We got interviewed in August, 2008 and this is a reprint of our interview from Sierra Sportsmen which is no longer in publication.
Kevin Paulson is the President and CEO of Huntinglife.com, an online resource for hunters, and we discuss with Kevin the intersection of hunting and the web-world.
Having grown up in a Forest Service family, Kevin began his time in the woods at a very young age on the back of his father being packed up the mountains on fly fishing trips in the Tahoe National Forest. Over the last 37 years Kevin has hunted as far north as Saskatchewan, owned an outfitting business, chased and guided elk hunters in Idaho, and now is the President and CEO of HuntingLife.com.
What is HuntingLife.com?
HuntingLife.com is the community for pursuing your passions of hunting, conservation and a well-lived life. Our site contains conservation news, hunting news, hunting stories, photo galleries, an online forum and an outfitter directory. We are working hard to provide best in class conservation and hunting news as well as product reviews for equipment that is best in class equipment for the average sportsman. Our goal in starting this site was to educate and spread the news of what hunters are doing for conservation and to teach as many as will listen about the North American Conservation Model.
HuntingLife.com is a free site for users and is funded completely through advertising. Ten percent of our gross revenue is donated to conservation organizations to be earmarked for habitat purchases and protection, habitat improvement and education of our youth in the traditions of fair chase hunting.
A website for hunters might seem counter-intuitive – hunting is an outside activity, and the stereotype of a hunter isn’t a guy hunkered over his computer! Why did you start it?
Hunters today are no different than anyone else. They are using technology to help them gain an edge while in the field. I don’t believe for a second that all hunters are using the internet but a vast majority of hunters are looking for great educational material, hunting tips and a place to share their passion with others. HuntingLife.com allows them to share that knowledge whether that is through our photo gallery or on our forums.
I spent two years as an outfitter in Idaho and Montana and during that time we donated 10 percent of our revenue to conservation organizations. As an outfitter we had a strong website and a blog where we educated hunters about elk, mule deer and bear hunting and what equipment we felt was necessary to a successful hunter with our operation. The majority of our clients came to our operation because of the internet (close to 85%) and I really enjoyed the process of writing and journaling the projects that I was working on. Within five days of selling my share in the outfitting business, I purchased Huntinglife.com and began the process of building this national resource into the site it is today. We have a come a long way and we have a long way to go and we are enjoying the process.
Do you think more hunters are using online, web tools to explore their interests?
Absolutely! Hunters should be using sites like HuntingLife.com to learn about conservation, gain hunting tips, share pictures, network with other hunters, learn about great equipment and seek out great outfitters to plan those trips of a lifetime to hunt in locations they have dreamed about their whole life. As well, hunters should be using non-hunting sites to assist them in the process of gaining the most information they can about the species they are hunting. An educated hunter is often a more successful hunter.
As a hunter one of my favorite tools on the internet is Google’s map function. When I am heading out to farm to hunt or into the mountains, I want to learn as much as I can about the terrain and vegetation that I am going to be hunting. Being able to look at aerial photos of the farm land that I am going to be hunting helps me to be more prepared and to create generalized plans about the places where I would like to place stand and blind locations in order to have the most success. As well this year, I am working hard to gain more knowledge about waterfowl hunting. In the past 20 years I have only been waterfowl hunting less then a half a dozen times and the internet provides me with the resources to learn and ask questions of hunters who share that knowledge. The internet is not going to be a replacement for getting out there and gaining practical knowledge and scouting in the field but it can help you to gain knowledge to make your time in the field that much more productive.
Why is hunting important?
Hunting has been a part of our lives since the birth of man. Hunting grows our appreciation for the land and our wildlife and teaches a deep respect for the animals that we ingest into our bodies as nourishment. Hunters also are the strongest proponents of conservation and act as protectors and stewards of our wildlife populations. I could write books about this subject and there are far superior minds who are far better writers attacking this subject each and every day. Some of my favorite essays on why we hunt are shared on the Conservation Force website.
There are many, many reasons why I hunt… The greatest reason in my mind is that hunting allows me to have a purpose in getting out into our wild places chasing wild animals and it keeps me grounded to the principles that were taught to me by my father and grandfather. Hunting allows me to live a life filled with passion for the outdoors, wildlife and allows me to share those passions with my own children.
What has hunting taught you?
Hunting teaches me humility and how small a part of this entire world I am. It teaches me about spirituality and to appreciate the small things that happen on a daily basis. Whether that is a squirrel jumping from tree to tree, birds chirping in the trees as the sun comes up, the wind blowing through the grass and watching out for what I am hunting. Hunting teaches me about refreshing my spirit and remaining spiritual while in the outdoors. It teaches me about ethics and about doing the right thing even when no one is looking. It teaches me reverence for the wildlife that I pursue and it reminds me to be thankful when I do take an animal’s life.
Where is your favorite place to hunt?
I wish I really knew how to answer this question but the reality is that I have yet to find a truly favorite place to hunt. I have been on some amazing hunts in places all over the United States and Canada and there really is not somewhere that I have been in the United States or Canada where I have not wanted to hunt. I have hunted California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Maryland, Virginia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Each location has been amazing and I can remember hunts in every locations. In the next two years I am planning on hunting in Manitoba, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Alaska, Newfoundland, Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota and Texas to name a few.
My best hunts have been with family and friends and one of my most memorable hunts was a pronghorn antelope hunt with my father in Wyoming. It was a do-it-yourself hunt and I still remember the look on my fathers face when I told him that I had an antelope down just over the hill. We had both shot antelope on our fourth day within about 5 minutes of each other in separate drainages.
I am primarily a big game hunter but I am always looking for great experiences with great friends and I am working on a couple trips for dove, ducks, geese and pheasant in the next year to broaden my horizons. I will also be hunting whitetail with my good friend Dennis in Manitoba this year and both Dennis and I are looking for a couple of Manitoba Monsters. I personally have never shot a Monster Whitetail and last year after passing on 3 good 8 point whitetails, I am more excited then ever to hold out for a true monster. I have shot a few small bucks in Virginia and a pile of does for the freezer and I am anxious to have my chances at a truly epic deer.
What gives you hope for the future of American hunting?
I think that over the past couple of decades the growth of conservation groups have made tremendous strides towards protecting the habitat where wildlife resides from the millions of acres of American wetlands conserved by Ducks Unlimited to the 5.4 million acres of land protected and enhanced by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. These organizations are making a difference for our world and protecting wild places from development. The opportunity to be a part of these large scale conservation process as a volunteer are truly unique and open to all hunters and I highly encourage hunters to be a part of that process. Working on a local chapter level with these groups is a truly rewarding experience that creates great friends and fun memories while helping to protect habitat. The work that these organizations are doing is protecting large tracts of land that is there for both hunters and non-hunters alike.
These organizations whether big or small are also creating great opportunities for mentoring programs for youth and women in hunting and helping to grow our traditions in the world. I personally had the opportunity to mentor a youth here in Virginia (Brandon) and he and I have had some amazing hunts together. On one trip Dennis, Brandon and I chased elk for a week together in Idaho and while we were not successful that hunt remains one of my favorite memories because of the tremendous bond created between the three of us.
What project are you working on right now that you are most proud of?
Working with the Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska to protect the Bristol Bay has been our biggest project in the last couple of months. We have been working with Scott Hed (Director) to create a fundraising promotion and opportunity by working with him to plan a large scale promotion to exponentially raise funds for the Stop the Pebble Mine Campaign. The promotion for a sweepstakes program for a Moose Hunt, Kimber Rifle, Leupold Scope and Sitka Gear Camo set has been bringing in donations to assist that campaign. These kind of win/win/win situations are something truly excite me and I love working on them. Wildlife wins, the organization wins and HuntingLife.com grows great content and we get to have a ton of fun at the same time.