By Chris Avena
The Weatherby Award is given annually by the Weatherby Foundation International to the most accomplished international hunter. The candidates are vetted from around the world with respect to their hunting resume. The 2018 recipient of the Weatherby Award is none other than Hunting TV Personality and Outfitter, Jim Shockey. He will receive the award at this years Dallas Safari Club Convention this January. We were able to speak to Jim about what this award means to him as well as being able to reflect back on his long illustrious career, interests and accomplishments, both inside and outside of hunting industry. To date, Jim has hunted on six continents traveling throughout 50 countries and over the course of his career, Jim has accumulated 367 Different Big Game Species to his credit. He has worked tirelessly in his conservation efforts to preserve hunting as we know it. Jim has also worked as an unofficial ambassador to the outdoors to try to educate non-hunters about the benefits of hunting and the positive effects that it has on our environment. Jim Shockey certainly is not a man of limited interests. Jim is an avid collector of both folk and tribal art and he recently opened the “Hand of Man Museum of Natural History”. His New venture allows him to share a lifetime of collecting artifacts with the world. So without further ado.
Chris: You've been awarded the prestigious Weatherby Award, what does that award mean to you?
Jim: It is obviously a huge honor. When you have your peers paying respect to you in that way, it is humbling. That all said, it's not an award that I was certainly vying for, or in any way spent even a small fraction of my career thinking about. I believe as a result of a lifetime of hunting, not just seeking out that award. So, it is an honor, but not something that I was actively chasing.
Chris: What would qualify somebody to be eligible for that award, what’s the criteria?
Jim: Honestly, it is a lifetime of hunting. I doubt that there will ever be anybody under 45, that will ever be able to win it because they would have to start hunting at ten years of age and just not stop. It's the actual criteria as I understand it is about 65% of your hunting accomplishments and then 35% of your conservation efforts and character.
Chris: I know you've hunted all over the world, what was your most dangerous situation that you found yourself in?
Jim: I was asked that one time during an interview that Eva was doing with me and I said you know the most dangerous situations are the ones that you avoided by one step because of instinct and a survival and Eva kind of laughed and said “well that's the biggest non-answer in the world”. But it’s true, the situations that you avoid because your Spidey senses tingle and you just don't take that next step. The thing is, you never know how close you came because you never got there. The same thing for getting into an airplane when the weather is wrong and you say “no, I'm not going”. You know that the airplane stays on the ground until the weather clears, you know that there was that a dangerous situation not because you survived if nothing happened. So really those are the closest calls but there has been many in my life. Obviously where I took that extra step. It is just objective dangers that you’re in a situation you're going to find yourself in because of the nature of what we do as hunters or international hunters. Or it can even happen in your back yard. You can bump into a bear. I've had hippos come at me several times. The closest was probably in Tanzania in the Selous where we were trying to take out a marauding hippo that destroyed the casaba crops of their local natives. And we didn't find that one but another one came out of the bush from behind us. We had already gone through that area it actually sought us out. It actually came out of the grass at full speed at about 30 feet. When the hippo gets going they can go about 30 miles an hour, so it was close, that was a close call. Just this spring I had another situation where I saw a cougar across a logging Road. I had a license for it. I just kept walking. The Cougar actually waited for me. Let myself and my cameraman get past and then lept at me from behind. It just it was pure instinct. I swung around and fired at about four feet or five feet. As it was making a second leap onto my first bound and it was on a second leap to get on my back, I shot at it. That was a close call. Like a Buffalo’s and elephants, there are a lot of those kind encounters. So, you have to be prepared to deal with them when the situation arises.
Chris: What was the most challenging hunt that you've ever been on? By challenging, it could mean both species and terrain. What was the most challenging?
Jim: Yeah there's really two different deals and you know they work in combination with each other along with the whether. For instance, one of the most difficult hunts that I was ever on was a polar bear hunt. I believe I was on the ice for 21 days or 23 days on dog sleds up in the Arctic with the Inuit, and when you're up there and it was a late February early March hunt so, it is winter up there. Ambient temperatures hitting 40 below, like a legitimate 40 below with wind chills of a hundred below or over a hundred below, and that's documented. On that hunt just because of the “weather conditions” not necessarily because of terrain or the animals but it was one of the most difficult hunts I've been on. I didn't get a polar bear on that hunt. I turned one down on day six. I could have had one. It was legal but it wasn't what I wanted to hunt. It was not an old mature male. It was mature male but not old enough.
The worst part was I had to then turn around and go back and try again that same year. Our dogs were dying, you're slowly dying every day just a little bit of you died. When you are out on the ice like that and you are exposed living in a little canvas tent in those kind of temperatures. You know that was tough. But then there's other one’s. Terrain, the first backpack bighorn sheep, and dall sheep when I went on in the Yukon back in the early 1991 or so. I'd never pushed myself to that limit. That is when I could have quit or I realized heck I can do this. After seven days and you're eating thousand calories a day and using up four or five thousand calories a day, and you are cold, wet, sleeting, windy, miserable typical Yukon conditions. You know I had to dig deep and deal with it. We carried our water up every single hill we climbed in the mountains there in the Yukon. They are challenging to say the least. You get to the top and see Rams on a far Ridge. Well, you had to dump all your water go all the way down to the bottom again, take more water and go call up next Ridge.
It was mentally tough because of the or challenging terrain, like you mentioned. But there’s been other tough ones like in Somalia Spending a month in Somali or having to use the blackout cartridges so you’re not attracting attention to yourself. It's not a place you want to be walking around advertising that you’re there. So that was challenging for different reasons. Even in parts of Pakistan, Iran I have hunted there many times. China, their challenging because of the civil strife that occurs in those countries. You have to be aware so there's no one particular challenging hunt, they're all challenging. Animal wise - Liberia for the zebra duiker. I've spent a lot of time trying to hunt one I’ve never seen one yet. So there's an animal that I love to go back again. There are many animals like that. The high Andes whitetail. They live up above 14,000 feet in the Andes in South America in Peru. I would love to go back there and hunt them. I've tried four times for them. We lost a cameraman on one of the trips. He fell off the cliff and I thought he was dead. He fell 60 feet straight down on rocks. So, there's a couple animals I'd love to have a redo on and they’re challenging in the animal Department.
Chris: That’s a long list.
Jim: Yeah, you should ask me the easy question which is what's your easiest hunt you ever been on this?
Chris: I know this is a tough question as well because I know there’s more than one answer. What was the most memorable adventure you've been on and what's made it memorable?
Jim: That is easy. I mean memorable means memory. So for me, anything to do with my family. Eva’s first whitetail deer. I remember it as if it was yesterday. Branlin's first black bear. My father's last whitetail. My father-in-law’s last whitetail. my father's last moose in the Yukon. I can literally talk to you right now and in my mind I'm there with these loved family members sharing that experience. So those are by far the most memorable. The Hunts where you achieve something personal like maybe get a world record or push yourself to the limit. Those are the other memorable trips but certainly I don't hold them anywhere near the place in my memory bank. I don't hold them in this high regard as the trips I've done with my with any family members and friends too. I just guided Jim Kelly the ex-quarterback of the Buffalo Bills up in the Yukon. I guided him and the only thing I managed to get for him was a northern pike. I didn’t get a moose for him but it was memorable. Again, he is such an inspiration as a human being. Just to share time with him was an honor. And certainly, I hold that memory again in high regard than any of my own personal accomplishments on the hunting front.
Chris: He is doing well?
Jim: Yeah, Jim's doing good. He’s such a positive human being. He’s faced such adversity in his life. I don't know very many other human beings that would still have that “Joie de Vivre”. I know he wakes up in the morning happy. Most people would wake up with the weight that he’s got on his shoulders and not want to live out the day. He just he's an inspiration, he's an amazing human being and he's doing well I’m proud of him.
Chris: Being that you’ve hunted all over the world and you’ve been to many countries, what was the most interesting culture that you’ve encountered?
Jim: You know here in North America we've got the Inuit and inupait people in the North. I love spending time in the Arctic with our native cultures. They are every bit as traditional and pay respect to their traditions as any of the cultures around the world. The indigenous cultures. In Ethiopia in the Omo Valley with the Hamer and Kara people, that is a spectacular place because in big part because of the cultures there. National Geographic called the Omo Valley “the last frontier in Africa”. Now that was probably 20 years ago and my wife Louise asked me if there's one place that I wanted her to see and she's not a hunter, she'd she was vegetarian when we met. We are truly lady in the Tramp and Beauty and the Beast. We are opposites. She asked me if there’s one place that I wanted her to see, what would it be around the world. Any place that I had been to. That doesn't have the creature comforts that she prefers as Ethiopia the Omo Valley. She came with me to the Omo Valley just to experience that, and I think it's changed now. I believe, if I'm not mistaken there's been a pile of investment by Chinese companies to dam Omo River where we were, where it was pure wilderness as National Geographic said. Now there's a village of 20,000 people and big machines. They dammed up the river and I believe I don't even want to go back there now just in case my worst fears are realized that they've destroyed what was such a beautiful cultural place .
In Nepal with the Sherpa, high-altitude Porter’s, I mean those guys amazing. In Kazakhstan, no matter where you are around the world, if you're go in with an open mind the cultures are amazing. Yes, the people may dress differently and yes, they have different governments and different beliefs in terms of religion. They eat differently than us. They are a different color than us but if you go in objectively as an explorer and just soak it all in, every single culture around the world has something to offer and has redeeming qualities. Regardless of what our popular press might want us to believe what their propaganda about the people. Yes there's bad people but there’s bad people downtown New York City. If you look at it with an open mind every place I've ever been to on the cultural side has been has been amazing and I've been truly blessed and I'd never take any of those experiences for granted.
Chris: Throughout your vast career has had a lot of moments. What would you say is the most gratifying moment of your career?
Jim: I'm hoping that I haven’t experienced that yet. I'm hoping it’s still in my future. I’m kind of being facetious about that but I’m also a little bit serious about it. I think the most gratifying moment is when I'll be able to sit back in my rocking chair and say yep been there done that and did my best. Where I'll be able to legitimately tell myself, because I'm the only one I kind of care about for who judges me. Everybody else on the planet has their opinions and that's great, I'm happy for them, but I have to live up to my own expectations and standards. I hope that gratifying moment will be the day I sit down that rocking chair at the end of my career and say I made a positive difference to the non-hunting public about hunting and hunters. That would be the dream gratifying moment. Looking backwards, there's been many, many moments where standing in the Yukon watching the Northern Lights. I can remember vividly standing watching Hale Bopp in the Arctic. It was so low on the horizon but so brilliant and those are deep. I don't know if it would be gratifying so much as maybe spiritual moments. There have been many of those were you just thank the creator, that there's this amazing place we live in, but if we take a moment to look around and appreciate the beauty of this world, we don't have to go very far to see what a wonder it really is. The popular press one to believe the sky is falling in the world’s ending the environments never going to mend. They are wrong, they're wrong, they're wrong this place is a beautiful place and people we're a part of this of nature. We may be instruments of nature’s change, but we are certainly part of the natural world. And once we embrace that, like I say, I'm standing right here looking at a magnificent Gary oak tree, dropping acorns it's the wonder of it, it's like I say, there's too many gratifying moments on the spiritual side to even recite here. We'd be here for the next 50 years because what about how long I’ve been doing it.
Chris: Yeah, you have seen a lot. You have done a lot. But which hunting tradition do you most value, that you would like to see passed down to your families next generation?
Jim: I think a respect for the animals. My father and my uncles, they were brought up that the animals were almost channels for us to use. To my dad and my uncles - that deer running across the field was literally a hamburger running across the field. There was no real intrinsic value to it other than it sustained life for that day. It was cheaper than buying cow meat. It was easier to get than going all the way up north to find a moose. I haven’t carried on that tradition. We love the wild game meat. We live on it, we always have. We just don't buy cow's so that part of it I've always paid homage to. But I’ve maybe started a new tradition or embraced a tradition and wasn’t part of our family's tradition and really in a lot of the West wasn’t part of anybody’s tradition, it is the respect for the animals. You know in this world was 7.5 billion of us we have to hold these wild animals in higher regard than just a hamburger. That's 99 cents a pound, that animal is worth a hundred bucks and for a hundred bucks you’re better off using that habitat to grow a cow. Because that's worth a thousand dollars. That animal it has to be held in higher value. And I’m not talking economic value but a deeper spiritual value that where we would die to stop that animal, that species from dying. We have to hold them in such reverence that literally we would die to fight for their survival. And you wouldn't do that for a hamburger. So, I'm hoping that if anything on to Eva and Branlin and our children, and hopefully people that have listened to me was it proselytize for my pulpit over all these years, is that they create a new tradition or follow this new tradition of holding these animals in greater regard, higher regard. If we don’t, they won't be around for the next generations and then it’s moot - all of the traditions that were so important before. I mean that there won't be any hunting and we won't be allowed and nor will there be any animals to hunt there’s too many people and if we if we ruin all the habitat for these wild animals so we can put domestic animals on there. It won't matter what other traditions there are so like I say the one tradition that has the hope of carrying on to generations as far to the future as we can imagine this is where these animals are almost deified or we hold them in in such high regard that that you know they'll be around in hundreds of years. And it's going to be difficult with these many people on the planet. It's not going to be an easy fight like I say we you know it’s going to come to the point where we’re going to have to be prepared to die for this cause if we truly believe in it.
Chris: Thank you, now you recently opened the “Hand of Man Museum of Natural History” and cultural arts and conservation, can you tell me about this new venture?
Jim: Yeah sure it’s a new to the world but for me I’ve been a collector since I was 10 years old. I'm 60 now so for half a century I've been gathering up the objects that I wanted to put into that Museum, the Natural History objects or cultural objects, and you know I think if I had to sort of encapsulate it and I don't exactly have this down to one sentence you know I guess summary of what the museum's about. Back 500 years ago, if you're an academic, you were also an artist you're also an explorer you are also a scientist, and you're a natural historian, and high percentage of that, you were a hunter. As we developed as you know civilization, Western civilization, we started separating those different aspects of what was Renaissance men at that point, with ladies. So the scientists became scientists and they separated never the twain shall meet with artists. Same for religion they got more focused and spent their lives learning about theology. Then there were explorers that the traveled the far reaches of this earth and hunters, Hunters were kind of pushed over into the exploration side, adventurer side. So, this museum when these people went out these explorers, they gathered objects from around the world, Natural History but living animals if they could they're certainly specimens and fossils whatever cultural objects this museum, it pays homage to that time when you know it was everything was real nothing was digital. If it was handmade it ended up in the Museum of Natural History. You can see it in New York City. I guess it harkens to a time 200 years ago. But not a cabinet of curiosities with the two-headed monkeys. This is a kind of a melding of science, religion, cultural arts and hunting under one roof. Only part of it is digital. We don't have signs with writing all over the museum. There is numbers and everybody carries an iPad they plug in the number and that will tell them the story and of that particular thing or object whatever it is they're looking at. And not from an academic point you know it's these are my stories of me gathering these things, not some erudite academic you know professor of some weird “ology” thing that gather this up 50, 60 or a hundred years ago. These are real. This is today's world and again what I brought back, everything's handmade. Even the taxidermy is hand done. The animals were taken by my man, mankind. Personally I find it fascinating. So far, virtually every single person has gone through it, if you read the comments in the guest-book, it speaks as to how much people want to see real things nowadays that are made by hand but not digital or things made in China. They want to see things that are real that speak to them, tribal pieces, religious pieces. Those icons from around the world of the various religions and carvings masks bead work, native artifacts from all over, such as Mongolian archery, the points I found myself. So it's interesting. Besides all that, it's my own collection. I have been a collector since I was a kid. I always have been, including the animals. Which I love hunting, but a big part of that is to collect the experiences and the art and artifacts from those countries along with the wildlife, if it's legal of course. And then try and bring it all back to one place where people get to share it.
Chris: So, your hobby became so big that you had a turn it into Museum.
Jim: There you go, you just summed it up perfectly. My wife would agree with you 100%. She says I'm a hoarder but an organized hoarder. I don't like anything put away in an archive or in drawers where nobody gets to see them except some PhD from some University. Everything that I collected is for display. It's a hobby. Oh boy. That would imply that I live my whole life living a hobby. It's more of a life I would say. So, for the passion for sure for collecting.
Chris: You have another big event coming up in December. You have the Jim Shockey Classic on December 2nd and 3rd I believe?
Jim: Yeah correct down in Myrtle Beach South Carolina.
Chris: That is a tribute to the military golf tournament?
Jim: It is a golf tournament. I love golf. I'm not good at it, but I love it. I love the challenge of it and about eight years ago we started this tournament in Tucson Arizona. We ran it there for six years, and then gave it a little bit of a hiatus for a couple of years. Now we've reinstated it in Myrtle Beach. And 100% of the funds go towards taking veterans of the Armed Forces hunting. All expense-paid. There are many members of the Armed Forces that are hunters. This is one way of saying thank you. We can never ever do enough for these fine men and women that protect our freedoms. But we can also only do what we can do and this is one way that we can give back to these people as a way of thanks. So, this will be running by the time this probably comes out, it'll already be over and hopefully a smashing success and we'll be carrying on in 2019 as well.
Chris: Speaking of the military and I'm just throwing this out there. You are a Canadian citizen but I think this pertains to everybody. What does our Second Amendment mean to you?
Jim: It has been said a million times and guns don't kill people, people kill people. Guns are not the problem. Go look at the kids nowadays what they're watching in these video games. There is the problem. They are inured to the violence and the horror of murder and that is the reason. Hollywood has done this. In order to attack the Second Amendment, which was put in place so that we could never be overrun by our own government. I've been around the world and many places where the people are unarmed, they can't do a darn thing. When a gang gets in charge or just comes to power in those countries, the people have no way of rebelling. God forbid that would ever happen in our side of the world over here, but nobody can predict any anything like that. The fore fathers of America, they wrote that Second Amendment in for a very good reason. To take it out, there is not a good reason to take it out. I am a life member of the NRA. The Second Amendment, the attacks on a gun ownership, they have to draw a line in the sand and just say no more. Nobody crosses this line because it's a slippery slope. Once you do, then what's next? We can’t be divided and conquered on line. So yeah, I'm Canadian but I still believe in gun ownership. We are looking at our own issues up here. Some of the government’s right now, civic governments are trying to get the federal government to give them authority to ban hand guns and any assault looking weapons and semi-automatic firearms including shotguns from city limits. We are fighting that. You have to remember always why that was put in place and that alone is enough to keep it in place going forward. Regardless of where you live whether it’s an urban center never held a gun in your life, you have to remember why it was put in place and respect those men and I’m sure there were women. They put it in there for a good reason. And it needs to stay and all of us need to do what we can to support that. And by the way when you mention the military, I’m active with our Canadian Armed Forces right now I'm an honorary Lieutenant-Colonel with CRPG the Canadian Ranger patrol group. I have a meeting with my commanding officer here just after this phone call. So, I'm still active, full uniform. I will be heading out to an exercise here pretty quick in October. So even from that perspective I believe in the Second Amendment. We don't have it in Canada unfortunately so we can't fall back on that when we get attacked from whatever direction. It is usually politicians just pandering to the vote. They don't believe it, they know it's not too late they just want to get voted back into power so they'll do whatever they can and that's just wrong, it's wrong and we should never tolerate that.
Chris: I just found that to be a very personal question to different people they have the core answer and then they have a personal answer and you've answered both. And I appreciate that. So, looking back on your career, what do you think defines who you are?
Jim: Like I said, judging myself I'm not probably the best one for that. That's for other people to look at my career and call that one. I can only say that that I've done my best to follow the rules, set a good example, reach out to as many people that I can possibly reach out to about the positives of hunting and the good work that hunters do. I can only hope that that defines my career but after I am dead you can say what you think of other than and everybody else can say what they think and hopefully it comes close to what I’m, what I'm hoping.
Chris: You are on the right track.
Jim: Hopefully I can say that. It is difficult for me to find my own and obviously I have had some impact on hunters. I tried to have an impact outside of the hunting world to reach for the non-hunters. And I think all of us have a responsibility I’ve literally done my best. I couldn't standing here right now at 60, I can’t look backwards and say well I can do this better I came down a little more no I've worked 24/7 for 40 years. And before that was working just as hard but for sports. So, it’s what I guess it remains to be seen what defines my career.
Chris: Well, in closing what's next for you?
Jim: I am a grandfather, Lennie Bow our almost 2-year-old granddaughter would say I'm a Big Bapa now, I'm looking forward to that. We have a grandson Flynn Jett that’s about 18 months old, and they’re just getting to the point where I can interact with them and start to influence them and teach them and I am really looking forward to that. Louise and I raised our children to the best of our ability, again with zero regrets on how we did it and how much time as we could. I plan to do the same thing as a Big Bapa going to our grandchildren. And the museum just now telling the stories, I mean is probably still a few years away from that way, I'm sitting in a rocking chair with a plaid blanket over my knees but to pass on any wisdom that I picked up along the way like that would be next and of course I'll still hunt. I love the Yukon. I can't imagine not being up there every year for at least a few weeks and I love Saskatchewan, love our place in Pinehurst , golfing yeah I guess. One thing I don’t see a whole bunch of in my future is the serious expeditions in these crazy places that I just defined a lot of my career over the last 25 years. I have no intention to go back into Pakistan, Iran Somalia, though Azerbaijan. All those places I've been there done that. Now if trying to opens up go back into there so but I don't see a lot of crazy international death-defying expeditions in my future. That’s for the younger guys now. I don’t see as well, I don’t hear as well, and physically, I can still walk the walk but really that's high end on the hunting world that’s kind of the Olympics and you don’t see very many 60-year-olds in the Olympics. So probably less of the international stuff and a lot more of the North American, you know revisit a lot of the places that you know I was hunting 20 or 40 years ago even start all over again.
Chris: I appreciate your time, congratulations on the Wetherby Award and the museum and your Golf Classic coming up and I will see you at the shows this season.
Jim: Perfect then.