Q&A: Modern Huntsman Cofounder and CEO, Brad Neathery
One of our favorite things about hunting is that everyone sees it differently. Your perspective is different than mine, and it's different from guys like Remi Warren's or Steve Rinella's, and it's even different from your hunting buddy's. We recently met some fellas who recognize this, and have been telling their own unique perspective for several years.
Brad Neathery founded Modern Huntsman just as an Instagram page. But it grew. And it grew fast. After several years, he's turning the project into a print magazine through a crowdfunding effort, and we're very intrigued. We've donated to the project, and hope you'll do the same. Remember: Every effort that helps further the outdoorsman and woman's lifestyle is an effort we should all support.
A bit about the upcoming magazine: Modern Huntsman is a biannual publication, and online forum for like-minded conservationists, creatives, and outdoor enthusiasts. Born out of frustration with the way hunting is often misrepresented, this publication will be told from the perspective of hunting purists and philosophers, unaltered by the skews of mainstream media, misinformed emotional rants, and corporate interests. Learn more about the magazine.
GoWild: Have you been an outdoorsman your whole life, or is there a specific time when you remember getting into being in the wilderness?
Brad: I don’t have the typical story of most hunters out there. My grandpappy didn’t teach me the traditions and ethics of hunting. I didn’t grow up in the field. My experience with hunting looked a lot more like dad and me spending some quality father-son time in a sunflower field in East Texas with a couple of shotguns, firing at doves as they’d pass overhead, but focused more on the enjoyment of good company and time away from the noise of the city.
The outdoors, however, has always captivated my spirit. This isn’t really an earth-shattering concept. Man wasn’t designed to stay indoors under the hiss of fluorescent lights, trapped by walls and desktops. I, like most, found a certain rest in my soul when I’d get lost in the wilderness. This is something that, I believe, is rooted in the human spirit.
GoWild: Why did you decide to change your lifestyle to become a hunter?
Brad: Growing up in my family, I was not really exposed to hunting. We lived a very typical mainstream suburban lifestyle, foraging and harvesting our food from the thrilling terrain of the Tom Thumb grocery aisles. Hunting wasn’t really a topic in our home. We certainly weren’t against it, but we lived under the umbrella of modern conveniences that gave us the perception that we could justify why we did not have to personally kill for our food.
To me, hunting was more a lifestyle preference. I didn’t like killing but was completely fine with a butcher chopping up steak for me. If I’m completely honest, I did judge hunters a bit. I can remember thinking, “There’s an abundance of meat in the grocery store, and it’s already dead. Why do you need to kill something else?” Much of my judgment also stemmed from the perception I had of hunters. When I visualized what a hunter looked like, I would see a gruff, middle-aged, overweight, redneck white man, wearing camo, grinning over the body of a bloody dead animal, and holding a six-pack under his arm. The media made hunters out to be the bully of wildlife, and frankly, the hunting industry wasn’t doing much to improve that perception.
I own a creative agency in Texas, and it wasn’t until I was introduced to one of my clients, Elliott Hillock, now my partner in Modern Huntsman, who was building a hunting lifestyle goods store in Corsicana, TX called Freedom Shooting Sports, that I had to really ask myself where I stood on the topic of hunting. I began meeting hunters who would spend the whole conversation talking about conservation, public land management, the responsibility we have to steward the progression of all species of animals, the amount of love and respect that these folks have for the land, wildlife, and their intentionality to protect the ethics and traditions that make this lifestyle so special. I was immediately convinced and my whole perspective changed.
GoWild: How did that lead you to start Modern Huntsman?
Brad: Knowing the way I had previously felt about hunters through misrepresentation from both the general media and so much of the media in the hunting industry, I decided to step in and do my part to try to break the cycle of the distorted hunting narrative in order to restore the balance to hunting and wildlife conservation. From there, I started a channel on Instagram called Modern Huntsman and began curating content from photographers, storytellers, and brands who were also pursuing an improved perception of hunting. I found that so many of the creatives in the hunting industry simply didn’t have a channel for their voice to exist, and for the first time, their voice was able to be heard on a larger scale. Thus, our channel began to explode. It wasn’t until two years later that we would expand this vision to what we are working on now—a magazine.
GoWild: What’s the one thing you’d want a stranger to know about Modern Huntsman?
Brad: Modern Huntsman exists to introduce a hunting narrative that the majority of people aren’t familiar with, and to do it with respect, dignity, and creativity. Many of the magazines and mainstream media portrayals are the same, and we want to present a fresh format, that is more focused on the traditional aspects of hunting. We all forage—whether at the grocery store or on a hunt for an elk in backcountry Idaho—and should be held responsible for ensuring that what we hunt for is conserved and in proper supply, sourced sustainably & humanely, and properly utilized. Modern Huntsman aims to be the mouthpiece for others who believe the same, and a place for all to come to learn, or educate - no matter what your upbringing may be.
GoWild: As you know and we’ve talked about before, hunters face so many stereotypes today. Those stereotypes are used as ammunition against hunting, but they also keep people from trying it for themselves. Can you tell us how Modern Huntsman hopes to tackle that?
Brad: One of the main goals we have is to dispel some of the myths and miscommunications about hunters that you see out there today. There are many types of hunters, and we certainly plan to illustrate and highlight what we feel are ethical and conservation-minded forms of hunting, versus culling for population reasons, or some of the more controversial actions that make headlines and generate negative PR. But at the end of the day, it is our responsibility as hunters to make sure that we’re not putting language and images out there that do further damage to the perception of hunting. A lot of that can’t be helped, but most of it can, and we’re trying to be very deliberate in the content that we curate, to make it more approachable to the average person, and broaden the scope of the conversation, and improve the overall perception.
GoWild: How can people get involved with Modern Huntsman?
Brad: You can always find us on Instagram or learn more at our website, but right now we are in the middle of raising funds for the first issue of our magazine on Kickstarter, and we need all the help we can get. This magazine is something we’ve been working diligently on over the past year and will be a biannual publication for like-minded conservationists, creatives, and outdoor enthusiasts. There is a 3-minute film on the Kickstarter page that explains the project in detail, so we strongly encourage everyone to check that out.
From the mountains of the American west to the fields of south Texas, the savannahs of East Africa to the governmental councils on conservation, Volume One will cover a diverse range of topics, all unified by common ethics. Woven together, it will begin to illuminate our collective philosophy, both drawn from wisdom past, and knowledge yet to come. Printed on thick matte stock, and bound into a substantial book of nearly 200 pages, it will be more of an art portfolio than a publication, and a fitting showcase for the breathtaking work everyone has produced. It’s difficult to describe the look and feel, but we promise, it will be a weighty, and worthy addition to your library.
We’ve assembled some of the best photographers and writers in the outdoor world, many of which you will probably know by heart. These are folks who've spent their years living off the land, enduring extreme conditions and have even risked their lives to ensure that wildlife thrives, and the traditions of hunting survive the modern age.
Our Kickstarter goal is $75,000, and we’ve already raised $31,000 in 11 days, which has been absolutely overwhelming. But we still have a long way to go. For those that aren’t familiar, Kickstarter is all or nothing, so we have to raise all $75,000 by November 16th or we don’t get any of it. We would be incredibly grateful to anyone who would back our Kickstarter, or even spread the word to ensure that we raise all of our funding and get this first issue to print, and release this story to the world. Between friends, family, alumni groups, local hunting stores, or social media accounts, if you believe in what we’re doing, we sure could use help spreading the word.
GoWild: What about GoWild™ and our efforts spoke to you? What do you hope we can achieve together in our pursuit of better telling the real story of hunting?
Brad: I read your interview with Andi Haas and then dug into several of the other interviews and really appreciated your approach of questioning conventional wisdom on why there has been this self-gratification that comes with killing a larger animal than the next guy. It’s these questions that we find ourselves constantly asking. I believe we must continue asking these questions and presenting new ways of thinking about it in order to actually create change.
GoWild: If someone has been debating going hunting for the first time, what would you say to get them to give it a shot?
Brad: There are people who have the gift of hunting & gathering, and others who have the gift of nurturing & caretaking, some have both. There are many who couldn’t imagine taking the life of an animal, and I would never demean someone who is uncomfortable pulling a trigger or releasing an arrow. If you do eat meat, I would simply encourage you to be educated on where your meat comes from. Was it raised in its natural habitat & environment? Was it exposed to nourishment that promoted its health, or was it fed hormones that only modified its muscular structure? Was its life taken swiftly and ethically?
Whether you choose to hunt or not, I would simply encourage everyone to be aware of the unethical economy of agribusiness and factory farming. If you are on the fence about hunting, I do encourage you to try it, but find someone who can train you first, to ensure your shot is swift and true and that you are able to harvest the meat properly. If you choose not to hunt, consider buying your meat from a hunter or a local ranch. All across America, there are co-ops and ranches with the ability to purchase whole or half cows, true free-range eggs, raw milk, etc.
Put simply, we encourage people to form their own opinion after hearing both sides of the story in a narrative that has been pretty one-sided for far too long.