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Celebrity Interviews: Wade Nolan
FA: Where and when were you born?
WN: I was born on the along the river that George Washington followed to Fort Pitt to confront the French. The town is called McKeesport. It’s in SW Pennsylvania.
FA: What was your family life like growing up?
WN: I was blessed with an intact family. Great mom and great dad. Myself and two sisters grew up in a coal mining town along the Youghiogheny River. My family took a lot of vacations and that gave me the travel bug early. We were never poor or rich we just got along fine.
FA: What was your main interest growing up? Sports, music, education?
WN: My interests have been described by those who know me best as linear. It’s all outdoors based interests. The little town where I grew up, Sutersville Pa. (pop. 800), lays along a bend in the river and is surrounded by farms. I discovered the woods at a very young age and got addicted to nature. My parents would punish me by taking away my opportunity to go out in the woods and play….it made me try to be good.
Scouts played an important role in my growing up and it may have shaped my future more than I would have ever guessed. I remember getting addicted to camping out overnight at about age 11. We made a camp in Joe Brosies cow pasture on a level spot near the fence. Al Penick and I slept out under the stars in a single sleeping bag that my mom got for 6 books of green stamps. We had a machete in the sleeping bag between us that Al had snuck out of his grandpa’s closet. We had to be protected from hobo’s and murderers somehow and the machete seemed like a good idea. We had gathered enough wood to winter in the Yukon and we kept that fire burning all night. I was hooked.
A younger Wade with another nice buck.
FA: At what age did you discover you had a love for the outdoors?
WN: I have to credit my dad with selflessly directing me toward the outdoors. He is not an outdoorsman at all but he pointed me there at age 5. You see I had asthma then and couldn’t run without getting short of breath. That sort of limited me on sports like baseball and football although I did participate in both. My dad thought that fishing might be a good sport for me so we caught night crawlers almost every night in the summer and he’d take me over to a farmer’s pond and watch me fish. We’d bring home bluegills and catfish and keep them in a galvanized wash tub. They were my trophies. He invested in me for my sake and I didn’t even notice until I’d grown up. He never fished but he taught me how to.
FA: When did you first discover an interest in archery/hunting?
WN: My dad was a blacksmith in a coal mine and he was a stone mason on the side. He had a friend named Kagee who worked with him and Kagee was a bowhunter way back in 1959. That was when there were almost no bowhunters. Kagee brought his recurve bow over one day and let me watch him shoot a cardboard box set against a hill across our driveway. Wow, this guys bow shot all the way through the box and stuck into the dirt. It was my first look at a real bow. A few weeks later my dad, with Kagee’s guidance bought me a green fiberglass recurve. I remember it had the name “Fury” on it. Well, I got me a card board box and by gosh it would shoot those wooden arrows through at least one side of the box and I was hooked. I’d spend a large portion of my days perforating every cardboard box within reach. I figured that one day I’d be a bowhunter.
When not filming, Wade picks up his bow with similar results.
FA: Who would you credit with helping you develop this love you have about the outdoors, shooting, etc?
WN: My parents really helped push me that direction as did the local scouting program…which was a great program.
Two ways to get around Alaska, fly and walk.
FA: Are you interested in any other sports besides archery?
WN: As a result of spending 17 years in Alaska I developed a love for a lot of interesting outdoor activities. I love mountain climbing, Cross country skiing, halibut fishing…actually I’m addicted to that one, salmon fishing, back packing, wildlife photography and filming…worked with Nat. Geo. and Animal Planet last year, scuba diving, wilderness kayaking and ocean kayaking. I don’t know if it is a sport or not but I love to plan and execute big adventures and expeditions.
FA: When did you start bowhunting? Who was your mentor?
WN: I started bowhunting when I was about 18 years old. I’d watched Fred Bear shoot a variety of animals all over the world at an event at a movie theater near Pittsburgh while in high school. My college roommate, Bob Grinarml, aka. Grinny and I sorta followed his big brother, “Chuck Roast” into actually trying to kill a deer with a bow. My problem was that I never really had a mentor. We just made it up as we went along.
This is a real memorable story about my first “real” bowhunt. . I splurged and bought 3 cedar arrows complete with turkey feather fletch and glued on Bear Razor heads. I wouldn’t dare practice with them as they cost a lot of dough…$3.00 each if I remember correctly and I didn’t want to risk breaking or losing one. So I practiced with my field arrows which were a totally different shaft and weighed about 1/2 as much as the “real” arrows.
Grinny and I decided we’d be bowhunters so we geared up. There was virtually no camo out there so we had our mom’s sew us each a sort of bath robe out of thin green camo that we’d bought at a fabric store. Grinny was always the inventor among us so I should have seen this coming. He picked me up in his blue 40-foot long 62 Buick about 3 hours before daylight. We drove to this spot we’d chosen full of anticipation. He had bought a real Bear recurve at this point and I had my old green fiberglass Furry. Probably a 25# bow!
I ‘d purchased a Kwikee Quiver for it and had my three unshot broadhead tipped arrows hanging there like leg lacerators. As we were preparing for our first bowhunt Grinny Said, ” You’re going to be glad I’m your hunting buddy after I show what I ginned up last night”, then he produced a bread bag with some black powder in it. I asked, “What is that?” He grinned and said, You know how those war guys and assassins all darken their faces so they can be camoed and the bad guys can’t see them? Well I took the time last night to file down two charcoal briquettes into powder so we can have our faces camoed and the bucks can’t see us.”
“What a great idea” I said and then added, “but I bet that stuff will be hard to get off of our faces after we are done hunting.” Grinny laughed and added, “I’ve thought of everything, I brought this liquid laundry soap my mom had down stairs so we can first smear the soap on our faces then add the charcoal like a slurry and really be sneaky.” “Wow” I, said, “you’re amazing. ” Well, we greased down with this soap, and then with the aid of silver D-cell flash lights put on the finishing touches to our stealthy faces and decided to meet back at the Buick for lunch.
I walked into the chilly woods for about 200 yards and found a blow down that looked like a great ambush spot. I made a little nest in there and got settled. Arrow on the string and I was ready. About 20 minutes after daylight a chickadee landed on my arrow 12 inches from my hand. Wow, I was stealthy alright. Then I heard some rustling in the October leaves and a doe stepped up onto a little knoll about 20 yards away and then dropped off of the rise and disappeared without even seeing me. Holy cow, I should have shot her I thought, I’d better get ready. Just then a beautiful 8-point buck stepped up onto the same knoll and stood there like the Hartford Elk from the insurance commercial.
I felt sorry for him for just a moment as I knew he was mine. I drew my bow as he turned his head to look directly at me. I aimed directly for his chest and let the lethal arrow fly. I was shocked when it traveled about 12 yards and dove into the moss just over half way to him??? What had happened? He just stood there…smiling I think. Then he just walked away. I guess that a 550 grain arrow shoots different than the 250 grain ones! Who’d a thought? Plus I’d determined that I was probably under-bowed.
About then I noticed that the day was beginning to warm up. Simultaneously I noticed that my face was warming up faster than the morning. Within 30 minutes my face felt like someone had put “Atomic Bomb” or acid on it. I began to scratch my face and minutes later I was standing and was quickly looking for my $3 arrow and then I was racing toward the Buick.
Curiously Grinny beat me by 30 seconds and he was kneeling in the mud splashing dirty water from the ditch on his face and making a lot of bubbles. I dropped down and followed suit. Like mad men we splashed the muddy water on our faces until we were both panting. Finally we looked at each other and said, “Wow, who’d a thought that detergent could light your face on fire!” By the time we left we both had red swollen mugs and looked like two strawberry heads. We drove with our red faces leaning out the window all the way home.
Later that week, Grinny’s big brother Chuck Roast actually sold me his old Bear Recurve for $15 and I was equipped. All of my other hunting buddies also got recurves the same year.
Fishing for Halibut off Alaska.
FA: Describe the first time you took an animal with a bow and the event.
WN: Grinny and I had each shot our three arrows at about 20-30 deer by the time this memorable day arrived. We shot at every deer we saw while stalking around. What good were these expensive arrows if you never shot them? We even got to where we’d both carry a saw, screw driver and pliers so we could dig the arrows out of the trees we’d unwittingly hit.
On the special day, Grinny and I got up early and drove into the Pa. mountains up near a remodeled school bus that Chuck Roast and his buddy had crafted into a hunting camp. We had followed a stream in the Allegheny Mountains of Northern Pennsylvania for about 1/2 mile when we located an old abandoned homestead probably a hundred years old. The only thing remaining was a small stone wall and part of a stone chimney. Just downstream was an apple orchard that was now under the canopy of oaks and wild cherry trees. Grinny decided to climb into an apple tree and I chose to hide behind the stone wall. Just 20 yards up hill from me was a single apple tree with a dynamite trail leading to it. I got one of my experienced arrows ready and sat on a pile of rocks behind the wall.
Not 30 minutes later I woke up and noticed that there was a doe walking down that trail toward my apple tree. I tensed up and adrenalin coursed through my 18 year old body. I felt the hunter emerging as I drew and released. For the first time in my hunting career I saw something occurring that had up until now evaded me. In my mathematical brain I determined that the trajectory of the now in flight arrow and the body of the unsuspecting doe might collide. Sure enough the arrow hit her right dead center in the spine and dropped her like a bad habit.
At his point I was shocked, in awe and frozen like a statue. Then another thing that I’d never seen occurred. Did you know that a deer can make noise? I’d seen these elusive and deadly quiet animals for years and never once heard one make so much as a peep.
This doe bellowed so loud that I was mesmerized. Grinny even heard it 60 yards away. I shouted over the bellowing, “Grinny come fast I got one!”
Grinny now made a series of bad mistakes in rapid succession. He couldn’t have done better if it had been rehearsed and memorized. First he threw his bow out of the apple tree he was in. There was one arrow on the string and two in the exposed Kwikee Quiver. Next he decided that the urgency in my voice demanded quick action so he leaped out of the tree rather than climb down. He was probably 14 feet up in this tree and would be lucky to even survive the fall. But he had been thinking ahead and had decided…. to break his fall by jumping directly on his bow and arrows! Which he did. I heard a crash followed by some yowling and cursing. He’d successfully broken all three of his arrows without getting one driven through any part of his anatomy.
He pulled his bow out of the mud and brought it with him as he raced to the bellowing doe and my urgent screaming. When he arrived I’d already approached the doe and was preparing to shoot her again. In that we were both biology students at a university we had to first discuss where to shoot her to finish her off. At this point my first arrow had been broken when she rolled over on it. I quickly chose a chest shot at 2 feet and let go. Wow, I’d never practiced that shot before and the arrow stuck into the ground just under her chest. I’m not sure if this was planned or not but she immediately rolled over on it and broke it in two.
Well it now dawned in us that were just about out of ammunition. He’d lost all three of his arrows during the leap and I had lost two to the rolling doe. Well, without a lot of deliberation I drew back and let fly with the final arrow. It hit home and she immediately rolled on the protruding arrow and then there were none. Grinny and I were hyperventilating and had to sit down on the pile of rocks to gather our senses.
After we field dressed the doe Grinny had another great idea. He remembered seeing Daniel Boone and his Indian side kick Minto once carried a deer slung on a pole between them. We got busy cutting a small tree and after a lot of work we had the trophy doe tied to the pole. We each got a side and lifted together. Wow, I’d never realized how strong old Minto and Daniel must have been. This was brutal but colorful.
We started down the trail and the darn doe began to swing back and forth until the penduluming doe threw us both to the ground. …Maybe we’d have to march in step to stop that swinging thing from happening again. So we got dusted off and lifted her back up. We didn’t get 20 yards until we both were staggering and then crashed again. Could it be that they staged that scene on Daniel Boone with a Styrofoam deer? Well we took turns dragging her back to the Buick. I was the first of my buddies to actually arrow a deer but eventually we’d all been successful and we all still bowhunt today.
FA: What do you feel is the most personally rewarding part of our sport?
WN: My most memorable days were watching my three kids shoot their first deer. I filmed all three and tens of thousands of bowhunters have seen their hunts at my speaking events at wild game dinners and probably a hundred thousand have watched the scenes on video’s and DVDs.
Wade with his bow kill Leopard.
FA:: Who are your archery heroes? Those you have met or admired?
WN: I was fortunate to spend time with Fred Bear on a few occasions. He impressed me because he’d actually asked to hear my story and then listened. Fred bought a copy of my first video “Bowhunting Hungry Black Bears”. He sent me a personal check and I never cashed it. Probably screwed up his accounting.
FA: People make up our sport. Who do you feel has left his or her mark or made the largest contribution to the sport?
WN: There have been many. Fred Bear of course made bowhunting available for the blue collar guy and was an absolutely genuine guy. Bill Wadsworth is another one. Bill founded the bowhunter Education Foundation. I met Bill and his wife at their cabin in NY and ate venison steak with them. I later became the project director of the Treestand Safety Project for the NBEF and have worked with every director of the NBEF since its inception.
FA: What was it that made you get into the business end of archery?
WN: I think I was destined to end up here. Everything about my life and the people I met along the way opened up the door. I’ve worked here full time since 1981. This industry has been incredibly good to me and now it has opened up a door for me to use it as my ministry.
FA: You do so many things Wade. You are a husband, father, conduct seminars, speaking engagements to Christian Men’s groups, put on hunts, work as a videographer, work with the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, the Treestand Manufacturers Association, help companies promote their products, hunt yourself, write and you have experienced Africa not only as a videographer and hunter but you have worked capturing and tagging animals for game departments. First question: How do you fit all this in, and second, what is your first love in all that you do?
WN: Actually my favorite thing is a blend of much of the above passions you mentioned. I’ve been blessed to speak in over 225 cities all across America promoting Christ. I speak at wild game dinners. At wadenolan.com I’ve blended it all together. I first conduct a whitetail hunting seminar for an hour or so at these events then we eat wild game. After dinner I do what I call my keynote presentation. Here I tell true “Life and Death” stories that I’ve been associated with about lion attacks, bear attacks, leopard attacks and brushes with death derived from my time in Alaska’s Arctic or across Africa.
Wade conduction tests for Grim Reaper Broadheads in Ballistic Gellatin.
FA: How did you get involved in the promotional end of the sport and what exactly do you do to help companies market their products?
WN: I have produced and sold more videos and DVD’s than any single producer of company. I even teach outdoor television to aspiring TV guys. I also love to write. Storytelling is my favorite medium. A few years ago I teamed up with the most visited hunting web site in the world…bowhunting.net and helped launch streaming video i.e. BOWTUBE. This allowed me to blend and deliver all of my passions. Robert Hoague and Rich Walton are real forward thinkers and we work together extremely well.
I write and my son Reed produces video clips that we stream on BOWTUBE. I use my credentials as the Bowhunting Biologist to teach bowhunters how to be more effective by using solid whitetail research and sometimes a well performing product. I think I’m correct in saying that we’ve all seen “bubba shoot enough deer and give us the thumbs up”. My strategy is to make the viewers better more effective hunters. I don’t aspire to be their hero, I aspire to be their teacher and vicarious hunting buddy mentor.
In the last 30 months my clips have had more than 19-million authentic views. This makes me the most viewed hunting personality in the world on the web. It was an example of being in the right place at the right time and meeting an authentic need. This following also allows me to bring credibility and authenticity to a manufacturer’s product. The fact that we have real numbers to track is unlike magazines and TV, which also makes a manufacturer comfortable. the other fact is that I actually do believe in the products I represent and my sincerity comes across in the clips.
This bear later made a huge impression on the ‘shack’ Wade and Guide and a few hundred pounds of bloody Moose meat were trying to stay safe in.
FA: I’ve sat and listened to some of your stories, bear hunts in Alaska, hunts in Africa, mesmerized. You have riveting stories to tell and tell them so well. Out of all, which event scared you the most? I remember you telling about the Grizzly filming misadventure on the Alaska Peninsula with the 12′ by 8′ trapper shack with a plastic tarp covering one side where the griz came through the night before, you and the guide inside with 100 lbs of bloody moose meat would rank high, but is that the one?
All that stood between Wade, Guide and a very hungry Griz.
WN: That definitely makes the top 5 list but maybe it was the time on a kayak expedition north of the arctic circle in Alaska’s Brooks Range on day one of a 20 day float when a bear came into our camp at midnight and started tearing up our tents would take the cake. I shot that bear with a .41calibre handgun at 8 steps in the arctic twilight as it moved on me…that was no fun. I had to rinse out the Fruit of the Looms after that one.
Sometimes you just get too close and this elephant took offense and charged.
FA: What is the single most satisfying outdoor adventure in your life?
WN: I love true wilderness. In North America you can find that north of the Arctic Circle. I have conducted kayak expeditions down over 2000 miles of remote and lonely Arctic rivers. That really turns me toward soul reflection and delivers a recharged battery for me. As strange as it may sound I like the idea that you may die. You have to do it all right. Life without a life line makes you focus.
Daughter Bess with her crossbow taken wild hog.
FA:What is your most exciting bowhunting memory?
WN: My kids shooting their first deer.
Wade with son Cory on a javelina hunt.
FA: The Treestand has been credited as the single most important reason for increased deer harvest but it is also inherently the most dangerous tool in the sport. You work with the TMA & NBEF and are a Master Treestand Safety Instructor. What is your roll and if you had to pick one product or tool, what do you think is the most vital to keep hunters safe?
Wade and crew filming a treestand safety lesson for the NBEF.
I’m the project leader for the NBEF’s Safe Treestand Hunting DVD project. We’ve distributed over 6 million copies to hunters across Canada and the US. In 1999 I began to work on this project and I believe that it may be one of the most significant projects that I’ve steered in my career. I’m sure there are more treestand related injuries and deaths than result from the misuse of hunting firearms. Right now our biggest problem is that hunters still fail to wear a Full body Harness and use it correctly. Our education of hunters via the NBEF DVD has made significant headway toward that end. One product that I currently work with is a harness called a Rescue One which uniquely can lower you to the ground if you fall from the treestand platform.
orking with other instructors, Wade teaches the Treestand Safety Certification course.
FA:I know this may be a silly question but what does Wade Nolan do to relax? Most readers are thinking, Relax? Geeze, the guy is already living the dream we all do to relax. But for you most of what you do in the outdoors is work.
WN: Actually I’m blessed beyond belief. Not only do I get to do what I love but I also enjoy it so much that bowhunting is relaxing. A few things that I have not turned into a job is my passion for the Arctic and for Africa. One thing that I have recently developed is a totally unique Adventure safari to South Africa where a small group of people accompany me to Africa to do things most people only dream of or watch on TV. I used my experience over there and my connections as a biologist to arrange an unparalleled adventure safari. It includes no hunting and is perfect for husband and wife or parent and teens. I also book hunts for Dries Visser (bowhunting) Safaris and have worked with Dries for 8 years. He definitely runs Africa’s best bowhunts.
Africa and Wade with nice Gemsbuck.
My Adventure Safari includes an opportunity to work on a wildlife capture team and help wildlife vets and me capture rhino, cape buffalo or antelope by using dart guns helicopters and capture trucks, just like Wild Kingdom. We also work with a lion breeding program, visit some really cool villages and towns, Work with wildlife rehab biologists and then we travel to Kruger Park and sleep in nylon tents (behind a fence) and hear lions roaring from your sleeping bag. I take the safariers to my favorite filming spots for lions, cheetahs, leopards elephant, cape buffalo and to water holes to watch the predators at work. I put this custom safari together after spending 16 years working in Africa and having people come up to me and say, “If you ever need someone to carry your camera …here is my number.” I decided that I could pull this off if I teamed with a great African tour guide and asked him to follow my itinerary. Now we are doing it. 13 days in Africa doing stuff you can only imagine. I put it together for about the cost of a decent 5 day whitetail hunt. I call it Dark Continent Explorer.
Wife Hazel in Alaska.
FA: With you being so outdoor oriented, tell us a little about your family. Do they share your enthusiasm for the outdoors and if so, who and how do they share it?
WN: I have a great and supportive wife of 35 years. She has kayaked the Arctic with me and traveled the world with me. She home schooled our kids. I have a daughter and two sons. My daughter Bess is a dream kid and just finished training in Texas at a Christian college for media. My youngest son, Cory is an absolutely incredible hunter and is currently in a wind turbine program. My oldest son Reed works with me as a cameraman and producer, editor. My kids are each amazing.
Wade with son Reed and a curious steed.
FA: What more do you think we, as an industry, can do to encourage archery/ bowhunting as a family sport?
Get behind Roy Grimes’ Archery in the Schools Program. It is the most significant program to hit our sport… ever.
FA: How do you see yourself 10 years from now?
WN: I’m seeing myself transitioning into a men’s ministry leader with some new material we are now creating that is totally unparalleled and unique. I also have a book coming out soon that contains some of my favorite “Life and Death” adventure stories.
Wade and good friend Brent Henderson.
FA: Where do you see the sport of bowhunting 10 years from now?
WN: Bowhunting survives and grows.
FA: We always tend to look back at where we came from, and try to look ahead as to where we are going. Looking back, is there anything you are sorry you didn’t do? Anything you are sorry you did do?
WN: If I had it to do all over again I wouldn’t change a thing.
FA: What do you think is the most valuable thing you have brought to our sport?
WN: My work on the Safe Treestand Hunting DVD has affected a lot of hunters for good and I’m thankful for that opportunity.
FA: What would you like for people who know you to remember you for?
WN: What a question! Although I am passionate about bowhunting I’d rather be remembered as a guy who took the unusual package God gave him and used it to direct other men toward Christ.
The student, Wade checks out this rub.
FA: You have played an important part in the sport of archery so what advice would you give to today’s archer?
WN: Like so many things of value bowhunting is not a sport where you have to be wealthy or well known to enjoy it. Once you own a bow you can participate for almost free. The most significant thing you can do is mentor some kid into a love of the woods and the hunt. It’s not about the biggest buck, it’s about the best memories.
You can contact Wade at wadenolan.com