A little more than a quarter of a century ago, Garth Carter had a vision of the future of western big game hunting. State after state had begun to implement point systems for their most coveted tags, and Garth knew it wouldn’t be long before demand for these opportunities would far outweigh the supply. Having already spent nearly 20 years in wildlife management, he was keenly aware that hunters needed help simplifying and interpreting the states’ hunting regulations. More importantly, he knew that adventuresome hunters would benefit greatly from a source of information that standardized and compared the opportunities across all of the states. Armed with that knowledge and a passion for research, Huntin’ Fool was born.
As Huntin’ Fool enters its 25th year of helping hunters dream, plan, and hunt, my wife and I had the privilege of sitting down with Garth and Sharyl Carter to discuss the early years of the company. Shortly into the conversation, Sharyl produced a well-worn manila folder that contained hard copies of the first few years’ worth of data on the Huntin’ Fool membership. They both beamed with pride as they reminisced about individuals they’d never met in person as if they’d known them all their lives. Personalized notes about hunting goals accompanied nearly every record, making it immediately clear that the Carters truly wanted to help their members achieve their hunting goals. One thing that stood out to me is that many of those notes from 25 years ago look very similar to the type of notes we take today. Some of the goals were around inches of antler, some were about exploration and the desire to see new country, and some of them were simply to have an opportunity to make lifelong memories with family and friends.
Perusing those old records filled me with a sense of pride. Not the unhealthy pride that comes with ego, but the type of pride that comes with being a part of something that’s bigger than you are. Those records and that conversation reminded me that we have been entrusted with the privilege of helping members make the most of their precious time when they head into the field each year. I personally welcome the responsibility that comes with that privilege because of the amazing team of individuals that are gathered here on behalf of our members.
I am energized each day as I walk through the halls of our office and hear every department doing their best to help our members plan and execute their hunts. Not every member of our team is an avid hunter, but every single one of us is extremely passionate about customer service. For the minority of our team that doesn’t hunt, I am proud to say that their copies of each issue of the Huntin’ Fool magazine are tabbed and worn as they educate themselves on behalf of you, our members.
When I accepted the CEO role here at Huntin’ Fool nearly three years ago, I did so under one condition. I insisted that every decision we would make as an organization had to be evaluated for its value to our members. Sometimes those decisions are hard to make. For example, we stretched our budget immensely over the last two years to invest in a new database system that improves the member experience by laying a foundation for future benefits we wanted to release. The first of those benefits was our new website that went live last month. The new site is cleaner, easier to navigate, more reliable for logged in users, and enables us to update information in real time when it changes. Furthermore, it provides members an opportunity to manage a significant portion of their own accounts.
I won’t go into all of the internal changes we’ve made in the last three years in an effort to improve our products and services, but I will say that there is not a single day that goes by that we don’t ask ourselves how we can improve. This team is truly invested in the outcomes of our members’ hunts. I feel honored that after nearly 18 years of being a member myself, I have been entrusted with the helm of the ship that Garth and Sharyl Carter launched way back in December of 1995.
As we look to the future, we have some super exciting things we are working on for our members. Perhaps the most significant is a new digital mapping and hunt planning tool that I think our members will love. We should be launching an initial version of this platform before the end of January. I can’t share too many details about the platform at this time, but I will say that we believe our members will see this as an invaluable addition to the Huntin’ Fool toolbox. Once this map-based research platform is launched, our members will have access to our data in the magazine, on our website, in a mapping platform, directly through our Hunt Advisors, on our App, through our podcast, and at trade shows. In our increasingly busy world, we recognize that our members need us to deliver information when, where, and how they can receive it. I promise that we’ll continue to improve every one of those distribution channels in our quest to help all of you go on more hunts with the best possible information.
From myself and the team here at Huntin’ Fool, we’d like to personally thank you for making the last 24 years possible. We look forward to many, many more!