My First Time: Randy Newberg
When it comes to hunting knowledge is the best weapon.
Randy Newberg is a voice and advocate for wildlife conservation, public lands, and the self-guided sportsman. He’s a dedicated hunter and is skilled in his craft. He grew up hunting whitetail in the North Woods of Minnesota. Since filming his first TV show, On Your Own Adventures, in 2009, Randy has been on-air and in-demand, hunting and talking about hunting. On his current show, Fresh Tracks, he shares every aspect of the hunting experience: the thrill of the chase, the exhilaration of success, the hardship of the pack-out, and the agony of failure. His popular Hunt Talk web forum and podcast encompasses a wide variety of subjects with an equally diverse group of guests, covering politics, conservation, management, and numerous other hunting-related topics. He’s a trusted, admired, and well-known guide for many hunters, from Montana and around the country, navigating public lands on their own.
So tell us, Randy, what’s the story behind your first elk?
My first six seasons, I didn’t shoot at an elk. When I moved to Montana 31 years ago, I was so far out of my element. I was used to hunting whitetail in Minnesota, but elk in Montana are a different beast. So I spent a whole summer reading Jack Ward Thomas’s Elk of North America: Ecology and Management. I read it cover to cover. It’s not short—it’s a 6,000-page book. But on opening day, I went back to the same plot of land I’d hunted before, and I shot my first bull.
That’s one unique thing about hunting—you can’t just throw money at it and be successful.
I was filled with anticipation but I was also confident, which was new. I slept in my truck at the trailhead and woke up early to climb up to where I needed to be. It was opening day and by 10 am, I had shot my first bull. It’s still one of my greatest hunting accomplishments. I like to say, “You can’t put a tag on an animal until you find it.”
And to do that, you really have to read about the animals. Elk are a lifetime pursuit. It took me six years to get an elk, and I was hunting hard. You have to become a student of the animal you’re hunting—elk, deer, whatever it may be.
I didn’t have a dime when I moved here. I hunted in my Converse All-Stars with a Jansport backpack. But over the years, as I built a career around hunting, I gained some sponsors and got sucked in by the gadget-obsession. I wish I’d gotten out of that gadget-obsession phase earlier on, because that’s not what hunting is about. You can’t just buy all the gadgets and expect a kill. That’s one unique thing about hunting—you can’t just throw money at it and be successful. There’s always a bit of luck, and luck is fickle. Consistency builds success. There aren’t any shortcuts.