Katy Starr (00:00:01):
Hi, I'm Katy.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:00:02):
And I'm Dr. Cubitt. We're going Beyond The Barn. Come join us on this journey as we bust equine and livestock nutrition myths and interview some of the most intriguing experts in the country.
Katy Starr (00:00:15):
We'll go behind the scenes of how premium Western quality forage is grown and brought to your favorite farm and ranch retail store. We're so glad you're here.
Welcome back to another episode of Beyond the Barn. Our next guest is a seventh generation Arkansan, mule skinner, conservationist, storyteller, host of the Bear Grease podcast, and content creator for the hunting and conservation media company called MeatEater. I'd like to welcome Clay Newcomb to the Beyond the Barn Podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today, Clay.
Clay Newcomb (00:00:51):
Yeah, Katy, my pleasure to be here.
Katy Starr (00:00:53):
So why don't you let us know, because obviously you have a very rich history in hunting and conservation, but a lot of the things that we're going to be talking about today are about mules, which I think our listeners are really going to love your perspective and how you use them. But could you give us a little bit of insight into what started your career in the outdoor industry?
Clay Newcomb (00:01:17):
That's a great question. You know, I like to say I stumbled into the outdoor space. I never had any intentions to make a living in the outdoors. It really was birthed from a passion for hunting, a passion for wild places that just has been inside of me for as long as I can remember. My dad was a big hunter, and I can't hardly open my mouth without talking about my dad when it comes to being outdoors and being an outdoorsman. I never knew anything different. He was a big bow hunter here in Arkansas. It was just always a part of my life. And when I got out of college, I ended up basically becoming an entrepreneur. I had a landscape company because, for two reasons, I wanted to raise my young family without the hindrances of a nine to five job. But number two, I wanted to be able to hunt.
Clay Newcomb (00:02:11):
I wanted to be able to, within balance inside of what my family priorities were, I wanted to be able to hunt. The very short version is that after about a decade of working, I began to dabble in outdoorwritingspace, doing some freelance outdoorwritingfor some bow hunting magazines. And was just thrilled when I got paid a couple hundred bucks to write an article about a bow hunt that I had done and was just like, wow, I just, I could make money doing this. And it wasn't really about the money, it was just a translation of value, monetary value that would help my family for something passionate I was passionate about. So it was a long process. It didn't happen overnight. Over the course of about five years, I developed kind of a side gig as a freelance outdoor writer for primarily bow hunting magazines.
Clay Newcomb (00:03:06):
And then dabbling in that is what basically jumped me very quickly into the full-time outdoor space when in 2013 I had the opportunity to acquire a business, which was a national magazine called Bear Hunting Magazine, which is the only print bear hunting magazine in the world. And it's been in print now for 23 years, was a unique circumstance the way it happened. But I jumped from landscaping to be a first time and full-time publisher of this magazine. And that catapulted me into the industry full-time in 2013. So for the last 10 years, I've made a living in the outdoor space. And the short version of that story too is that, did that for eight years until I started working for MeatEater basically three years ago. So my primary focus for the eight years with Bear Hunting magazine was bears, bear hunting. I mean, I had an incredible opportunity to hunt bears all over North America and loved that. That was a genuine passion of mine still is, not just hunting bears, but just bears in general. Fascinated by them. I mean, it's one of the treasures of North America is our bears. And then with MeatEater, my work has been broader, quite a bit broader. We dabble in all kinds of conservation, hunting stories and all kinds of stuff.
Katy Starr (00:04:37):
That's awesome. I really love that. And I love how inspired you were from, by your dad. because isn't that so often how it plays out is like you have these really great role models in your life. Like, and I know that anybody listening today can totally relate to that when it comes to, you know, having horses and having that horse lifestyle. Because so often it does come from like their mom or their dad, just kind of like giving them the opportunity to do it and them making the choice that they want to make, that, you know, a part of who they are. And I just, I think that's really awesome.
Clay Newcomb (00:05:11):
You know, I think that's the way it's supposed to work. It also works in the opposite way. A lot of times we want to be like our parents, like our father, like our grandfather, things that we see them do that we want to emulate, that they introduced us to, that we love. In my case with mules, it was the exact opposite. My dad, we never had equine animals at all. He was not interested. And equine animals was scared of them. I mean, it just wasn't something he wanted to have anything to do with. And I think because of lack of knowledge on them is actually what made me fascinated with them as a kid. And later in life would come back and get into mules and stuff as an adult. And it was fueled honestly, probably by his lack of attention to it, if I could say it that way. So dads are influential.
Katy Starr (00:06:04):
And sometimes you also got to have your own thing too. And I think that segments that out a little bit to where sure you're getting stuff from, you know, your role models in life, but sometimes I personally have this feeling of something that I just really want to do or accomplish and just know that, like I own that. And obviously I have people that have helped me along the way to meet those goals, but it's kind of, it's fun to have something for your own self that you accomplish.
Clay Newcomb (00:06:30):
Yeah, I think so.
Katy Starr (00:06:34):
Why are hunting and conservation so important to you? I mean, you talked a little bit about, you know, coming from your dad, but why has that just stuck with you in all your years so far?
Clay Newcomb (00:06:43):
You know, I think some of us are just born with it, you know, just born with this innate desire. I've got two brothers that are not big hunters. I mean, they appreciate it, they love the lifestyle that they grew up in, but when they became adults, they weren't that interested in really pursuing hunting as a big part of their life, like I was. It just always seemed to be there. The older I get, and the more I really understand the context that I was born into, and I mean any American would be born into would be the incredible role that hunting has had in the identity of this country, which is kind of a big bite. But some of America's first heroes were hunters. There was a time when horse jockeys and hunters were the sports stars and rock stars of American identity. That's not a stretch, that's like the truth.
Clay Newcomb (00:07:38):
I mean, you see it, there were not big organized sports. There wasn't television, there weren't podcasts and there wasn't Netflix. Entertainment was much more defined into a couple of spaces. And you know, Daniel Boone was one of the first American archetypes for manhood. And Daniel Boone was known as a frontiersman and a pioneer. And I look back at some of those things, Davey Crockett, I mean these are names that every American probably would be familiar with because of movies and because of media. But when you actually get into the meat and the history and the real story of those guys, those guys did a lot for American identity. You know, when Europeans settled on this continent and now there was an established civilization of indigenous people here that had an incredible life here. These people were coming from a crowded place and they came to a place that they perceived as wilderness.
Clay Newcomb (00:08:34):
And when we were a young nation, we didn't have castles and cathedrals and ancient roman coliseums and thousand year old architecture. What we had was wilderness. And what we had was incredible numbers of wild beasts, deer, bear, buffalo, bison and the folk stories that were going back into the globe and going back to I mean, just that formed the original American idea was, had a lot to do with wildlife and wild places. And so I think that rolls right into today. I mean, what I'm interested in, a lot of the work that I do is, I popped out of the womb in Arkansas in 1979, loved hunting, just loved kind of this gritty American lifestyle. And no one ever told me why. I mean, like, my dad never would've known why we loved it, why we valued it so much. Why do we value the rack of a big buck and and eaten backstrap on a skillet. It goes deep into our cultural DNA to honor these things. And to me now, the hunting sphere and space and lifestyle that I live really has a robust anchor in the past, which is important to me. And cool, I think. And all those guys used equine animals too. They sure weren't driving around on side by sides.
Katy Starr (00:09:51):
No kidding, no kidding. .
Clay Newcomb (00:09:52):
$90,000 pickups. .
Katy Starr (00:09:55):
Yeah, no, that's true. That's the truth. So in kind of the bio that I gave about you mule skinner, what is that and where does that even come from?
Clay Newcomb (00:10:07):
That is a good question and I, you know, in the mule world, that is a term used to describe somebody who trains mules and just messes around with mules. Probably a couple of years ago I would've had a better answer. It escapes me the actual etymology of that word, like where that came from. But it holds the connotation of what everybody in the equine world I feel like knows is that mules are harder to train than horses in general. They're going to have some characteristics that make them a little bit more of a challenge to train. It seems to, and like I said, you'll hear more about my mule story, but I'm relatively new to the mule world. But what I picked up pretty quick is that people that have mules, a certain type of person likes them. So yeah, I think mule skinner just means you got to do more than just train them. You almost got to skin them.
Katy Starr (00:11:05):
When I was kind of looking or doing some research and things like this, I saw that there's kind of been a, you know, a few different things around the term, but like, just how smart they are too. And having the ability to outsmart them to get them to do what you want them to do because they're going to second guess somethings sometimes and be like, hmm, really?
Clay Newcomb (00:11:27):
I love that about mules. I've not trained horses, but I know that in training mules, man, they will keep you honest. You just can't, you can't take any shortcuts with them. They are an intelligent animal. I don't think they're any more intelligent than a horse necessarily. I think what people are perceiving is a high level of self-protection, perhaps more than a horse has. And I think what we're reading into is, oh, that animal's intelligent. He knows that this is about to happen. I don't really give him that much credit, but they're definitely geared much different than a horse, as I've seen with my own eyes and understanding. Everybody I've ever dealt with, with mules from my dear friend who's 87 years old, lives out in Arizona, Warner Glenn, has ridden mules his whole life. You know I ask him, what's the difference between a mule and a horse? I've asked I just had a mule trained by a Amish trainer here in Arkansas this summer. I just didn't have time. And I asked him, I said, what's the difference between a mule and a horse? And everybody kind of has relatively same narrative about this, a deeper sense of self-protection. And what my mule trainer told me over here is he said that what you can do with a horse in 30 days, they'll take you 60 to 90 with a mule. But once you get 'em trained, they'll hold it longer.
Katy Starr (00:12:50):
Yeah, that makes sense.
Clay Newcomb (00:12:50):
That's what he said.
Katy Starr (00:12:51):
Yeah. Well and when you think about, you know, so often some of those animals that we take out to like the back country and for activities like that, you use horses, you use mules, but I think mules are more popular for that reason. So, and so you said you didn't grow up in the equine lifestyle, which is not always common. So when did you actually get your start with mules?
Clay Newcomb (00:13:18):
Being raised in rural Arkansas I was around horses a good part of my life. One of my best friends. Had a lot of horses, but honestly I was pretty timid around them and really was quite fearful of them as a kid. I really was, I was enamored with them, but pretty fearful of them. But being from this part of the world, mules had a place in kind of the culture of the mountain south that was just always there. I remember a painting from a local artist in the town that we lived in and she had a painting of her dad with two mules that she plowed with. And I remember my dad making a big deal about that. He said, there's Mr. Philpott with his mules. And just as a little boy, he just was like, that's cool, Clay. I remember that. I remember my dad telling me stories about some of his buddies that had mules that were packing back into the mountains and deer hunting using their mules.
Clay Newcomb (00:14:20):
I just perked up my ears at that, was interesting. So mules were always, always in stories and around. And the more I've learned too, or as I became an adult, I realized that the Ozarks and this part of the world, I'm not going to say they're the only place where you can get mules. I'm not saying that at all, but it is kind of a epicenter of the mule world. I mean, especially Missouri, probably more mules come out of Missouri than just about anywhere. But you spread out from Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, north Texas, like it's a, there's a lot of mules coming out here and a lot of them end up out west. A lot of mule trainers here will take mules out to these big sales in the west and sell them. So, you got to be good to do it. But there's guys that will spend the whole year training mules and then take them out to these big sales and you know, how much mules and horses are going for these days and make quite a bit of money.
Clay Newcomb (00:15:18):
But I just always had in my back, in the back of my mind that I wanted to get a mule and hunt off of it. It was just something I wanted to do. I'm 43 now. I think I got my first mule when I was 35. So about eight years ago. And it really was just when time and maturity and my family and had my, the financial peace in order, I was just able to do it. You know, I mean it was kind of just like time. My kids were old enough and there was a, I had to make space for it. It wasn't like there was a blank spot, but it was just like it was time. I didn't really have much instruction from anybody other than I've watched a lot of YouTube videos. I did have one good friend Darren Wiles, who was a really good horse trainer that I talked with after I got my mule. Anyway, I just bought a mule off Craigslist, a green broke mule off Craigslist out of Lamar, Missouri. Drove up there and bought it from the guy, brought it home and just started riding it and quickly realized that riding a mule was not like buying a four-wheeler where you just get on it and go, yeah, especially when you buy an $800 mule.
Katy Starr (00:16:31):
Different kind of mule. Right. .
Clay Newcomb (00:16:34):
I quickly realized that I was going to have to train this mule and I had some history in animal training and dog training. You know, we had coon dogs and bird dogs at different times. And so I had general principles of training an animal and that's when I started reaching out looking for insight into how to train a mule. At first that, my intention was not to be a, to be someone interested in training. I wanted a mule like I wanted a four-wheeler. I wanted to be able to get on it and ride into the mountains. And honestly I had kind of made a vow to myself that I was not going to become somebody that liked riding mules more than I liked hunting because there's a lot of guys that and golly more power to them. I'm kind of becoming this way. Like they go elk hunt out in Colorado every couple years and take their horses and it's probably as much about the horses as it is the elk hunt.
Clay Newcomb (00:17:31):
I vowed that I wasn't going to become that guy just because I was like, I don't need some other big passion. This is a functional animal that I want to use. And so the more I got into it, well what happens? I started having some bad trouble with that mule. It would run off with me. I had three kind of breakaways where the mule got spooked and just bolted and ran and scared me to death. I came off the mule one time, had a pretty decent wreck and scared me, but I knew I couldn't quit. And so I started training this mule, which then led me to realize that I didn't have the money to buy the kind of mule I actually needed. I just didn't have an extra five grand to go buy a mule or honestly at the time you could have bought a heck of a mule for $2,500 down here.
Clay Newcomb (00:18:22):
I didn't have an extra $2,500 at the time. And the more I messed around with Craigslist mules and talked to people, I was like, man, I just need to, I think I'm going to have to buy a colt and just train it. And it was a wild idea at first to me. I remember the first time I thought that, I just thought, man, you can't train a mule. And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it. And went back to Craigslist and and found a real beautiful little it was a molly mule, a female mule a couple hours away in Oklahoma. Called the guy, traded him a four-wheeler and a rifle, a beat up four-wheeler and a beat up rifle. Went down there and got basically an unstarted mule. She was halter broke and that's pretty much all she had been messed with.
Clay Newcomb (00:19:19):
I had no idea what I was getting into other than I had just made up my mind that this is my mule, I'm going to train this mule. And found a lot of resources. I mean, the good part of technology and media and all the access that we have to information, there's some real negative things about it, but a positive thing about it is you can find a lot of information just about anything you want to learn. And I scoured the internet watching mule videos really did and found a lot of good stuff with a lot of different people. Took a lot of bits and pieces that were applicable. I mean, sometimes you watch some big video and 90% of it doesn't make sense, but 10% of it. You're like, you know what, I understand what he's saying and I think I can go do that. And I would go do that and built a decent training regiment for this mule that I called Izzie.
Clay Newcomb (00:20:13):
And basically in six weeks, within six weeks of having her I was riding her and she never buck. I was introduced to kind of this idea of natural horsemanship. A lot of the horsemanship techniques, horse training stuff is going to apply right to your mules. I mean, you know, there's some nuance differences probably in the way you handle them, but for the most part you're doing the same things. You're just going to have trouble in different places. But I was introduced to this idea of natural horsemanship where you are trying to build the trust of this animal, establish your dominance without being too rough or without, you know, bucking them out. Like that's the way, like the guy I bought my mule from, he's become a friend of mine. He said, Clay, you have no idea how many mules that we broke. You know, even that terminology broke, you know, years ago we just get on them and just turn them loose and just buck them out and then ride them out.
Clay Newcomb (00:21:11):
You know, I knew that wasn't what I could do. I'm not a rough stock rider. I didn't want to get bucked off. So I just took my time and really consistently worked with her. But within six weeks I was riding her and I think Izzie is going on eight years old right now and I've had her in Montana multiple times in Colorado and New Mexico had her all over Arkansas. She'll carry a bear, she'll carry a deer. She's carried my dogs. We squirrel hunt on mules. That's one of my favorite things in the world to do is squirrel hunt with dogs on mules.
Katy Starr (00:21:47):
That is so interesting.
Clay Newcomb (00:21:48):
We get a big group of us and ride and the dogs hunt out front and we will ride 10, 12, 14 miles in a day, basically down forest service roads and it's totally legal to do that. And a big group of us will ride and hunt and I can shoot off Izzie. It was incredibly rewarding. When I started, I did not, I mean I knew I was going to do it just because I, that was what, the way I'd set my goal to do it. But I really had no reason to think that I could and it ended up being really one of the most rewarding things I've done in my, in my life. And so it was kind of surprising to me as well. Like I said, when I first started I was like, hey man, this is just functional. This is not, I don't have space in my life for some other big passion. But I would definitely say it's grown much more into a passion of just really being interested in mules. And I now recreational ride quite a bit.
Katy Starr (00:22:50):
Yeah. I was wondering if you did some other things besides hunting with them, just seeing as how much you've gotten involved with mules.
Clay Newcomb (00:22:58):
Just last Saturday we went on a big ride over here in the Ozarks in a real pretty area. Just I think we had 13 or 14 mules and we just went on a big 14 mile ride through national forest just for fun you know. Those are the main things I do. Now I'm down here right amongst the real hillbillies that race them. You know, they have the chuck wagon races and stuff. I'm ashamed, ashamed to say that I have never been to the world championship chuck wagon races with mules. They have a bunch of mule festivities. But I'm going to.
Katy Starr (00:23:35):
Yeah, that'll be your next, your next venture. You got to get out too and check it out. . Who knows, maybe you'll be in there in a year or two .
Clay Newcomb (00:23:43):
Yep, yep. Maybe. So.
Katy Starr (00:23:46):
So getting back to Izzie, I think it's really awesome that you took the time to work with her. because that in and of itself, that just establishing and developing that relationship with her probably is a huge part of what grew that passion for you with mules when you were like I'm not going to use them that way. But like, consistency is huge. It's huge. You had said when I was kind of, you know, watching some of your videos, you said you, your goal was to get out there and work with her every day for like that first six weeks I think it was like, and even you were really busy one day. So you had to get out there at night with a light and work with her and everything. So I just thought that was really neat.
Clay Newcomb (00:24:29):
Yeah, I learned a lot from that. I knew that I had so many holes and didn't really have the full skillset and so I had to hunker down on the things that I knew that I had access to, which was consistency. Man, I've found that to work in so many different parts of life. I feel like that oftentimes in any sector of life, people that are the spokesman for that sector are the experts. They're the ones that have dedicated their life to it. Like if you hear me talk about hunting and you'd never done it in your life, you might take a snippet of what I said and be like, holy cow, there's no way that I can go from zero to that kind of proficiency without something major. In reality, all it takes to become a hunter, the barriers to entry and being successful are, are really quite small.
Clay Newcomb (00:25:24):
You know, I mean, you don't have to know everything when you start. And it's the same way in the equine world. I mean, sometimes you listen to these high level trainers and you're just like, holy cow, I don't even know what they're talking about. I don't even know the tack that they're using. I don't know the terminology, I don't know the anatomy of the horse or you know, it's like so such high level what I've learned in a lot of different places. because I do a lot of different stuff and I'm not an expert. I'm an expert at very little. But you can come in if you just have the right attitude and learn just about anything and kind of cut off the, trim the fat. And you know, I just learned, okay, I need to lunge this mule. And I kind of learned the philosophy of running one in circles around the pen, pushing them with pressure, making them stop, making them turn.
Clay Newcomb (00:26:10):
And kind of the, the herd dynamics of that. Like I learned some of that stuff and it made sense. And then I learned about making them yield to pressure and I just, you know, probably learned five or six different things that I just did over and over and over and over and over and over. And that consistency kind of filled in the gaps. And I'll be the first to tell you that Izzie, as much as I like her and tout her as a incredible mule, if I took her to my buddy Ty Evans who's like Mule masterman, I mean there's holes in her that, technical holes and kind of some of this really specific trainings. You know, she's not side passing like a world champion horse or something, I mean, but I can get on her and go just about anywhere I want to go safely.
Clay Newcomb (00:27:01):
She's, in the thousands of miles I've ridden her, she has never done anything crazy. She's just, she's never bucked me off. She's never run off on me. She's never run me through a barbed wire fence. She's never jumped off a cliff. She's never, you know, she's just never done anything crazy. And that's partly her nature and her just being a good animal. But basically don't, you don't have to be intimidated by stuff. because I was, and I, I've learned and the older I get it, it's like nah, don't be intimidated by that. You can probably do it.
Katy Starr (00:27:32):
Well and I think people also need to remember too, because it's something that I really admired about what you did is something that most people wouldn't do. The first mule you ever trained, you put that out for the world to see, the world to criticize, right? Because that's what people like to do. And I just really want people to remember and understand that there's more than one right way to do something. And just because, you know, she may not, you know, check off the boxes for some elite whatever. If she works for you the way that you need her to, that is all that matters, right? She gets you there safely and you create a safe environment for her. She's comfortable, living a good life. Like at the end of the day, that's all that really matters.
Clay Newcomb (00:28:27):
I had no, no idea that that video was going to do very well on YouTube. I mean I anticipated a couple thousand people watching it, you know, that kind of watched our channel that were people that were kind of the home, like the core audience. And yeah, I got a lot of criticism , I got more people saying “good job,” you know, but there was a lot of people that had no business given any comment into any kind of equine training video. I mean some people just, crazy people just had, who had never seen the techniques that are used in, in training equine animals. Yeah. The thing about a viral video today on YouTube is it goes to people all over the world. So that was an interesting thing for me to be a part of. I didn't anticipate it getting kind of traction it did. Yeah. It really surprised me.
Katy Starr (00:29:19):
Well, I mean kudos to you though for putting it out there and just saying that. I mean you were partially learning right along with her, which I don't think there's anything wrong with that because like when you think about that a hundred years ago, what were people doing? What you were doing? You know what I mean? Or bucking them out or whatever. Like we all start somewhere at some point. And I think people forget that sometimes, but that's awesome. You know, you said you got to ride her about six weeks. How long did it actually take for you to feel comfortable to get her trained and then actually take her out on like her first hunt?
Clay Newcomb (00:29:50):
You know, I've got a picture of the first time I took her out of the round pen and rode with her. I had this other Craigslist mule that I had bought that we had worked on some that was doing pretty good at the time. And I had my son ride that mule and then I took Izzie, I honestly can't remember, but it was relatively soon, I would say within a month of getting on her back, I was riding her just out in the woods and was working on desensitizing her from anything and everything. I mean I had the kids riding bikes. I was using tarps, I was putting, tying buckets to her, letting her drag them. I was just doing every possible thing, trying to get her used to whatever might happen out there you know. Started riding her up and down the county road and having cars come by.
Clay Newcomb (00:30:42):
And that was, as you would know, you know, I mean getting on one is just the beginning. I mean you've hardly begun, you know, at the time I didn't really, I mean I felt like I'd won already, you know, and then it was really quite a long time before I would say she was a finished mule, you know, for my standards. But I jumped right into riding her and packing on her. I packed on her quite a bit. It's part of the way I hunt here is I'll pack the animal with a saddle panniers and then lead them in just carrying my camp and my gear. And then when I get to where I'm going to camp, take it all off and then ride the mule. So I did quite a bit of that kind of stuff.
Katy Starr (00:31:25):
What was the first animal that you packed on her? Did you start off easy with something like a turkey or something?
Clay Newcomb (00:31:33):
That is a good question.
Katy Starr (00:31:34):
Do you remember? It's probably been a while.
Clay Newcomb (00:31:35):
I think the first real in the field, like killed an animal while I was hunting with her, I mean would've been squirrels, but then also turkey hunted with her, killed a turkey, carried a turkey out. But since I got her, we were desensitizing her to deer so we would kill a deer and mess around with her with deer hides and whatnot. And then it was relatively quickly though that I hauled a bear out with her. That's a great question. I honestly, I can't remember the first time I hauled a bear out with her. I do remember. I killed a bear in Montana and we were in the back country. I had an old mule that I had borrowed that had never smelled to my knowledge, had never been on a bear hunt, never smelled a bear. But it was probably a 20 year old mule.
Clay Newcomb (00:32:28):
And I tried to put that bear on Izzie. We're way in the back country of Montana and she threw a fit. I mean, you know, it was almost a major wreck trying to get this bear on her. And so, you know, we're in the back country, I can't train her now. We just got to get out. And so I end up walking up to this old mule thinking it's going to be the same as Izzie. And I mean it never even lifted its head, never twitched its ear, it just stood there. And let me throw that bear on her, you know, it was a skinned bear in meat, meat bags, game bags and the hide. And that old mule didn't care a bit about that bear. And so on the long pack out, Izzie gradually started getting used to the smell of that bear in front of her on the other mule. And then by the end of it, I had most of the bear on Izzie. And so she hauled out most of it, you know. To this day though, she snorts around and gets pretty suspicious around a bear. Even though she'll carry them, everyone gets a little bit better. Even last year when we hauled out a bear, you know, she's like, you sure about this Clay?
Katy Starr (00:33:39):
Well it's so interesting when you think about it's a predator, right? Like in any other circumstance, they don't want to stick around if they saw like an actual bear. But the fact that, you know, you've gotten her to a point where she can pack them out. Like, I mean she's a mule so she'd probably get it figured out a little bit. But that's really cool.
Clay Newcomb (00:33:57):
Yeah, it is. There's no rhyme or reason just in my mind and, and the things I value. Packing out a bear on a mule is fun. It's a big deal. I like it.
Katy Starr (00:34:07):
It helps when you're way out there too, for sure. Oh
Clay Newcomb (00:34:10):
Oh yeah, for sure.
Katy Starr (00:34:11):
So tell us a little bit about, you have Izzie now and you said you had one, you were getting trained this summer. What mules do you have right now?
Clay Newcomb (00:34:19):
So right now I've just got two mules. The most I ever had at one time was four that we had here on our place. So right now I've got Izzie and a mule that we call Banjo. He is a john mule, a male mule. He's about 15 three, so he's pretty big. Izzy's about 14 two and that's about where a lot of guys around here want a mule. You don't want a real big one riding in timber a lot and you just don't need a big one. I mean out west sometimes they like a bigger mule. Butanyway, Banjo’s almost 16 hands and I've had him since he was weaned, plan to train him immediately, you know, when he was 18 months old, two years old, I was going to start training him and I did. But that was also the time when I started working for MeatEater and kind of the architecture of my life changed, didn't have really enough time.
Clay Newcomb (00:35:16):
So I kind of, I did all the same stuff with him that I did with Izzie, but I did it over a two year process, which just didn't work as well. Just absolutely didn't work as well. Packed with him some. Banjo is Izzie's full brother.So it's the same Jack and same mare. And so I felt like he had a good head on him, but I had some trouble with him last spring. I said, man, I'm, I got to get this mule trained. He was coming on four years old. I started working with him pretty consistently and got overconfident, was riding him in a round pen, was getting a saddle on him. I mean everything was going great. Riding him in a round pen, no problems. And I mean it's like, hey, this is going to be easy just like Izzie, I'm just going to start riding this thing.
Clay Newcomb (00:36:04):
Too quickly, I took him out of the round pen, rode him out in the pasture one day and the first time we went under a bush and those limbs scraped across the top of my hat, man he just came unglued and he bucked me off right there in the pasture. And when that happened, set him on a downhill slope. He got, he started getting scared. I was a little scared of him and about two weeks later he bucked me off again. For no reason. This time we were in a round pen and then I just thought, man, I've got a real problem here. I just didn't have time to mess with him and I was going to get rid of him. I was going to just let him be someone else's problem. But I called this guy who's a good trainer, told him, I said, I really think this is a good mule.
Clay Newcomb (00:36:50):
I think he's got a good head on his shoulders. I think I messed him up by getting on him too quick. Here's exactly what happened. Do you think we can salvage this mule? And he said, yeah, I think we can. And man, sure enough, he kept him for 60 days and Banjo did really good for him. He really liked him. He calmed down. And now I've had Banjo since like June 7th. Today's, you know, it's the middle of August now and I have ridden him a lot since then and haven't had any real problems. I've ridden him on the road, ridden him on trail rides, ridden him across creeks and up steep stuff and had him in binds and asked him to do a lot. And I think he's going to be a really nice mule. He's done really good for me.
Katy Starr (00:37:36):
Clay Newcomb (00:37:37):
He was kind of salvaged, you know, in a way.
Katy Starr (00:37:39):
Yeah, no that worked out.
Clay Newcomb (00:37:41):
Katy Starr (00:37:42):
So then you have two mules then. So this works out well for you so you can be able to take your kids hunting with you? Is that kind of what you like to do with that?
Clay Newcomb (00:37:55):
Yeah, so my wife and I, we have four kids and I would say two of them are interested in mules. The other two not as much. My oldest son, he's a good rider, he really knows how to handle them, he enjoys them. And so he rides with me a fair bit, but they are not recreationally as interested in mules and you know how kids are, my kids are between the ages of 21 and 15 and they're all very focused on, in different areas of life, you know, and good things. And so if I had, you know, a bunch of, or a couple of 15 year old plus just kind of dead head broke mules, it would probably be different. But I've always had these younger mules that you can't put grandma, honestly on either one of my mules. Izzie is incredible. I wouldn't put grandma on her.
Katy Starr (00:38:49):
Clay Newcomb (00:38:49):
You know, she's got a little bit too much go in her,you know, so I say that to say not super kid friendly with the mules at this point. And now when I had four mules, I did have two older ones that were dead heads that I liked that were safe and everything. And I kind of got out of the mule outfitting world. For several years I had four mules because I was taking so many people hunting, we were doing a lot of stuff. And Katy, I learned that after a couple years I was like, this really stresses me out to take people who've never been on mules, like into the back country.
Katy Starr (00:39:28):
That could be a huge liability. Yeah.
Clay Newcomb (00:39:30):
Yeah, yeah. I come home from these trips and be like, oh we had an incredible time. I mean it wasn't like it ruined the trip, but I would just be like, golly, that's a lot of responsibility hauling these things around
Katy Starr (00:39:41):
It all happens kind of like in your head .
Clay Newcomb (00:39:44):
I've got some friends that I'd ride with some and and I, oh I'd love if I had more people riding with me. But I'm kind of a one man show more these days.
Katy Starr (00:39:54):
That's pretty neat though, just to be able to have access to something like that, to really help you with your hunting and and things like that. Since your time working and hunting with mules, what do you feel like you learned that surprised you the most?
Clay Newcomb (00:40:11):
In working and hunting with mules, what surprised me the most? You know, I hear Ty Evans say it all the time. I look up to Ty Evans, he's a mule trainer. He always talks about how we learn about a lot about ourselves by our mules and how we interact with them. I've just find that to really be true. I mean, I've watched Izzie change as I've changed. I mean, and part of it's just age. Literally she's getting older, literally I'm getting older. I'm a little bit less rash than I was when I first got her. I'm a little less intense. It really translates into that animal, your demeanor, your mood, your confidence and then your just skill as a rider. As that increases, it translates into the performance of that animal. And who was it? Was it Buck Brannaman and the movie he did or the documentary he did where he was, you know, he talks about how you know, you can see yourself inside of your animal and it sounds kind of hokey, but to horse people I don't think it does.
Katy Starr (00:41:14):
I think there's a lot of truth to it to be honest.
Clay Newcomb (00:41:16):
I do too. What I've always liked about the idea of training a mule and what I've seen is that you can't, I might be able to be on this podcast with you today Katy and smile and I'm not saying I'm putting on a show, but you can kind of put on a face for a person. When you go out and train that mule, he doesn't care who you are. He doesn't care what your day's been like. He doesn't care about your history; he doesn't care about anything. You have to be honest to that animal. You can't fake it. I still haven't really got to the bottom of that, but that's the way I feel when I go out to my mules. I'm like, you've got to be consistent and fair and firm and that's got to be who you are. You really can't take any shortcuts with them, you know, because they'll take advantage of it. It's not really a complete thesis, but I believe there's some truth inside of that that you see yourself inside of your animal .
Katy Starr (00:42:11):
Oh absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. So, and what tips do you have getting out there and hunting with your mules? What tips do you have for getting a mule accustomed to shooting off of or near them? Because it seems like that could be kind of, you know, I mean I know you said you talked about desensitizing and stuff, but maybe you have some tips for people who want to get into using mules for that. What could they do?
Clay Newcomb (00:42:36):
You know, it's funny shooting off a mule, you get more street cred for that than just almost anything. Which is funny because it's one of the easiest things to do. I mean, all that I started doing with Izzie, I've done it with Banjo, is feed them. Feed them some grain. They've got their mouth in the grain bucket and be 50, 60 yards away and shoot a gun. Start with a small caliber, start with a 22. Watch them. They might, first time they'll raise their head and look up at you and you're a long enough distance away that you're not a threat. They're just aware of this noise. And I mean you just gradually start moving closer to them. And I mean you'll be surprised how quickly you'll be standing right beside that mule with a gun laid over its shoulder, pop, pop shooting. I mean within two days, with an animal that trusts you in the right situation.
Clay Newcomb (00:43:31):
I mean, you know what? I found the feed bucket to be a good place to do it when they're eating and using a small caliber gun. And then once you can get right up to them and shoot a 22 into the ground, next thing you bring out is a small gauge shotgun, you know, a 410, do the same thing, be way over there 50 yards from them, feed them, pop, pop, pop, just move closer to them. A lot of times they have to get used to the actual physical gun too. One of the first times ever got bucked off of a mule, it was because I had a gun slung over my shoulder. I wasn't even shooting the gun. I walked up to the mule, it was my first Craigslist mule. I walked up to her, had a 22 rifle, strung over my shoulder.
Clay Newcomb (00:44:15):
She bowed up and threw her ears back and looked at me and I was just like, what's wrong with you? Like I, it didn't occur to me what she was keying in on. And then finally I realized she's afraid of this gun because I took the gun off and she backpedaled and acted all spooked. Well I put it back on and just was like, well I'm just going to make her be okay with this by how relaxed I am. And so I just jumped up on her. Well and we started to walk off, when we started to walk off the butt of that gun, started tapping on the back of the saddle bouncing and she went into a trot and when she went into a trot, the started bouncing more. And before you know it, we are in a full scale run away.
Katy Starr (00:44:59):
She's trying to get away. Away from whatever that was .
Clay Newcomb (00:45:02):
It was bad. I was in my front yard and my daughter was standing out there watching it and you know, she made a big loop through the yard, just totally out of control the gun just banging. And I knew it was that gun and so I was able to grab the sling and just slide it over my head and I just threw the gun off to the left. And when the gun went left, she went right just a 90 degree right turn at full mule speed. And I just went straight,
Katy Starr (00:45:32):
Did you? Oh man .
Clay Newcomb (00:45:33):
Just flying out through the yard, tumbled in the grass. So they got to get used to the actual physical idea of you with a big stick in your hand. You know, when we squirrel hunt with mules on any given day, we might shoot a hundred times. And so they quickly get used to shooting and it's just not a big deal to them. I mean, almost any of them you could do that with.
Katy Starr (00:45:57):
That's great. That's really great. Is there any equipment that you need when you get out and you go hunting with your mules? Like anything specifically that you use to kind of, to help you out with that?
Clay Newcomb (00:46:09):
I'm a pretty simple, I am not a skilled packer. Like, you know, these outfitters out west and stuff are tying fancy knots and really have made an art of packing gear into the back country. I have a lot of respect for those guys. Again, it's one of these things where you don't have to be that skilled to effectively pack stuff into the back country. I use, I call them a saddle pannier. So you put your regular saddle on but then you put over the top of it, you know, a canvas pannier that fits over the saddle. And so you can, you can carry a lot of gear but when you get to where you're going, you pull it off and you've got your saddle there too. So you can ride that animal. I wouldn't say I have any kind of specialized gear that horse people, equine people wouldn’t be aware of, you know, I mean we carry our guns in scabbards on horses and stuff, which is all pretty common tack, you know. With mules we use a britchen, you know, which is, most horse guys are not going to use a britchenbecause the, you know, britchen is going to keep the saddle from sliding forward.
Clay Newcomb (00:47:19):
A horse has big strong front withers and front shoulders. So a saddle is typically not going to slide forward on a horse. A mule has narrow shoulders and hardly any withers and so the saddle tends to slide forward. That's why people use a crupper or a britchen to keep that saddle from sliding forward. That's about it.
Katy Starr (00:47:40):
No, that's nice. Simple is better. I think in a lot of cases it makes it easier for people to get out and try something that they may otherwise kind of be intimidated to do. So. Yeah, that's great. So can you walk us through kind of your preparation for and during your hunting with mules? Like let's say it's probably a little bit bigger deal if you're going to go out and do some like big game hunting versus like squirrels and things like that, I'm guessing?
Clay Newcomb (00:48:09):
Well, hunting locally like we do for squirrel hunting, I mean there's really very little prep other than just loading the mules up in a trailer and the dogs and going where we're going. I mean, you know, just gathering up all the tack. When I go out west, I've made several trips to Montana, and from Arkansasto Montana where I'm going ends up being about a 30 hour road trip when you're hauling mules. So I end up staying overnight somewhere. And that's a big process. I mean that's an expedition, you know, when you travel that far, going somewhere preparation. That's a good question. I mean you just got to have all your tack. I would say when I go out west, the way I hunt on mules is some guys are, your outfitters out west are going to have a pack string, they're going to have an animal they ride and then pack animals that they trail in that carry a lot of their gear.
Clay Newcomb (00:49:07):
I don't have the liberty to be able to bring four or five animals with me out west. I'm usually bringing two and usually somebody's with me. And so we are riding the animals that we're packing on. And so typically I can pack enough gear on my mule with my just standard, I've got some just oversized saddlebags, nothing special, just TrailMax. I mean they're not that great to be honest with you. But I've used them for years and I can pack about three to four days worth of supplies and me and my hunting gear on Izzie and get back in pretty far. I learned this from a guy who hunted out west a lot. I typically bring very little feed into the back country. What I'll bring is some big 30, 40, 50 foot lead ropes and just tie out the mules in different places and let them graze.
Clay Newcomb (00:50:01):
And what I've found doing that, and the hunt might be a eight day hunt, but typically we're not staying in the same place for that full eight days, so we might go out for three days and then come back to the truck and resupply and then go back. Another direction is that if you take real good care of your animals, the 360 other days of the year for those five days, you're in the back country. You don't have to and you're an animal nutritionist. So I'm like telling on myself here, you know, I'm pretty much just letting them graze on grass and, and I find them to be able to maintain their strength the whole time without a whole lot of supplement. Now if I was going back there for 10 days, I'd need to bring weedfree hay and grain and whatnot. But we basically do shorter stints, if that makes sense.
Katy Starr (00:50:48):
Yep. That makes sense. And I won't qualify myself as an animal nutritionist. I did go to school for animal science, but I love everything about it. It's really great to kind of hear your perspective and your take on doing something like a trip like that, just your experiences. Because you know, some people don't always have that opportunity to do it. Or again, like we talked about, maybe it's just a little bit intimidating to them and so they, it's something they'd like to try, but they maybe they don't even know where to start. So it's great to be able to kind of hear your perspective in your personal experiences with doing it. Because I'm sure with all the trips that you've taken on and done, your initial ones, maybe you learned some things from that trip and you're like, okay, next time I, maybe I need to do this or this to kind of help you, you know, be better prepared or just kind of have it handled a little bit easier next time you go out.
Clay Newcomb (00:51:41):
The big trips with the equine animals were intimidating at first for sure. I tell you, you know, talking about the limiting factors and thinking you've got to have more than you actually have to get started. To this day I have the crummiest mule trailer known to man. I've hauled those mules all over the country and I mean it's good for the mule. It's not a bad, the mules are very safe. They, they've got plenty of room.
Katy Starr (00:52:06):
but it's just not flashy or fancy. Right. .
Clay Newcomb (00:52:08):
Oh no. People make fun of me. I've had horse people that I know laugh at me and say, Clay, you're on YouTube using that old 1960 trailer. And I'm like, hey man, it's just what I got. Maybe one day when I'm rich and famous, I'll buy a new mule trailer
Katy Starr (00:52:26):
Clay Newcomb (00:52:27):
That's actually something I learned is you know, you just, you don't have to always have the best gear to stake out and try something. Yeah. We learned on the routes that we take, you know, you can just pull off on little side roads and let the mules out, stake them out on some big lines in a safe place. And we'd spend a couple hours, you know, drive about, you know, eight to 10 hours and let the mules out for a couple hours, let them graze, water them, feed them, let them get all happy, load them back up, keep going. You know, they're pretty darn resilient. They really, if you take care of them, they're pretty darn resilient, you know.
Katy Starr (00:53:05):
And how has hunting prior to having mules and then now obviously hunting with them, how has that changed kind of your view of your hunting experience?
Clay Newcomb (00:53:18):
The truth is, in most places in the east, you could walk, I hate to say it, it hurts me, me, but it's true. I mean, we just don't have the wilderness that the west has. Like you're in Idaho, I mean, you guys have some genuine, legitimate wilderness for the capital W. We do not, we do have wilderness for the capital W here, like federal wilderness, but they're relatively small compared to the west. Has it made me more successful? I can't say that it has. Has it added a massively satisfying and unique experience? 100%. There are places that I go that I'm not afraid to kill a bear where I think other people would be. So in some ways they have made me more successful. Even here they have, because I'm just not, zero worry about taking a big bear.
Katy Starr (00:54:14):
And where you get them at and how you're going to get it back.
Clay Newcomb (00:54:16):
Yeah, yeah. And people, what I've learned in traveling all over is people scale wilderness to what they know. So like people here in Arkansas would treat our national forest and wilderness in a similar way to people in Idaho, except the guy in Idaho might be going 10 miles back. And he would perceive that as, you know, X level of difficulty, X level of adventure. A guy here in Arkansas may be only going two miles back, but he perceives it as X level of adventure, X level of it's the same scale. We really do. I mean, and it's hard to mix them because you get your brain scrambled. because you could go out west and come back here and be like unimpressed.
Katy Starr (00:55:03):
Right. Especially if you're experiencing both types and not just in your own little bubble or your own world. Yeah.
Clay Newcomb (00:55:10):
I've just refused to let that enter into my mind. I mean, I love where I'm from and I'm, and for the east we have a lot of good stuff here in Arkansas and a lot of states do. A lot of states in the east actually have a lot of wild land. You got to love it. I've talked to a lot of people, I mean, I've been amazed at how many people are interested in mules with the stuff that I'm doing. A lot of people that like me that have not had a lot of experience with mules but are wanting to get into them. And I always tell them, I say, you got to love it. I wish I could tell you a different story and say, oh, the mules have increased my success dramatically. They have increased my satisfaction and enjoyment of wild places exponentially. Absolutely they have.
Katy Starr (00:55:57):
That's pretty neat.
Clay Newcomb (00:55:59):
Now, out west it's a different story out west, it truly is a different story. You can get into places that you just, you would have a very hard time getting into on foot unless you were a just a, in the hunting space, we call these guys mountain athletes, you know, got to have fancy names for everything these days. Andthey're guys that dedicate their lives to being able to get into places on foot. And I mean, I like to stay in good shape. I mean, I don't want to lose my mobility because I've got a mule, but most people aren't going to be able to get back into places. Quite like if you had equine animals.
Katy Starr (00:56:36):
I think especially like here in Idaho, I mean we have a lot of these places where you can get to that you wouldn't otherwise be able to. And then you have like the Frank Church wilderness where literally like legally you can't take anything in there. I mean, not even bicycles, you know what I mean? Like it's got to, it's either got to be on foot or with a horse. And so just being able to see some country that's almost like completely untouched, like it's such kind of a, just a really interesting concept to just be able to experience something like that. I want to switch some gears a little bit to talk about your podcast. It's called the Bear Grace Podcast. So what is the story behind Bear Grease naming it and then actually starting it?
Clay Newcomb (00:57:24):
Primary job description for what I do, for MeatEater is produce the Bear Grease podcast. The Bear Grease podcast is a documentary style storytelling podcast that deals with American history, anthropology, hunting, and conservation. That's the best way I could describe it. Which basically is a fancy way for saying whatever I'm interested in. That's the wonderful part about this is that it really is just fueled by my curiosity and the things that I'm interested in researching and the people I'm interested in talking to. But I think those three things, history, anthropology, and hunting and conservation would fit most of what we do. When I say documentary style podcast, what I mean is I will pick a topic and then I might have three different experts speaking on that topic in one episode. And I've cherry picked the stuff they've said and fitted into this very compact story.
Clay Newcomb (00:58:26):
And you know, there's music and sound effects and we've really tried to make it stand out amongst the hunting podcast as something different as opposed to, I mean the podcast that, that I listen to and love, you know, just where people just talking in informal conversations. But so bear grease, why bear grease? So we say the tagline of our podcast is the Bear Grease podcast where we talk about things forgotten but relevant. Shoot, I've forgotten my own tagline to my podcast. Forgotten. But relevant Bear grease. At one time we used bear grease as a metaphor. Bear grease is literally the rendered fat of a bear. There was a time in Americain the late 1800s and prior to that you could have asked a hundred Americans what bear grease was and 99 of them would've immediately known what it was. Today. If you asked a hundred Americans what bear grease is maybe one, I mean maybe one would be able to say, oh the rendered fat of a black bear,you know, you could use it for cooking, you can use it for burning a lamp, you can use it for treating leather, you can use it for all this stuff.
Clay Newcomb (00:59:33):
And so it's something that's forgotten but relevant. That's the key. We talk about a lot of stuff that I think is forgotten but relevant. Going down into historical characters like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. We did a big series on an African American guy, former slave named Holt Collier, who was a market bear hunter in Mississippi. He died in 1935, I believe. 1934, born a slave guided president Theodore Roosevelt on a bear hunt in Mississippi. That on that hunt, the term teddy bear was coined. It's a wild story, the story of Holt Collier. Shame on Hollywood for not making it a movie. I mean, it's an incredible story. There's one book, one legitimate book in this country written about Holt Collier, the author of that book's Still Alive. He just like self-published this book. And it was just kind of this obscure book about Holt Collier.
Clay Newcomb (01:00:29):
Well, somebody turned me onto it and I read it and I contacted this author and there's this just incredible story that it wasn't even forgotten. It was never known by the wider public. And that is what I love to do, is finding these stories. And there's so many people inside of my life and my world that, nobody would have any reason to know who they were. I mean, you know, people like that. Everybody knows people that are heroes in some way that have incredible stories and have incredible character. There's things about them that are admirable that they've just never had their stories told in the right way. Those are the kind of stories that we love to tell. And sometimes we talk about, you know, famous, well-known people, but a lot of times we're talking about obscure characters. Sometimes it's living people like, you know, I've mentioned already Warner Glenn, who's somebody your audience might be familiar with.
Clay Newcomb (01:01:25):
Warner Glenn, he's a rancher out in southeast Arizona, lives on the Mexican border. The southern fence of his ranch is the wall, you know, the US border wall. His cattle can walk right up to it. He's 87 years old, rides his mule 2,500 plus miles a year, still actively ranching. Just an incredible guy. Really unique story. Done a lot for conservation and trying to save traditional ranching family lifestyles down in that part of the world where there's a lot of habitat fragmentation and a lot of, that whole part of the world is just a lot of controversy on how the land's going to be used and should be used. And Warner Glenn's story and his daughter Kelly, just incredible people. You know, we did a big series on them. So yeah, that's the Bear Grease podcast. We talk about a lot of stuff. A lot of different stuff.
Katy Starr (01:02:20):
Yeah, that's one of my favorite ones that I've listened to and watched. Because you did a recently, you did a roadshow segment with him as well, which is really cool and I really love that. What do you feel like, I mean, you said he's 87 years old. What do you feel like is the greatest lesson that you took away from him with all the experience that you've had with his interviews and visiting with him?
Clay Newcomb (01:02:42):
That's a good question. Warner Glenn is an incredibly positive man. I mean, even in the midst of lots of adversity inside of his life, very positive, incredibly hardworking. I found what I, I've been down there two different times. One time for a podcast, just for a couple days. And then the other time when we were filming down there, I was with him for five days and we rode three days. It just spent, you know, a lot of time with him and he had an uncanny way to encourage everybody around him nonstop. Like nonstop. And it could be as simple as a, you know, when I'm tying up a mule to a tree for us to get off and eat lunch, he would, you know, just random encouragement. Good job, Clay that's a great tree to tie that mule to. I mean, sounds silly to say that. That's awesome, . But I walked away and thought, that as a grown man that was influential to me, just all day to just know that this guy was just ready to go, excited about what we're doing, happy to be with me and the team. And I promise you it had nothing to do with cameras being there. That's Warner Glenn. That's just who he's. He treats everybody that way. If we've got time, I would love to tell you a Warner Glenn story.
Katy Starr (01:04:01):
Yes, please do. I would love it.
Clay Newcomb (01:04:03):
Are you sure It's not long. It's not long. No, do it. Warner Glenn's 87 years old, we're on a dry ground lion hunt out there. He's a mountain lion hunter and he's contracted by the state in different places to hunt mountain lions to protect sheep populations. But he also does depredation for ranchers that are having mountain lion trouble. We were line hunting. We have a whole camera crew with us of people that have never ridden mules before. He's got like 17 mules, good ones. The dogs go over this mountain and we get to the base of this mountain and it is just, it's just as rough a country as there is. And he turns to the crew and says, Hey, I want y'all to go with Kelly and I want y'all to go around the mountain and me and Clay are going to follow the dogs and go over the top of the mountain.
Clay Newcomb (01:04:51):
And they said okay. And he didn't, he didn't say a thing to me. He never even looked me in the eye. He just knew that I heard him say I was supposed to go with him. Soon as he got done saying that he turned and he was carrying a pack mule and the mule he was riding and we took off on about a half mile vertical climb. That was the roughest, nastiest ride I've ever been on in my life. I mean, mule skidding on rocks and crashing through brush and going between boulders and mules, slipping and falling. I mean it was wild. He never even looked back to see if I was there. We get to the top and he doesn't even acknowledge that anything has happened that's abnormal. And so what do I do? I don't either. I'm just like, yeah man, this is just what I do.
Clay Newcomb (01:05:41):
That night at dinner I asked him, I said, Mr. Warner, I said, if you had to rate our ride this morning up that mountain on a scale of one to 10 and one was riding down a county road on this mule and a 10 you died because the mule fell off a cliff. I said, what would you say we did today? And he paused for a minute and he said, well Clay, I'd say it was probably a seven or eight. He said, if it had been a much harder, I don't think we could've done it. . I was so thankful that he said that. I just knew he was going to be like, oh that was probably a three, Clay. Yeah. On. And I thought I was going to be, holy cow, I got to get tougher. I got to get better. I'll never forget that he didn't think a thing about what we did. But, it was so funny to
Katy Starr (01:06:35):
It's just everyday living for him.
Clay Newcomb (01:06:37):
Oh it is. It is. And you know what, since we filmed out there, Warner has been in two pretty bad, pretty serious livestock incidents. He got bucked off a mule like three months after we were there. Punctured along. He was on a remote part of his ranch hauling in fencing supplies. I mean, this just shows you who this guy is. Like he legitimately works 87 years old, had to get life flighted out. You know when older people like that get banged up sometimes, you know, it's like, are they gonna come back from it?
Katy Starr (01:07:08):
It's so much worse. Yeah.
Clay Newcomb (01:07:10):
Yeah. And I can't tell you exactly how many months later, but he was working and riding again and just in the last two months he got roughed up by a bull coming out of a chute that pinned him up against a fence and he broke something real bad. Anyway, he's healing up.
Katy Starr (01:07:30):
He's doing all right. Oh man, he's tough as nails right there.
Clay Newcomb (01:07:35):
He's really a humble man. Golly, that guy.
Katy Starr (01:07:37):
That's so cool. Yeah, just like hearing about your stories with him like, because I grew up on a beef cattle, small beef cattle operation and so I'm kind of more involved in the western world of things and like that kind of lifestyle. And so a lot of the things about him reminded me about my dad. I mean my dad is a, he, he did stuff with cattle, but he was a wheat farmer in Kansas. That's where he grew up. But it's just like that similar personality. It's just like tough as nails like you know, nothing's going to slow him down. Like they're just living their best lives, like just doing the work and what they love doing every day. That's so awesome. And you talked about he had the film crew and Kelly go around the mountain. It made me curious how much of your crew has ridden mules or horses before? Is that like a new experience? I mean not only that, but then they have to have cameras on there. How's that experience for making it work for them?
Clay Newcomb (01:08:39):
You know, that was the only shoot that I've been on where we actually had cameramen on mules because we were riding so much. A lot of the other ones that we've done, we've actually had the camera crew on foot. Anybody that goes with us is going to be a really in top physical condition. We'll carry some of their gear. There was a time when I filmed myself, like some of the stuff from Bear Hunting magazine like we were filming, it was like self-filmed, you know, so didn't have a crew. Since I've worked with Meat Eater, we have had a crew and that hunt with Warner was the only time we had the crew on Mules because we were just riding so far and it was just difficult. Other times when I've hunted with Steve Rinella for Meat Eater on a couple of shoots, we've had mules. We just had the guys on foot. They were just tough and able to go 10, 12 miles a day. It may not have been as hard as it looked on camera, you know, .
Katy Starr (01:09:36):
No, I'm sure, I'm sure. . That's interesting. So before we end this, like, I know you have a story for this and so I don't want to leave this question out, but you hunt a lot of bears, right? That was like a significant part of your life for quite a while with the Bear Hunting magazine and, and everything. What has been your scariest encounter with a bear?
Clay Newcomb (01:09:57):
I have never been attacked by a bear, honestly. Never been seriously what I would consider seriously charged by a bear. Definitely have been bluffed by black bears huffing and popping their teeth and stomping the ground. And they sometimes have that kind of reaction when you're close to them and they discover you, you know, like if you're in a hunting situation and they know you're there. But probably the closest call I've ever had, it was neat because it was on film, was I was hunting in Saskatchewan, I think in 2017, and I had a big male bear come in and it wasn't a charge, but he was unusually curious about me on the ground and I was carrying a traditional bow. And basically he moved in and got so close that I had to backpedal and, poked him with in the nose with my arrow that was hanging off the front of my bow.
Clay Newcomb (01:10:55):
And when I did that, it caused him to kind of stand up on his hind feet, just kind of like at a half stand kind of reared up. And then when he turned around, I had a shot and I shot the bear and was able to kill it. But that was the only time I actually thought I was going to get roughed up by a bear. Kind of got out of control and that he got way too close and he didn't take a swipe at me. That video, uh, has a couple million views on YouTube. Oh my goodness. I took some heat for it too. Again, YouTube's like spreading stuff across the world.
Katy Starr (01:11:29):
Oh yeah. It gets out everywhere, everywhere
Clay Newcomb (01:11:34):
In that film. We really tried to emphasize how good black bears are doing across the country and our, in our heritage of hunting bears and how we eat them and use their fat and how we target older, mature males and let the juveniles and females, I mean like the film if you watched it was like chockfull of conservation stuff, but still the worlds was pretty upset with me.
Katy Starr (01:11:54):
Me. They take the nuggets. Yeah, yeah. Well, and you guys are so good about like, when you take bears, like that provides for your family, which is really great and you really use as much of that bear as possible. And I think that's, that's something to be, you know, very admired.
Clay Newcomb (01:12:11):
We love bear meat and eat it. I mean, I'm not kidding. Three days a week, 365 days a year, we eat bear meat at the Newcomb house. We eat a lot of bear meat.
Katy Starr (01:12:24):
So we're wrapping up this episode now, but I was just curious to know, what would you say are just a few key takeaways that you would like to leave our listeners with from our discussion today about working with mules and kind of incorporating them into a hunting lifestyle? However
Clay Newcomb (01:12:42):
You get it, you really need an animal that you can trust if you're going to take it into the back country. You know, I mean I learned that pretty quick. There were other ways to get a good mule. I mean, you can buy a good mule, you can buy a young mule, and have it trained that, you know, you don't have to do everything yourself. And I probably won't always do everything myself, however you do it. You really need a good animal that you can trust in the back country because you just want to be safe back there and you gain confidence the more you do it, you know, you're going to have to overcome some intimidation. For people that have done it their whole lives, I mean, I think the intimidation factor is not there, it's just normal, you know, and I can say it's definitely become more normal for me to load up the mules and go across the country or load up the mules and go hunt here locally. But no matter who you are, you're going to have to overcome some hurdles and you're going to have to love it and enjoy it, but it's incredibly rewarding.
Katy Starr (01:13:44):
And then, so how can our listeners stay connected with you after this episode if they kind of want to follow along your, your journey?
Clay Newcomb (01:13:52):
Sure. I'm pretty active on social media just because of my job and I enjoy it. But MeatEater, a big part of our platform is just being active on social media. So yeah, Instagram's probably the biggest place to find me, but also the Bear Grease podcast. If you listen to podcast anywhere, Spotify, Apple, iTunes, whatever, you can just type in the Bear Grease podcast, and you could listen to our podcast. That's the bulk of my work. And also randomly you'll see me on the otherMeatEaterplatforms. So if you're not familiar withMeatEater, MeatEateris a, you know, the a hunting conservation media group. We've got shows on Netflix. You can actually see my mules on Netflix search for MeatEater and I think there's four seasons of Meat Eater on Netflix. And for sure, I think there's two episodes. I think there's a Squirrel Hunting on Mules episode. And then there's another Montana Bear Hunting episode where we took my mules. So yeah, you can check us out on Netflix, which is pretty fun.
Katy Starr (01:14:58):
That's great. Yeah, yeah, for sure. And I'll be sure to link Clay's information in the show notes. And to our listeners, if you have any topic ideas that you guys would like to hear more about, please reach out to us at email@example.com. And Clay, thank you so much for being on today. I really loved getting to hear kind of a little bit of a different perspective of, you know, someone who didn't necessarily grow up in the equine industry, but you've really found a great love and passion for mules to incorporate into your current lifestyle. So thanks for being here and telling us your story today.
Clay Newcomb (01:15:35):
Yeah, thank you Katy. I really appreciate you reaching out to me. Like I said, before we started, I talk a lot about hunting, which I love, but I really love talking about my mules, which, you know, not a lot of people have reached out. So thank you for reaching out to me.
Katy Starr (01:15:51):
Definitely. All right, until next time. Thanks for listening to The Beyond the Barn podcast by Standlee Forage. We'd love for you to share our podcast with your favorite people and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite listening platform. Until next time, keep your cinch tight and don't forget to turn off the water.