horizontally, it was absolutely ridiculous. I decided to go stalking, and walking in the woods was absolutely quiet. I saw the ear of a doe and got closer. The trees were moving – the whole woods were alive. I mean there was so much noise, so much wind and so much rain that I think five people could have walked through the woods and you couldn’t hear or see it. And before I knew it, I was 10 or 12 yards away from the doe, who was bedded down. I was upwind and she was looking downhill. I raised the bow. It was a Fred Bear fiberglass bow, a Kodiak at 49 pounds. It was a perfect shot. The doe got up and ran a very short distance then fell. I think that was the moment that I knew how exciting it was to be an archer, and what a thrill it was to get so close. And I still, today, can remember watching the deer at such a close distance. It was an exhilarating feeling. I’ll never forget that. I mean, it was unbelievable.
Who were your early bow-hunting role models?
My early models were very similar to many traditional archers. Fred Bear, to me, was an absolute hero. And I can remember living my life around The American Sportsman. That show had such an unbelievable influence on me – Curt Gowdy and that group, and Howard Hill. Later in life I got to meet Fred Bear on three or four different occasions, got a shooting lesson, and got to spend a little time with him one to one. Of course, without a question, John Wayne was my boy. I loved John Wayne, and I loved the Western stars. Did you ever think that boy watching those old Curt Gowdy shows would be on TV himself one day? No. I never thought like that. I never dreamed of having my own TV show when I was young – ever. But what I did dream about as a young boy was being Curt Gowdy or being John Wayne. And that’s what was so great about the old shows is that it wasn’t an infomercial like many shows today, it wasn’t commercially orientated. I mean, they took you on the hunt and you were there. There was no political correctness, it was just the wilderness. It was just the greatest stuff in the world.
What made you want to do a TV show, and how did you get involved with it?
Many people in bow hunting have not followed my career in big game fishing, but I’ve been an outdoor writer on the back page of Sport Fishing magazine, titled “For The Record,” for 27 years. I’ve been in major articles in Sports Illustrated, Omni Magazine, The New York Times and blah, blah, blah – many, many times. I’ve been writing non-stop for 30 years and have a pretty celebrated blue-water, big game fishing career. So I had already been fairly well-immersed in it. One day, walking into my office, was a good-looking gentlemen, who was in good shape, and I’d say about 45 years old. He knocked on my door and said my name is Mark Freedman and I read your book, The Best of Worst of Tred Barta. I think you’d be perfect for TV.
We talked for quite a bit but really, I didn’t know who this guy was – Mark Freedman. And I told him that I didn’t want to do a show where I had to answer to sponsors. I wanted to do a different type of show that showed hunting the way it really is, and expressed my philosophical values. The guy went away. Some time later I took him fishing and we caught a swordfish, and as I recall, a blue marlin. We got to be good friends and all of a sudden I find out that Mark Freedman is the inventor behind the Ninja Turtles magazine, comics, movies, toys, and TV series and worked with Eisner. This was the guy.
He was on the cover of Forbes Magazine. Now he’s doing a little thing called SpongeBob. He was a very influential, wealthy, hard-working, and sharp guy. And he paid for a pilot, which we sold to FOX. I was on The Best Damn Sports Show several times and had very good ratings. Then Versus purchased the show from FOX, We’re going on six years now and just got a two-year extension. I think that is quite admirable and some of the best ratings in the country. But as so much in life, opportunity meets preparation. It was pure damn luck. However, I had been asked to be on several shows, which I had declined because I just didn’t like the layout of the show. But amazing, isn’t it? What a story – walks into your office, “Hello, my name is Mark Freedman, how would you like to do a TV show?”
Tred, tell us about the equipment you’re using now and how often you practice with that equipment?
There’s something everybody should know. And maybe 15 years ago I would be uncomfortable saying this: Tred Barta is ADD, ADHD and has dyslexia. I had to go to special schools. I have always had a hard time with everything. I had to take my SATs upside down and backwards – and most of them oral. I’m getting off the question, but I went to Dartmouth College for one week, couldn’t do the work and had to go to the University of Colorado. I ended up on the U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team. I have a tough time. I love shooting the long bow. I shoot the “Barta Bow” which is made by Martin Archery for Three Rivers Archery, which I had a part in the design of. But I shoot a longbow, I make my homemade wooden arrows and I do everything from scratch. What people don’t know (and I always laugh when I hear people criticizing my shooting) I’m not a good shot; I have no talent. God gave me no talent. God gave me the longbow to test my resolve to believe in our Savior. I’m sure of it.
I practice five days a week, I shoot 60 hours per session, I shoot every single day – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – and I take off Saturday and Sunday. I should be capable of shooting aspirins out of the air. I mean, I probably shoot more than the greatest professional in the world. And yet, am I that good compared to others? Absolutely not. But I work so hard at it and I try so hard at it and I’ve been trained by some of the best people in the world. You know, this guy – I believe his name was Boski, he used to shoot with Howard Hill. I was in Palm Springs, Florida and spent two weeks with the man. But what is amazing is that I see people with so much more talent than I have.
But once a month, once a week, once every three months I go ahead and I put ten arrows in the size of a quarter at 30 yards. I then look up at the Heavens and I say, “I got it.” And then the next shot goes two feet over the top of the target! Right now I’m practicing hard on aerial shooting and I have so little talent. But I’m to the point that if you throw the basketball correctly, I can hit 10-12 of them in a row. People often give me a hard time and they’re saying, “Oh my God, he wounded an elk and they showed it on TV and just before he wounded the elk he said that he was shooting the best that he ever did in his life.” Everybody – it’s the truth. I’m shooting the best I ever have in my life. But you know, God didn’t give me a full cup. But my show is not about how good I am; my show is about being the best that I can be or the best that you can be.
What are your thoughts on modern archery equipment?
It’s a good question. Let me preface this by saying the following; last year I was in Normandy, France – where we had the great invasion and where thousands of Americans were killed on the beach to liberate Europe. My wife Annie and I were visiting a couple in France and we visited the battlefield. As far as I could see were the white crosses of American soldiers. My dad was a World War II pilot, and I was fighting the tears back and was embarrassed to cry in front of my wife. I was kneeling and saying a prayer when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I assumed it was my wife and I looked up and it was this old lady, maybe in her late eighties – a French woman. She sat on the bench and she whispered to me, “Thank you for our freedom.” And I burst into tears uncontrollably.
And I realized that day, at that very moment, that those men died for our freedom of choice. So when you say to me Tred, what do you think about the technology of bow hunting – you know what? I don’t really think too much about it, because the freedom of choice allows people to do what is legal in the world. And if you choose to be a high-tech hunter and have a high-speed bow and a low percentage let-off and use carbon arrows, if that is legal and that’s what you want to do, God bless you. Because that is not the issue. We only make it an issue to sell product or to pick on somebody. So I hunt the way I hunt because I believe in it and I’m trying to accomplish something for myself. I don’t think that hunting is a competition. But those reasons don’t have to do with grown-ups; it has to do with what we’re teaching our children. I do not like all of the gizmos that are going on in our sport; however, I would march on Washington to preserve your right and your freedom of choice. And everybody who ever wants to criticize me or anybody else, you know what, it’s your God-given right. And I’ll tell you what – if you want to learn about bow hunting, you want to learn about choice, you want to learn about criticizing other people – and I’m not talking about myself – go to Normandy. They died for your freedom. So you know what? I think everyone should hunt the way they want to hunt, as long as it’s legal. What about crossbows? Everyone’s trying to suck me into the crossbow issue. I do not think that crossbow is archery. Because I think archery is defined by me pulling back something and letting it go. You know what I’m saying? But I think in a crossbow, since it’s locked and a trigger, I think it should go into its own category or own season. It bothers me a little bit that crossbow hunting should be allowed in archery season. I know people are vehemently against it. But when you really look at it, what is the difference between somebody harvesting an animal with a crossbow or one of the very very high-bred bows of today, or that of a rifle or shotgun, a pistol or muzzle loader. I don’t have vehement feelings about it, but I don’t think that it’s archery. That’s a fact. It doesn’t feel like archery to me.
What are your feelings about modern bowhunting techniques and methods?
We live in a world where we’re losing all of the traditions of life. One of the traditions of life we’re learning is just the total abolition of tradition. I do not mind a grown-up hunting any way they want. But I would like to ask everyone a question; when you wake up in the morning and you wash yourself in five different chemicals and then you spray yourself down again before you put on some carbon blasted something. You go downstairs to your computer to check on your nine cameras in the woods – which look at stands where you had baited last night with a powder bag or some acorn type of stuff. Now you get on your ATV but then run back to the house because you’ve forgotten your electronic hearing aids. Once you get those on and get into your blind (which has an exhaust stack). Perhaps the blind is in Africa which literally is an adobe building sitting in front of a water hole. And you’re hunting with a bow that has a 90% led-off with carbon arrows, and you make mock scrapes, etc, etc. Finally something comes in and you shoot it. You go to your ATV and put your plastic gloves on then bring it to the butcher. My question to you and to everyone – is this hunting?
Is this what we want to teach our six-year old kids? Because to me, the woods teaches you reliability, it teaches kids patience, it teaches kids honor and code, it teaches kids the most important thing in life; and that is; when I can say I trust you. I know it sounds funny, but there is nothing more satisfying than having your 14 year old boy walk behind you with a loaded shotgun with the safety on, properly done, knowing that he is safe. That is called trust.
And what I’m afraid of is all of these technologies are not bad, but when you add them all together – you can’t even go in the woods without a device with propane which keeps the bugs away or you can’t shoot without a laser finder. We have children who don’t know the basic NRA shooting stances of kneeling, prone and standing. They think you’ve gotta use shooting sticks or mono-pods. Where are we going? And that is my point.
However, for me to insinuate in any way that the excitement of a bowhunter out of a tree stand, using every one of the is any less than what I do when I shoot over, under, miss, hit a tree or am just completely inept with my longbow, would be absolutely out of line. Hunting is up to the individual. But it does bother me. I turn down, myself, $250,000 a year of endorsements. Whether people like it or not, I have an unbelievably successful show, some 900,000 often watch it during an evening. And 80% of the time, I don’t get my game.
So people ask me, what’s my message – so you ask me, I ask you, and I ask your audience – where do you draw your line in the sand? It’s different for everybody. But I tell you what, I don’t want the message to be for six-year olds, and that is you wake up and you buy, buy, buy, buy. And if you can’t get close, you get further away, and if you can’t solve it, technology, chemicals, or engineering will solve it. Because to me, that’s not what hunting is supposed to be. It’s about getting back to our roots. That’s my opinion, and it is crystal clear where I stand.
What’s your opinion on scent-loc clothing and scent-blocker clothing and scent-elimination chemicals?
Number one, there’s lawsuits flying all over the place – that the carbon stuff’s gotta be 8000 degrees to work and maybe it doesn’t work. But you get up in Colorado; you’re going on an elk hunt. The first thing you’re doing is you’re stepping in horse shit. And the second thing you’re doing is you’re picking the horses and you’re wiping the horse down and you’re getting the horse ready. So you smell like horses. And then you get on the trail head and maybe you’ve got a fuel generator or maybe you’ve got a fuel this or maybe you’ve got a fuel that. So you’re all telling me that you’re gonna change your clothes every eight minutes, except for only – in two hours into the hunt? So we get into the hunt and you sweat, and you stink, and you walk, and we have to carry groceries and a bottle of Tabasco breaks on you and eggs are on your feet, because that’s what happens.
And you finally get to your camp and you eat dinner and there’s bacon and there’s onions… I don’t know where you guys think you’re putting all your clothes, in your bags, but you can only bring one or two sets of clothes for a two week hunt. And in the morning you wake up and there’s bacon and there’s egg and there’s onion. Let me just tell you, there’s enough scent and enough stink to put an ocean liner in the water. And you think that this stuff is gonna be okay? Give me a break. By the way, all your scents and sprays and stuff, if it’s below freezing, it’s frozen. I don’t where everybody is squirting everything, but you’re not doing it in elk camp. So I wash my clothes in baking soda – I swear to God, in baking soda. And my favorite saying is “Wind in your face, fair chase.” I don’t care what you’re doing; if you do the wind right, you’re hunting. And if you don’t have the wind right, you’re gonna bet caught 90% of the time. And when you say forget the wind and just hunt, what else are we gonna forget everybody? Are we gonna forget to open doors for women? Are we gonna forget the pledge of allegiance to the flag? Are we gonna forget prayer in school? I mean, give me a break. Hunting – get the wind in your face and go to ‘em. That’s what hunting is. So I guess I got a little long-winded, but I think the whole thing is a farce. But God bless it – it’s good for the guys and its good for endorsements and it’s good for business. So knock yourself out everybody.
Any products that you do use and believe in?
I had the opportunity with Three Rivers Archery from Indiana and is one of the premier suppliers of traditional archery gear, to develop a bow for my style of hunting. I don’t know if the ‘Barta Bow’ was developed out of sheer ineptitude or it was a good thing. But in a wilderness hunt in British Columbia or Alaska, you’re forging rivers, you’re falling off horses – you really need an unbelievable pogo stick that shoots well. And the Barta Bow carries a thickness throughout its limbs in diameter and thickness more than any other bow. It is a tough son-of-a-gun. They carry my arrows, the Barta wilderness arrows, and I am the most pathetic arrow smith you’ve ever seen. Oh God, it’s terrible. I try so hard – I have no talent. But they put on the Barta wilderness arrow, which is a plain arrow, from 45 to 75 pounds with the feathers that I use and it’s been doing well. The Barta glove is perfect when you’re riding horses, your hands are wet, they’re in mud, they’re in horse manure, they’re in feed – and ten minutes later you’re taking a shot. So I developed a glove with the nylon fingertips that work. So I’m really excited about that.
Is my bow any better than any other bow? Absolutely not. Do I love custom bows? Absolutely. But I’m very proud of the fact I’m involved with those guys. And by the way, this guy Dale Karch, I know him and I know his son and I know the guys there – it’s a good outfit. And you know what; I think I’m plugging Three Rivers Archery? I guess I am. But they deserve it. There are many good companies besides Three Rivers, but they’re part of our fabric. I use the Barta Bow and I’m very proud of it. It’s pretty neat.
I’d like to read you a quote: “If bow hunting, a we know and enjoy it, is to survive we must be hunters who appreciate and respect the environment in which we hunt, as well as maintain a strong desire to uphold the highest standards for our sport.” Do you agree with this quote?
No and yes. When trying to withhold the highest standard of the sport allows us to lie in print, allows us to lie in voice, and allows us to avoid, fabricate, make stories and lie in TV, then I think you get back to a terrible statement, like saying is it okay to take your 15 year old daughter, make a prostitute out of her, take the money and give it to the church. Of course that’s not okay and of course it’s a very coarse and gross example. But you wanna hit me with shock value; I’ll hit you with one back. I believe what is sustainable in life, what is believable in life, what is the apex of truth in life – is the truth. So if the truth of hunting is that you do your best, you work your hardest, you do everything as ethical as you can, you do not waste God’s bounty – whether it be for meat or for predator or for dog food or for ever what it may be, then I think it is true.
But if you’re asking me if I wounded an animal on TV and didn’t show it, and then shot another one and wounded that one and didn’t show it and then legally could go shoot a third one and got it and showed it on TV, is that upholding my obligation with regard to the statement that you read me? No. Because in my Bible, it says that you should be true to yourself. And you know what, lying is not being true to yourself.
I’m gonna take you to task on this one though, because this quote comes from Bill Wadsworth, who you know is the Father of bowhunter education and he believed that because society is no longer accepting of bowhunting as a whole that we need to elevate our standards and that’s why we teach proper shot placement, standing still shots, short-range distance within your proficiency level. A lot of people, Tred, don’t believe that you follow this?
Well, in my opinion, they’re dead wrong. But I do appreciate their opinion. This morning I got up and looked for my glasses for eight minutes, and I was wearing them. So I make mistakes, I shoot too far sometimes, I never take a shot that the green light hasn’t come on. But have you ever shot too far, have you ever wounded an animal, have you ever tripped, have you ever made a mistake? I have. I do it all the time. The difference between me and somebody else is that I have paid for, by not taking money, the right to show the truth on TV. And I don’t give up, and I do it the hard way, and I do it with a longbow, and I make my own wooden arrows. So can I be criticized for some of what you say? Absolutely. And I apologize to no man, except to myself. But in my heart, I am trying to show that if you don’t give up, if you’re not afraid to fail, you’ll never win.
I sat on a log and talked to Fred Bear about how much stuff he’s missed in his life and it’s unbelievable. But they didn’t show it. Along that same question; Would you like me to be more ethical? Is that what the bowsite would like me to be? Would you like me to sit in a tree stand and whisper “ I have corn on the bottom of my stand” move to a compound bow, never show anything but clean kills, go to game farms, go to fences, don’t hunt on public land? Is that their idea of ethical? I will say though, and I will say it as sincerely as I can, my heart is in kids and teaching kids the greatness in hunting. And families, who hunt and fish together, stay together. And if things that I do, without knowing it, are counter to that belief, then I am wrong and I need to take a long look at myself. But in my heart, I don’t. Someone asked me the other day, how could you show a magnificent 350 bull, with you pulling back the bow, taking the shot, the arrow was six inches too far back – a gut shot? We looked for that animal for two days with nine people and we didn’t get it. How could you show that on TV? What methods are you giving to people? Well, what is the message I’m giving? What is the message, Pat? Tell me. What is the message? The message is that it happens – that when I released that arrow at 22 yards, it looked perfect, and wounding of animals does happen. You know, you could never get anybody to answer a survey on the Bowsite. How many of your bowhunters have ever wounded an animal? Nobody would do it. But I can tell you this, what is terrible to know, but is part of life, is that most people who have done any amount of hunting, at sometime in their life, have made a bad shot, a deflection, bad judgment. And it happens. One other point. When a mountain lion kills a mule deer in Colorado about every four days, he doesn’t eat the whole animal. But he charges, he jumps off cliffs, he wounds animals, he slashes them. Nature is a brutal place, and if you’re a hunter, every single time you go in the field you carry this responsibility that it may not turn out the way you want it. I’m criticized for saying I harvested my bull elk, I did not get my trophy but I harvested it. And they said how could you? – one guy wrote that I harvested it to the garbage dump. That is a terrible statement. I did not; I did my best. I trained, I worked hard, I made the best shot that I could, and I looked for the animal. That animal was eaten by coyotes and other predators. It was a great, magnificent beast. Is it bittersweet? Am I sad? Am I disappointed? Yes. But welcome to nature and welcome to hunting!
Okay, continuing on that same theme and I have to respect your opinion on that one. As far as the elk is concerned, it was a close shot and everybody’s screwed up; I’ve screwed up – anybody that hasn’t screwed up is just lying. But let’s talk about your caribou hunt. You go on at the beginning of the show talking about how, because you’re hunting the hard way (with a traditional bow) you have to take very short, close-range shots, a good angle and within your proficiency range. Twenty minutes later into your show, you’re flinging arrows at caribou with absolutely no chance of killing them – in my opinion. So what message are you sending then?
Well that’s a good point. Number one, you’re wrong. I wasn’t flinging arrows at anything. I practice a lot at long-distance. I’ve got 20 animals in my range here in Colorado. When I release an arrow I know I can make the shot. Were the shots too long? Yes, they were. Should I have taken the shots? At the time, I thought I should – but no I shouldn’t have. And can you accuse me of shooting too long? Absolutely. Was I wrong? I think I was. But at the time, it felt right and at the time I knew I could make the shot. And one thing about the camera (and I’m not looking for any excuses by the way, nor am I looking for any scape goat) but the camera makes shots look much longer than they are. That being said, what message was I giving? Probably the wrong message at the time. I’m not asking for sympathy from anyone, including you Pat. But what I am saying is all of us on a hunt, when it’s windy and it’s cold and you’re exhausted and you’ve worked so hard and you finally get a shot, sometimes you make the wrong judgment. And in many cases I did. However, I did have a couple very good shots on that show. But I take the criticism as a man and I agree with the criticism in that particular show. But keep in mind, I have been kneeling and missed a bull moose at 15 yards with a longbow. 15 yards! I mean, his snot was almost on my shoe and my head was wrong, my angle was wrong and I shot over his back. So I know what missing is all about.
Let’s take that one step further. So I hear that you thought you made a mistake and shot too long. The other night I was watching Versus and they were airing your turkey hunt show. And you did the same thing on your turkey hunt?
I disagree 100%. On the turkey show, I came unrattled. On the turkey show I’ve never seen so many turkeys in my life. Those shots were not as long as people think. And I was not shooting in a flock at any time at turkeys. I was picking out a turkey and shooting it. By the way, I missed four or five birds by inches. But you know, it’s very interesting everyone, you hunt with a longbow, you hunt with a wooden arrow. I don’t know how many hunters you know, but the greatest new wave society hunter is that hunter who never releases an arrow unless he knows he’s absolutely perfect. But in the real world of hunting, he never shoots anything, he never goes anywhere. I thought those were legitimate shots. I’ve been hunting turkeys, by the way, for something like ten years and one of these days I’m gonna get one. I disagree with you on that show.
So you felt confident making a shot at a running turkey at even 20 yards?
Well, no. Do I feel confident – I shoot basketballs rolling all the time, I have two deer targets on cables. I mean that’s a very good question you bring up, Pat, and I don’t mind that at the end of this question if I’m the brunt of it. One question has to be asked – do you feel confident? At what stage are you confident? At which stage do you know? How does one get better unless one starts to push the envelope? How does one ever shoot anything out of the air unless you do it? How do you move your yardage up from 20 yards to 30 yards to 40 yards unless you do it? How can you ever make a 60 yard shot with a compound unless you try? And at sometime in your life, there’s gonna be a live animal at a yardage that you’ve shot at a target before and you have to ask yourself, can you hit it? Do you know that you can do it? And the answer, for me, is “yes” because I’ve done it and I shoot a lot. But it doesn’t always work out. Every single time I pull that bow back I believe my arrow is gonna strike it’s target – from the bottom of my heart. Maybe it is that everybody on the Bowsite is just a better hunter, a better, ethical hunter, smarter, better-looking, stronger, and younger. And that I’m just an absolute dinosaur and the anti-Christ of bow hunting. But I really don’t think so.
Scenario: You have somebody that comes over from Westchester County to Greenwich, Connecticut – an area that’s very influential, it’s very affluent – an area that you wouldn’t see a lot of hunters in. And the press would eat us alive if a deer was running around Greenwich with an arrow sticking out of its butt, or the top of it’s back. And this person is watching your show and watching you push the envelope (shooting at running turkeys, taking long shots at caribou, wounding the elk) and they say “Hey, Tred Barta does it, I think I’m gonna pick up a longbow and starting flinging arrows?
Be careful, Pat. You are using the word flinging and you’re saying that I’m flinging arrows and I take – I’m not angry at the subject but you’re putting words in my mouth. Because when I’m telling you that I release an arrow, I see the shot and I know I can make it – that isn’t flinging. Flinging is when you’re taking a Hail Mary and I hope I hit something. There was one picture in that turkey show where there was a flock of 60 birds. I was not shooting at 60 birds, I was shooting at one particular bird and I missed.
Ok, continuing on that same question – so somebody’s watching your show and says hey this bow hunting thing is really cool, I’m gonna take my education course, get my license, sit in a trees stand in Greenwich, Connecticut and do what Tred Barta does. And they start pushing the envelope and they starting shooting beyond their range and they start shooting at moving animals. And then they start wounding stuff and they start hitting animals with arrows. Arrows are sticking out of deer that are running around Greenwich, Connecticut or West Hampton?
Good example. “When you do as Tred Barta does” you know, you’re sounding like some of the guys on your own website. When you say as Tred Barta does, do you mean that they practice five days a week, that they shoot 50 to 80 arrows every day? Do they mention that I’ve been doing it for 20 and 30 years, do they mention that I don’t give up and that I hunt in places that are very hard? Is that what you mean? I know where you’re going with this. Let me just say I think I know what you’re trying to get me to say, and I’m not gonna say it. But what I will say is this; that if my actions promote activity in young people or others that is not correct and is irresponsible, then I have erred in what the main objective of my show is. But in a world that is so sanitized and in a world where every single show is eight minutes somebody thinks…, etc. It’s a good question but I ask; who are our heroes? Is it Ted Nugent? Well, Ted Nugent is a great man, he is a great American. But he does a lot of stuff I don’t believe. Is it Fred Eichler? He’s a great man, he’s a great hunter, he’s a great bowhunter. Pick up the bow, pick up the gun – I just saw him in an ad for pouring food on the ground and hearing devices. (Please Read a followup note by Tred Barta about this last statement) I mean, who is the hero that we’re looking for? Is it Jackie Bushman? I heard someone say the other day Tred, you’re no Fred Bear. You damn right I’m no Fred Bear – I’m nobody, except Tred Barta! But maybe I shouldn’t show the misses, maybe I should never show a wounded animal. But if I don’t then what do we have? Because if I did miss, did I miss? Now if you told me I was irresponsible and didn’t practice and didn’t try to be the best that I could be, then I think what you’re trying to say is very true. But it does bother me, and I don’t mind admitting it. Because I am trying to be an example to young people in that you don’t compare yourself to everybody else, that you be the most that you can be. And that if you’re so afraid to lose, you can’t win. And if you never, never give up, that the reward that you reap is great from doing your best and accomplishing your goal. Let me just tell you something; I’m the one, who on 78% of my hunting shows doesn’t get anything. Why are my ratings so good? And I’m the one who says that a doe hunted with a kid and his grandfather is more valuable than a 220 point white tail. I don’t know – I guess it’s why they call it the Best and Worst of Tred Barta.
Tred, we were just talking in the break and I made a comment to you that although I respected your opinion and I hear what you’re saying, I don’t agree with you. And let me tell you why. I shot a stick bow for a long time. I spent 15 years working on my proficiency, got really good there for a while. I never took a shot over 20 yards and took 80 big game kills. As my life became more hectic and I found myself practicing less, I started to develop target panic – started to lose confidence. And I said to myself, if I can no longer look at the deer at 20 yards or 15 yards and put that arrow in the kill zone every single time, then I need to move to a compound. If I don’t feel that confidence, then I don’t shoot. So what you’re telling me is that every time that you release an arrow, you feel supremely confident that your arrow’s going right through the kill zone, creating a quick, clean kill on that big game animal. Is that what I’m hearing?
So what happens?
I do believe that, but I also believe that I am shooting too far, that my ability on the range is there but in the field and in the actual hunting situation, often it isn’t. And therefore, I believe that I can stand some criticism for shooting too far and showing it. And I do appreciate – even though we have a little bit of a difference, we really don’t. I do appreciate your accuracy and what’s in your mind. But I can tell you this right now. I am one who goes to all the shows and all the shot shows and talks to outfitters all around the world. And I also know the inside and outs of almost all these TV shows and where they hunt. And I can tell you, you’ll see many TV programs where they show perfect shots. But they don’t tell you about the two or three animals that they wounded.
Do you really believe that’s the case?
Of course it’s the case. You know it’s the case and I know it’s the case.
Well, it’s not the case with me?
Well, it apparently isn’t and you’re an excellent hunter. My only point to you is that things don’t always work out the way that they want. What I am finding, and what I deserve criticism for is probably shooting too far. I ask for no forgiveness but I have to think myself: is that in the best interest of archery? And maybe it’s not.
If you came to the realization that it was not in the best interest of archery, that people were using your elk, for instance, that had the arrow sticking out of it…
…I have no problem with my elk, by the way. We’re talking about shooting too long? I absolutely agree. But I have no remorse with that elk whatsoever. I feel sick to my stomach, I am sad that I lost the animal. But I had a legitimate shot. I saw the shot. It was there, it was at 20 yards, it was a legitimate shot. I took the shot, I saw the arrow, I knew I had the animal, I saw the green light. And it didn’t work out. Does anybody appreciate at all that I was shooting a homemade stone point with sinew? And that it hit the paunch and it was a bad shot. That is hunting. And you know what, if that’s not hunting to people, you know what? Too bad. That’s what happens. That’s what happens in the real world. It was an ethical hunt, it was a good hunt, and people got on me. People asked me, “if you could take the arrow back, would you?”
Well, that can be taken two ways; I would take the arrow back if I knew the arrow would go right behind the shoulder. But when I released the arrow, I knew that it was a perfect shot. So how can you sanitize that? Do you go into the woods as a hunter to hunt? I think my shows are very honest. I think they show the way it is.
So, you know, if people want to criticize me, do so. And if they want to say everything they think is bad about me, do so. But I can tell you one thing right from the heart, on Christmas morning when you’re with your family and on Thanksgiving when with your family, I am either down at a soup kitchen or I’m with cancer patients on that day with the rest of my family, helping underprivileged people. So I am not a bad person. I am a good person. I understand your line of questioning.
I don’t think anybody thinks you’re a bad person at all. Here’s the thing that I have to question: Stone point? Why hunt with a stone point? What are you trying to prove to people?
Well, that we’re trying to go back to basics –
Then why not hunt with an Atlatl?
When you say why hunt with a stone point, I say to you why don’t we outlaw recurve and longbows? They’re inefficient, they’re slow – wooden arrows are very hard to make, they’re very hard to get good cedar, they don’t fly consistently, they are not as accurate as the killing machine. Let’s go one further. Why don’t we outlaw compound bows? Because a rifle, a pistol, a muzzleloader is much more efficient. And then we get to another question. Is the object of hunting to kill something immediately and efficiently, without any risk? Because if it is, why don’t we use a bazooka or why don’t we use a 50mm? Or more than that, why don’t we give up hunting all together? So where do you stop and where do you end? I respect the question. Why do you climb a mountain? Because you can. Why do you climb a mountain without high-tech hunting gear?
Why do people risk their life free-climbing – there are hundreds of deaths per year. Why? Because you can. Why don’t you run the 100-yard dash with a Harley Davidson motorcycle? Why do we run with shoes? Because it’s a tradition – it’s the pinnacle of what life is all about. So I don’t know how to answer your question. It should be obvious why I hunt with a stone point. That I made it myself, that I got back to the nature, that I’m hunting like an Indian did. And for a moment in time, I’m bringing myself back to our forefathers, to appreciate how perishable life is. Isn’t this really what nature is supposed to teach us?
Tred, tell us about your charity.
Most people don’t know and they don’t care, but it’s a shame because I dedicate about 50% of the very little time I have to children – underprivileged kids. In the world of big game fishing, all of the magazines, all of the press, all the movies, all the TV, is about Calcutta Kill Blue Marlin Tournaments and money tournaments. Where in it’s a point-for-pound, dead on the dock. A blue marlin – which is almost an endangered species in many respects, is killed. And we have laws that we’re not supposed to have them on our menu from eastern fishing, and we also have a huge conservation effort that we should release our fish so they can live to fight another day. And I started a tournament called “the Barta Blue Marlin Classic and the Barta Boy’s and Girl’s Club Billfish Tournament. It is a 100% release that allows no Calcutta and no betting, where you don’t have to have a lie detector, where you don’t have to have an observer on the boat, wherein your word is your code – if you released that fish, you released it.
And if you want to lie and say you released ten fish, you have to settle with yourself, and there is no money and you’re only gonna get a plastic trophy and that kids are gonna be allowed to catch these fish. Kids between four years old (sitting in your lap) to 15 years old. Pundits said that nobody would fish it, and all the magazines shunned it and said it would never happen. Well guess what everybody? It’s one of the largest tournaments in the world. And the best blue marlin fishermen in the world came. I raised $1 million. Hey everybody, let’s get something straight. I hear that I’m wealthy, that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth – everybody can shove it. I work five jobs, I work hard, I save, I’m conservative, I work my fingernails to the bone – I am a worker, and everything I have I earned and I deserve. Period. So when a guy like me raises $1 million for underprivileged kids to get them into fishing, and the Barta Boy’s & Girl’s Billfish Tournament has now raised a half million dollars for the families of coastal North Carolina – the Boy’s & Girl’s Club of America. It is an amazing thing.
People said I was irreverent and was breaking all the rules, and that people would not fish on honor and code. Well let me tell you something, at my tournaments we say a prayer in the morning, we say a blessing of the fleet, we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and the Ten Commandments are on stage with me. It is the most successful tournament in the world; 3000 people come to it, over 70 sponsors endorse it, and we’ve done a wonderful thing. My life has been based on people saying that I can’t do this and I can’t do that. But it is a marvelous thing, and my message to kids is that families who hunt and fish together stay together and that there is no greater word than trust. If someone can trust you and you have honor and you have code and love for family and love for God and you do your work and you do it well and you don’t give up, you’ll be successful in your life whether you don’t have two pennies to rub together or whether you have wealthy parents. And that has been my message all the time.
What’s your next hunt and what that hunt means to you?
On Wednesday, I’m leaving for Lubbock Texas. And for the last two weeks I’ve been shooting basketballs, footballs and all kind of other balls out of the air. And I am trying to take a whooping crane on the fly with my bow. I know that there is maybe a 1% or 2% chance out of 100 that I’m successful. But I also know that in the 2%, I’m 100% confident that I can do it. And what is the message to myself and what is the message that I intend for any viewer? Its simply this: If we are so afraid to try something that is seemingly impossible, because we might fail; if we’re so afraid of being criticized by others, if we are so afraid to give our best and maybe lose, then how will we ever win? And isn’t life about doing something you don’t think you can do, and not giving up and not taking criticism and not listening, but listening to your heart. I mean can you imagine the joy that will come through the camera if I can get a whooping crane on the fly? And you know, that’s all I have to say.
But you know what, there will be a bunch of people who criticize me. It only took me eight years to get a duck and ten years to get a goose. We may have a new show that I got a turkey. But you know, that’s what I find is the excitement, that’s what I find is the romance, that’s what I find is what life is all about. It’s taking something you don’t think you can do, working your best, not giving up and accomplishing your goal. In a world where everything is based on how big your Rolex is or how many horsepower your car is, my message to kids is that the simplest of things – if you can attain without giving up, it will give you the confidence to do anything that you want in the world. So you know what, the wood is gonna fly and I hope I get a crane.
What do you think is the greatest threat to bow hunting, or hunting in general?
I think the greatest threat to hunting in general is that people don’t understand – people need to understand -that when you go to the grocery store and you buy a chicken with an American Express card, that you killed that chicken by proxy. That somebody took that chicken, put it in the cone upside down, cut it’s throat, bled it to death, and you received it in your house in cellophane. You killed that chicken, but you have no blood on your hands. We are trying so hard to preserve the integrity of the message of hunting that we have gotten ourselves so far away from what hunting really is. The sun rises in the east and it sets in the west, the tide changes every eight hours, life is – you’re born into this world, you grow, you die, you go into the earth as fertilizer, up comes fresh grass that’s eaten by a black bear.
It’s what the Indians feel is (the philosophy of) the circle of life. We defend hunting rather than talk about what hunting is. There are so many examples of hunting in every urban household, of everything that we eat, that I think we’re trying to be too self-righteous. Let me just tell you something – I could care how you hunt or what you hunt with, but you cannot be afraid to miss, you cannot be afraid to defend what you have taken, and it is part of life. And our problem is that our society has become so antiseptic. Our society has become so consumed with immediate gratification. We don’t even change the oil in our cars anymore – we don’t own our cars; we lease them, we finance them. We never own them. We need to take this pride back. So what is the greatest threat to hunting? I think it’s ourselves.
We’re trying to tell a story in defense of hunting when we should just be telling the world what hunting is and what the realities of life are. By the way, nature is brutal. We all know it. As I’m talking to you now, it’s 8:30 in Colorado – it’s 10:30 where you are Pat. Right now, a mountain lion, a coyote, a bobcat is out to savagely kill, strangle, bite, bleed to death an animal and eat it. That is what goes on every minute in nature – both in the ocean and in our society. So I think we’re our worst enemies. Here we are worrying whether I shoot too far, too long, what I shoot, what you shoot, when we all should be united. And I hope that the Creator guides me to be the most that I can be for our sport, because I love our sport and I love the people in it. And that’s a fact.
Fifty years from now how would you like to be remembered?
I don’t know – I could remembered as a man who doesn’t give up, who’s energetic, who loves people, who tried his best, who late in life realized it’s not what you have or how much you have, it’s the quality of life. I’d like to be remembered as a person who loved family and who helped others. And a man who was energetic. We are so cynical today that energy is contagious, smiling is contagious, and laughter is contagious. And I hope I’m remembered as a skilled person who tried my best. One can’t ask for any more than that.