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Jim Horneck—The Definition of Consistency

Posted by: Jason McKee
| Oct, 2 2012

What do you get when you combine a dedicated and determined hunter with a proven broadhead like the Thunderhead?Over 25 years of consistency afield!

With that, we introduce you to Jim Horneck from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Jim has taken an amazing assortment of game with the Thunderhead broadhead over the past 25 years—with amazing results and consistency. Here, in his own words, are the accounts from a lifelong pursuit of bowhunting.

Q: How long have you been bow hunting?

I was introduced to archery at a YMCA camp when I was 7 or 8 years old in the mid-1960s and was hooked on it.  My first memory of bow hunting—I was probably 9 years old. I was trying to shoot my first rabbit. My weapon was a 15lb fiber glass stick bow and 3 arrows. After 6 months of failures, I followed a set of tracks in the snow in our yard. I found the bunny cornered between the house and the chimney—I finally had a good shot. I released my field point tipped arrow at point blank range, only to have it bounce off. The bunny ran off to safely totally unharmed. I remember running into the house and telling my mom I needed a better bow. The next summer, armed with a new 25lb fiberglass stick bow, the chipmunk population knew me well. I’m 54 now, so I have been bow hunting for about 45 years. Wow—it doesn’t seem that long!

Q: Who was the inspiration that “drew” you into bow hunting?

Back in the late 60s, I didn’t know anybody else that bow hunted, so I read articles about bow hunting in Outdoor Life and Field & Stream. Guys like Fred Bear, Jim Dougherty, Tom Jennings, Ben Pearson and Pete Shepley were my idols. My dad would go out and sit for deer with me at my grandparent’s cabin in northern Wisconsin, but he was a gun hunter and couldn’t help me with bow hunting. Finally in 1970, I walked into my first 7th grade class, science, to see an 8lb brown trout swimming in an aquarium. The fish had just been caught that morning by my teacher, Gary Risch. Fresh out of college, it was his first year teaching. We became friends and soon I had a mentor for bow hunting. Other inspirations later in my life were Chuck Adams as he pursued the first Super Slam and Stan Godfrey, a Pope & Young scorer.

Q: What was your first animal taken with a bow?  When?

The first animal I took with a bow, other than rabbits and chipmunks, was a white tail doe. I shot the deer on a subzero winter day with a 34lb Red Wing Hunter Recurve and Bear Broadheads when I was 15 years old. Gary Risch, my science teacher, had taken me to the spot and told me that I could go back anytime. By this time my dad was also bow hunting. I’m sure he was shocked when he heard me yelling, “Dad! Dad! I got a deer down and I’m out of arrows!” There was no prouder freshman in class that Monday.

Q: What was your first “record book” animal with a bow? When?

In 1978 I started elk hunting on a  do it yourself  hunt in Colorado in my beat up, 10 year old F-250 2wd pickup. I shot a spike bull on the 26th day of that hunt. I was then addicted to elk hunting. Over the next several years I shot some small bulls and cows, but never had a chance at a trophy bull.

Some taxidermy customers of mine came in one day with two 6x6 bulls they had shot with rifles. They said their guides could really call elk. I booked a bow hunt for the next fall to hunt for a trophy 6x6 and mainly to learn how to call elk better.  The first hour of the hunt I passed up a 5x5 ay 6 yards. It was the biggest bull I had ever seen. The outfitter was not real happy with me; however, I had told him I was looking for a 6x6. Several days later I harvested a 294 inch 6x6 the guide called in for me. That was 1987, the first year I shot Thunderheads and my first P&Y animal.

Q: How many P&Y and/or B&C animals have you taken with a bow?

To date I believe I have 27 Pope & Young entries with 4 of them making Boone & Crocket, all of them taken with Thunderheads. I was pretty much thrown into the world of P&Y. In 1988, the year after I shot my first P&Y elk, I was lucky enough to harvest the No. 2 (at the time) P&Y mule deer, scoring 197-6/8 P&Y and200-4/8 B&C. I was also fortunate enough to harvest the current No. 5 P&Y brown beer in 2009, scoring 28-3/16 P&Y and B&C and the No. 6 grizzly, scoring 25-3/16 P&Y and  B&C in 2010. I also have a muskox that just barely made the minimum for B&C.

I have not been caught up in the number of entries, as I eat up a lot of tags. My theory has always been, “You can’t kill a 170 whitetail if you shoot the first 135 you see.” Therefore I’m very selective and often times don’t tag out.

Q: You are nearing the completion of the North American Big Game Slam, how many (and which species) do you still need to complete the Slam?

I believe I have 7 species left:

  • Quebec Labrador Caribou
  • Coues Deer
  • Columbian Blacktail
  • Sitka Blacktail
  • Roosevelt Elk
  • Tule Elk
  • Polar Bear (which carries a daunting price tag for a taxidermist with 2 kids in college)

Q: What is your most memorable hunt?

That is a tough one—I have been blessed being able to share experiences with so many people on many different hunts.  While I’ve had a few “hunts from hell” over the years, it seems when the hunt is over that I mainly remember the good parts. I think that’s what keeps me continuing to hunt and enjoy it more every year. Some of the more memorable hunts include a 2009 Kodiak brown bear that nearly got me. My 7 yard shot on the charging brownie probably saved my life. A Mexico desert bighorn sheep hunt rates right up there as well. The outfitter, guides and culture were unforgettable. Perhaps my most memorable hunt was when I took my 12 year old daughter on a Wyoming antelope hunt. She didn’t shoot anything, but she taught me to slow down, relax and enjoy the little things in life.

Q: Among the many animals you’ve killed, is there one specific animal that holds an especially important place to you personally?  If so, which animal and why so?

Another tough question. I am not very good at ranking animals. I am thankful for all of them. If I had to pick one, it would be my first P&Y whitetail. I’m a taxidermist by trade and it seemed like everyone else could kill a nice whitetail but me. I changed hunting areas twice and finally saw a buck I wanted during a late season hunt. I never saw him again that year, but I knew he would be there the next year. I became a little too obsessed with him. Each morning for nearly a year I would wake up with the sheets ripped off my bed. The next fall I killed the 156 gross buck and the sheet ripping ended. Scary!

Q: Which of all the species you’ve killed would you say was the most difficult … and why so?

Most difficult species would have to be the Alaskan brown bear. My first hunt in the early 90s lasted nearly a month with about 3 weeks of actual hunting. It was an inexpensive hunt with a very unorganized outfitter—a “hunt from hell.” I only saw 1 bear worth stalking; he grabbed a chum salmon and disappeared into the heavy timber. In 2007 I went to Kodiak Island and had over 200 sightings (several bears multiple times) during a 15 day hunt. Many of the 9-10 foot bears were so badly rubbed that I just couldn’t shoot. The last day of this spring hunt we found a big boar chasing a sow. When the sow got into the heavy alders he lost her. We broke branches which brought him in to 40 yards of me; the wind switched and he was gone. I finally shot the charging brown bear I mentioned earlier, two years later on the 13th day of a hunt in 2009. All together I took over 50 days to harvest a brown bear, mainly because I wanted a big bear with a good quality hide.

Q: For 2012-2013, do you currently have any hunts scheduled/planned for any of the remaining species you need to complete the Slam?

For fall 2012-2013 I have a busy schedule. I start off with a Central Canadian barren ground caribou hunt in  Nunavat in late August. I had also booked a Quebec/Labrador caribou hunt for late September to hopefully complete the 5 caribou species. Then to my surprise, after 9 years of applying, I drew an Arizona antelope tag. I’ve already harvested a nice antelope from Utah; therefore, I’ll be looking for something exceptional. I should also have tags for whitetails in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. I can’t spend a lot of time on whitetails due to work, but will give it a good effort. I hope to finish up by hunting Arizona Coues deer and javelina in January.

Q: Do you have a personal “dream hunt” that you still hope to experience at some point in the future?

Hands down my North American dream hunt is for Montana Missouri Breaks Bighorn Sheep. I’ve been applying for 20 years and haven’t drawn the tag. I can’t imagine anything in North America more fun than stalking huge bodied, huge horned, long haired rams in the rut. My other dream hunt would be cape buffalo in Tanzania. I’m drawn to the element of danger in that hunt.

Q: Who are some other bow hunters you particularly admire?

Without naming names, I admire anybody who goes “all out” in pursuit of their goal while hunting within the rules of fair chase.

Q: What are some suggestions and/or advice that you might share with fellow bow hunters based upon your own experiences?

The best advice I can give is pursue your dreams. Growing up in the 70s, I dreamed of traveling out of Wisconsin to hunt elk.  As a freshman in high school, my parents told me that I could go elk hunting if I could come up with the money for a guided hunt. They knew at the time there was no way I could come up with the money—even with my paper route money. Five years later I was elk hunting in Colorado and haven’t missed a year of big game hunting since!

We'd like to thank Jim for his time in sharing some of his experiences with us, and his loyalty to the NAP family over the years—and wish him continued success afield in the years to come!