The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Ted Nugent (“Spirit of the Wild”)

There was a time when Ted Nugent was known only for his contributions to rock ‘n’ roll (one of the greatest of which, of course, is giving the world a song entitled “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”), but that time has long since passed. These days, Nugent is certainly still well regarded as a rocker, but he’s at least as readily identified by his political stances and his profound enjoyment of hunting. Believe it or not…and I couldn’t believe it, so I looked it up, but, yep, it’s true…Nugent has been hosting his own outdoor series for 25 years now, and the series in question – “Spirit of the Wild” – is now back on the Outdoor Channel for another season. Bullz-Eye had the opportunity to chat with Nugent in conjunction with the series’ return, and you will not be surprised to hear that he had a great deal to say.

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Bullz-Eye: Well, I’m sure you’re thrilled that “Spirit of the Wild” is back again, but it’s almost incomprehensible that this is its 25th season.

Ted Nugent: How ‘bout that? Am I adorable or what? [Laughs.] Isn’t there an award for being the most precious, adorable bow hunter in the world?

BE: Yes, I believe it’s called the Nugent.

TN: I believe you’re right! [Laughs.]

BE: I’m curious about the origins of the show, since the math makes it clear that it’s been around longer than the Outdoor Channel.  How did it first come about? And how did it come to end up on the Outdoor Channel?

TN: Well, you know, this is a story that… I’m shocked. Well, I guess I’m not shocked. Barack Obama’s the President. [Laughs.] How much shock can we handle? Our Attorney General runs guns to Mexican drug gangs! Is there any shock left? Our government picks out people to harass with the tax agency! I guess my shock cup runneth over. But I’m equally shocked, I’ve gotta tell you, that this story has not been pursued.

I started filming my hunts in 1989, when Shemane and I first got married, and…I forget who made the initial contact, but a gentleman by the name of Tim Scarpino from Michigan Public Television came to one of my speaking events at a sport show, and I showed some footage of me whacking hogs and stuff with a bow and arrow, and he said, “Boy, this’d make a great show Western Michigan Public Television! Let’s film some!” And I said, “We’ve already got a bunch of film!” [Laughs.]

So we started showing what we called “Ted Nugent: Spirit of the Wild” in 1989, when—like you said—there was no Outdoor Channel. There weren’t any meaningful outdoor television shows. You had a bunch of Lawrence Welk and Mr. Rogers goofballs with the different regional outdoor shows, which were about as entertaining as watching a rock sink into the dirt. No enthusiasm, no passion, no fire, no entertainment, no education, and no defiance, which is the most important issue of all. But once Outdoor Channel became a reality, I guess they heard that we’d set pledge-drive records for 26 different public television stations. We literally created record pledge drives for public television with “Spirit of the Wild.” And that was with me whacking hogs and gutting ‘em and showing ‘em the difference between the pancreas and the liver! [Laughs.] Y’know, real honest.

And it was very defiant at the time, because even Discovery Channel in its origins and a lot of the “Nova” public television shows were dishonest. They only showed cute little mama lions licking their cubs instead of the daddy lion eating the cubs, which was dishonest and counterproductive and anti-educational. And it was anti-nature! And I was offended by that, because I knew what went on in the real world of wildlife. I knew that the number one cause of dead lions was the daddy lion eating the cubs, and I knew the number one cause of bear reduction and attrition was Papa Bear eating Boo-Boo. [Laughs.]

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BE: As a father, I’m somehow not entirely shocked at this information, although I can’t say I’ve ever gotten annoyed enough with my daughter to fall back on cannibalism as a disciplinary method.

TN: You didn’t know that?

BE: I didn’t, actually.

TN: Well, it’s true: the number one cause of bear attrition is the male bears eating the cubs to inspire the sow to become in estrus. See, that’s a biological fact that…the fact that anybody doesn’t know that in 2013 is an indictment to our failed education system and the dishonesty of the media. Same with lions and tigers. That’s how they get mama inspired to breed again: by killing the cubs. It’s not “Born Free” and it’s not…oh, what’s the chimp woman’s name?

BE: Jane Goodall?

TN: Yeah, Jane Goodall. Her entire life is a big lie. It’s all a lie. Chimps eat people’s faces, as they did in New Jersey, more often than they snuggle with Jane Goodall. But be that as it may… So idiots and ignorant people were shocked that I would actually kill a pig. I guess they didn’t know that’s how you get pork! [Laughs.] I mean, you’ve gotta be kidding me! They got offended that I actually killed pork! And God forbid that we would gut the pork… There should be a law against butchering the pork, shouldn’t there? Because butchers are such rotten people…

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So I saw this insipid denial, this cult of buffoonery… I mean, it’s like L.S.D. was still being experimented with or something. Timothy Leary must’ve been in charge of the new generation. But the defiance factor, defying the lie of sweetie-pie nature when I knew that nature was tooth, fang, and claw, and people that had a brain and weren’t already gagged by denial, saw our public television shows and thought it was great, so they pledged more money to public TV, because they were inspired and excited that somebody was honestly depicting real nature instead of this embarrassment of politically-correct dishonesty.

So when the Outdoor Channel saw the success we had there… As I say, I forget who contacted who, but we won Show of the Year for the first six or seven years in a row, I think, with “Spirit of the Wild” because we don’t produce the show. We just document how we hunt. And I actually explain tooth, fang, and claw. [Hesitates.] How old a guy are you?

BE: I’m 42.

TN: Have you ever heard the term “tooth, fang, and claw”?

BE: I have, yes.

TN: Well, you can’t believe…well, I’m sure you can believe, although you didn’t know that bears and lion daddies ate their babies. [Laughs.] But I’m helping you out here! I’m giving you an education! So, yeah, we just constantly documented this, and with my explanation of real tooth, fang, and claw nature, it’s just astonishing how many people had never heard the term. They thought I’d made it up! I didn’t make that up! That’s as historical as “good morning”!

So, yeah, we’ve been running all these years, and I’m convinced, based on the communications we get, that we turn more people onto the truth about nature and the joys of hands-on conversation and the perfection of hunting, fishing, and trapping as an environmentally sound and positive beneficial practice…we do that better than all the other shows combined.

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BE: How do you manage to blend the music career with the TV career, as it were? You’re obviously doing the hunting as much for fun and sport as you are for work, but is just a matter of setting aside certain periods of time during the year to do the show?

TN: Absolutely. Priorities, my friend. I’m sure we can both agree that the greatest philosopher of all time was Dirty Harry. [Laughs.] And if you remember, Dirty Harry took the words right out of my mouth: “A good man needs to know his limitations.” Well, the hunting season is sacred. It’s been sacred in my life since birth. I’ve never missed a hunting season in 64 years. It’s my calling, it’s what I am, it’s how I was designed, it’s what inspires, fascinates, satisfies, and drives my quality of life. And I know that it brings me such joy, and it does such a critical and essential performance for nature and for the environment, that I am dedicated and have been for over 40 years to promoting and celebrating that. I never defend it. I always promote and celebrate it.

People have seen how I went from playing 300 concerts a year and hunting 65 days to…well, since the ‘80s, I play about 65 days a year and hunt 300 days. [Laughs.] Well, no, actually, in the ‘90s with Damn Yankees, up until the mid-90s, I did about 200 concerts a year. But I still hunt non-stop throughout September, October, November, December, and January…and certainly into February as well. But I’ve always managed my priorities. When I became a parent, I knew that I had to be home for my kids’ schooling time, and the fall school schedule happens to be the fall hunting schedule, so I was able to accomplish two very important parts of my life – parenting my children and hunting, fishing, and trapping – by taking advantage of that natural fall season of harvest.

BE: I have to tell you, my soundtrack to prepping for this interview was a steady stream of the Amboy Dukes.

TN: Great, great music. You know, you go back and realize that the Amboy Dukes, on that first Amboy Dukes album, there was a song called, I think, “Flight of the Byrd”? I’ve had songs from “Migration” to “Living in the Woods.” A lot of my music has always been inspired by my outdoor lifestyle, from “Great White Buffalo” and “Hibernation” and “Tooth, Fang, and Claw,” and obviously the new stuff, like “Fred Bear” and “Geronimo and Me.” These songs are inspired by my passion for the tooth, fang, and claw natural lifestyle.

BE: When you look back at your discography, is there any album…or albums…that didn’t get the love you thought they deserved?

TN: Certainly the last few. Craveman. Spirit of the Wild certainly should’ve been a monster, my biggest album ever. And Love Grenade is just full of monstrous music. But, no, y’know, everybody has a rollercoaster ride in their lives, and I’m more than happy. I’m still touring 50 years later, selling places out with the happiest, most intense audiences a person could ever dream of. I’m with the best band and the best crew that a guy could ever hope to surround themselves with. So my American dream is immeasurable, it’s so wonderful.

BE: Looking at some of the clips for “Spirit of the Wild” on YouTube, I noticed that almost all of the promos feature you saying, “The revolution will be televised.”

TN: Yes, indeed.

BE: That’s the antithesis of what Gil Scott Heron said, but I guess it’s a different revolution.

TN: Well, it’s probably the most important revolution ever, and that’s what I started talking to you about: the revolution from the political correct lie that Bambi is real to the fact that venison is food. I saw, even in my own hunting community, this pussy-fied wimpiness, this spinelessness, to actually admit that the animals are dead, that we gut ‘em and that there’s blood involved. And that we kill them. We don’t harvest ‘em. We kill ‘em! So the revolution is that I’m not playing games here…which, again, is why “Spirit of the Wild” is so successful and is so powerfully connected to honest people everywhere: we’re more than happy to not only celebrate but also promote that we kill stuff. We like to kill stuff! That’s how you get barbeque! [Laughs.] And you’ll never ever hear me defending the hunting, because there’s nothing to defend. I dedicate my life to promoting and celebrating it, because it literally is perfection. Hunting, fishing, and trapping is literally perfect. It’s the perfect system by which to balance and ground the animal populations for next year’s productivity. And I’m the only guy who’s ever even framed it that way publically! But I do so all the time on the show and in my writings…and in this interview right now!

BE: Speaking of your writings, do you have any other books in the pipeline?

TN: Yeah, y’know, I’m writing a book right now – it’s tentatively called Ted Nugent: Ballistic – and it’s the truth about everything regarding guns and being armed, and good guys winning over bad guys, and the perfection of the utilitarian pragmatism that is firearms as a tool for all the right reasons. And I’m well on my way with that. That’ll probably coming out…probably late this year, early next year. And then I’m writing the killer of all times: Ted Nugent: Stranglehold, about my entire life and how defiance is the key to good over evil and right over wrong and we the people over Eric Holder.

BE: Given that there’s so much focus on your positions on hunting, the NRA, and so on, do you ever worry if your legacy as a musician is getting lost amongst your politics?

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TN: Not at all. I get asked that question a lot, but I’ve gotta tell ya, I answered a couple dozen emails this morning already, I’ve written a bunch of postcards to kids… We always go through the mail, and I answer the kids first, and they’re all fascinated by my music. They all love my music. How could you not love my music? [Laughs.] And I’m still selling out these huge family events. I think we had, like, 60,000 people at RibFest last year! Tom Petty doesn’t bring 60,000 people to RibFest. I’m actually working on legislation right now to ban Tom Petty from RibFest. No, I joke, Tom’s a great guy, and I’d love to get him a rib. And slather it with some Nugent goo…

No, y’know, I suppose to those people for who music doesn’t still play an important, powerful role in their lives, they can dismiss my music. But, boy, the people I’m surrounded by, the audiences… I just wrapped up the greatest five or six week tour of my life! Are you kidding me? The fists and the smiles and the dancing cleavage… Are you kidding me? I’ve been to the mountaintop of musical celebration, and I’m currently residing there and dancing furiously. The music has never been more powerful, it’s never been more fun, it’s never been more intense. The audiences… I mean, these are the good old days for my music. There’s no question about it. My band is so good, it’s stupid.

BE: And just to close, because a friend of mine (that’s right, Tim Anderson, I’m talking about you) specifically requested that I ask, do you happen to have a recipe for venison pot roast?

TN: You know, you can’t go wrong if you handle the carcass properly. The real recipe is to kill it clean and quick, which means that you need to dedicate yourself to superior marksmanship and stealth, so you can aim small, miss small in the presence of the beast and kill him quick. And then you need to get them guts out and you need to clean that cavity out and you need to cool that meat. And if you handle it properly in the field, cool, clean, and aged… Now, I don’t care whether you’re talking doves or quail or moose or bear or deer, you’ve gotta age that meat. Now, bear and hogs can’t be aged like other venison. Because of the species, there’s the danger of trichinosis if it’s not refrigerated properly. But all my other game, we hang. And once you’ve done that…? I’m telling you, you can’t mistreat it on the grill. You can’t mistreat it on the stove.

So we’re constantly in experimental mode, and…we’re writing a new book, actually – Kill It and Grill It 2 – because we’ve discovered so many more wonderful recipes. I just had for dinner last night some wild boar backstrap that I smoked over hickory logs, and the same thing can be done with all venison, I don’t care if it’s goose or turkey or squirrel or deer or moose or…whatever it is! Just a slug of good quality olive oil, you sizzle up some diced onions and celery and lots of garlic, I put in some asparagus and some wild Michigan morels, and then I just slap those smoked medallions on top of that, let it sizzle until something starts getting crispy and caramelized…? You’ve gotta be kidding me! It’s better than…well, I don’t know if you can put it in your article, but it’s better than pussy!

BE: Oh, I can put that in my article, sir. Can and will.

TN: Put it in! [Laughs.] I mean, it is just insane, it’s so delicious. I just pity the people who have to eat at Ruth’s Chris. And I salute Ruth’s Chris, because they have some great slathers there. World class slathers. But compared to mine? Forget it. Our average meal at the Nugent house is a sacred event. It’s a spiritual event, because of all the effort that went to get that carcass back home and handled properly, and then the way we cook it, whether it’s over homegrown and aged wood, coals, or just on the stove in olive oil. I mean, we eat like gods here. Every meal.

BE: All right, Ted, I know you’ve gotta go, but thanks for taking a few minutes to chat.

TN: You bet, man. Anytime. God speed! Bullz-Eye, baby!

  

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