One on One, With Dustin Warncke, Naturalist, Author, Speaker
Naturalists see the world as something to savor. They feel as if the Earth is a gem that provides them beauty and sustenance. They believe in self-reliance and staying true to their word; qualities that are seemingly rare in the digital world. But today I am going to introduce you to a man who resembles just that, and I’m proud to call him my friend and colleague: Mr. Dustin Warncke.
Meeting Dustin for the first time was somewhat of a unique experience. Dustin is a very large individual; and frankly a man of his size doesn’t quite exude the academic portions of his character that lie beneath. Dustin is an expert hunter and professional angler, but in harmony with his ‘naturalist-ness,’ he plays several musical instruments, has authored many published articles, and is a talented speaker and presenter. But above all else come Dustin’s friends, his family and his faith. Dustin, for those of you who are wondering, is a true contemporary renaissance man.
Now that we’re done making Dustin blush, let me recap our talk.
OE: What is your favorite memory as an outdoorsman?
DW: One of my favorite memories is from my freshman year in High School when my Dad and his best friend took me fishing for catfish on Lake McQueeney (in South Central Texas) on a Friday night. The catfish were feeding on the top of the water on an abundance of May Flies, which were especially thick that time of the year. The fish were biting on everything and we each caught our limit that night and it was such a blast.
OE: Where is your favorite place to hunt?
Most of my trophy exotic animals have come from DB Hunting Ranch in Central Texas. I have made many good memories there and it is one of my favorite ranches to hunt. I am invited once a year to hunt a family ranch in West Central Texas for deer and wild hogs and I am also an urban bowhunter, hunting properties just outside the city limits near highly populated areas.
OE: As an expert, you’ve had some rather large kills and big catches. But what is your proudest moment as an outdoorsman/hunter?
DW: Giving back to the next generation. My son is 6 years old and just caught his first Largemouth Bass all on his own. Seeing that first hand and being part of that experience was probably my most recent proudest moment. I have also helped several young hunters harvest their first big game animal as part of my 3D archery club, Hill Country Bowhunters. Experiences like that are hard to beat.
OE: How young is too young to start learning hunting safety?
DW: I think it starts as soon as kids are able to understand safety in the outdoors and that can be very young. Integrity, ethics, values, conservation, and so much more can be taught at an early age. My son started understanding these things when he was about 4 years old and started understanding more of the world around him and what his Dad did in the outdoors.
OE: Where can people go to learn if they have no experience?
DW: There is a ton of information available online about hunting, fishing, and general outdoor safely. If I was just starting out as new outdoorsman, I would learn as much as I could from local wildlife agencies, conservation groups, and online resources like YouTube. There are many instructional/tutorial style videos that can teach you many things in a short amount of time. One reason why I set out to create all of the videos I have out there now is because I couldn’t find the information I had learned in any other place and wanted to share the knowledge I had learned in the outdoors with others.
OE: There is a surge of female hunters in the last 5 years. Licenses issued to female hunters are up significantly in some states. Are they welcomed by the mostly male hunting community?
DW: I believe they are. I have seen female hunters out-fish, out-hunt, and out-shoot many “experienced” men in the outdoors. I have encouraged more women to get involved in the outdoors over the last several years and I am excited to see that trend increasingly common. Although some men might feel threatened by female hunters, I welcome them to the sport with open arms and I am seeing many men make room for them as well. There is plenty of room for anyone interested in the outdoors to have a place on the water or in the woods.
OE: Are girl-hunters getting the respect they deserve?
DW:Although it has not always been the case, I think women are getting the proper respect they deserve now. This is especially true when you see many women starting their own outdoor blogs, outdoor shows, and other media outlets. Women have had to prove themselves in the outdoors at first and show that they could do what male hunters could do. I think female hunters and fishers are amazing testimonies that the outdoor sporting traditions are not reserved only for men.
OE: As a native Texan, what makes Texas such an attractive place for bowhunters?
DW: There are many things that make Texas a fantastic state for bowhunting. We have an abundance of species that can be hunted year round, both free range and on private ranches. We have a large number of feral hogs which make excellent hunting opportunities and delicious table-fare. We also have an wide array of exotic animals which can be hunted year round such as Axis, Fallow, and Sika Deer, Red Stag, many species of Rams, Catalina Goats, Blackbuck Antelope, and the list goes on. We also have many lakes which are idea for bowfishing. This is another past-time many bowhunters enjoy and it is a benefit to the ecosystem, taking many invasive species of fish out of the rivers and lakes.
OE: I’ve heard that deer lease prices in TX have gone up significantly, is this a good thing?
DW:Deer lease prices have indeed increased here in Texas. In some cases, the amount of money some leases go for is astronomical for what you get in return. I have never been one to hunt on a traditional deer lease. I network and am constantly making new connections for hunting and fishing opportunities. Part of the unique landscape of Texas compared to other states is that our state has around 97% privately owned land. As the old saying goes, they’re not making any more land. There is nothing to be in despair about though. There are plenty of game ranches and other private land opportunities as well as even public land opportunities hunters can take advantage of in our state. Over the last several years, I have even carved out urban hunting hotspots and last year I shot the biggest archery buck of my life behind a local subdivision and regional park here in Central Texas, about 15 minutes away from where I live.
OE: What advice would you give to people who want to begin bowhunting, but aren’t sure how to start?
DW: Watch and learn as much as you can first. Surround yourself with experienced bowhunters and have at least one bowhunting mentor who can walk with you through this journey. Bowhunting is an incredible sport. We get to experience wildlife up close and personal unlike many outdoors enthusiast do. The first place I would start would by my local archery shop. When I started bowhunting I just watched and learned good fundamentals and proper shooting form from experienced archers at my local pro shop. I also joined my local 3D archery association Listen to podcasts like the Nock On podcast and other archery and bowhunting themed shows. YouTube can also be a good starting point in learning the fundamentals. I even have a video on YouTube that teaches the basics and fundamentals of archery.
Don’t concentrate on making a harvest your first season on your own. Enjoy the journey as there is a lot to learn in the bowhunting realm. Learn and be willing to serve where you are able in return for the advice you are given. When I first started out, I would help out my bowhunting mentors by field dressing or skinning their deer harvest after their hunts. The secret sauce to learning new things in the outdoors is to provide value in return for what you receive.
OE: Outdoorsman get a bad rap in the press of being savages, killing animals for sport or using overpowering weapons to kill animals. But hunters truly do care about the environment in which they hunt, don’t they?
DW: I believe most hunters do care about the environment even more that many of the so called “environmentalist” and anti-hunters in many cases. If you consider the vast array of conservation groups in the outdoor industry such as Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Delta Waterfowl, and so many others, it is safe to say that our hunting traditions have a lot to do with the future preservation of our environment for future generations. As a hunter, I look at myself being part of the natural ecosystem – a dominate predator, if you will. Although we may use advanced equipment to hunt, we do so to ensure clean, ethical kills. I also want to know where the meat I feed my family came from and the process it took to get it from the field to the table.
OE: I’ve seen blogs and sales-pitches on hunting-fitness. This is only recently been introduced to the hunting/fishing industry. Is this a fad or is this something that hunters and outdoors man should take seriously? Do you think it will gain traction or is hunting-fitness an oxymoron?
DW: Fitness is important to our overall life so I can see a place for it being integrated in with the outdoor lifestyle. There indeed is a movement towards being healthy and staying in shape in the outdoors and I think this is something that is here to stay. Many hunting experiences, especially in the case of spot and stalk or safari style hunting, require a certain degree of physical endurance. I embrace this movement. I think it can only benefit those of us in the hunting/fishing/outdoor realm.