Ted Nugent’s Wild Spirit

He's loud, he's proud, and—advisably or not—the Nuge always speaks his mind. We caught up with the 64-year-old rocker ahead of the return of his TV show, Spirit of the Wild, to talk about why he still spends his downtime hanging out in the woods.

Scott Neumyer

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Whether or not you agree with his unabashedly conservative views on gun control (or his penchant for hunting in fenced-off game ranches), there’s no denying that Ted Nugent is one of the most polarizing outdoorsmen stalking through America’s woods today. The “Cat Scratch Fever” rock legend has been shooting and fishing for over six decades, and he still makes time to get out to his favorite hunting grounds weekly, tours be damned.

Since 2001, Nugent has brought his love of the chase to the little screen as the host of Outdoor Channel’s Spirit of the Wild, a show that focuses on his hunts for deer, bear, and other game across the U.S. Scott Neumyer sat down with Uncle Ted ahead of the premiere of his program’s twelfth season to talk about what keeps him coming back.

OUTSIDE: You’ve released over thirty albums, you’re still on tour, you’re on the board of directors of the NRA, and you have this hit show. How do you find the time and energy to continue to do all this?
NUGENT: And you’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg. I’ve got so much stuff going, it’s borderline criminal.

It’s real simple. Linda, my personal assistant for over twenty years now, my manager Doug Banker, my road manager Bob Quandt, my band, my crew, my wife Shemane, my sons, my daughters, my ranch managers, my production team on Spirit of the Wild: Everybody in the Nugent world kicks maximum ass. We get up early. We put our hearts and souls into everything that we do. My team is capable of moving mountains before breakfast. 

I couldn’t do any of it alone. I hunt 300 days a year. I rock and roll 65 days a year. It’s the American dream beyond anyone’s dream.

On Spirit of the Wild, you can see the passion in everything you do on that show.
Never in my life have I done a “take two” on anything. Roll the fucking camera; this is it! What you see is exactly how it goes down.

You say on the show that you’ve been bow hunting every week for 60 years. How did you find the time when you were on tour back in the ’70s and ’80s?
It’s all about priorities. Here’s something that’s very telling: I had Joe Perry and Steven Tyler out to one of my hunting grounds here not that long ago and they go, “This is amazing! So you own this swamp and these forests? You own all this? You planted these forests yourself? Wow! I wish I had one of these!”

And I said, “Well, you snorted eight of them! You snorted twelve hunting preserves!” So, it’s about priorities. I’ve never spent money on bullshit, so I own some phenomenal sacred hunting grounds. It was about prioritizing that time.

Is it safe to say that bow hunting is your favorite form of hunting?
There’s no question, yeah. I’ve shot 100 arrows this morning already. I shoot my bow every day throughout the day. Even when I’m on tour, I bring a bow with me.

Is it the challenge of the bow that’s most interesting to you?
The “aim small, miss small” discipline overall, regardless of projectile, is what I enjoy. I enjoy the marksmanship discipline. It is quite a challenge. I’m not the greatest archer in the world, but it’s my goal to be that before I die.

I do enjoy shooting though. I have my own line of ammunition now–the Ted Nugent Ammo–which came about because I shoot so much. I shoot my guns every day too, but when it comes time to kill game, I prefer getting up close and personal and penetrating that defense mechanism that wildlife has, to kill them at close range with a sharp stick. I’m fascinated by that.

What’s your favorite animal to hunt and what’s the one animal you wouldn’t want to hunt?
My favorite animal to hunt is whatever is standing broadside within twenty yards, looking the other way. That’s my favorite. The one that doesn’t know I’m there.

I would never kill an animal unless I was going to eat it or I’m protecting property or balancing the herd. For examples, coyotes and fox. I don’t eat coyotes and fox, but I use their beautiful skins for gifts and clothing. The killing of those varmints bring balance to the land and allows there to be some biodiversity.

You’ve gotten a lot of criticism because of your very staunch views on gun control and gun ownership. Does it ever get frustrating for you that people only see one side of you, or that they almost see you as this kind of scary cartoon character?
I think the people who see me as a scary cartoon character are so inconsequential, and such a lunatic fringe, that I just consider it like a court jester. The communication that I have with the greatest people in the world, and I’ll tell you who the greatest people in the world are: parents who are saying goodbye to a five- and six-year-old little boy and little girl who’s dying of terminal cancer and they’ve asked Ted Nugent to take their son or daughter on their last hunting trip or fishing trip. Do you think my critics could possibly compete with that? When a Navy Seal has in his will that he wants me to play the song “Fred Bear” at his funeral, do you think my critics can compete with that?

There’s always talk of new gun legislation. Do you think there’s ever going to be legislation that would make both sides happy?
No, because the anti-gunners literally turn you into a felon. They turn an absolute saintly person into a felon with the stroke of a pen, because the saintly person possesses a harmless inanimate object–a magazine that holds more than seven rounds, a gun that has a convenient pistol grip, a gun that has a collapsible stock so a father and his son can both shoot the same rifle. You lose your voting rights and your God-given individual rights to keep and bear arms because some soulless Nazi determines you to be a felon, because you possess a magazine that holds more than seven rounds? Really?

Spirit of the Wild airs on Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. EST on Outdoor Channel. All-new episodes return starting on July 2. This interview has been edited for length.