Larry Weishuhn: Hunting his Dream
by Lorie Woodward Cantu
Larry Weishuhn, outdoor writer, speaker and television personality, has pursued big game all over the world, but the hunt that looms largest in his memory occurred near Zimmerscheidt in Colorado County. His adrenaline almost got the best of him.
“I was up near the top of an old oak tree when I heard something coming,” said Weishuhn, who is host of DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon on the Sportsman Channel. “He stepped out—and I knew, without question, I had a world record buck in my sights.”
Weishuhn managed to get off one shot from his grandfather’s single-shot 12 gauge shotgun. Instead of crumpling in a pile, the buck threw up his flag and bounded away.
In the haze of excitement, Weishuhn accidentally pulled too hard on the shotgun’s fore end, disengaging the barrel. It fell to the ground 30 feet below. He considered jumping out of the tree, but thankfully crawled down instead. Plucking the barrel from the mud, Weishuhn blew the dirt out of it as he began running in the direction the monster buck had disappeared.
The buck, it seemed, had vanished—until Weishuhn literally tripped over it.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]“I was breathing hard, and my blood was roaring in my ears,” Weishuhn said. “I could see my name in the record books. Then, I looked down.”[/pullquote]
The monster buck had a five-inch spike on one side and a four-inch spike on the other.
“Buck fever and ground shrink all in the same morning,” Weishuhn said. “There’s never been a hunt or a trophy as special as that one. It was 1961. I was 14 years old. It was my first buck.”
Hunting the World Over
Since then, Weishuhn, who now lives in Uvalde, has hunted in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. He has numerous whitetail mounts and all manner of high-quality, high-scoring game including desert bighorn sheep, brown bear and Cape buffalo, and yet the spike buck is the trophy he’d hang on to.
“If I were forced to choose one trophy to symbolize what hunting means to me, it would be that little spike buck taken on our family’s property,” Weishuhn, who co-founded the Texas Wildlife Association, said. “Looking at him, I’m reminded of the respect for the land, the animals and the tradition of hunting that was ingrained in me from the beginning.”
Hunting His Heritage
Grandparents don’t have favorites, but Weishuhn’s maternal grandfather, A.J. Aschenbeck, made it clear he wanted a red-haired, freckle-faced grandchild. When Weishuhn arrived on the scene in 1947, he fit the bill. While all of the grandchildren got their share of their grandfather’s attention, Weishuhn became his shadow.
“I don’t remember not hunting and fishing,” he said. “My first memory is being outdoors with the men and being so small they carried me on their backs because I couldn’t keep up.”
His grandfather made it a point to include Weishuhn in his fishing trips, where they angled for perch and catfish using cane poles, and on his squirrel hunting trips. Weishuhn’s father, Lester, was also an avid outdoorsman who hunted coons with hounds Monday through Saturday nights and then ran beagles on Sunday afternoons.
“When I started school, I thought I had been locked in Hell because I didn’t get to be outside all day,” Weishuhn said. “The only redeeming feature of school was that I learned to read, so I could read about hunting myself.” Weishuhn’s mother often filled the evenings of his earliest years by reading bedtime stories from Outdoor Life unknowingly introducing him to foreign places, unfamiliar animals and the power of storytelling against the backdrop of nature.
Instead of wasting his hour of television time on cartoons, he watched Jim Thomas “Lone Star Sportsman.” He spent his remaining spare time listening to his grandfather, his dad and their friends share stories about their adventures—and misadventures.
“My love of the outdoors was something that was just in me,” Weishuhn said. “I was blessed to have people around me who nurtured my passion and to be raised in a time and place where it was okay to roam.”
Weishuhn grew up on family property near Zimmerscheidt north of Columbus. The first of the German-speaking Weishuhns, who hailed from Germany and Prussia as well as the Alsace Lorraine region, passed through Indianola in the mid-1800s and made their way to Colorado County. In 1876, they put down permanent roots on the family homestead that Weishuhn and his brother Glenn co-own today. It has been in continuous agricultural production for almost 140 years.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]“My family has owned land in Texas for a long time,” Weishuhn said. “Land ownership is a sacred trust. I don’t want to be the one to turn loose of it. I’ll pass on to my two daughters.”[/pullquote]
Growing up, Weishuhn helped his family with their cattle, hog and chicken operation. By the time he was 10, Weishuhn was doing, by his uncles’ collective estimation, “a man’s day of work.” He tended to animals before the school bus picked him up and when he got home in the afternoon. Then, after all of the chores and his homework were done, he was free to roam in the woods.
“I grew up in the country with a family who hunted and fished when there wasn’t work to do,” Weishuhn said. “I learned early about the importance of wildlife and habitat and how it fits into life and living.
“At the same time, they instilled in me a strong work ethic that has stayed with me throughout my life—and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, even if I could.”
Hunting a Career
When it came time to pick a career, Weishuhn wanted to be outdoors. He narrowed his choices to: outdoor writer, game warden and wildlife biologist. He picked wildlife biology and in 1965 left Zimmerscheidt for Texas A&M University. He was not only the first Aggie, but the first Weishuhn to go to college.
“Timing in life is everything,” Weishuhn said. “At the time I was becoming a wildlife biologist, interest in wildlife and habitat management was in its infancy.”
Weishuhn graduated from Texas A&M in 1970.
I should’ve graduated in 1969, but the second semester of freshmen chemistry reared its ugly head—several times,” Weishuhn said laughing.
He credits his graduation to his dean who finally enrolled him in organic chemistry and to his wife Mary Anne. She grew up on a ranch south of Columbus.
They met when they were six years olds. Weishuhn’s dad wanted a Dalmatian. Mary Anne’s father, E.V. Potter, had some puppies. The children were in tow when the two men negotiated a dog trade in downtown Columbus.
“I remember a little blue-eyed girl who was even cuter than the speckled pups,” Weishuhn said. They went to different schools, so their paths didn’t cross again until their junior year in high school when they began dating. They married after their freshman year of college.
“If it weren’t for Mary Anne, I don’t know where I’d be,” Weishuhn said. “Every day I’d go into our college housing home ready to quit. Every day she’d say, ‘Larry, we’ve got every cent we have invested in tuition and books. You’ve got finish.’ Her support has allowed me to do everything I’ve done.”
Hunting an Opportunity
Weishuhn got his professional start as a wildlife biologist at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department where he rose through the ranks to become a technical guidance biologist, allowing him to work directly with landowners to manage their resources.
He was writing articles for outdoor magazines on the side. Because TPWD only allowed him to write for its magazine, he began using nom de plumes in order to hone his craft. He was also speaking every chance he got.
Weishuhn was on the road more than he was home, leaving Mary Anne alone with their two small daughters for extended periods of time. It was Weishuhn’s habit to stop at a pay phone and call before he headed home. One night, after he’d been gone for 17 days trapping pronghorn in West Texas, he forgot.
It was 3 a.m. when he unlocked the front door. The feel of cold metal pressed below his right ear stopped him in his tracks.
Mary Anne, the firearm savvy daughter of a law enforcement official, said, “You better be who I think you are.”
Weishuhn replied, “I hope I’m who you think I am.”
He never forgot to call again. And he never again worried about his family’s safety while he was gone.
“I felt sorry for any fool who made the mistake of breaking into our house,” Weishuhn said.
Things rocked along smoothly until TPWD offered Weishuhn another promotion. The leadership planned to create a position for him in Austin, which would have confined him to an office.
“I called Mary Anne and said, ‘Do you want to move to Austin?’” Weishuhn said. “She said, ‘Not really. Do you?’”
Weishuhn phoned his media contacts and a private landowner who had informally offered him a job on several occasions. He made the leap to the private sector building a wildlife consulting business that took him all over the state and earned him the moniker “Mr. Whitetail.” At the same time, he began contributing to national outdoor magazines, eventually writing for every one of the majors except Field and Stream. To date, he has penned more than 2,500 articles.
Things rocked along smoothly again until a helicopter fell from the sky—for the thirteenth time. Weishuhn and his pilot were flying a white-tailed deer survey in Dimmit County. The Sheriff’s Department notified Mary Anne that Weishuhn had died. She was en route to Dimmit County to claim his body when officials intercepted her to tell her Weishuhn was in the hospital not the morgue.
“The good Lord had given me another chance,” Weishuhn said. “I took it.”
He refocused his career to concentrate on communications.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]“When I left private wildlife consulting, I was earning $75 per month—guaranteed—from my writing,” Weishuhn said. “We had one daughter in college and another headed that way. Hunger is a great motivator.”[/pullquote]
And again, timing is everything. As he continued to build his career as a writer and speaker, he noticed television was beginning to siphon ad revenue away from the outdoor publications.
He, along with several colleagues, produced and sold two instructional videos on deer management, which led to television. First, he served as a consultant helping develop outdoor television shows such as Bill Jordan’s RealTree Outdoors and Bass Pro Outdoor World. Then he began hosting and producing his own shows including Hunting the World, Winchester’s World of Whitetails with Larry Weishuhn and most recently DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon. His television work has earned top Nielson ratings and earned numerous Telly awards and Emmy nominations.
Hunting an Audience
“There is hunting and then there is hunting for the camera,” Weishuhn said. “For instance, I don’t pull the trigger unless the camera can capture the shot. I’ve passed on a lot of great game, but I accept the trade-off because it affords me the opportunity to hunt in incredible locations around the world.”
Getting to and from hunts, both domestic and international, is not easy. Weishuhn is on the road 280 – 300 days a year.
“I love being places, but getting there is not my favorite part,” Weishuhn said. “At 6’3” and 260 pounds, airplane seats are not as comfortable as they once were.”
And then there’s the constantly changing geopolitical climate. Recently, Weishuhn was detained in Kyrgyzstan. Officials from Air France, who were holding the flight, tried to intercede to no avail. Finally, Weishuhn remembered the $400 he had tucked in his boot. He laid them out one at a time before the Kyrgyzstan officers.
When he got to the fourth one, the official asked, “Is that all?”
Weishuhn replied, “Yes, and you need to let me get on the plane or be prepared to take me home with you.”
Weishuhn was allowed on the plane.
“Traveling takes patience, and I’m not necessarily a patient person, but I’ve learned,” Weishuhn said. “Impatience can cause you a whole lot of trouble.”
But, even after all of the miles, all of the years and all of the hunts, Weishuhn is not jaded.
Larry Weishuhn World Hunter
“For me hunting is as fresh and exciting as it was when I was a kid,” he said. “I’m blessed that’s the case. My favorite hunt is always the one I’m about to go on.”
*portions of this article first appeared in Lands of Texas magazine and are reprinted by permission.