Afield With 'The Mailman'
September 28, 2010
Karl Malone earned his nickname delivering during a stellar NBA career. But these days you're more likely to find him out in the Louisiana woodlands! (December 2009)
"The Mailman" with a display of trophy bucks he delivered to the wall of his home in Ruston, La.
Photo by Glynn Harris.
A prized Tennessee mountain cur named Boss was giving his owner undivided attention, responding to each command with immediacy and precision.
"The thing I love about Boss is that no matter where we are in the woods and what's going on, he responds to me," explained the owner, retired National Basketball Association legend Karl Malone. "We have a special bond."
The setting for Boss' performance was Malone's spacious back yard in Ruston, where he has lived since retiring from pro basketball.
As much as I was a Karl Malone fan during his round-ball playing days, my interest is in another part of this man. He is a very serious student of hunting, fishing and the outdoors, not just since his retirement, but his entire life.
"It started early for me," Malone noted. "We had to make do with what we had and if I wanted to go fishing, I'd cut a green cane pole and when it dried, tied on some line and a hook and sneak off to a neighborhood pond or Corney Creek.
"A little later, my brother, Terry, and I became interested in hunting squirrels, but there was no gun in the house. My mom took us down to Palmer's store and put a little .410 single barrel on lay-away for us. That's what we started with and I killed my first squirrel when I was 9 years old. I ran out of the woods with my squirrel as fast as I could to show it to my mom."
Malone, who grew up without a father in the home, credits his mother for providing the means and motivation for him and Terry to get to enjoy hunting and fishing.
"She knew how important getting involved with the outdoors was in raising youngsters out in the country and she saw to it that we had the chance to start enjoying these experiences at an early age. When I was 14, I moved up to a 12-gauge Winchester pump, a gun that I still have," Malone recalled.
"After I started playing professional basketball, the idea around was that hunting wasn't 'politically correct,' wasn't cool. You tell that to a kid who grew up in Summerfield, Louisiana! My attitude was and still is: I'm going to hunt. It's a passion I grew up with, one that never left me."
Karl Malone literally can hunt anywhere in the world he wants to. Yet, hunting squirrels with his dogs is the one sport that emerges as his favorite and it, undoubtedly, is a throwback to his years growing up in Summerfield.
"I have hunted lots of places and taken my share of big game, and I love it all," Malone said. "However, my overall favorite hunting sport is to take my three dogs, Boss, Newt and Missy to my property near Farmerville and squirrel hunt.
"My four kids are getting into squirrel hunting with the dogs," he added. "It's something we look forward to every fall and winter. Although my business schedule keeps me busy, we get out to the woods every chance we get."
A gaze around Malone's trophy room at his home validates his passion for hunting. As many as half a hundred mounts grace the walls and floor of the room. Many are full-body mounts, including bear, mountain lion, antelope, bobcat, fox, raccoon, mountain goat, bighorn sheep and caribou. Shoulder mounts of dozens of other species gaze down from the walls.
As passionate as Malone is about hunting, he has to pick and choose those times when he can head for the Alaskan wilderness, Canadian Rockies, the desert southwest, or the squirrel woods in north Louisiana. His business enterprises and his affiliation with numerous outdoor-oriented organizations demand much of his time.
"I have a 34-acre piece of property on the outskirts of Ruston that I'm developing as a commercial site," Malone pointed out, "However, my country boy roots are there because on the back of the property, I'm building a pond with a jogging path around it and big playground near it. I'm going to stock the pond with fish for kids to enjoy."
Malone has a passion for introducing youngsters and those with special needs to the outdoors.
"I'm involved with the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife organization where we concentrate on and recognize heroes, which includes military personnel who have been wounded. We offer these special people their hunt of a lifetime and it doesn't cost them a cent.
"I have a dream to become involved in taking handicapped kids hunting. I'd love nothing more than to sit in a blind with a special youngster and serve as guide.
"So many folks today head for the woods with one goal in mind -- to kill a big buck. I'm seen kids get real excited at the chance to take a doe. We get so caught up in the 'killing' part of hunting that we forget things that are more essential. I think it's important to teach hunting etiquette and ethics and safety every time you have the chance," Malone emphasized.
"You can learn so much not only about wildlife but about the land when you spend time outdoors. I get a kick out of experimenting with food plots, what to plant, when to plant, how to prepare the ground to make it produce what it's capable of to benefit wildlife," he added.
Malone also has plans for a 1,400-acre tract he owns in Union Parish. He has a game breeder license, which allowed him to acquire breeder bucks from established bloodlines, with the goal of raising topnotch deer.
"I'll be capable of raising bucks in the 200-inch class in a few years," Malone explained. "I want to set up my property in such a way as to provide day hunts with the chance for hunters to bag a real trophy."
His plan took a hit awhile back when a poacher shot one of his big breeder bucks. But Malone even turned that into a bit of a positive situation.
"It was a kid who killed one of my deer and was later caught," he described. "When they got ready for sentencing, I spoke up against him going to jail. I asked the District Attorney to give me the boy for 1,000 hours: 500 this coming summer and 500 the next. I have 10 to 15 miles of trails and lanes that have to be cleared and cut, and I wanted him to do it. It would do me no good for him to go to jail and maybe come out more hardened than before.
"I think the boy needed help. Afte
r next summer, if he works the 1,000 hours like I want him to, I'll put him on one of my stands and let him shoot a nice buck. Hopefully, he'll learn something from the experience that he'll be able to pass on to another youngster one day," Malone concluded.
During his playing days, Karl Malone earned his nickname of "The Mailman," because he delivered. The Mailman is still delivering today, only now it is not on the hardwood, but out in the hardwoods.