CADIZ, Ky. -- Harold Knight and David Hale looked like two teenagers showing off a bright, new shiny car. Every curve and shiny feature forced a smile and a comment.
Knight and Hale are the unequivocal elder statesmen of the hunting world. They have owned a lot of cars in their lifetime, and set in even more deer stands all over the country.
But as they motored around new parts of their deer camp, showing it off like it was a new car, it was easy to see the pair of hunters who have brought so much education and entertainment to hunters everywhere are still like the rest of us when it comes to deer season, and especially deer camp.
Click the image to see photos from Knight and Hale's property
“We’ve seen a lot of changes in deer hunting,’’ Hale said. “But what doesn’t change is how we feel about what can come out of every new season. We still get excited. We are still trying new things, working on this, tweaking that. It’s still fun.”
And in trademark fashion for a team that has virtually been married to the other for so long, Knight adds the punctuation: “I can’t wait to go hunting.”
Few hunters garner the respect and admiration these two have built over the last four decades. It started in the 1970s, when Knight was a barber and Hale a farmer. The two were some of the only hunters in Kentucky who could manage killing a wild turkey.
Knight made turkey calls out of snuff cans and pill boxes in between cutting hair. Hale slipped around the woods like a ninja. The two’s best qualities created the Knight and Hale brand.
Their genuine, down-home style has stood the test for the last 40 years as spokesmen for companies that want to make the perfect connection with the public.
During that time, Knight and Hale have seen a lot of changes.
“One of the biggest things is you have a lot more game,’’ Knight said. “You get to see and interact with deer on a regular basis.”
“Twenty years ago, you would break your neck trying to look at one in the field,’’ Hale added. “It’s a great era for a young hunter to get started.”
Although not everything is as great as it once was.
“I can remember taking my gun to school and leaving it on the school bus, because I was going to spend the night with a friend and squirrel hunt the next day,’’ Knight said. “Can you imagine what would happen if that were to happen today?”
Neither has to worry about those things these days, even though they have grandkids that have the same passion for the hunt. While the opportunity is lost for today’s kids to leave school and walk straight into the woods, there are many things that are much better.
Archery is part of the elective curriculum in Kentucky high schools, so is bass fishing. Game is abundant and hunting is safer and more organized.
Deer camps all over the country have helped with that, and in no short measure so have Knight and Hale. Yet no amount of prodding and prying could get either to take any kind of credit for at least being an usher of some of the things many of us couldn’t live without in our own deer camps.
While Knight and Hale didn’t create the original deer grunt call, it was their EZ Grunter that revealed it to most deer hunters. Like with all the calls and hunter helpers they introduced through the years, it was promoted and sold with an educational background.
“It’s not enough to say, ‘Hey this will work,’ ” Hale said. “You need to explain why, so it will be used in the right situation, so a hunter can be successful with it.”
“We always felt like the one single thing that will make anyone a better hunter is to learn as much about the game they are hunting as possible,’’ Knight said.
“If you know what a deer should be doing, what it is that is driving them at a specific time, what they are looking for or what they need, then you become a better hunter,’’ Hale said.
All the education the two imparted was borne from personal experience, seen through the eyes of two men who burned to live in the woods and were unafraid for others to be successful. They captured that in their Ultimate Hunting television show, a staple on Outdoor Channel for more than two decades.
At that time, many of the things we see today weren’t available. Trail cameras, which the pair believes has done wonders for educating hunters, weren’t even dreamed of. Deer stands were made of plywood and 2 X 4s; camouflage was anything you could pick up at the surplus store that would keep you warm.
“The first camouflaged shotgun I ever saw, David Hale was holding it,’’ Knight said. “It was an old double barrel. He had taken masking tape and wrapped it all around it, then drew the pattern in lines with a marker.”
“People laughed at it,’’ Hale said. “Until I showed up with a turkey.”
Both laugh at those type things today. They’ve seen deer calls go from a novelty to a necessity; trail cameras provide instant looks at deer herds that have grown immensely. Knight remembers his first bow was literally a stick and string. When laminated wood came out, they didn’t think it could get any better. Now the archery advancements are too numerous to mention. The amount of food plots Hale plants today (250 acres) is about half the total ground he farmed (500 acres) in the 1970s.
Everything from ATVs to metal deer stands and safety equipment to better guns and ammo has changed the landscape. Snuggled in all of those advancements are Knight and Hale products that helped pave the way to better hunting for two generations.
As for Knight and Hale, their beards are mostly grey. Hale is battling Parkinson’s disease and the duo remains in high demand, spending a good share of their time speaking to churches across the country relaying the wonders of God’s grace on their lives.
But when it’s time to go to deer camp, nothing has changed the excitement they feel. Even before the season, they are as excited to show it off as that new car.
“I hope that never changes,’’ Knight said.
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