World-renowned bowhunter Fred Eichler of Trinadad, Colorado, is a passionate hunter. Eichler is the owner of Fulldraw Outfitters in southern Colorado, where he guides 10 months of the year for antelope, elk, mule deer, bear, mountain lion and turkey. He's also host of the show "Easton Bowhunting" and "Predator Nation." To help you get to know Eichler a little better, Realtree picked his brain a bit to find out what it's like living a day in his hunting boots.
Realtree: When did you first start bow hunting?
Eichler: I took my first deer in my early teens with a bow. My friends and I started playing around with bows, which led to my interest in the sport. I actually taught myself how to shoot a bow. I read a lot about bowhunting and archery and learned most of what I needed from books and magazines early on. My father was a rifle hunter at the time, but he became interested in bowhunting after I took up the sport. He became an avid bowhunter as well. I knew immediately that I wanted to devote my life to archery and the outdoors. When I was young, I worked in an archery shop in Gainesville, Florida. Then I worked for Bear Archery also in Gainesville, Florida, where I received priceless experience. I managed an archery shop in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Then I went to work for Dart International (the interactive video archery system) as an operations manager. From there I started my own outfitter business. Most of my life has revolved around archery and bowhunting.
Working at these different archery businesses has helped me from a lot of different angles. I now understand the sport of archery from a manufacturer's, retailer's and customer's point of view. My experience has not only helped me in my career, but it has helped me understand why people become passionate about bowhunting.
Realtree: What do you like about bowhunting?
Eichler: Bowhunting provides me with more time in the field because the seasons are longer. I just love the challenge, and I love being outdoors.
Realtree: What's your favorite game to hunt?
My favorite game to hunt is whatever I'm hunting at the time. I love the outdoors so much that if I'm hunting squirrels, then squirrels are my favorite game, and if I'm hunting elk, then elk is my favorite. I know that sounds funny, but I really can't choose one animal I like to hunt more.
Realtree: When and why did you decide to become a full-time guide?
Eichler: I became a full-time guide 24 years ago. I had so many people, both friends and acquaintances ask me to take them deer, elk and antelope hunting, that I thought, "why not do this full time?" I absolutely love being a guide. It gives me the chance to be outdoors at least 10 months out of the year, and it has really improved my skills as a hunter.
We lease a bunch of different ranches and have from 120,000 to 200,000 acres to hunt each year. We guide between 130 to 200 hunters every year. Guiding is definitely a full-time job. I'll have at least six to eight people in camp at a time from all over the country and all over the world, and I'll have anywhere from two to five other guides helping me out. We do antelope, mule deer, elk, bear, mountain lion and turkey hunts.
I love guiding, but it definitely gives me a work out. You don't see a lot of fat hunting guides out there. I'm so thankful that I get to do something I'm passionate about. I'm definitely living my dream. I like that I get to work in the outdoors and work with people as well. I'm a people person, so I like the interaction with other outdoorsmen.
Realtree: What does it take to be a good guide?
Eichler: Patience is the key to being a good guide. You never want to be in too big of a hurry. If the wind is wrong, or if you need to wait a couple of days, its better to wait until the time is perfect than to go in when it's less than perfect and spook the animal you're after. You have to have patience not only with the animals and Mother Nature, but with the people you guide as well. Different people have different physical and mental limitations. As a guide, you have to quickly assess your hunter's abilities and limitations.
Realtree: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
Eichler: My biggest accomplishment is having a job that allows me to spend all of my time outdoors. Unlike many folks in this world, I'm actually happy and excited to go to work every day. I also like that each day is different. It's not like sitting in an office cubical day in and day out. I never know what the day has in store for me when I guide. My career in the outdoors is a lifestyle for me -- it's not just a job. I love it so much, that I really don't consider it work.
Realtree: Who do you admire most in the outdoor industry?
Eichler: I have a huge amount of respect both for Fred Bear and my father. My father set a great example for me because he has always been an ethical hunter and a true outdoorsman in every sense of the word. Fred Bear has always been a mentor to me as well. Getting to work in his plant was a big deal for me.
Realtree: What did you learn from Fred Bear?
Eichler: One thing I learned from Fred was to enjoy myself. Both he and my father enjoy the outdoors. They taught me that hunting is not about the number of animals you take or if you've even taken an animal. They taught me to just enjoy the sunrise and sunset and the time I get to spend outside. That's something I try to apply every day. I never have a disappointing hunt. Whether I take something home or not, I still enjoyed the beauty of nature and every part of being outdoors.
Realtree: What is your primary goal in this industry?
Eichler: I'd like to influence more people into joining the sport that I care so much about. I do a lot of talks throughout the country and even the world in an attempt to recruit more people to this pastime. I enjoy trying to promote the sport that not only has put food on my table, but has provided me with a lifetime worth of enjoyment. I love every facet of archery and the people that I've met through the sport. Archery is more of a way of life than a sport.
Realtree: Why did you decide to join Realtree's pro staff?
Eichler: I really like Realtree's team atmosphere. The people I've met from Realtree have all been super. It's really a fun-based family organization.
Realtree: What do you like about Realtree's camo patterns?
Eichler: They've got many different patterns that apply to different parts of the country. It's nice to be able to vary your camo based on the location you're hunting. I want to help Realtree promote not only archery and hunting to the youth and inexperienced people out there but also I want to help introduce experienced hunters to the best camo out there as well.
Realtree:Your wife Michelle is co-owner of Muzzy Broadheads. What's it like to have a wife who is in the industry and supportive of all of your outdoor pursuits?
Eichler: Having a wife who's involved in bowhunting and in the outdoor industry is great. She's super supportive. I couldn't ask for a better wife. I don't think I could do what I do without her support.
Realtree: What do you do in the little bit of spare time that you have?
Eichler: Both Michelle and I love to ride horses. I also enjoy trapping. Michelle's two boys also enjoy outdoor activities. Even in our spare time, we're outside.
Realtree: If you didn't work in the outdoor industry, what job do you think you'd have?
Eichler: I'd be a wildlife officer or a wildlife biologist.
Realtree: What do you want people to know about you?
Eichler: I'm a people person. I love talking about hunting, and I love to share hunting stories with other people.
Editor's note: Fred Eichler is also a pro staff member of Easton and Muzzy. For more information on his outfitting business please use the contact information below. This was originally published October 7, 2004.