After his impala kill became a lion’s appetizer, Dave Watson nearly served himself up as the main course.
This solo hunt occurred in Botswana years ago, after he set down his guitar to make music with a bow. Watson was among the innovators in outdoor TV with his “Secrets of the Hunt,” wearing all the hats; host, writer, director and producer.
The show was one of the most successful in TNN’s history, and Watson’s straight arrow flight has led him to produce seven more shows, including “Mathews TV with Dave Watson.” He’s teaming up with another Outdoor Channel icon, Ted Nugent for show No. 8, acting as co-producer for “Spirit of the Wild.” For story, click here.
Click image for Dave Watson/Ted Nugent photos
As one of the “Top 25 Movers and Shakers” in the archery industry, Watson remains extremely busy but is enjoying life as he works out of his home state of Arizona. He had a great career in country music, performing with The Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Greenwood and Shenandoah, gathering seven Gold Records along the way before the needle raked across the vinyl.
“I love the Oaks, I love playing music, but every day was the same. Same Bus. Same stage. Same song list. Same people on the first 3 rows” he said. “It’s like the movie ‘Groundhog Day.’ ”
It was his 87-minute video, “A Year in the Life of a Bowhunter,” that sold well and drew the notice of TNN. The outdoor network asked Watson to host a show in the coveted 7 p.m. Sunday time slot, where he’s been for the past 16 years. His peers back then were few, Jackie Bushman, Babe Winkelman and Bill Jordan, but he’s seen the industry mushroom.
“Now the machine’s up and running,” he said. “I bet there’s over 800 shows.”
With success and needing only “FedEx and electricity” to work, Watson moved his production back to Cave Creek, just outside of Phoenix. Somewhat the perfectionist, he spends 60 hours doing post work on each show. Music still plays a major role in his life as he creates soundtracks for his shows and will perform at banquets for outdoors institutions. His other passion, hunting, keeps him on the road chasing whitetail, bear and big game in Africa.
Contacted during a rare week when he had down time, Watson was interrupted during the interview. He had to answer a question about his pool contractor, who he said had gone a touch overboard in his desertous backyard when Watson was out of town.
“He built a water park,” Watson said. “It’s got a lazy river, a 23-foot cliff you can dive off, four waterfalls and a big giant slide where you go through a mountain, around and around, into the pool.
“It’s a health requirement to have a swimming pool here, otherwise you die.”
Watson had the rest of the week to enjoy it; he’s recovering from a minor procedure to repair a hernia he suffered hanging a tree stand, then it’s off to Quebec for bear. In July, he returns to Africa for Cape buffalo and possibly some dangerous game. Watson is simply reloading for Mathews TV after a dream season.
“We took big deer in Wisconsin, in Indiana, Illinois. It’s just going to be a fabulous season for Mathews TV because I had such a great hunting season,” he said. “Celebrity hunters are the same as everybody else. Sometimes we have dry years. I can go on eight hunts and never nock an arrow. That’s just how it is.
“Mathews TV is going to have a great third and fourth quarter because I had one of those magical years where I just shot some really big deer.”
While whitetail is and will always be his favorite species to hunt, he said the draw to Africa is that a hunter never knows what the next animal might be. Although there are dangers. He’s been charged by elephants three times, and while he carries a sidearm most of the time, “If an elephant is mad at you, it’s not going to do any good.”
As for almost being eaten by a lion, Watson relates that outfitters in Botswana require hunters to provide most of the meat to the local village. On this trip, he was asked to meet the local king -- just another dude in a polo shirt -- who asked if he would bring in a female impala.
“So, I shoot this impala ewe,” he said. “I’d doing all this camera work in the blind by myself, all the cutaways, the fakey stuff you have to do. ‘Here he comes.’ And ‘draw back the bow,’ and ‘I got ‘em.’
“Up until lately, with all the GoPros, we didn’t have double cameras rolling. It was just one camera and everything was re-enacted. It also gives the animal time to expire. I knew I heart shot this impala and it wouldn’t be far.”
But when he finished all the shots of himself and went to recover the impala, it was gone. There was a stand of thorn bushes 20 yards away where he found the remnants.
“All that was left of that impala was the ribs, the head and the hindquarters,” Watson said. “It had been completely eaten and the bones stripped clean.
“Like an idiot, I got in there and I got the camera on me. And I’m crouched way down low, and I looked small. And I’m holding what’s left of this impala and I’m doing my big shot routine. ‘That’s what happens in Africa. There’s warthogs and leopards. Something just got to my impala before I could.’ "
Watson said the hindquarters were still good, and feeling obligated to the king, he threw them over one shoulder and his camera over the other and trudged back to camp totally unaware of the dangerous position he had been in.
“The PH, the professional hunter, looked at it and said, ‘Oh my gosh! What happened?’ I told him the story and he said, ‘That’s not a leopard. Look at these fang marks. They’re six inches apart. This was a lion. This was a big lion. You stood over a lion kill and you never saw the lion?’ ”
Only then did Watson realize his move, taking time to film himself, was not wise. Not many hunters have actually served up a meal to a lion, took it back and lived to tell about it.
“The funniest thing was the story got around the village,” he said. “I’d be walking around and these little native kids would look at me and they were scared to death of me, because by the time the story got around I had fought the lion.”
Yet he said the only time he was “really, really scared” was when was set up in a grass hut blind near a Botswana water hole. He didn’t know he’d be hunting on the trip and didn’t have a sidearm.
“I had two lionesses circling, getting closer and closer. They got within 5 feet of the blind, which was basically an inch of grass. I was a little worried then,” he said. “I think what saved me was the lions were smelling me and they knew I wasn’t an impala. They knew there was something in there because I was moving trying to scare them.
“I was making noise. I was doing anything I could. With lions and bears, they are kind of the same, you don’t take their food. You don’t want to seem like you’re a threat to them.”
Hunting is ingrained in Watson, and he rolls to his own tune, one that has taken him to the top of the industry. Even though there’s been some harrowing moments, hunting makes him feel alive.
“Sometimes it’s a little scary doing the recovery by yourself out in the dark and there’s a dead bear – at least you’re hoping it’s a dead bear and you’re walking up on him,” he said. “But I love that stuff. That’s part of the adrenaline rush that’s hunting.
“Everybody always said I was born 150 years too late because I love do that mountain man stuff. I love doing it myself. There’s nothing more gratifying for me than making a great shot with a bow and having great footage of it.”
For "Mathews TV With Dave Watson" show page, click here.
For "Ted Nugent Spirit of the Wild" show page, click here.