Straight Talk Interview – Bob Robb

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Study, learn, embrace the environment, hunt hard, never give up and then pass on the experiences through the media. Its the basics of life for Bob Robb, one of today’s truly great outdoor writers.

 

FA:  Where and when were you born?

BR: I was born in Moorpark, in southern California, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles. Back then it was a tiny farm town, but today it’s a yuppie commuter town.


Bob got his love of the outdoors from his Dad and Grandfather. Here grandpa Robb helps 3 year old Bob reel in a trout at Tom’s Place in California’s Easter Sierras.

FA: What was your family life like growing up?

BR: My dad was a fireman and mom stayed home to raise my brother and me. We were a lower middle class family but never knew we didn’t have much. Dad was dedicated to the job and mom supported that. When he retired early at age 50 due to a heart attack, dad was deputy chief for the Ventura County fire department.


At age 7 outside Bob’s grandparents home in Moorpark, CA.

FA: What was your main interest growing up? Sports, music, education?

BR: As a kid I liked two things mainly – reading, thanks to mom; and sports. Both my parents were great athletes. My dad was a tremendous high school athlete (graduating class: 11) drafted by the NY Yankees, but instead of going that route he joined the navy and served during WW II. Mom was a big time softball player and, later, league bowler. Both my parents got me hooked on ball playing, and I loved it.

FA: At what age did you discover you had a love for the outdoors?

BR: I remember when I was about 5 years old dad bringing home two mule deer bucks he shot locally, hanging them in the garage and taking care of them. We lived on a lot of venison and freshwater fish, trout and bass mainly. Both my dad’s dad and he were excellent fisherman, the guys all the locals talked about because they lived to fish and could catch lots of them no matter what. Some of my fondest memories as a kid were fishing with dad and grandpa, which we did pretty much every weekend.

FA: When did you first discover an interest in archery/hunting?

BR: Dad quit hunting when I was young, but I was always interested in it. I hunted rabbits as a kid, and when I was in high school bought a shiny new Remington Model 870 12 gauge and hunted rabbits, doves and quail relentlessly. The deer hunting was horrid, but I shot my first buck while in high school. When I got to college I had dad’s old .270 and started hunting deer hard.

FA: Who would you credit with helping you develop this love you have for the outdoors, shooting, etc?

BR: No question dad and grandpa Robb were the guys who got me started and kept me going.


During college Bob fished and hunted at every turn. He caught this salmon wearing his Sacramento State Letterman’s jacket in the American River. All he could afford was an old trolling motor to push the boat.


FA: I know you play golf, Rich Walton says you play together in Tucson and I know you have had some experience with baseball but other than guns and bows, are you interested in any other sports?

BR: Well, I loved all sports growing up. I was the Santa Paula high school athlete of the year my senior year (1970), all league in football, basketball, and baseball, and all-CIF (all state) in baseball. In college I played baseball and basketball and a little football, but in those days there was no big time scholarship money for us small town guys and since mom and dad couldn’t finance college for me I had to work my way through school, too. I also coached a lot of sports, everything from 16-18 year old girl’s fast-pitch softball to high school basketball and football to helping coach women’s college basketball and softball. I was also the last group of guys to get drafted into the service that had to go, but my time was cut short because of dad’s heart attack, and by the time that all got sorted out my college sports scholarship money had been reallocated to other guys so I was on my own. They were some strange times, indeed. But after college I started playing open-division fast-pitch softball, something I continued into my 30’s, along with a lot of very competitive recreational basketball.

FA: When did you start bowhunting? Who was your mentor?

BR: I shot an old recurve bow in high school, and when I got into college actually bought one of the first Bear Alaskan six-wheel compounds based on the old Hollis Allen design. Man, did that thing suck — but I still have it. I used to take it with me on our deer and squirrel hunts and tried to use it to kill small game. Never hit much but it was fun and I was always intrigued by the fact that, unlike with a rifle, you really had to be sneaky and show great patience with a bow. I never really had a mentor, I just stumbled around, made a lot of mistakes, and learned on my own.


Bob’s first elk camp, circa 1978, Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness Area, ID after a 20 mile horseback ride.

FA: Describe the first time you took an animal with a bow and the event.

BR: I was still in college and though I had never shot a big game animal with a bow I had killed a few squirrels and rabbits. But one time my old roommate and I were deer hunting up near Lake Tahoe and I had a recurve I’d borrowed from school and some old cedar arrows with Zwickey Eskimo broadheads. I shot it with an old calf’s hair tab, and miraculously managed to sneak within 20 yards of a little bitty forked horn muley buck and, somehow, he managed to run into the arrow. It was one of the coolest things I’ve done to this day in the hunting world. I do not think a venison steak has ever tasted any sweeter.

FA: You are one of the premier outdoor writers. How did you get your start and why?

BR: I was my high school yearbook editor, then when I was at Sacramento State I wrote part time for the Sacramento Bee’s sports desk. The editor there in charge of us stringers knew I spent all my free time fishing and hunting and one day asked me if I’d like to write an weekly fishing column, and I jumped at it. Later I did the same thing for the now-defunct Sacramento Union newspaper. I have a master’s degree in Parks and Recreation Administration, and after college got a job working for the Sacramento County Parks & Recreation Department but after a couple of years knew that wasn’t for me. I really liked the writing thing and applied for a job with Outdoor Empire Publishing Company in Seattle, they produced a weekly outdoor newspaper called Fishing & Hunting News in several western states (they recently closed their doors.) They hired me to do their two California editions, so I moved to Seattle and did that for a year. They were a crummy company to work for, though, so after a year I quit and moved back to Sacramento, worked construction and played a lot of ball with my friends. But I contacted Western Outdoors in southern California, who produced Western Outdoor News, a weekly outdoor paper that I’d read growing up. Their owner, Burt Twilegar, was just starting Western Outdoors magazine at the time, and he hired me as a freelancer to start a news section in that magazine called Dateline West. After about 6 months of that the newspaper editor quit, Burt hired me, and I moved to Costa Mesa, California and took the job.


Loving to fish, Bob took his first sailfish off Costa Rica while editor of Petersen’s Fishing magazine, 1986.

I was at Western Outdoors for maybe four years when I knew it was time to move on, so I let it be known I was in the job market and a few months later landed a job as a staff editor on Petersen’s Hunting magazine, working for Craig Boddington. Todd Smith, now the editor at Outdoor Life, was also on the staff. I was at Petersen’s almost 10 years, and while I was there helped them create, and was the first editor of, Petersen’s Bowhunting magazine. During that time I also did lots of freelancing, wrote some hunting books (I’ve written 10 to date and contributed chapters to several others), and did a lot of seminar speaking.

But in 1991 I’d had enough of corporate life and figured that 15 years in the trenches in the Los Angeles basin was enough for any sane man, so I left Petersen Publishing and moved what was now my full-time freelance business to Valdez, Alaska. All told I lived in Alaska for 15 years, where along with my writing and consulting businesses I also held an assistant hunting guide’s license. It was pretty cool.


Record caribou, Alaska: Taken in early Oct, this giant Alaska barren ground caribou bull green scored well over 400 P&Y points.

FA: Who would you name as having the most influence on your life in the outdoor writing field?

BR: Of course growing up I read the old Outdoor Life and Field & Streams, and Jack O’Connor, Ted Trueblood, and Warren Page were icons to me. I was also very lucky to have had some great mentors when I started out. Stan Jones was the editor at Fishing & Hunting News and he really took me under his wing and showed me the ropes (as well as how to catch river steelhead.) At Western Outdoors we had a columnist, Bill Beebe, a crusty old salt who was a tremendous newspaperman. Also there was Bob Rogers, who is still going strong today as editor of Shooting Sports Retailer, the leading trade magazine in the firearms business. These three, and some other newspapermen like them, helped teach me what it meant to be a real news reporter dedicated to getting to the bottom of any story and reporting it fairly and honestly. The newspaper business also taught me that there is never any excuse for missing a deadline. But probably the most important thing you learn as a newspaper beat reporter is that, to be successful, you not only have to have your facts straight and be able to write good, you have to be able to write good fast or you’ll miss a deadline. In the old days, miss one deadline and you were fired, no questions asked.

FA: You also are editor of a number of publications and write regular columns for many others. Will you name them?

BR: Right now I am a contract editor for Grand View Media Group and edit Whitetail Journal and Predator Xtreme magazines for them. Over the years I have also been a contract editor for the Bowmasters, which was absorbed into Bowhunting World a few years ago, and Waterfowl & Retriever, which I helped start for Grand View. Today I write regular every-issue columns for Bowhunting World, North American Hunter, Shooting Sports Retailer, Deer & Deer Hunting, Waterfowl & Retriever, Bear Hunting, and Whitetail Journal magazines, as well as on three websites — www.whitetailjournal.com, www.americanhunter.org, and my favorite, here at www.bowhunting.net. I also regularly contribute feature articles in these, and many other, national hunting magazines. On top of that, I am on the pro staffs of Gore-Tex, Nikon Sport Optics, Hoyt Archery, and Gold Tip Arrow Company.


Alaskan moose circa 1991. Bob arrowed this moose during a 30 below blizzard in Alaska’s Wrangell Mountains, end of Sept.

FA: Who are your heroes? Those you have met or admired in and out of the bowhunting industry?

BR: There are a lot of people in the archery and bowhunting industry that helped us get where we are today that many of the younger generation don’t know about. Men like Earl Hoyt, Pete Shepley, Jim Easton, Bob Barrie, Fred Troncoso, Jim Dougherty, Duke Savora, Gail Martin, Andy Simo, Tom Jennings, Matt McPherson, and so many others. These are the guys who gave us modern archery and bowhunting more because they loved it and lived it than thinking they could get rich at it.

On another level, the guys and gals I really admire are the men and women of our armed forces. They’re all there today because they volunteered and it is their love for America and deep, unending sacrifice that makes it possible for all of us to continue to enjoy the fruits of living in the greatest nation in the history of mankind. We can never repay what we owe them.

 

Moving into the home Bob built in Valdez, AK, December 1991. During his 9 year stay in Valdez the average snow fall in his driveway was 325.6″

FA: Your personal life includes the lovely Cheryl. Can you tell us a bit about how you met, where and what things are like for you two now in Tucson?

BR: I met Cheryl in Alaska in 2000. Our first date? I took her salmon fishing, where she caught the first, biggest and most. I met her at her apartment after running a line of spring bear baits I had going, and when I told her I needed to store my .375 H&H Mag. in her apartment before we went fishing and she said, “No problem,” I knew she was a keeper. She moved from Alaska to Arizona with me in 2005, and after being together 10 years we were married this past May 27. She is the best thing that ever happened to me.

FA: You do so many things Bob, you are a mate, write, edit, occasionally appear on TV shows, hunt, give seminars, promote products, attend trade shows and have hunted just about everywhere.  First question: How do you fit all this in, and second, if you could only do one, which would it be?


BR: Well, as I tell people, this working for yourself is great, the schedule is really flexible, you get to work any 12 hours a day you want! Really, the key is it is not a job, it is a lifestyle. All my adult life, from college until now, I have spent most all my free time and discretionary money in the outdoors hunting and fishing, or on the rifle or archery range shooting and learning about equipment. For example, when I lived in L.A. it wasn’t uncommon for me and a buddy or two to leave town at midnight Friday night, drive 5 hours to central California and hunt wild pigs for a half-day, then turn around and drive 5 hours home. The question was, how bad do you want to go hunting, because that’s what it took. Today I still spend somewhere between 100-130 days afield each year.

But I don’t get paid to go hunting, I get paid to produce words and magazines. Even though the home office is right across the hall from the bedroom I have to be disciplined enough to go work every day, just like everybody else. If I do not produce something an individual or company wants to buy every day, I do not get paid that day. Of all the things I do, though, the writing is what I enjoy the most.

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Bob with pronghorn buck.

FA:  Describe the strangest or funniest outdoor event in your life.

BR: I should write a book, but here’s one. Bear baiting in Alaska. Late evening. Sow and two black bear cubs come to the bait. Then a big boar comes in and terrifies them. The sow goes up a tree 10 feet to my left, one cub a tree 10 feet to my right … and the other cub comes up my tree, grabs the tree stand platform, and starts to pull itself up into my lap. Fortunately I was able to kick it off the stand before the sow saw me, or I am sure we would have been doing a Dancing with the Stars routine in my tree! As it was when she saw her cub hit the ground she bailed out of her tree, gathered up her little ones, and beat feat. Then I killed the boar. It was a wild night!

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Bow killed brown bear. Bob took this bear at 15 steps with Alaska Master Guide and former Navy SEAL Jim Boyce.

FA: What is your most exciting bowhunting memory?

BR: So many to choose from, but in 2005 I killed my 12th brown/grizzly bear; this was my third with a bow. It was in September in Alaska and the bear grabbed a salmon on a wide river and came right at me. He turned at about 10 yards and I shot him at 15 steps. He didn’t go 30 feet before dying right in the middle of the river. It was like something out of The Matrix, I can still see the fletching spinning in slow motion before burying into his ribs. The best part was my good buddy and a superb outfitter out of Sitka, Jim Boyce, who I guided with a lot and who also did two tours in Vietnam as a navy SEAL, was there. Jimmy and I have had a lot of adventures together but this capped it.

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Bob’s giant Alaskan Dall ram: taken after backpacking 12 miles on an Alaskan glacier. Longest horn measures 42″ around the curl.

FA: The most frightening hunt in your life?

BR: Well, there have been bear charges and boats sinking and near-wrecks in small aircraft and several packhorse rodeos from Hell, but the worst deal was August 10, 1994. I was on a solo backpack Dall sheep hunt in Alaska’s Talkeetna Mountains, maybe 50 miles from the road, after being dropped off by an air taxi. Hiking along some easy country a car-sized boulder came off the mountain and knocked me off a cliff. I fell maybe 150 vertical feet, breaking my left ankle in six places, snapping the fibula in half, and mangling two fingers on my left hand. I could not get back to my camp so I left everything on the mountain except my survival gear and basically crawled 10 hours down into a small valley where I knew I could make camp and wait for the pilot to come find me – he was due four days later.

This was before satellite and cell phones and GPS’s and all that, but thankfully I had a handheld radio that got aircraft frequencies. I heard a big jet I never saw way up there, so I got on the standard emergency frequency and gave a May Day call, and by jiminy they answered! It was a FedEx cargo jet heading from Anchorage to Memphis, and I got them to call the hospital in Anchorage, which dispatched a LifeGuard helicopter. I was on the operating table first thing the next morning.

I ended up having a plate screwed onto the fibula (it’s still there), my ankle screwed together, and the little finger on my left hand is still mangled. A month later I developed hammertoe on the left foot, so they had to fuse all my toes straight. After all these years I still feel the affects of that little oops every day.

FA:  You work with many products but which one do you feel is the single most important product introduced to the hunting market over the past five years?

BR: For bowhunters the development of the laser rangefinder over the last five years has been incredible. No question they help make every archer a much better shot. I cannot imagine heading afield without one.

FA:  I know this may be a silly question but what does Bob Robb do to relax? I know most readers are thinking what you do is what we all would love to do more of to relax but for you most times, it’s part of work. So, how do you relax?

BR: What’s that?

FA:  Working at home can be difficult with all the distractions. Do you have a regimen you live by to ensure the work gets done?

BR: You have to set goals and do whatever it takes to achieve them. Here’s an example. Part of my gig involves being able to be a competent bow shot. Like any athletic endeavor, that requires practice. I am a morning guy, and what I do is, four mornings a week, I head to a little spot I have in the desert at dawn and shoot 20-30 arrows from my hunting bows. It used to be more, but I actually have shot so much over the years I ended up having an elbow surgery last year. But this is the only way I can confidently shoot a hunting arrow at the long distances required to be successful on Western hunts, where sometimes we shoot critters pretty far out there. Then after the shooting I do my exercise, generally 60-90 minutes of aerobics and weight training. So, by 9:00 a.m. I have all that behind me and am at my desk and can get a 6-8 hour office day in.

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Cheryl and Bob Easter in WY, 2009 both take big Merriam gobbles. She really had the turkey hunting bug bad.

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?

BR:  Unfortunately both my parents are gone now. I have one brother, and while he fishes some he doesn’t hunt though he’s not opposed to it. His passion is surfing, and he’s traveled around the world to do that. Cheryl, on the other hand, is a different story. She loves to fish and we try and go back to Alaska once a year for that. Last year she caught a 232-lb. halibut. She also has caught the turkey hunting bug bad, and just needs an Osceola for her grand slam. I need to find a good spot to take her for that next spring. And she’s started making rumblings abut maybe wanting to try and shoot a pronghorn next fall. Now that I think abut it, maybe my guiding days are not yet behind me – and that’s a good thing!

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In South Africa in 2006 Bob did a spot and stalk and ended up arrowing this beautiful Nyala bull.

FA:  What more do you think we, as an industry, can do to encourage archery/ bowhunting more as a family sport? Where do you see the sport of bowhunting 10 years from now?

BR: The biggest challenge facing sport hunting in America going forward is the continued shrinking of places for the average, everyday working man to take his family hunting with a reasonable chance for success at low cost. That’s one reason so many are dropping out of the sport today. Also, the rising cost of nonresident hunting licenses and tags and the difficulty in drawing a good western tag anymore is forcing many people to quit travelling for hunting. The trends all show more and more bowhunters are doing their thing on private land, and that takes money. I am afraid that we may end up becoming an elitist sport because of this.

Surveys also show that, especially in single-parent households, unless there is a mentor available and willing to take a child fishing or hunting before they are 12 years of age, the odds are they will not go as an adult. We need to address this both as individuals and collectively as an industry.

FA:  How do you see yourself 10 years from now?

BR: Dude, I am on the work-until-you-die program!

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 did or didn’t do?

BR: We all have regrets in life, but fortunately for me mine have been few and far between. As we get older I think we all begin to realize that it is all about helping people, and this is what I want to do more of as time goes by, both in and out of our industry.

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This record book Mtn. goat was taken not far from Bob’s home in Valdez, Alaska on Prince William Sound. Scored at 48 4/8 P&Y.

FA:  What would you like for people who know you to remember you for?

BR: One thing I have always strived to do is be accessible to each and every person I meet. I feel very grateful and humbled when somebody comes up to me wherever and tells me they enjoyed my writing and could I give them some advice on whatever. As I remind some of my friends in our industry, never forget we are not curing cancer here, we are just shooting Bambi so let’s smile, have some fun, and remember where we came from. But as far as being remembered as a writer, bowhunter and sportsman, I’d like folks to remember me as an average guy who always worked hard at his craft, never took shortcuts, and did it the right way while doing his best to help others get the most out of their days afield.

FA:  You have played an important part in the sport of archery so what advice would you give to today’s bowhunter?

BR: Be proud of being a hunter, always. And always remember that taking the life of any animal is not a game, it is very serious business and as such, you owe it to the animal and to the sport to always hunt ethically and become as proficient with your equipment as you can be so when the times comes, you can make the shot. And to never, ever forget that America offers opportunities for hunters and shooters unlike anyplace else in the world and that these privileges, like all our freedoms, should never be taken for granted.

One Response to "Straight Talk Interview – Bob Robb"

  1. Collin Cottrell   2010/07/24 at 11:26 pm

    I always love your interviews, Frank! Thanks!