By Skip Knowles
WILDFOWL Editor Skip Knowles caught up with Carson for this story but first asked his agent what makes the big guy tick. His response: “Carson started filming with his brother on their own for fun and that’s essentially how his TV show was born. That led to the Eukanuba partnership and they are taking care of him in terms of helping him take care of his dogs and that is so cool. That partnership is unique for an NFL player and they saw this as his passion and it makes a lot of sense. He doesn’t get to talk about it too much…he is extremely passionate about hunting and training dogs and making sure the canines are healthy and happy.”
WF: Congrats on getting locked in with the big Eagles contract, and your big year coming up in the league. You are a guy who could probably kill a goose with a football and your passions seem to have merged: $32 million a year could get you in some prime duck holes…if you can find the time. Tell us how you got into hunting and what aspects of it most interest you?
CW: I started young with my dad and brother walking for pheasants in North Dakota, and got more into it a few weekends each year with them during deer season. I liked it but honestly was more concerned about sports and playing ball with my buddies; hunting was just something I did but I wasn’t deeply passionate about it until college (North Dakota State). I’d go hunting with two of my best friends from school and they had a chocolate Lab. One snowy day he came out of the cover with a bird in his mouth. That was a thrilling sight. But I don’t know if I even hit one…all day birds flying everywhere and from that moment I thought “this is really fun.” Playing college ball built up so much stress and I thought “this is an awesome break from school and football.” That spring, I was determined to figure out how to shoot a gun better. I got a Remington 870, and a dog. I didn’t grow up with a dog, but loved being around my buddy’s dog and just had to get my own. She was a golden and my parents thought I was losing my mind, but it taught me a ton about responsibility and became one of the best decisions…just having to take care of her created new priorities.
I got rid of my video games and said to myself ‘OK, time to grow up’ and she was my best friend. College was so stressful and it’s so nice to come back to her each day. Henley trained me, I tell everyone, it was such a joy, and getting out duck hunting was the main thing. I still rifle hunted but the duck hunting is what sold me. Every off-day during the week we would head out, she did the job I needed her to do and that’s where it started. I just fell in love with it, bought decoys and trailers and learned to call ducks and geese, and it drove my roommates crazy blowing that call in the basement …the perfect escape from the stress of relationships and school and everything.
Henley 870 is her name, and she hunted when she was 8 months old fetching ducks. At the time I knew nothing. She’s not world-class but she sat next to me steady and when I shot a bird she’d go fetch it. I really love the whole thing (hunting) in its entirety but unfortunately I don’t have time to scout. When I do get to I love the anticipation of finding the X—”where is it, let’s find it,” and laying plans to hunt where we can set up. I love the whole process whether we are limiting out or striking out, the whole process of it: the bonds and friendships made in goose blinds and pits, those moments are, well, we cherish them…
WF: We can relate! I have taken some of the Seahawks hunting and chased ducks and pigs with Adam Vinatieri, and am always amazed at how hard you guys work to shoehorn even a 24-hour trip into your insanely busy fall. How do guys like you scratch the itch and make it out in the fall?
CW: Fortunately league rules say you have to have a day off…Mondays you will find me in a treestand or in a field shooting ducks or geese. I’m fortunate enough we have some land out here near Philly we can hunt on and in the offseason make the most of. Big game is in the fall and that’s tough, my brother and I are married and try to balance family life and football…we try our best.
WF: Obviously dogs are huge to you, and now you have this alliance with Eukanuba to help care for your high powered hunting canines as well as sponsor your show. Fitting, since upland and deer hunting got you into the sport, but the waterfowl bug bit hard and stuck.
CW: Waterfowl is probably the top. We chase everything we can but waterfowl is probably my favorite and it’s what hooked me in college. There was this one big pond we went to 35 minutes away and something about going there and throwing out decoys and shooting birds as the sun rose was just amazing. We never crushed ‘em but we’d get up to 10 and that’s what hooked me, that and getting to do it with my dogs. I love big game hunting but any time I get to get out there with these dogs…
WF: There’s a bit of a schism between field and water hunting these days in waterfowling; sounds like you love water and dogs.
CW: I like all of it but have never hunted flooded timber. When I see videos it looks incredible. Hunting over water is my favorite—the sun coming up over a pond. If I had one choice it’s shooting ducks over water.
WF: Makes sense for a dog lover; you don’t even need them to field hunt and now you are a face for Eukanuba. I hear you got a new ringer pup.
CW: Henley is in her prime but I didn’t really train her that much and she is not really bred from hunting lines. At that the time I could only afford so much anyways and she still does it, but she lacks drive at times. She’s my water dog, swim and fetch anything. Now I have a 2-year-old from her bred from a really good hunting line, and he has much more potential, talent and trainability. Jersey, he’s 2 and really coming around, doing long-range casting. And we just bought a new one, 4 months old, from the best golden breeder I could find, Thunderstruck Retrievers in Minnesota. Hopefully he has more drive and is a little crazy and hard headed so I have one that is a little bit of both. Just got him in the water for the first time, pretty hilarious. Training him is going well, I will send him away at six months because I’ll be at training camp myself.
WF: On Wentz Bros Outdoors you chase everything and apply deep humility in production. So cool you share the limelight with your brother Zach. How close are you guys?
CW: We are really close. He played baseball at NDS. He’s a little older and as kids we were not always the closest, always competitive, but once college came around we matured and there was just something about being with family. He is my best friend now and once I was drafted by the Eagles I offered him a job running a foundation and to come and move outside Philly so we get to hunt together. He lives 3 minutes down the road and it’s pretty cool to work on the charitable stuff we are passionate about, as well as get out and make videos doing the fun stuff. I’m really thankful we get to share that kind of time together.
WF: The show is well done, with an emphasis on honesty not ego. What makes it unique and what are your goals with it?
CW: What makes the show unique is we are trying to portray that we are by no means professional hunters but love it and while we are knowledgeable about some things, often with other things we don’t know what’s going on. We show we are out to learn. Everyone just sees me as the football player so it’s a good time to show my other side. And it’s cool to do a show revealing the other sides of hunting, as some shows create negative stereotypes when all they do is kill and kill and kill. We are hoping to change the way of thinking toward hunting. If someone watches it because they love football and get a more positive message about hunting that’s the goal.
WF: At your level your career can end on any given Sunday…what do you see yourself doing after football?
CW: I’ve thought about it and God willing I’ll play this game a while yet, but also see myself being more involved in the charitable realm when I’m done, and raise a family and be there for them more than I am as an NFL player. And getting out and hunting and keep making Wentz Bros videos!
WF: You ever elk hunt? We have an amazing new wapiti magazine.
CW: Red stag was our closest thing to elk hunting. We were determined not to do high fence, we did that just to look at them and got to hear the roar, but we got some wild stags talking too…it’s unbelievable.
WF: That was a killer shot you made. Most people can’t pull off that kind of quick freehand standing shot in the field.
CW: Ha-ha-ha-ha….that’s how we shot growing up. We walked for deer and if it got up and ran we shot it, we didn’t manage or have our own lands, it was natural. My first five or six deer were running; my best shots are reactive.
WF: Helps to be one of the world’s elite athletes. My dad and I put a famous punter on a giant public land whitetail non-typical, but he couldn’t stay still long enough to get it done. He moved from where we put him and blew it—your brother mentioned that you really like the more active keep-it-moving style of hunting.
CW: That’s part of why I love waterfowling, because it’s a little more active with the dogs and lots more going on. But big game spot-and-stalk, there’s not many things like it. Being able to sneak with a bow on a big game animal is extraordinary, but I do enjoy sitting in treestands. My brother can sit all day but for me it’s 3 hours. I get a little stir crazy. Always been that way as a kid—used to drive my brother crazy. He’s more chill and I’m non-stop go-go-go, which makes us a good team but can drive each other crazy.
WF: Other outdoor interests?
CW: Most everything. Bowfishing...anytime we get an opportunity to try new things. But waterfowl and whitetails are the main things. We do food plots and manage land and love checking cameras, it’s pretty fun.
WF: What’s it like being such a popular QB in a town that is so sports insane? There aren’t many markets like Green Bay, Philly, Chicago and Boston, such intense fans.
CW: It’s a challenge playing here. Rewarding but a challenge. When things aren’t going well they will boo guys at home games and give you a piece of their mind. If you aren’t focused on the right things you can let it get to you, but for me being grounded in my faith and knowing what the Lord has blessed me with—it grounds me to weather the storms. It’s easy to let it get to you with one bad game or even a bad pass, but when it’s going well there is no place you would rather be…when it’s going well. We won the Superbowl (the Eagles’ first ever) and it was insane, the parade and everything. Being grounded helps me never get too down or too high and I try my best to stay the same. Some players that I’m close to tell me it takes a unique person to make it here. It could eat me up in a second…it’s not easy. Winning a lot helps too!
WF: And getting outdoors…
CW: Absolutely. Still the greatest escape is to get out in a blind or tree every off-day. I try to get a duck or buck but more than anything it’s the ability to hit reset. You work all week and it’s so mentally and physically taxing and you are so drained after Sunday. Going hunting lets me hit that reset and be ready to start another week.