Dave Watson carries a bow as well as a guitar and knows how to use both. As former guitarist for the Oak Ridge Boys and current icon of the outdoor TV industry (executive producer at “Mathews TV with Dave Watson”), he pulls strings on both a bow and a guitar -- an entertainer who hunts and a hunter who entertains.
“Music and hunting turned out to be the perfect yin and yang for me,” he says. “All the years of touring with Lee Greenwood, Shenandoah, and the Oak Ridge Boys involved never-ending crowds while bow hunting allowed me time for myself, time to commune with nature and enjoy the solitude.”
Well-recognized in the musical world, he has also served on the Congressional Archery Task Force and is recognized by Archery Business Magazine as one of 25 giants in the archery and bowhunting industry over the last quarter century.
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Like many who now carry a quiver, Watson started out rifle hunting until a casual conversation with a cowboy one night about bow hunting altered his path.
“I was intrigued that you could go out with bow and arrow and come home with a deer or an elk,” Watson aid. “My first take with a bow was a javelina (collared peccary) in Arizona, back in the old days of over-the-counter tags. I’ve been hooked on hunting with a bow since then. It’s a fun challenge to develop the skills necessary to get within 10-15 yards away from your prey.”
Now going into the seventh season of Mathews TV, Watson still thinks the shows are fun to pull together.“Orchestrating 26 successful bow hunts a year is a challenge, but I enjoy challenges,” he said, adding that hunting with a bow cuts success rates by about half, “if you lug both a bow and a camera, that ratio of success is diminished even more.”
Being host, writer, director and producer of outdoor programs is a more-than-full-time endeavor, and this past year he took on some overtime as co-producer of “Ted Nugent’s Spirit of the Wild.”
“I met Ted 25 years ago back in my musician days. He’s an incredibly intelligent person whose ideas are great. I’ve never produced a TV show where a star had so much input,” he said of the inductee into the National Bowhunters Hall of Fame. “Every day is a new adventure with Ted. There’s no script with him, and I think that’s why the show is so popular. Many viewers can’t believe he says what he actually says and I often can’t believe it either.”
Although the Southwest is Watson’s home, his production schedule takes him into many tree stands, blinds, and lots of time behind spotting scopes.
“The No. 1 mistake I see hunters make in whitetail hunting is when they put up a tree stand, they don’t think ahead about how they themselves will get to that stand,” he said. “As a result, they blow the deer away when they walk in. I never walk in where I expect to see a deer, and I advise other hunters to pay attention to wind direction with their tree stand. If you leave less evidence of yourself, you’ll spot more deer.”
While stands are important in some parts of the country that allow hunters to see only 30 yards, glassing time on a hilltop is a Western thing.
“Although spotting scopes still go with me in the field, two eyes are often better than one, and Nikon is making a pair of 20-power binoculars that really work for me,” he said.
In desert country, Watson said it makes sense to spend more time on your butt glassing and less time on your boots walking, hoping to get lucky and spot something. The difference between the Southwest and the rest of the country is the impact that weather has on hunting. And if you can’t spend time in the field, spend time staying on top of your game.
“Indoor shooting ranges back east are growing by leaps and bounds as a way to allow hunters to get out of the snow,” he said. “In our part of the U.S., when temperatures reach triple digits and stay there, we have air conditioned facilities where you can shoot a 45-yard target in comfort.”
The more you practice, the better you perform -- as long as you have the right equipment.
“My advice to new archers is to find a local pro shop and be custom-fitted. Buying a cheap bow over the Internet can actually be counterproductive because bad equipment often results in up-and-comers not being able to shoot well,” he said. “There’s no reason to shoot a 70-80-pound bow, its overkill. I shoot a 60-pound and Ted Nugent shoots a 45-pounder and we both blow through everything.”
Those with bows now represent a decent chunk of the multi-million dollar hunting fraternity, a changing matrix that also includes a rise in couples outings.
“It used to be that hunters used their sport to get away from the spouse, but now the ranks of lady bow hunters is growing and why not?” he said. “Why should the guys have all the fun? Besides, it’s more fun being afield with a female companion that smells nice rather than a male one that is a bit gamey.
“The time is right for more females in the field. This is the decade. It’s time for the ladies to step forward to continue and expand the great heritage of bow hunting.”
Practicing what he preaches, Watson and wife, Lori, recently joined two other couples in the rolling hill country of southern Arizona in pursuit of javelina -- a successful quest as all six hunters came back with tags filled. For those who have not been introduced, peccaries are the New World counterparts of swine, although they differ from true pigs. Collard peccary are the most common and weigh between 40 and 70 pounds.
“Although the middle of nowhere is the perfect place to be for this kind of quest, this is difficult terrain to find, and follow, javelina,” Lori Watson said. “Unless they’re moving, these desert critters are hard to spot and when they’re on the move and go vertical -- up canyon walls -- so do you.”
“I like javelina,” Dave Watson said. “I can depend on the species. They’re almost a 100 percent draw as far as archery goes and just fun to hunt them in the late spring when the weather is great. A lot of the day is spent glassing, but after you’ve spotted them, they’re the perfect animal to bow hunt.
“They don’t see that well and as long as you keep downwind, don’t move rapidly, and don’t make noise, they’re relatively easy to sneak up on, especially when the herd is noisily feeding. Although I lot of what I do involves a blind or a stand, it’s nice to do a spot-and-stalk once in awhile.”
And nothing goes to waste.
“Although I’ve got a freezer full of elk and bison, I’ve also tried every javelina recipe in the world and I have friends who take my javelina kills and eat them from nose to tail,” Dave Watson said. “Bottom line; Life is good.”
(See the Watsons’ javelina hunt in southern Arizona at http://vimeo.com/89564014)
"Mathews TV with Dave Watson" show page