Straight Talk Interview: Tink Nathan

TINK NATHAN

FA: First of all, is Tink your given name?
TN: Aubrey P Nathan Jr. But I have been “Tink” since four months of age. I pay my income taxes in the name of “Tink Nathan”

FA: Where were you born and raised?
TN: Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) Ft. Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas raised in Texas. Lived in Florida, Texas, Germany, Paris France, South Africa and in Arlington Virginia.

FA: Describe your life growing up. Was your family interested in archery, hunting?
TN: I started hunting birds in Germany before first grade. My Red Ryder Daisy BB gun provided birds (meat) for my little German buddies. My father never bowhunted but was a gun nut, Infantry Officer & Army Sniper and avid hunter, so was my Mom. Mom & Dad killed 4 Whitetail bucks on their honeymoon in Texas. I started bowhunting Whitetailed deer in Virginia with a York 35# Longbow with Ben Pearson barbed skeleton #788, and MA-3, 3 Blade broadheads.

Tink and Groundhog: Photo used in Bowhunter Magazines popular ASK TINK column.

FA: Who first taught you to hunt?
TN: Mom & Dad taught me. Dad was in WWII when I arrived in Germany in 1946. I had already learned how to shoot BB guns. I remember always shooting guns, I guess.

FA: What was your first job?
TN: I had a worm ranch and raised and sold worms for fishing bait. Then, I started selling Spudnuts (potato based donuts) door to door in Arlington, VA. Then I worked in the archery dept Sports Center of the major sporting goods store in Washington, DC when I was 15. I sold Bear bows and made custom PO Cedar Four Fletched arrows for them. Then I started an archery business and sold Howatt Bows from Yakima, Washington from my parent’s home which eventually became Safariland Archery then Safariland Hunting Corporation. In High School, in Paris France I worked at a NATO NCO Club as a bingo runner and was a 2nd cook in the NATO General Officer’s Mess. I have always worked my butt off to pay for my bows and archery equipment.

Len Cardinale Jim Dougherty, Tink & Jeff Nathan at a Tink’s dealer Bucks n Bows in Belllville, NJ

FA: What schools did you attend?
TN: University of Virginia, George Washington University, University of Maryland, American Society of Association Executive where I earned a Mini MBA in Association Management. Also earned a diploma from a College in Cape Town, South Africa in African Game Ranch Management.

Receiving a Mini MBA in Association Management from ASAE President in 1975.

FA: You had a special “Ask Tink” column in Bowhunter Magazine. How did that come about?
TN: I suggested it to M.R. James, Bowhunter Magazine owner & editor – He felt I knew the most about archery and bowhunting of all the Founders of Bowhunter Magazine, like Schleiser, James, Clark etc. “ASK TINK” was the most popular and first read column in Bowhunter Magazine. In mid 1985 it was changed to “Ask Bowhunter” and it dropped to 6th place in first read, best liked section. I had a fan base and strong following in the archery world before Bowhunter Magazine and before Tink’s Lures & Scents. I was the European editor of Eastern Bowhunter Magazine since 1958 and for Archery Magazine since 1959. I wrote bow test reports for Bow & Arrow Magazine since the Mid 1960s when I first bowhunted Africa.

Tink hosted the Ask Tink Column.

FA: When and how did this concept of using deer urine as a lure come to you?
TN: I was the very first to market a urine or sexual deer urine. Frank, I was the first! Period. Indian Buck Lure, Brackens Buck and Bill Brust sold Old Indian Trappers formulas that were made with Beaver Castors, Fish oils, Oil of Anises, Fox Urine and secret stuff like Newt feet, Frog’s Blood and Mink tongues-etc. The most popular was apple scent which lured in both doe and bucks as a food source. They were nothing more than curiosity lures, a scent or lure trappers would use to lure a fox or coon or stop at a trap set. I started collecting deer urine for my own use when my son Jeffrey Wayne Nathan was about 5.

A Pennsylvania trapper’s supply house called Robbins’ Scent, run by George Robbins commenced a Federal Patent Infringement Lawsuit against me to try and claim my trademark ‘Doe in Rut’ in US Federal District Court in Washington DC. Robbins lost the lawsuit. Tink’s & Safariland Hunting Corp – prevailed. Robbins was unable to substantiate to the Federal Court any prior name usage to my trademark Application in 1975 for “#69 Doe in Rut” they lost and had to stop using the name ‘Doe in Rut’ by court order. They never could produce any proof like magazine ads anytime prior to my ads in Bowhunter Magazine. The more a trademark is challenged in court, the stronger the legality of the mark it becomes. I am the sole owner of the two Tink’s trademarks.

The lure that changed the face of hunting.

FA: You are probably one of the best pure marketers I’ve ever met, taking a relatively unknown idea of deer lures to the indispensable heights it is now. But one thing I have always wondered about, where did the Tink’s # 69 Logo/name come from?
TN: Well Frank – The doe doesn’t ‘rut’ as we all know, only bucks rut right? It was a unique saying, So…. I trademarked it. The words ‘doe in heat’ is generic and therefore could not be patented or trademarked. The Number 69 was a subtle tongue in cheek, as bucks often sniff and lick a doe’s reproductive tract prior to breeding. Thus magic ‘Number Sixty-Nine’ helped me secure my US Patent Office Trademark down tight as a coffin nail.

Tink, Bo Jackson & Jacky Bushman at First Buckmaster's Hunt in Selma Alabama.

FA: When you were running Tink’s what was your biggest challenge?
TN: Trying to convince hunters and retailers that Buck Lure would actually attract bucks. There has been so many ‘Old Indian secrets’ and ‘Old trappers secret’ lures that were ineffective that back in the 1970s, most people had tried products that did not sell and worse yet; did not work. It was tough. Second, was designing magazine ads that show a scent, which is, of course invisible.

Tink with his first Kudu bull – 1978.

FA: What other ventures besides Tink’s have you been in?
TN: I started, operated and managed a chain of IT Tech Recruiting firms worldwide with offices in Washington DC., Houston and Dallas, Texas. My overseas offices were in London UK, Tehran, Iran, Worms, Germany and Pretoria, Republic Of South Africa. The profits from my firm Cybermetrics Corporation funded the capital for the growth of Safariland and Tink’s products.

In Africa, I was the very first American Citizen granted a South African gov’t Professional Hunters License. I became a Professional Hunter/PH- (Guide) and Hunting Outfitter. It’s like a Jewish guy becoming Roman Catholic Pope in Rome!

The first American to become a PH in South Africa, Tink guides Dr Duggy Ward from Reston, VA with a good bow trophy.

I created and operated the Tink Nathan’s Bowhunting Institute in South Africa in 1992 until I left RSA in 1999. This was Africa’s first full time Bowhunting College & Training Academy. In 1971 I helped M.R. James start BOWHUNTER Magazine. I was on the magazine masthead from issue # 2 in 1971 until 1985. Back in 1966 I Started International Safari Advisers, a firm that booked safaris and bowhunts worldwide. I ran that until I went to live in RSA in 1991.

FA: I remember my friend Jim Wynne modeled ‘Tink Jeans’ for your magazine once and you also had a line of T-Shirts… expand on that…
TN: Yes Sir – back in the early 80’s, I introduced a line of brown WWII Camo Hunting clothing, pants, shirts, caps and rain gear. The WWII pattern in brown is still one of the best, most effective universal camo colors and patterns available. I made and sold the first real camo jeans that didn’t fit like a pup tent. I also manufactured Tink’s Brown Camo Rain Suit of woven nylon that folded up to about the size of a softball. I started selling Tink’s Kamo Raingear in the late 1970’s and still use and wear the jacket & pants today. It boosted the name and trademark “Tink’s” in the hunting industry and made it synonymous with product excellence. I wore Tink’s cut-off Camo Jeans in Tanzania, East Africa in 1986 when I filmed my epic Elephant and Buffalo Bowhunt. Heck, I still wear them, they still fit me and they don’t have any holes in them. I had ‘10 X’ make them for me in Texas with 100% USA Cotton.

Fred Bear, Jeff Nathan & Tink at one of Fred Bears many visits to the Nathan home in McLean VA. Tink was the first Field Director or the Fred Bear Sports Club.

FA: I remember the HUGE Tink’s billboard in Atlanta for the SHOT SHOW around 1981. That caused ALOT of attention… tell us about that.
TN: Well I still have the picture of it. It was a way of getting major sporting good’s buyer’s attention as they walked past the giant double billboard into the SHOT SHOW and boy….it worked.

Tink’s Sign at Atlanta Show show.

FA: You built up a juggernaut of a company. You were doing videos, hunting world-wide and selling a tremendous amount of product. Tink’s was everywhere and then, it was gone. What happened?
TN: Long story. Tink’s has grown slowly year by year. Wellington Leisure Products, of Madison GA, the world’s largest rope maker, purchased the company and ran it down through poor management, unskilled low paid staff, and non-hunters calling the shots. Wellington was a manufacturer and didn’t know how to market. They said, “Advertising didn’t work”. etc etc. Tink’s cut back advertising and growth was slow. About 2003 Wellington was forced into receivership and Tink’s manufacturing business was sold to the current owners. I retained all ownership of the two Tink’s trademarks and receive royalties on the sales of all Tink’s Products.

Tink with Number One ( Bow) Roland Ward cape/red Hartebeest May 1999 in South Africa. Tink holds the Number One Lichtenstein’s hartebeest (bow) and the Number One cape/red Hartebeest (bow).

FA: After living in Africa you came back to the US, moved to Texas and remain the figure behind the Tink’s Brand. You are one of the most recognizable people in the industry so what is your role with the company you founded and what else are you doing to occupy your time?
TN: I design new products, invent things, write, hunt, teach archery and bowhunting. I also speak at events and try to tell Tink’s staff how to do it the right way. I also review print media and assure QC is there in all steps of the products manufacturing process and sales. I was recently named Archery Coach for Schriener University in Kerrville, Texas. I plan on building an archery team to compete nationwide at the college level.

In Quebec, Canada with black bear taken over Tink's Smoking Sticks.

FA: I know you went through a painful divorce years ago. What are your two children doing now?
TN: Jeffrey Wayne Nathan is an IT Network Executive for EPA with headquarters in Raleigh-Durham Apex, NC. My daughter Mrs. Jacqui Diana Nathan-Lotts is a mother and a chef. Between them they have five college degrees and own four homes. Both are happily married and good parents to super grandchildren. My lovely ex-wife Pati Lee Nathan is retired. She lives close to her daughter and we are good close friends.

6 year old Jeff Nathan with Wild turkey shot flying Thanksgiving Day.

FA: You’ve hunted all over the world. Tell us about your most exciting bowhunt.
TN: My Tanzanian elephant safari was definitely the most exciting. We came under machine gun fire from five well armed native ivory poachers. We, our trackers and the gov’t game wardens tracked, caught, shot and killed them.

Tink with the 5th Elephant taken with bow July 1966 Mozambique one of two African Elephants taken on that Safari.

FA: Of all the game you’ve taken with a bow, which animal do you consider your best trophy?
TN: My second African Bull Elephant that I shot on camera in the Selous Nature Reserve Tanzania in the late 1980s.

Tink with bull number 2.

FA: You’ve been in the industry for decades, who are those bowhunters you admire the most?
TN: The ones I knew in person: Fred Bear, Howard Hill, Bob Swinehart, Bill Wadsworth, and Ben Rogers Lee.

Tink with DR Dean and writer Peter Capstick Hathway at Peter's home shortly before Capstick died Pretoria South Africa 1997.

FA: Who are some celebrities you have known and/or hunted with and out of all, who is your favorite?
TN: Major General Joe Engle – Astronaut, Dale Earnhart #33, Bo Jackson, Peter Capstick, Ted Nugent, Col Robert K Brown – Soldier of Fortune Magazine, Johnny Lee, Doug Walker, just to name a few.

Tink and racing legend Dale Earnhardt.

FA: You helped create a market and an international company, what do you consider your biggest achievement?
TN: I, along with Bill Wadsworth, Dr Wayne Trimm & 3 other bowhunters, created and developed the NBEP which became the International Bowhunter Education Program. I served two terms on the first Board of Directors of the IBEF Foundation and wrote major portions of the first bowhunters handbook. I also taught the first IBEP Instructors Workshop in Jay, Vermont in July 1975. Also I certified 31 State Instructors which got the NBEP rolling.

Tink with one arrow World Record Cape Buffalo in Selous, Tanzania 1988.


FA: On the flip side, what would you consider your biggest regret?

TN: Wished I had hunted more when I was younger.

1979 African Safari Bowhunting Brochure.

FA: Tell me about the program Operation Bows and Heroes for wounded soldiers you are involved with.
TN: Operation Bows and Heroes was created to take wounded soldiers and marines to my ranch outside San Antonio for a retreat weekend where we teach them archery and bowhunting. We feed them T Bone Steaks; corn on the cob and Blue Bell Ice Cream. Each soldier gets a whole apple or pecan pie for desert at every meal. When they return to BAMC (Hospital) we give each soldier and his wife a compound bow, carbon arrows, releases and hard bow cases, the works so they will have a new hobby as they heal. I fund it myself with help from the archery public with donations of good used bows. The numbers of wounded clients we take is limited by the number of used bows we get each year. Easton donates Carbon Axis Arrows, Tru Glo donates bow sights, arrow rests, bow quivers etc. Neet Archery donates quivers, and Tink’s donates Tink’s hunting products.

Unnamed wounded warrior shooting a bow at Military Burn victims retreat hosted by the Moonlight Foundation. Operation Bows and Heroes supplied Archery equipment, crossbows, targets & Instructors for the 3 day event. (l to r) Dustin English, Schriener, University Archery Team Vice President, Celia Belt, Moonlight Foundation, Tink Nathan, Founder, Donna Christians, Ladies Archery Instructor and SGT Wess Brown, US Army & Director, Operation Bows and Heroes & Bronze Star, CIB and Purple Heart recipient.
Tink giving his time, energy, knowledge and funding through his Operation Bows and Heroes program to help our wounded heroes.

FA: You have lived archery/bowhunting most of your life Tink, what advice would you give to the industry for the future?
TN: The archery industry needs to work on getting more young people into archery and bowhunting. We also need to work harder on bowhunting ethics and lack thereof, which appears to drop lower and lower with each new TV Hunting Show staffed with so many unskilled- untrained TV bowshooters and wannabes. I think it is hurting the image of bowhunting that I was raised with. Bowhunters need to clean up outdoor TV.

Tink receiving SCI African Game Bowhunting Awards from SCI President Jim Hebert.

FA: What’s been your motto or the quote that best sums up how you live your life?
TN: That guy ‘Tink’, he really knows how to live life! I have been hearing that from people all my life, stick to your guns, never, never ever give up.

FA: In conclusion, what does the future hold for Tink Nathan?
TN: More fun, more teaching and more sharing, more public service and charity work, more adventures, more hunts, more family time and like all soldiers and cowboys eventually die with my boots on and a bow in my hand. I have been to 55 countries and I want to see 55 more, along with a slew of dead critters.

3 Year old archer with her first bow. Tink knows our future is with our children.
 

5 Responses to "Straight Talk Interview: Tink Nathan"

  1. Tracy E Smith   2011/09/20 at 3:08 pm

    Excellent article. I learned alot more about Tink. I met Frank Addington in Austin at the Southern Natl. Archery and have known Tink for many years.

  2. Tink Nathan   2011/09/28 at 10:33 am

    Tracy Thanks to what you and your hubby have done for Archery & Bowhunting in Texas

    Happy trails TINK

  3. Allison Yeager   2012/07/15 at 10:47 pm

    Love the picture with Bo Jackson and Jackie Bushman!

  4. Niel Smit   2013/07/15 at 6:09 am

    Hi Tink,
    Brings back good memories from the Bowhunting coarse you presented in Vivo, South Africa..

  5. geri croft   2014/02/26 at 11:12 pm

    Hi Tink, I really enjoyed this article. you are very accomplished. i am honored to have met you and be your friend.