Stacks of firewood surrounded a charcoal black wood stove situated in the corner of Ryan Newman’s barn, located on his farm in North Carolina. A warm glow was cast upon the walls while Ryan stoked the fire, carefully closing and latching the windowed door when he finished. The Amish-built barn provided shelter from the gusty winds blowing outside. The cozy, calm, peaceful environment made the perfect place to conduct an interview, a stark contrast from the roar of the racetrack – where he usually talks media. Perched on the arm of his single-seat leather couch, he listened to the question and paused before answering.
NWTF: When did you first start hunting?
RN: In general, I first started hunting in 2008. I had been thinking about buying a bow and arrow and finally bought one. I went out bow hunting and that was a lot of fun. Eventually I started turkey hunting in North Carolina and then got the chance to turkey hunt in some other places.
NWTF: Want to elaborate?
RN: I’ve also hunted in Georgia, Alabama and Kansas. I like them all for different reasons.
NWTF: What’s your favorite thing about turkey hunting?
RN: To me, there’s just something about turkey hunting where you get out there in the spring: the weather turns nice, the owls start talking in the morning and it’s like you feel like you are a part of the world, part of the earth.
NWTF: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to new hunters?
RN: I think one of the most important things about hunting is that you enjoy it with a good group of people. For me, personally, I can go turkey hunting by myself, but it is always fun to share that story with somebody else. That’s what you do when you go back to camp: you tell stories. It is a social activity, and it’s about being able to enjoy those things, like you would anything else in the world. It makes a difference when you can enjoy it with good family and good friends.
NWTF: When you’re out in the woods, do you prefer to use a box, slate or mouth call?
RN: If I put a mouth call in my mouth I’d end up choking on it. I’ve tried and I’ve tried. I can run a slate call and box call decent, but I think that’s where I need to keep it, because a mouth call is a choking hazard for me.
NWTF: No one wants that! What’s your favorite thing about our organization?
RN: I think, from my standpoint, as a spokesperson for the NWTF, programs like Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. are both important and impactful. I’m a huge outdoorsman and I enjoy the outdoors. I love deer hunting. I love turkey hunting. I love fishing; I enjoy fishing with my kids. So having that habitat for future generations is so important. There are several different ways people can save the habitat, and there are several different ways that people can ruin the habitat. Everything we do to be better citizens and better people for the ground, for the earth, for the trees, for everything is what it’s all about. I enjoy the outdoors and it is a great honor for me to talk about something so personal. It’s a hobby and desire of mine to make a difference for people and our planet.
NWTF: Definitely! What are a few projects on your personal property that tie into our Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative?
RN: There are several things. My farm here [in North Carolina] doesn’t have many turkeys on it, but my other properties have quite a few birds. In either situation it’s a matter of providing the habitat wildlife can take advantage of. We grow a lot of different food plots for the animals, and we work to create good nest and brood-rearing habitat for turkeys. That’s one part of it.
Those simple things are big. And obviously keeping the water clean. We all have to keep the water clean for ourselves, for the animals, to be able to trust what we are eating.
NWTF: We are all wondering: How do you find time to hunt during race season?
RN: Hunting for me could be a small window or it could be a big window. Sometimes I plan out hunting trips for a week; sometimes I’ll get done with practice on a Saturday afternoon and head to the woods afterward. It’s like anything else you enjoy; if you have the opportunity to make the time, you will.
NWTF: Would you say racing or hunting is more of a natural high?
RN: That’s a really good question; I’ve never been asked that before. I’d say winning is a natural high. Just because you race doesn’t mean it is a natural high; it could be a struggle that day. Getting to hunt and harvest an animal, to me, is probably as equal as a natural high, because you’ve been successful at that point.
NWTF: Can you apply any practices or skills you’ve learned in one sport to the other or vice versa?
RN: I think as a racer and a hunter, you always have to focus. That is probably one of the biggest things – just having your mind right. As a hunter it’s not hard to physically pull the trigger, but you have to put yourself in position to focus and control your body movement and do a lot of things that add up to that ultimate moment.
NWTF: Is there anything going on behind the scenes that you’d like to share?
RN: As a father of two, I’m always trying to make the biggest, best and most positive impression on my kids. I want to be the best dad possible, the best husband possible.