The hunting tradition has been a part of some people’s heritage. It has also been their way to spend time with the family. Hunter, chef, and writer Kory Slye tells us about their family’s hunting tradition and what he learned from his dad. He recalls how his dad let them experience the great outdoors growing up. He shares how he starts his own tradition with his kids. He writes about his adventures and shares his knowledge of the amazing world of hunting.
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Amazing Powerful Hunting Tradition – Dad – Author – Kory Slye
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Thanks for having me, Bruce. It’s a pleasure.
Let’s talk about the hunting tradition, growing up, your dad and what he taught you. You hold those traditions and you’re passing them on to your kids. Let’s start off there.
Both of my uncles, my dad and family friends hunted. We all wanted the same active land near my grandmother’s house and we use her house as a base camp. My grandparents owned a grocery store when my dad was growing up. By the time I came along, they had retired. The butcher shop was intact and so we use that to process our own deer. I have some fond memories in the meat room as we called it. There’s a buck, professionally named George the Buck, that hung over the meat block and the butcher shop that watched over us as we cut up our deer. It was a buck that our great uncle shot back in the 1930s or 1940s. I actually have it in my house because my grandma has since passed away and the house was sold. We have some great memories on that hillside in Parkland stream and hunting on the state game lands with cousins, uncles and friends. That’s where it all started.
Every Monday after Thanksgiving, I take a day off work and I go down to my parents’ house and my dad and I hunt out together. My one uncle hunts with us. It’s not the same that my grandmother is not around but we try to keep a tradition. With my kids, we’re trying to start our own traditions. We go out the first day of all season. We’ve got some friends in the area that have kids about the same age as my kids. There’s a group of four or five dads and five or ten kids that go out. We try to get some squirrels and then have dinner afterwards. A lot of traditions from the past and start new traditions for the future.Don't focus on getting an animal because if that's what you're there for, then you're there for the wrong reasons. Click To Tweet
When you think back to when you started with your dad, what are some of the lessons that you learned then that you’re adhering, plus you’re passing on?
I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve learned a lot of things not to do. It’s never going to go the way that you think it’s going to go. You’ve got to prepare for failure, even if you don’t get that big buck or you missed the shot you experience outdoors. You’re better or for being out there, there’s never a losing scenario. Some people call hunting a sport but in a sport, there are winners and losers. Hunting, I’m always a winner whether I get a deer or not. That’s one of the main lessons is take the whole experience in, don’t focus on getting an animal. If that’s what you’re there for, you’re there for the wrong reasons. There are so many mornings I’ve spent in October in Pennsylvania where it is a nice cold morning. You get to wake up with the forest. How many people get to experience that? Everybody should experience that. The lesson I’ve learned is to enjoy, as my dad would say, “Savor the moment.” That’s one of the big things.
When you think about savoring the moment as a little kid, it all seems to go by so fast. The anticipation of going hunting, then the hunt and then all of a sudden, it’s over. In Pennsylvania, it’s extremely popular. You have almost a million people a field during your rifle seasons, is that correct?
Pennsylvania, the orange army as they say.
On state land, how do you find a couple of hundred acres to hunt?
With our grandmother’s house being right there, my dad and my uncles had hunted it so long they had it established. When I was old enough to hunt and my cousins were old enough to hunt, we went in there and hunted with them. Unfortunately, they posted some land that border that and it pushed other people onto the state game lands. My grandmother passed away and we sold the house. We’re actually on a hunting lease with 30 or 40 other guys. We’ve got quite a few acres but a lot of those guys that are on the lease are the guys that we used to hunt with anyway. I remember growing up, my dad didn’t like hunting leases. He always said, “They were for muppiers,” which is what we call Pittsburghers. They always say a muppier from Pittsburgh to hunt. We always thought hunting leases were for Pittsburghers. I never thought highly of a hunting lease when I was younger but if you can’t beat them, join them type of thing.
The landscape has changed. There’s a lot more ground posted so we added to that by our own hunting lease and then posting some of it. Where I live in Warren, I have the Allegheny National Forest near me. I have 400,000 acres at my disposal. That’s a little bit of a drive for me, twenty minutes or so. With three kids, I measure my hunts in hours instead of days. There are a lot of private farms in the area. Since we’ve lived here seven, eight years, I’ve met the farmers and gained permission to hunt there. I can go out my back door now and be hunting five, ten minutes. Hunting on public lands is definitely a challenge. One that I’m not great at but I’ve been successful at is getting your own spot. It’s a matter of being there year-after-year I suppose.
When you think of that and with your writing, do you write some articles about that changing from hundreds of thousands of acres to where people are leasing more land because they realize that hunting on public land in some areas is becoming more difficult? That’s why hunting lease people say “We just want our own,100 acres, 500 acres, 1,000 acres, 40 acres.” In Wisconsin where I hunt, we’ve got some that we own. We’re lucky to have the family farm. All the cousins, nieces and uncles, it gets crowded, 400 acres and all of that woodlot. It does get crowded. We’ve had to branch off to other areas to look for places to hunt.
I’m always going to be an advocate for public lands. I’m a member of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. I’m always going to want to get as much access to public lands as possible. Make it so everybody can hunt because hunter numbers are declining. We need to find a way to reverse that. Access to public lands is the best way to do that. I like being able to hunt in my neighbor’s farm and not having to worry about running into somebody else. With public land, you have to be willing to put the work in to find the deer that people aren’t finding, to go in farther than what anybody else would be willing to go. I don’t want to say hypocrite but being a father of three, it’s hard for me to find time to put that necessary effort into those public land spots, those public land honey holes that nobody has found yet or very few people have found. I’d take advantage of the private land that I have access to and the hunting lease that I have access to. It’s nice to be able to go to a stand that you have set up and know that no one has messed with it. Climb up in there and nobody has busted through there and scared all the deer away. I know you can be successful on public land if you’re just willing to work at it.
There’s no question about that and I wasn’t alluding to that at all. In some social media, you can see the public land bucks that have already been taken and there’re some giant bucks. It doesn’t have to be a giant buck. If you go out in public land and get your first doe or a legal buck, that’s all successful. It’s a balance and the long you’d hunt to say, “I’m going to work hard.” You have to invest the time to get that mile or two miles away, even like out west where we have millions of acres. Elk hunting does a lot of either oil and gas roads or there are a lot of forest service roads and there are access roads. I can’t do ten miles a day. I did five miles at 10,000 feet. That was a good day for me. I can’t hunt that and so I’m looking for places that I can get into and other people aren’t going to get into because they won’t go as high as I hunt or they won’t drop into basins that suck. They’re bad but that’s where the elks are. You’ve got to be willing to do it.
With hunting around here, I have to take a little bit of different approach. We have state game lands but it’s hunted pretty heavily. I take the private land approach. I take my neighbors some cookies and talk to them for a while, get the permission, make sure I’m doing everything they asked me to do and not messing anything up to get that permission taken away. That way I’m on the ground that doesn’t need too many people. That’s the strategy I’ve taken in the last few years. I want to be able to go out into the Allegheny National Forest, hike up through the mountains high up through the reservoir to get those little hidey-holes. It’s hard for me to find the time. I’ve had to go about it a little bit different way.
That’s good wisdom because if you’ve got to change up your techniques, change it up to fit you and so you can be out there hunting. I’ve known guys that would go hunting an hour in the morning, an hour at night, that’s all they had. If they ever kill something, then it was a scramble drill. They had to get on the phone and call people or say, “I’ve got a buck down. I’ve got to be here,” and away they go. If you’re hunting, you’re hunting and I can think of some of the sets I’ve done that they had to be fast and furious. Watching the sun come up and hearing the owls hoot and all that, that starts off your day pretty good.
My wife and I talk before the season and say, “I would like to go on these days and I’ll go in the evening here, in the morning here. I won’t go this day. I’ll take this day off for hunting. I’ll take this day off for a family day.” We try to have those conversations before the season to mitigate any conflict. That’s not to say we don’t have any conflict. Some people don’t go out when the conditions aren’t perfect to go out. I don’t have that luxury. Saturday, it was 80 degrees when I parked in my spot to go into the woods. That’s not very typical for Northwestern Pennsylvania in October for 80 degrees. I was like, “I had Saturday, I can hunt. I don’t get to hunt too many Saturdays so I’m going to take advantage.” I ended up getting the deer within twenty minutes from sitting down in my tree stand. I was back home by 5:30 to have dinner and put the kids to bed so it works out. Anytime I can get into the woods, I go.
You’re an author. You’re sharing stories. Let’s camp out on that and tell the audience why you’re doing that.
I started doing it because I wanted to document my adventures to put my thoughts and feelings down on paper. I started my own blog. I had dreams but I didn’t have any expectations that it would go very far. I went through spurts of writing quite a bit for a couple months and then taking a couple months off and not writing at all. Writing about my adventures and sharing my knowledge of how I am successful. I never claimed to be an expert but I do have experience so I share those experiences. Through my own personal blog, I’ve made a contact with Justin Townsend who has a website, HarvestingNature.com and I started writing for him. We worked together for a while, created some recipes and some contents that I’m pretty proud of. From there, I branched out to Hunting the Empire, another website that’s dedicated to whitetail hunting in Northwestern, North Central Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of New York. Great content for the Go Wild app and that has been a lot of fun.
One of my biggest accomplishments was getting an article in the Pennsylvania Game News. It’s the monthly periodical that the Pennsylvania Game Commission puts out. When I first started writing my blog, that was one of the goals I set for myself. I want to have an article in there. The editor probably regretted giving me his email address because every time I had a story that I thought was good, I emailed it to him. It took four or five stories before he said, “That’s the one.” That story was all based off of hunting experiences with my dad, my own experiences and putting that down on paper for other people to see. Having it published to the whole state was pretty special. They actually bought another one of my articles. I’m excited to see that one in there. It’s been a lot of fun, finally starting to get paid for some of the writing that I do and to get paid for something that I would do for free anyways is pretty cool. I can’t complain.
If somebody wants to reach out to you and say they got some questions about writing in the outdoors, how would they do that?
I’m on Instagram, @OutdoorsManDad. I have a Facebook Fan Page, @OutdoorsManDad.PA. I’m in the GoWild app, Kory Slye. Those are probably the best ways to get to me. Unfortunately, I’m always on my phone so I’ll get it pretty quickly. That’s one thing I need to work on, it’s not having my nose in my phone all the time. Instagram, Facebook or GoWild is probably the best ways to reach me.
What do you wish you knew five or ten years ago in regards to the hunting that’s made up a big difference in your hunting techniques and strategies?
I don’t know if it’s about my hunting techniques or strategies but it’s from the cooking side of things. Years ago, it was a steak on a cast iron skillet. I’ve made venison, talk about the bone and blade roast. I’ve definitely branched out on that stuff. I wish I would have tried that a lot sooner. You can do some amazing things with wild game and the people that say it tastes gamey, they need to revisit that. I’ve definitely wished I would have started that sooner than I did. My wife enjoys my cooking, my kids enjoy my cooking most of the time. I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, in front of the smoker, the grill or whatever it is. I love cooking for other people. I smoked steelhead all the time. We go to Lake Erie and Lake Erie tributaries to fish for steelhead and I smoke those steelheads. I don’t even like to eat the steelhead but I love smoking it so I can give it to other people and see their reactions. How they like it and what their suggestions are and how to improve it or whatever it is. I like sharing. We have a group of friends that will come over for a fire and I say, “Bring a hunk of meat and I’ll cook it for you.” I love doing that for people. I wish I would have started that sooner.
As far as hunting techniques, I haven’t strayed much from the techniques that my dad showed me when we archery hunted. I looked for a lot of the same things. I’m a meat hunter more than I am an antler hunter. That’s maybe only because I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to shoot big bucks. I’ll shoot one when it comes in front of me but I’ve been looking. One thing that has definitely changed the way I’ve hunted is onX map. That’s great for around where I live, you can see property owners and boundaries and know where I can go, know where I can’t go, know who to ask permission. See the different terrain and find the places where the deer can be. My writing with Hunting The Empire, Joe Mainville and a lot of the guys that write for him on that website, they’re very technical savvy on the techniques and strategies to kill big bucks. I’ve started to take notice on what they’re doing, the saddle hunting and listening to Mark Kenyon of Wired to Hunt using the saddles to hunt. That’s something I need to start looking into.
I’ve watched The Hunting Public on YouTube and how they use their strategies for bulk bedding to get in tight to those bucks where they sleep so they can kill them, kill those big bucks that nobody else gets access to. I have more work to do to get better. I always say I don’t have time but that’s not a good enough excuse. I need to make the time to do it. My daughter’s getting a little older. She’s coming with me on scouting trips and then she’ll come with the deer that I got. She helped me set up that stand and two years in a row, I got a deer off that stand. She’s pretty proud that she helped me set up the stand that got a deer. I like getting them involved. There are a lot of things that I can be doing that I don’t do. I need to branch out my techniques in scouting and preparation.
Hunt to front, the cold front.
My boss knows that I’m a big hunter and you’d see through that.
You mentioned your daughter and your commitment to your family, which is very smart. Have pre-hunting season discussion with your wife and say this is the way the season is looking. Having that conversation, if you’re not doing that but that’s probably a pretty smart thing to do. Saying that kids are so important, getting kids in the outdoors and spending time with your kids. It’s hard, I get that but to get kids in the outdoors is some of the best lessons that you can share with them because you have experiences that you wouldn’t have sitting in the house, sitting in the couch or doing things around the house. Let’s talk about you and your kids and your plan, for the kids coming up. You mentioned that your daughter was with you last two years and you made a set and you’ve killed a deer out of that stand, two years in a row. She’s pretty proud of herself. Let’s finish up the show talking about what your plans are for your kids and getting them out in the outdoors.
My dad took me to hunt when I was young. My daughter is six, I don’t think I was that young when my dad took me but I’ve been trying to take them out and to introduce them little by little. It started out with that, throw her in a backpack when my daughter was a year old and I would go scouting. We did that for a while and that she’s older, I started taking her squirrel hunting. She’ll come with me and we’ll go out into the woods and shoot a few squirrels. I took my son to bow hunt with me, he lasted until his snacks were gone and then he was ready to go home. One of the main things is you can’t have too high of expectations for a four, five or six-year-old. When they’re ready to go home, there’s no use in fighting it. You don’t want to ruin their first experiences with hunting. You make it fun, you take a lot of snacks and you don’t have high expectations. That’s why I take my daughter squirrel hunting. You sit down for ten minutes, there’s a squirrel and you can be successful. It’s relatively easy. They get excited over that. With those squirrels, we brought them home and made squirrel tacos with them. She sees the whole process and they helped me in the kitchen. My daughter was helping me peel potatoes and carrots for our bone in blade roast that we had.Some have dreams, but I didn't really have any expectations to go very far. Click To Tweet
I get them involved in the whole process and hopefully they enjoy it as much as I do. If they don’t, that’s okay too. I take them fishing with me. In Pennsylvania, there’s a Mentored Youth Trout Day, that’s the Saturday before the opening day of trout. We’ll take them out there, it’s all about the kids. I bait the hooks and they throw in. The one thing that I have to keep in mind and sometimes I’m not the best at it, it’s having the patience to understand that they’re not going to be as serious as what I’d like them to be. They’re not going to be as focused as I would like them to be. They’re not going to do exactly what I want them to do but I don’t want to have them have a bad experience at this age and not want to do it when they get older. We go, we have fun. When they’re ready to go is when we go. I made some good memories with my kids already in scouting, coming up on a bear with my one-year-old daughter in a backpack and shooting two black squirrels with my daughter, going to a friend’s house after that and having a big breakfast.
We have a lot of fun. Going fishing on the boat for some walleye or from the bank stream fishing and her giggling as she’s reeling in the trout. It’s all worth it when you can hear them giggle as they catch fish. My dad is the most patient man but when I was a kid and when we were hunting and fishing, I have very few memories of him getting upset with me. Outside of hunting and fishing, he got upset with me all the time but when it came to hunting and fishing, he was what I strive to be. That patient understanding father that’s willing to let them do what they want to do, provide some guidance and let them experience the great outdoors. My dad is a big inspiration for a lot of my writing. Anybody that reads my stuff will immediately understand that. I mentioned him about every article that I’ve written. I strive to be the dad that my dad was for me. I try to have them experience, I have some great memories go onto 3-D archery shoots with my dad before, during the summer so he could prepare for archery season.
I take my daughter, she went with me for the first time this summer. She was the only one in her age class but she got a trophy. She was pretty happy about that. That’s the real reason I hunt for those memories. The food is a bonus and the trophy is a bonus but it’s about making those memories. I have so many fond memories of hunting and fishing with my dad. I want my kids to have those same memories. When they’re 30, 40 years old, look back, “Remember that time we went hunting with dad and this happened.” I want them to be able to say that. My dad’s a great storyteller and we’ll be sitting around the dinner table or something and he’ll tell the story. Probably I’ve heard it 100 times, but it’s exciting as the first time I’ve heard it. I want to be able to do that with my kids too. That’s why I take them on.
I’m smiling and thinking about all the things you said because that’s so spot on. You said a lot of things because when you take a kid hunting, it’s his adventure. It’s not ours. You’re ushering him in, opening up the doors. When he says it’s time to go, it’s time to go. It’s no big deal and you can’t expect kids to even think about doing all day sits until they’re truly committed to doing that.
I don’t even do all day sits.
I do. I’m laughing. I shouldn’t do that. It’s something about being in a freestanding and knowing there’re mature bucks. We already know that they’re there. The only way I’m going to see them is I have to be there. That’s my whole mentality and so far it worked out pretty good. Saying that, I hope everybody, if you take nothing from this episode of Whitetail Rendezvous, what Kory shared about his love for the kids, the passing on the tradition of the memories is hunting is a whole book full of memories. We’ve got photos and we’ve got grips and grins and all that but it’s the memories that you’ll tell around the campfire, watching the packer games, hanging out and being together as a family. Then they’ll say, “Grandpa, tell us about that grizzly bear. We will have the wolf story or horse story or this story.” They know the stories well because you bring the adventures alive. Simple things like that, the memories that we carry, they’re priceless Kory. Thank you so much for sharing that with all our audience. In behalf of hundreds of thousands of people in the audience, you’ve been a great guest and I can’t wait until the next time.
Thank you. I appreciate you having me on. It’s been a pleasure.
- Kory Slye
- Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
- Hunting the Empire
- Pennsylvania Game Commission
- @OutdoorsManDad – Instagram
- @OutdoorsManDad.PA – Facebook
- Wired to Hunt
- The Hunting Public – YouTube
About Kory Slye
Like many other writers for Harvesting Nature, my passion for the outdoors was started by my Dad. He is the one that taught me how to shoot a bow, took me trout fishing, and fostered the love for the outdoors that I have today. Practically everything I know about hunting and fishing can be attributed to him.
I grew up in rural Western Pennsylvania, and many of my hunting trips were just beyond our backyard or the hillside by my Grandmother’s house. It was in these woods where I got my first squirrel, rabbit, fox, and whitetail deer. While growing up I spent most of the spring along a trout stream, summer on an ATV or in a tent, and autumn in the woods with a bow or rifle.
While in college pursuing an engineering degree, the time I spent hunting drastically decreased, but my fishing adventures grew. While going to school in Erie, Pennsylvania, I took advantage of the fantastic steelhead fishing. My Dad came to visit often so we could fish the fall steelhead run. When I left Erie to pursue a graduate degree in eastern Pennsylvania, my trout fishing increased exponentially. There are many beautiful trout streams in eastern Pennsylvania that I discovered and enjoyed fishing.
I now live back in western Pennsylvania, a few counties north of where I grew up. I am still able to hunt just beyond my backyard, for which I am very grateful. With a young family, knowing where my food has come from is becoming important to me more than ever. Many of our meals are made from the fish or game I harvested and processed myself, and knowing that I provided it because of my knowledge and skills as an outdoorsman gives me a sense of accomplishment, along with a greater respect for that animal.
I’ve started branching out from the types of hunting and fishing that I learned while growing up. I harvested my first deer with an inline muzzleloader in 2014, and I’m working on taking my first deer with a flintlock muzzleloader. I’ve started to predator hunted, which has proven to be both exciting and extremely challenging. I’ve also picked up walleye fishing and ice fishing. I want to continue to learn new ways to enjoy the outdoors.
What I hope to do here at Harvesting Nature is show how I introduce my kids to the outdoors and teach them the skills that my Dad taught me to be a successful outdoorsman. I want to encourage them to explore the outdoors, teach them how to shoot a bow, cast a trout line, call in a turkey, filet a fish, skin out a deer, and above all else respect the fish and game that God has given us.