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In Their Own Words

The Hunter

Khoa Le

Photograph by Trevor Paulhus

My dad grew up hunting with my grandfather, and it was a big part of their lifestyle. My dad will actually tell you it was born into me. When I was growing up in Austin, my dad was the only one working in my family, so we didn’t have as much time to get outdoors together. He regrets it. I know this because my grandfather just passed away, and when my dad spoke at the funeral, he said he was so excited to see that his dad’s passion for hunting had found its way into me.

I’ve always had a passion for it. In my early twenties, I took it upon myself to beg anyone around to take me out when they were going. Here in Texas, the opportunities are endless. Everyone knows somebody who’s got a piece of property somewhere. If you keep pestering all your friends, someone will eventually take you out.

My first trips out, I wasn’t successful in getting an animal on the ground, but it was still a great time. I was hooked immediately. I loved it. Being outside and seeing things that you wouldn’t see otherwise, unless you were hunting, is really great. When I go turkey hunting, I go bow hunting. So I’ll call them in to within bow-hunting range, which is about 20 to 25 yards, and you’ll get to see the animal in their full mating dance. They’re strutting. They’ll put on a great show for you, and it’s something you would never see otherwise. Things like that really get me going.

To me, guns are tools. The main guns I own—and I don’t own too many of them—they all serve a single purpose. I’ve got one rifle that’s a .30-06 Remington 700, and the reason I own it is because the .30-06 is probably the most versatile for North American hunting. It’s the one cartridge that will essentially take down any North American game. I primarily rely on that as my tool for hunting. When it comes to wing shooting for ducks and dove, I will shoot a 12-gauge shotgun. I’ve got one rifle beyond my .30-06. It’s a .270 that I started with. The only reason I have it is essentially to pass it down to my kids when they start hunting.

I’m a creative director by trade, and I’ve worked on a number of big brands, doing campaigns for Samsung and Pizza Hut. In the hunting industry, up until this point, there wasn’t that type of production value, that type of storytelling. With hunting shows a lot of times, there’s a typical Bubba who shoots a big deer and poses with it. That’s just one part of hunting, and I think a lot of the story was being left unsaid: the journey, seeing the animals come in, and everything you go through to prepare for the hunt and what happens after the hunt, what happens to the meat.

I started the site Tight Lines and Big Tines a little over three years ago. It’s a blog with videos and high-end photography. I wanted to do storytelling in the hunting and fishing space and bring cinematic quality to a wider audience. And I wasn’t going to be able to call somebody and say, “Hey, give me a TV show.”

The number one word I would use to describe it would be “community.” Because it ties back to this idea that everybody hunts a different way, but there is one story that everybody can relate to, and it is that journey of going out there and chasing wild game. Every hunter, no matter where they’re from, how they hunt, everyone does it differently. But at the end of the day, they’re all the same in that they’re going out, enjoying the outdoors, and they’re coming back with meat. They’re coming back with something to put on the table.

It doesn’t get any more free-range and local and organic than when you’re out there chasing deer in your area. It’s a lot more rewarding to go out and source your own food and know where it came from.

I think it’s important to expose my kids to it. If they decide, “It’s not for me,” fine. But I want them to be comfortable knowing that there are firearms in the house and how to operate one.

My oldest daughter actually shot her first deer back in October at the age of ten. I was very nervous going out there. We’d practiced a lot. We’d practiced without any rounds in the rifle. We went through the procedure, gun safety. We would go through that procedure hundreds of times. Knowing when to turn the safety on, not putting her finger on the trigger. Then we would graduate into shooting live rounds. Then, once I thought she was ready, we booked a hunt. Going down there, I was still nervous, man. It’s one thing to go through dry fire and practicing with targets. It’s another thing when the animal walks out there. You know, as a full-grown man who’s hunted deer for a little bit now, I still get buck fever and get nervous when the animal walks out there. I didn’t know how she was going to react when an animal walked out there. I didn’t know if she was going to be nervous, if that was going to affect her shot, if that was going to throw her off. She ended up handling it really, really well. She ended up taking a doe. She was thrilled. I was thrilled—and relieved. —As told to Dave Mann

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