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Interviewer: Five, four, three, two, one. Welcome to another episode of Whitetail Rendezvous. I’m really privileged to have Baker Leavitt on the show today. Baker is in charge of business development at a company called Kill Cliff, and he’s going to share with us exactly what they do. But take a few minutes today out of your busy day, and listen to what Baker’s doing, what Kill Cliff’s doing, and what they represent. Baker, welcome to the show.
Baker: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Interviewer: Let’s just jump right into it. How did you get involved with Kill Cliff, and how does that transfer to the hunting community?
Baker: I was living in New York City, I was going to school. It was 2011. Kill Cliff was started, basically started selling products in January of 2011, and I crossed paths with Todd Ehrlich, who’s the founder and CEO of the company on May the 27th. And we hit it off. I liked what the company was doing, and what their goals were. I was never officially hired. I just started working. And I’ve been here for four years now, and it’s been awesome to be part of something so wonderful.
The company started with basically from nothing, with nothing. And it’s now grown into a pretty substantial brand, and doing great business and doing a lot of really cool things.
We’re the first official [inaudible 00:01:34] partner of the Navy SEAL Foundation, which is a really big deal for us. And when Todd created the company, his goal was to be the single largest donor to the Navy SEAL Foundation. We’re actually making that a reality now. We’re committed this year to giving $300,000 in cash to the Navy SEAL Foundation, and it’s a really big driving force behind everything we do. It’s just exciting to be a part of something like that. I mean, my background was real estate, and if you had told me that I would be working for a beverage company five years ago, I would have told you that you were insane. But fast forward, and here we are, and that’s what I’m doing. So it’s awesome.
Interviewer: So tell the listeners and myself about Kill Cliff and how it’s important to the people who go out and hunt. And I’m not talking about the Cameron Hayes’s of the world and their outstanding examples of people that are fit in the outdoors, but the rest of us… I call myself an average guy, in average shape. How can this product help us?
Baker: So Kill Cliff is a recovery drink, multiple usage occasions. It is a healthy alternative to a lot of the soft drinks and sodas that people consume that are full of sugar and a bunch of other garbage, and the energy drinks that are just loaded with caffeine and sugar. And it’s just a healthy alternative to that.
It’s basically a force multiplier. It gets you back into the fight, or gets you back on track after a workout or just during the day if you’re just kind of dragging along. It’s got 25 milligrams of caffeine, which is just a slight little shot in the arm. Makes you feel better, gets you back into it.
And the way it would help hunters is physical fitness recovery, getting your mind clear before you go to the stand, or go out on a spot and stalk. If you’re out in the woods all day, your senses are on. And that’s one of the things that I try to explain to people about hunting is how exhausting it can be, because when you’re out hunting, you’re 100% turned on. And there’s mental fatigue and there’s physical fatigue, and a lot of people don’t understand that.
So a recovery drink is ideal for that, and then our protein bars are also another thing — a nice, clean food source during the day. Great snack, satiates your appetite and just keeps you where you need to be.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about your hunting tradition. You shared with me in the warm-up that you just started hunting down in Georgia. Attack that a little bit.
Baker: I grew up in Georgia. I’m from Georgia. I live in Seattle, Washington now. I remember as a kid going on a couple deer hunts where they had dogs, and I didn’t really like that, because it was cold and it wasn’t fun. I just decided… I love watching hunting shows growing up, and reading hunting magazines. So I just wanted to do it, and I just taught myself how to do it. No one in my family really hunts at all. I just taught myself. I shot my first deer when I was in high school with a .30-06 at our farm in Sylvania, Georgia, and have been hooked ever since. I’ve hunted in Africa, South America, Central America, and all over North America. I’m an avid hunter now.
Interviewer: Is that where you met Lorenzo Sartini at gohunt.com?
Baker: So my exposure to the hunting world multiplied exponentially when I moved to Seattle, Washington. So I grew up hunting in Georgia with a .30-06, shooting deer at 100 and 150 yards. And occasionally a hog would come along, you’d get a hog as well.
Well when I moved to Washington, the opportunity to hunt, and different species to hunt out here blew up. I mean, there’s so much game out here that growing up Georgia that I only saw on television. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to hunt mule deer or black bear. And then the waterfowl hunting out here is amazing.
I moved out here, started getting more involved in the hunting world, came across Sitka, met Jonathan Hart [SP] at SHOT Show a few years ago, became friends with Mark Seacat, of Seacat Creative, and just started getting a little bit more involved in the hunting world, on the business side, and it seemed like a really good fit for Kill Cliff in that state. I crossed paths with Gary Gillett. Gary owns the Hunting Film Tours. So Kill Cliff became a sponsor of the Hunting Film Tour, and we basically took over the social media and the marketing capabilities for the tour.
And it’s funny. So I came across a gentleman by the name of Alex Muselecci [SP] who owns Slade Northwest. Tracked him down on Facebook. He lives in Seattle, big avid workout hunter. His best friend from college, and to this day, is Lorenzo Sartini of goHUNT. And he made the introduction. I was in Vegas for SHOT Show, went and sat down with Lorenzo, and had a phenomenal conversation with him. And that’s how he and I became friends and crossed paths. It looks like they’ll be coming on as a sponsor for the Hunting Film Tour this year, for the upcoming season.
Interviewer: Now, the company you just mentioned, do they… not Lorenzo’s, but the other gentleman. What was the name of the film? The Hunting?
Baker: The Hunting Film Tour.
Baker: So the Hunting Film Tour is a tour that covers Australia, Europe, Canada, and North America. And it is a collection of short films, user submitted, and it goes through a betting process. We select the top 10 short films, anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes. And it’s a show reel that’s put together. It’s an hour and 45 minutes long, and it goes all over the world. I think this year in North America alone we have 75 stocks. Sitka is the title sponsor. Kill Cliff also a sponsor along with Vortex, YETI Coolers, Kimber firearms, Boone and Crockett Club, and a few others. You go and you get tickets, and go sit down and watch an hour and 45 minutes of hunting short films. It’s phenomenal.
Interviewer: How much Whitetail footage is in that hour and a half show?
Baker: I think this year we’ll have one Whitetail film on there. It is primarily Western hunting, but the big push is, from us, and this goes out to all the listeners, we’re actively looking for Whitetail short films. Whitetail hunting is much more popular than any other type of hunting out there. The analytics on a Whitetail hunt versus any other type of hunt is just 10x.
Interviewer: And I’ll just give a couple of shout-outs. If you haven’t connected with QDMA — Kip Adams down at QDMA, that would be a great person to touch base with. Deer and Deer Hunting, Dan Smith, Iola, Wisconsin. On Facebook, he’s got almost half a million followers.
Baker: Oh, wow.
Interviewer: That’s another guy to get a hold of. I know I’m going to let some people out. Bill Winke at Midwest Whitetail. There are three guys at the top of my head, and I don’t want to take time away from you, but I like what you just said about Hunting Film Tour, and those are the three guys that I would just get out and do it.
And the other one is Whitetails Unlimited out of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. So there are four people that… throw in your to-do list, and get in touch with them. Tell them Bruce Hutcheon from Whitetail Rendezvous recommended him.
So let’s get back to the hunting aspect. What are some of the lessons learned you took away from your Whitetail experience in Georgia? And then let’s spin it forward to Weston hunting.
Baker: So what I’ve learned is if you can successfully hunt Whitetails in the Southeast with a bow, you can successfully hunt any species on this planet. There is nothing harder. There’s nothing more challenging than Whitetail hunting in the South with a bow. And I don’t think anyone would argue with that.
And that’s the main lesson that I learned. And what’s really exciting for me as I… I turn 40 in August. And what’s really exciting for me as a hunter is the older I get, the more mature I become, and the more patient and calm I get. I’m a better hunter with every day that I grow, and I just get better.
And when I grew up hunting, when I started hunting, in high school, in the early ’90s, there weren’t really trail cams and all that stuff. And just seeing how much hunting has evolved, the science behind it, and the food pots and all that stuff, windage, and game trails, and patterning animals, and preseason scouting and all that stuff, it’s not what it used to be. If you even look at the evolutions in camouflage, with Sitka and there’s 3-D patterns and the science behind all that stuff. People are drilling down so deep in hunting, and it’s just evolving. It’s just fascinating to watch. And you look back… I’m sure you’ve got pictures of your grandfather or your father who took you hunting wearing red plaid. The days of that is just totally different. The advances in optics is just phenomenal.
What I learned is that I have to become a better, smarter hunter if I want to be more successful. This year I was down in Texas, and I split a bow, shot my biggest Whitetail to date, and I’m just totally hooked. I mean, it was just phenomenal. Everything about that experience was amazing. The learning I took away from it, just awesome.
Interviewer: Let’s unpack that Whitetail hunt where you… was it a 140 class, 125 Pope and Young? What kind of class deer was it?
Baker: It was just under Pope and Young. I would not classify myself as a true trophy hunter. I’m not good enough to make that claim. In my opinion, I’m not smart enough to be a true trophy hunter, but I’m getting there. And this year, my goal now is to get one that makes the book. That’s something I’d really like to do.
Interviewer: The Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young?
Baker: Pope and Young. The thought of hunting Whitetail in the South with a rifle, I don’t know that I’ll ever do that again. Once I shot that 8-point this year in Texas with my good friend Jeff Tucker, it was so intimate. It wasn’t a loud bang. There wasn’t a massive recoil. I shot the deer at 27 yards. And just everything about it was wonderful. That’s really the only way that I want to hunt Whitetail in the South, is with a bow.
Now, in Washington where I live, our deer… where our deer live here in eastern Washington, it’s 7000 acres. Combination of Whitetail and mule deer, and that’s totally different. I’m not good enough to spot and stalk Whitetail in eastern Washington, open country, on the plateaus, with a bow yet. But as far as hunting Whitetails in the South, [inaudible 00:13:48].
Interviewer: Talk to me about your setup, the gear you use. Were you in a tower blind, a tripod blind in Texas? Just unpack that hunt.
Baker: No. I flew into Abilene, Texas, hopped in a rental car, hauled butt over to Jeff’s place in May, Texas. Bowtech bow, Tim Hangs [SP] sight, 2-Blade Rage Broadhead, which was just absolutely lethal. Used a Leupold rangefinder… Leupold [inaudible 00:14:25].
I was in Sitka Forest Pattern sitting in a live oak tree, about 10 feet off the ground. The interesting thing, the deer was sitting there, trying to see me, and he couldn’t see me. He knew something was a little bit askew, but that camo pattern, like I just blended into that tree so well, he couldn’t see me. And he sat there, and it was… just let it rip. And I was in the stand… the funny part about this was Jeff said, he goes, “You can shoot any deer you see out there, except for this one 9-point.” I said, “All right.” And I should have asked to see a photo of it, but I didn’t. So I get in the stand. About 45 minutes in, here comes this big old 9-pointer, cruising in.
I get buck fever really badly. I mean as bad as anybody, I can get so excited when I see deer. And I saw this 9, and I chuckled, and I went, “That’s obviously the deer I’m not supposed to shoot.” I mean, the heart rate didn’t even jump up. And it moved off, and about 30 minutes later, this 8-pointer came in. And he sat there, and fed and fed, and so finally took him. And got out of the stand, took a couple pictures, ran to go get Jeff.
We cleaned the deer, took it to the process, or called the taxidermist. Then we were back at his house cooking dinner that night. And he goes, “So this is the deer that you saw?” And brought a photo of the 9-pointer he told me not to shoot. And I said, “Jeff, that’s not the deer that I saw.” And he goes, “Oh, well then you should have shot that first deer.” And I was like, “Well thanks a lot for telling me that now.”
Interviewer: Oh, no.
Baker: Yeah. It was crazy.
Interviewer: Oh, no.
Baker: No, listen. I’m as proud as I can be of my deer. I mean I love it. But he said, “Tomorrow, when we’re done filming,” we were filming some stuff for gymnastics [inaudible 00:16:14] for some videos with one of our sponsored athletes. And he said, “I want you to come back tomorrow and shoot a couple does.” And I said, “No problem.”
So we’re back the next day, and saw six other monster 8 to 9-point deer, bucks, same spot. I mean it’s a 183-acre spread in May, Texas. It’s surrounded by about 6500 acres that’s rifle hunted. And so he’s just created this sanctuary there, and it’s just absolutely wonderful. So many nice quality deer, tons of food for them, just no pressure, no one hunting, bow only. So it’s a wonderful place. And that whole trip just took a lot of pressure off of me to finally put a quality deer on the ground with my bow, you know? So it was a wonderful experience, really.
And then living in Seattle now, and hunting in Washington, it’s different. I’d never been mule deer hunting; I went mule deer hunting this year. Black bear, went black bear hunting. And then black-tail deer, did some black-tail deer hunting this year. But the permitting and the way the hunting’s done out West is like nothing I’m used to. In Georgia you go and you buy your license and you can shoot 10 does and 2 bucks. And there’s no draw, there’s no permit, there’s no zones or specific areas you can hunt. Just getting used to that type of hunting out here, in the condensed season, it’s interesting. And there’s elk out here, moose, sheep, goats, black bear, tons of turkey. Amazing water fowl hunting. Just so much diverse game out here, it’s just ridiculous. It’s amazing.
Interviewer: Now, just so I get it straight in my mind, what do you do for Hunting Film Tour?
Baker: Kill Cliff is a sponsor, and then I help… basically I run the social media for the Hunting Film Tour. And Kill Cliff, we help out with marketing and activation of the Tour.
Interviewer: Okay. So I’m just going to give a shout-out, because I just went to your site on the web, and it’s huntingfilmtour.com. The reason I’m doing this, Baker, is because I have a lot of people on the show. You’re number 83, and our goal is to get to 100 by next Thursday. So 100 guests in 100 days, and that will launch Whitetail Rendezvous.
And I’ve talked to just a lot of people out there, young guys, and older guys, and Doug, the guy at Trophy Addiction, Doug Linebaugh, and who are doing a fantastic job, I think, Chase Boughman [SP]. There are a lot of guys that are listening to this show right now that would love the opportunity to get some film out to you. How would they do that? What’s the process?
Baker: There’s a submission link, and I can provide that for you. And then I’d also like to introduce you to Gary, who owns the Hunting Film Tour. He’s the brains and the muscle behind it. You should have him as a guest. And he can speak more intelligently.
Interviewer: I’d love that.
Baker: He can speak more intelligently on the Hunting Film Tour than I can. It’s his baby, it’s his brain child. He creates it, he runs it.
Baker: Gary’s from Canada. Super smart guy, very intelligent, educated guy. Just phenomenal job, he’s a great guy. Honest, trustworthy, he’s in it for the right reasons. And I think that stays a lot with us at Kill Cliff. He’s not out just to make a quick buck. And he’s very particular about who’s involved, and what companies are involved, and whatnot. It’s just a phenomenal, phenomenal thing that he’s doing. And I’m very proud to say that he’s my friend, and that we’re a part of helping him create this awesome platform for outdoor hunters and photographers.
Really, some of the best film guys and photographers out there are in the hunting place. I mean, it’s amazing. There’s this Ben Potter who runs Cana Outdoors, who’s another guy you should absolutely get on the show. He’s so cool. He’s releasing his duck film he filmed in Canada called Borealis [SP]. Man, it’ll blow you away.
But, he’s this dude who lives in California, and just avid hunter and wonderful photographer and filmmaker, and just started taking his camera when he went out in the woods, and just starts creating cinematic masterpieces. Just awesome dude. Great, great stuff.
Interviewer: Well, thank you for that.
Baker: I’ll make that introduction for Ben as well.
Interviewer: Yeah, I appreciate that. I want to just get back to show, because listeners, we share a lot of great information; some about Whitetail hunting, but it’s our industry, it’s our tradition. And we’re a close-knit family, we really are. And you just have to listen to shows like mine. I’m not the only Whitetail podcast out there, but everybody will share with you tips, and then they’ll help connect you into the industry.
Interviewer: And that’s the way it should be because we’re all trying to do better at what we do. Lessons learned, we want to become better hunters, but we want to be part of the community. And Baker Leavitt, you’ve done a phenomenal job in doing that today, and I just salute you for what you’re doing. And for Kill Cliff, supporting Navy SEALS, and these guys go into harm’s way. They put it all out there. They’re all in.
Interviewer: That’s just outstanding. So Baker, you’ve got the open mic for about a minute and a half here to tell people how to get a hold of Kill Cliff, how to get a hold of Hunting Film Tour, and anything else you want to share about your sponsors or your websites. You got it.
Baker: Yeah. So check us out at www.killcliff, K-I-L-L-C-L-I-F-F, killcliff.com. And then if you want to quick class, during the day, check out our social media on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. It’s KillCliff, K-I-L-L-C-L-I-F-F.
And then the Hunting Film Tour, go to huntingfilmtour.com. And then hopefully we can get you to have Gary as a guest on the show.
Just keep hunting and doing the right thing. That’s all I have to throw out there.
Interviewer: And if somebody’s out there saying, “Hey, I want to help with the Navy SEAL Foundation,” how do they do that?
Baker: Go to navysealfoundation.com, and make a donation. That’s the best thing anyone could do.
Interviewer: All right. Baker Leavitt, it’s been a pleasure to just visit with you this morning. And thanks for what you’re doing, and I look forward to having you on the show again, because it sounds like you’re a busy man, and you’re getting excited about this hunting journey.
Baker: All right, man. Thank you for having me.