Nick Hoffman is an award-winning recording artist, musician, songwriter, and fiddle player. He moved to Nashville in 2000, formed a band called THE FARM, and has worked with some of the biggest names in country music, including Brooks & Dunn, Sarah Evans, Trace Adkins, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, and more.
But Nick has a wild side, and a thorough love for the outdoors, travel, and culture. His passion for nature stems from the roots of his childhood. Growing up in the countryside of Nowthen, a small town in Anoka County, Minnesota, Nick was a regular fisherman at a young age, and went camping with his family often. A neighbor and friend took him deer hunting for the first time at age 12, and ever since then, Nick’s passion has been in constant growth.
From horseback riding, to retrieving waterfowl with his trusted canine sidekick, Waylon, Nick is always preparing for his next excursion. Recently, Nick became the host of his brand new series on Outdoor Channel, Nick’s Wild Ride.
Nick has had more than a handful of amazing outdoor adventures on the show so far, including taking a trip down the Bourbon Trail, tasting beef intestine in Uruguay, and participating in the South Dakota pheasant opener. Season two, coming this July, will bring episodes featuring exotic destinations, such as Argentina, the Northwest Territories, and Africa, which only makes us more excited for what he’ll showcase next!
In between filming, Nick was able to spend some time with us in this exclusive interview. Here, Nick opens up about family and future endeavors, shares his personal hunting and fishing tips, and offers behind-the-scenes bits of Nick’s Wild Ride.
Nick Hoffman – Interview Q & A
1. How did the concept for Nick’s Wild Ride come about?
The concept for the show is really an extension of who I am. I love to hunt, I love to travel, I love history, I love to eat, and I love people and culture. That’s what the show is all about. It’s a blend of all of those things. It makes it easy when you love what you’re doing.
- What was it like to experience the opening weekend of pheasant hunting in South Dakota? What was the most rewarding part of the trip?
The South Dakota Pheasant opener is a phenomenon. They have parades and towns crown “pheasant queens.” It’s a homecoming for relatives who have moved away and a getaway for hunters from faraway places. It’s a reunion, a party, and a rite of passage. It’s not hard to make friends with happy people, and the SD opener is a VERY HAPPY THING! I’ll never forget it.
- What has been the most unique hunting trip you have ever been on, regarding the location and/or the species?
I once hunted geckos with a blowgun in Hawaii. I was visiting a buddy who was stationed with the Marines there. I was actually on island to hunt hogs with him. When I arrived we were having a beer around his pool and he kept complaining about how his pool area and house were over run with geckos. They were turning his house into a bathroom. We discussed eradication methods at length and finally, he said, “I have this blow dart gun that I brought back from the Philippines. Let’s try that!” So, for the rest of the day we hunkered down and hunted geckos with a blow gun around his pool and drank beer. We laughed till our faces hurt! We were like little kids.
- If you could take a “Wild Ride” anywhere in the world, where would you want to go? What would you want to do there?
Africa has been at the top of my bucket list since I was kid and read about it in magazines. I read Roosevelt and Capstick’s tales of the Dark Continent and have been enamored with it ever since. It’s not just the hunting that interests me, it’s the intriguing people and culture, and food, too. I fear that soon opportunities to hunt in Africa will be dwindling because of social pressure. I am excited because I will be heading there this fall.
5. Nick’s Wild Ride is a unique series, because it focuses on so many different aspects of an adventure, from the culture, to the activities, and even to the food. Can you explain why it’s so important to highlight all of these components?
Anyone who has ever traveled to hunt does these things anyway. We go out to eat and explore local sights and sounds. We meet people. We take little side adventures. But often, those stories are not told. I find that part of a hunt as fascinating as the hunt itself and on a social level, I feel like showing this shows the other facets of the hunter: the traveler, adventurer, and conservationist. These attributes are important for the non-hunting community to see. Hunters, as a whole, are very misunderstood by the non-hunting community and beyond all of that, I think by showing these different aspects it also makes for a TV show that offers something for everyone on the couch, whether you hunt or not.
- What tips, if any, would you give to fellow American hunters that would help to better prepare them for the spring hunting season, and any hunting trip in general?
- Practice, practice, practice. I have missed my share of shots over the years because I didn’t put the time in.
- Study your destination. Go online and research where you are going ahead of time. You may stumble on a local gem that you wouldn’t otherwise know about. Maybe a great hamburger, a killer beer, or a cool museum. You never know.
- Dream, and make a bucket list. In the off season, I think it’s so much fun to read, surf the web, and daydream about where you will or could go someday. Make a list of those places and check them off as the years go by.
- When is your favorite time of year to hunt? Is there a specific type of game you would say is your most favorite?
It’s hard to beat the whitetail rut in the Midwest. Some of the most exciting hunts have been in a tree in Iowa watching the woods erupt with deer activity, but my first love was ducks and I look forward all year to the cold weather when the ducks come south and my dog, Waylon, and I can get in the boat and chase green-heads.
- What is the biggest fish you ever caught? Can you tell us a good fishing story?
I caught an almost 6-foot-long tarpon off the flats of Key West about 10 years ago. It was the fight of a lifetime. I’ll never forget its huge jumps out of the water and the way my belly was bruised from the rod. When the fish finally gave up and we gaffed it and were pulling it into the boat for a picture before releasing it, the water next to the boat ERUPTED! It scared the crap out of us! When the commotion ended, there sat half of my fish in red water with a big half-moon bite out of it. A big bull shark had eaten the other half. I still took a picture with the half that was left! I needed proof to show my buddies!
- What is a day of filming like for Nick’s Wild Ride? Do you go off-script, or do you usually have the trip planned out, regarding locations and key visiting points?
We always know where we are going to hunt. Sometimes we will set up a location to visit if it takes some planning, such as a brewery or restaurant, so that they can accommodate us, but we usually just explore and look for something interesting. You never know what you’ll find off the beaten path. It sounds cliché, but it’s so true! No script, we just fly by the seat of our pants!
- Before the show, you toured for over 10 years with Kenney Chesney and worked with several other big names in country music. What was that experience like? What did you take away from it?
I literally am a guy who has lived his wildest dreams. When I was a kid, I dreamed of being on the “Big Stage” and I feel so blessed to have worked with some of the biggest names in music. I still have to pinch myself sometimes.
- THE FARM is an important part of you as well. How did the band start? Can we expect anything new from you in your music career?
THE FARM brought about the first time that I was not a “side-guy” and instead, up front and center. It was the final piece of my musical bucket list, to write a song and have it be a hit on the radio. There is definitely new music on the way, including a brand new solo album in 2017.
- Growing up in Minnesota, were the outdoors a big part of your childhood? When did you first learn to hunt and fish?
I grew up in the country and the outdoors were all around me. My dad loved to fish and we camped and fished almost every weekend in the summer. He taught me patience and that if you waited long enough, the “big one” would eventually come; but no one in my family hunted. Even so, I was always called to the woods. The guy who lived across the road from us took me deer hunting for the first time when I was 12 and I was hooked. He died several years ago, but I bet he would get a big kick out of seeing what he started!
- Out of all the places you’ve traveled to while filming Nick’s Wild Ride, what was your most memorable trip? Why?
Going to Argentina will always be one of my favorite trips for a lot of reasons. First, I got to travel with my wife, Natalie. I don’t usually get to do that. We explored Buenos Aires, which is one of the most vibrant and culturally diverse places I’ve ever been to. And the FOOD! AMAZING! Then, we traveled south to Patagonia where we stayed at an incredible place called Tipiluke, which is a working cattle ranch. I hunted red stag from horse back and shot an amazing stag. Then, Natalie took a little fly-casting lesson and we fished some of the most famous trout waters in the world. She caught her first fish on the fly and I checked several things off my bucket list.
- Have you tried any eccentric foods during your travels? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
That’s part of the journey! Putting yourself outside your culinary comfort zone! Recently, on a trip to Uruguay, I ate beef intestine served medium rare. I was not a fan. I’m glad I can tell the tale, but I will definitely decline if offered it again.
- You’re described as a historian. Why is the history of a location so important to your trip? Is there always a learning experience behind every adventure?
What’s cool to me about our world is that EVERY place has a story. No matter where you are, there is some common thread that binds it all together, and there is always something to learn from it. It might be about the building you’re in, the people who live there and their ancestry, the wars fought, or the lives saved. There might be a story behind the food being served or the plate it’s served on. It’s exciting to me to step onto new territory. You never know what you might find if you just scratch the surface a little bit. Even the dirtiest stuff can shine if you rub off the dirt!
- Is there anything you will not try? Name an adventure or and outdoor activity that you have not done but would like to.
I HATE SNAKES! I can’t explain why and I know it’s silly, but I scream like a little girl when I see a snake. You will not find me doing anything related to snakes anytime soon! I have never gone skydiving, but I will and can’t wait. I’m sure you’ll see that on an episode very soon!
- What are some challenges you’ve faced while filming the show? Have you run into any more obstacles, like the Patagonia trip where you had a hard time getting your gun through customs?
There is always something unexpected on a trip that is a setback. Weather is always an issue; it’s hard to film with expensive camera gear in the rain. Also, hauling that gear when you’re hunting is another challenge. Your pack is heavy enough to begin with and Karla, my field producer, works her butt off hauling that gear around. Customs in different countries are also always a challenge because of the language barrier. I’ve learned to have an interpreter on hand when we arrive to help with that.
- What is the best thing about having family that shares your love and passion for outdoor adventures?
The hardest part about my life is that everything I do and love takes me away from home and my family. I miss my daughter and my wife so much when I’m gone and anytime they can come with me I am truly in my element. As my daughter gets older, I have enjoyed introducing her to the outdoors and there is so much fun that comes from hunting with your wife. I wish they could go everywhere with me! Waylon is my dream dog. He is the duck dog I always wanted and he makes long road trips so much nicer. He’s a badass in the duck blind!
- What’s better: a rifle or a bow? Do you prefer one weapon over the other when hunting certain species?
Each has its different aspects that make it hard to choose one or the other. There is something really satisfying about making a good clean ethical shot with both. I will say though, there is nothing quite like the heart-pounding feeling of having a whitetail inside bow range and letting an arrow fly. On the flip side, my trusty Kimber 30-06 has made more memories around the world than I can count. Apples and Oranges.
- Tell us about the Bourbon Trail.
I’m a bourbon lover. I love it on the rocks, in a mint julep, or an old-fashioned. Whatever. So, getting to dig into the history and the craft of distilling bourbon was a thrill for me. The culture behind it, the men and women who pour their souls into it, and the lush history about it and each brand makes it fascinating.
- What’s in your tackle box? Do you have any fishing tips for people who will be hitting the water this spring season?
I am one of those minimalist fisherman who gets out there and always wishes I had more stuff and more options. I always say, “Oh, I won’t need that,” and then ended up needing it! I love crappie season. It’s one of my favorite things to eat, and it’s so much fun when you are in “the spot” with the right lure. Tight lines make for a happy Nick!
- Do you prefer solo trips or hunting with dogs?
There is almost no greater pleasure in the outdoors to me than hunting with good dogs. The reasons are so many but the main one for me is that a dog never takes away from the solitude of a hunt, but instead adds to the gravity of it. Watching a well-trained dog work a field or retrieve a duck is so rewarding for me. I’ve always loved animals, especially dogs, and the partnership and earnest drive that a dog has is an energizing thing. Long trips are made less lonely with a dog and long retrieves are made much easier with one, too!
- Do you have any hunting trophies at home? What hunt are you most proud of?
I have a wall full of mounts from my hunts, much to the dismay of some! I love to keep mounts because each one helps me remember the adventure and honor the animal that was taken. I’m most proud of my first elk. It was an archery bull I took in Montana and when he came into view I shook so hard that I could hardly draw my bow back, but I gathered myself and made a perfect 62-yard heart shot. I shook even worse when it was over. I had a full freezer and a great memory.
- We’re excited about your wife’s album release and the success of Nick’s Wild Ride. What’s next for the Hoffmans? Any new music, adventures, or other expectations for 2017?
2017 is going to be a great year for us. My wife, Natalie Murphy’s, first solo album is due out sometime mid-year (www.nataliemurphymusic.com) and my first solo album will be released around the same time. The 2nd season of Nick’s Wild Ride starts in July and will be bigger and better than Season 1. We are headed to Africa, Alaska, back to Argentina, England, the Northwest Territories, and lots of places in between. I can’t wait!