Join Michelle & Scott on Off The Record Podcast with special guest Nick Pinizzotto, CEO of National Deer Alliance AND QDMA, as they talk future of conservation groups in America and quality of this week’s wine selections!
Wines we were drinking: Going Viral – Merlot by Michael David Winery; Red Dog Road – sweet red table wine from Pennsylvania
Off The Record Podcast – Episode 9 – Transcript
Scott Leysath: Whatever.
Nick Pinizzotto: Wow.
Nick: I think I took a turn and got on the wrong podcast.
Scott: Yeah, Nick, you see what I’m up against here?
Intro: Good day and welcome to Off the Record. You’ll find us at the intersection of interesting ideas and great pairings. It all tastes good when these two cook it up, so let’s listen in to The Sporting Chef, Scott Leysath, and outdoor industry insider, Michelle, as they talk wild game, wine, and anything else that comes to mind. Time to sample and sip our way through the best part of the day as we go off the record with The Sporting Chef and Michelle.
Michelle Scheuermann: Welcome, everyone to Off the Record with The Sporting Chef and Michelle and special guest, Nick Pinizzotto. Pinizzotto, yay!
Nick: And you got it right, which is, that’s… We’re off to a great start.
Michelle: I hope so. We’ve been friends for a while, so lord, I hope so. So Nick is currently the CEO of not one, but two organizations as of recently. We’ll talk about that, but you were with National Deer Alliance and now QDMA. Formally, you’ve had many wonderful roles in the outdoor industry, we could talk about a little bit, too. But yeah, if you wanna introduce yourself to our lovely audience of two people, I don’t think they wanna hear it. [laughter]
Nick: I’ve been one of your audience, so I’ll get to listen to this show. Sure, yeah, so yeah, I am in a weird position right now being the CEO of both the National Deer Alliance and Quality Deer Management Association, and the reason that is, is because we are in the middle of merging both organizations into one. And so I’m just kind of in that unique position now. It’s not as… While it’s very busy, it’s not as daunting as you may think because the National Deer Alliance, I am 50% of the staff of that organization.
Michelle: And you got you covered.
Nick: Yeah, I got me covered. And Torin is good on his own, but I’ll be taking on a number of staff in the Quality Deer Management Association.
Michelle: So when is that official?
Nick: So that is… The merger probably won’t wrap up until closer to the end of the year.
Michelle: Oh, okay.
Nick: Although, I truly am running both at the same time right now, so it is a little bit hectic and challenging.
Michelle: Two board meetings, two groups of board of directors.
Nick: You know, when I was with the Sportsman’s Alliance, we had a C3 and a C3… A 501 [c]  and a 501 [c]  board.
Nick: So we had to have two board meetings. And one of those board meetings was in Napa, and so… Yeah, this is good. I’ve been out to that part of the world, which is beautiful, and I think the winery that we toured was the Sonoma-Cutrer, which… I don’t know, Scott, if you’re familiar with that.
Scott: I know it well, yes.
Nick: Yeah, so that is owned by… Partially owned by one of my old board members who’s from the Brown-Forman family, who you may recognize from Jack Daniels.
Nick: And they own Sonoma-Cutrer, and that’s how we got that little tour arranged, so…
Michelle: I like the name.
Nick: Yeah, yeah.
Michelle: That’s fine. Well, and speaking of wine, Scott, you have your wine.
Scott: I have my wine. You know, the assignment tonight was to get a Michael David Viral, and the Viral is their first Merlot, and there’s a really good back story on that, and I wanna make sure I get the details right, so…
Michelle: So I’m gonna read a card.
Michelle: This is gonna be so interesting for the podcast.
Scott: Read it with feeling, don’t just read it.
Michelle: Read it with flair and feeling. So it’s called the Going the Viral from Michael David Winery, 100% of the proceeds donated to COVID-19 research. Thank you for your purchase of Going Viral. All the proceeds from this wine will be donated to COVID-19 research at UC Santa Cruz. Inspired by the groundbreaking work of virologist, Dr. Rebecca Phillips DuBois, daughter of Michael Phillips and goddaughter of David Phillips, Going Viral has taken on a whole new meeting amidst COVID-19 pandemic. An Assistant Professor of Biomolecular Engineering at UC Santa Cruz, Dr. Phillips DuBois is currently working with her team to develop a serological test and understand if antibodies can protect a person from getting infected with the virus again, very important. This label celebrates her life-saving discoveries at UC Santa Cruz in her protein engineering lab, capturing the atomic view of the fight between humans and virus. Going Viral embodies Dr. Phillips DuBois’ passion in developing new vaccines and antiviral therapies to tackle children’s infections. Wow.
Scott: Sorry, I nodded off.
Michelle: I know, it was a lot. [laughter]
Scott: And the back story on that is, they put this wine together prior to the COVID-19. It was… They were just coming up with the name Viral, and…
Michelle: Before all this came out. Before they even…
Scott: Before all this came out. And it just came out and they went, “Oh, well, I guess we gotta do something with this,” and use it appropriately, but the intention had nothing to do with COVID-19 when they put the wine together. So obviously, you can’t produce a Merlot in January when you just find out about it…
Scott: It’s just one of those things. But the Michael David folks are really good friends, and Dr. Phillips DuBois is the sister of Kevin Phillips, son of Mike, who’s a good friend of mine, and we hunt and fish together and drink wine.
Michelle: Yeah, I’m excited.
Scott: And I couldn’t get the Viral. But the whole thing is, Michelle not only claims that there’s no good wine under $25 but she’s never met a Merlot that she likes, and so…
Scott: I think she watched Sideways a few too many times. And so I’m saying, “Let’s… So Michelle, try your Viral Merlot for Michael David, and what do you think?”
Michelle: Alright. And what’s your Merlot that you have?
Scott: Me, I have a Michael David Petite Petit. I couldn’t get the Michael David Merlot. I like Merlots, I’m not a snob like you.
Michelle: I know. I know.
Scott: But I’m keeping it in the family, and I’m drinking the Petite Petit. And Nick, you need to drink too, I think.
Michelle: Alright, alright, we’re all drinking. Here we go.
Scott: So you’ve closed your eyes, you haven’t thought Merlot, you’re drinking it, and you’re going, “Hah. “
Michelle: Well, she’s a little young.
Scott: Yeah, Nick…
Nick: I think I took a turn and got on the wrong podcast.
Scott: Yeah. Nick, you see what I’m up against here.
Scott: So, a little young? Tell me what that means to you.
Michelle: I think it should be cellared for just a teensy bit longer, in my cellar. I think she needs to sit for just a little bit longer, maybe six months, a year, or maybe I need to let it air out, aerate it for a little bit longer.
Scott: Or maybe, it…
Michelle: Very fruit forward, I get a lot of raspberries, blueberries, plums, yeah.
Scott: Are you offended by it at all? I mean…
Michelle: No, I’m not.
Scott: If somebody served you that, would you spit it out and say, “I don’t drink Merlot ever since I saw Sideways.”
Michelle: I think, no. I think with food, I think with food, I would be happier.
Scott: Now Nick, Nick, are you a wine drinker?
Nick: I am an uneducated wine drinker, there. So, I simply tend to grab the ones that just taste good to me.
Scott: Oh, now you’re talking.
Nick: Yeah, and we have a little winery nearby us that I walk down the street to their shop. And I wasn’t able to send you a bottle. I really wanted to but the law wouldn’t allow it. And I was able to send one to Michelle, though, so she’s gonna try that. But…
Nick: No, I thought… So I’m not sure what happens if you give it another six months or whatever. That probably wouldn’t have an effect on me, but I think that it’s a very sort of rich flavor. And I think with a deer steak, venison steak, it would probably be great with that. So like a meat and potatoes meal, that type of thing.
Michelle: I agree. I agree wholeheartedly with that statement, yeah.
Scott: Do you know what the price point on this wine is?
Michelle: I’ll have to Google it.
Nick: I think it’s like 25 bucks.
Scott: Yep, it says 28 on the Michael David website, and that’s… They’re gonna list high retail ’cause they don’t wanna undercut their…
Michelle: No, it’s in my wheelhouse.
Scott: In your price range, anyway.
Michelle: Yeah, yeah.
Scott: And Nick, my contention has always been, I’m always looking for the best 10 to $12 bottle of wine, ’cause where I live, there’s a bunch of them. You just have to know what you’re looking for ’cause there is… Everybody here grows wine.
Nick: We don’t really let cost dictate what we like.
Nick: So, what I sent Michelle, I think is like $12 or $13. So, it’s also the namesake for my podcast, the Red Dog Road Podcast. The wine is Red Dog Road, and that comes from the history of coal mining in this part of the world. I’m in Western Pennsylvania, and you’re an hour east of Pittsburgh. And you guys can see at least over my shoulder, that road that you can see with the red color is actually Red Dog Road where I grew up.
Nick: And so all of my little hunting adventures and whatnot started on that one-mile stretch of Red Dog Road, and what Red Dog is just burnt out coal. That’s what remains is the Red Dog. And it’s illegal to use now in roads and things like that, but they used to use it quite often, very high in heavy metal content, and so…
Scott: Right. And, I mean, they’re making wine in every state now, I believe, isn’t that the case? It’s not all good, but how’s the wine in Pennsylvania overall? Was there a style of wine that Pennsylvania is known for?
Nick: You know, it’s pretty good. So we do have pretty robust wineries up along Lake Erie. So, when you go up along Lake Erie, a lot of the properties, a high percentage of the properties just off the lake, are growing grapes. That’s what they do.
Nick: Pretty much everything else in between is really just sort of hobby stuff. So again, not being an educated wine drinker, I can tell you that we find a lot of stuff that we like the taste of, whether or not it’s good wine. I’m not like Michelle there that would say, “Well, if this would just age another six months.”
Scott: Six months, yeah.
Michelle: I’m drinking it though. You see me reaching for it and drinking it. So…
Nick: What would another six months or whatever, help me out here, what would another six months or more do for a wine like this?
Michelle: I’m getting a lot of alcohol. It’s kind of thin for me. So, I would like it to just round out a little bit more, maybe get rid of some of that fruit that I’m tasting so much right now, and let that fruit sort of mellow out a bit more.
Nick: See, now I’m really scared to drink…
Michelle: Scott, Scott just throws up his hands. He’s just like, “Whatever.”
Nick: I want the fruity. To me, I like that fruity taste.
Nick: And so…
Michelle: It’s a good… I don’t drink Merlot.
Michelle: But it’s good.
Scott: Maybe you do drink Merlot.
Michelle: Well, I mean, I drink a lot of Cab Franc, Cab Sav, Merlot blends. There’s a lot of wines that use Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in a blend, so I do drink those, but usually the Merlot is the lesser of the percentages.
Scott: And Nick, when I met Michelle, she was drinking Muscadine wine, and she’s gone from Muscadine to complete wine snobbery.
Michelle: That was years ago, years ago.
Nick: You’re partially to blame for this Scott, I believe.
Scott: I don’t think so. I don’t know. I hope not. So, Nick, tell me about your world. What’s going on with all this COVID mess, and what you’re trying to accomplish? How’s that working out?
Michelle: Yeah, how are you doing, Nick?
Nick: Well, I think the locality where I live, I work from home, which is a cool thing, and eventually everybody that works for the organization, I’ll have them all work remotely. I think that COVID is one thing. Before that, I think that I believed in that efficiency and I believe in that model, and so probably headed there anyway. But COVID has shown us all that life can go on and function a lot less expensively and a lot more conveniently by doing that. And I actually believe productivity goes up. I’ve never put in more hours than I do from working from home.
Nick: Water cooler talk is gone, you’re just working. And so, but this local area, Pennsylvania was one of the earlier states that had the bigger wave, and it was mostly due to Philadelphia, along the New Jersey border, and up around New York City, which everybody heard about. And on the western half of the state, we weren’t nearly as bad. But we’re also… We’re like a lot of people now, too, where we’re starting to see some surge. And a lot of it’s traced… Just like everywhere else, it’s traced back to bars and these large gatherings because people just… I guess they just decided that the virus was over and they were gonna go out and resume their lives, and now we’re all kind of… Well, just today, our state announced a restriction again on bars and restaurants.
Michelle: Oh, really?
Nick: Shutting down bars. Yeah, shutting down bars. You can still get your drinks to go or if you’re there to have a meal, which is limited to 25% occupancy, you can still be served alcohol, but yeah, you can’t sit at the bar and hang out with your buddies and drink all night.
Michelle: Oh, man.
Scott: And a restaurant or bar cannot make money at 25% occupancy or 50% occupancy, maybe 80% occupancy, but it’s just a matter of losing less at that point. And it’s the same thing here in California. I’m in Northern California. The town that I’m in, there’s less than 100,000 cases. The county right next door, the next freeway exit up, has less than 200 in the whole county, but we’re stuck under the same rules as Los Angeles and San Francisco where it’s a little more crowded, and people are less observant of the rules. And it’s… We thought it would all be over by now, but apparently we haven’t been through this before. But I’m just glad that I don’t have a lot of commercial real estate investments right now. I think that’s gonna be a problem. But the working from home thing, I’ve done forever and ever and ever, and…
Michelle: Have you ever gone into an office, Scott, ever?
Scott: Not unless it was an office in a restaurant. I always worked either from my house or in a restaurant in an office somewhere, even when I was a vice president of a restaurant chain, I worked out of my house.
Michelle: Nick, I was gonna ask you about, Scott kind of alluded to it, just about conservation right now in COVID. Since you are the CEO of two conservation groups, you have double the input now. But how are we doing? Do you think there’ll be less conservation groups? Do you think everyone’s gonna make it through? We fund-raise by getting together and auctioning things off and having fun together and networking, and now we’re trying these online auctions, and you’re not making as much money?
Nick: No. And it’s a little different for each organization, even the two that I’m involved with. The National Deer Alliance never did fundraisers or banquet things or events. And so there’s been virtually no impact on that organization. The Quality Deer Management Association, however, other than the few banquets they did right after the turn of the new year, has canceled everything since. And so, that obviously… I look at these things as truth serum. When these types of things happen, this or a recession or whatever, it really reveals who you are and how stable of a business you’re running. And these non-profit organizations, a lot of people forget that they are businesses, they’re corporations. Some of them are really hurting. I don’t wanna name names here but I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple went away. And if they were surviving on a banquet model anyway and sort of living on a shoe string, maybe that’s what needs to happen anyway.
Nick: And even with the National Deer Alliance and QDMA, why have two deer organizations that kinda do similar things when we could just be one? So there’s eliminating one group right there. I guess in one sense, it’s not… We started this before the COVID thing really hit us, but it certainly added urgency to it. And so I can tell you on the QDMA side, the old banquet model that everybody is used to is, we’ve already done away with that. Some of the branches may still have banquets, but they’re not all required to have a banquet now. We’re not gonna have a huge warehouse full of prints and other knick-knacks with the logo on it kind of thing. We’re going more virtual with our fundraising, more local, smaller local raffles, more flexibility in how we fundraise, and we also have to right-size the corporation. QDMA, when I was first looking down through the org chart, I think there were 35 staff people there. And…
Nick: Yeah. And a third of them were tied to the fundraising model.
Michelle: The old fundraising model?
Nick: The old fundraising model, whereas what you really need to be heavy toward is your mission. And our mission, other conservation group missions, shouldn’t be to fundraise. Our mission should be to do well for the species, conservation, in general, that’s where the money is supposed to go to. People, when it’s sort of the fat times, people get lost in that a little bit, I think. And so it becomes… Even CEOs are often measured on how many members do we have and how big is our budget, and that’s not a measure of anything. I mean, that’s…
Michelle: Yeah, how much did you bring in your last fundraiser? Yeah.
Nick: Yeah, we know a lot of real jerks that have gigantic bank accounts.
Nick: That means that like… What’s more important? That’s my take on it anyway.
Michelle: Yeah, so what is the new fundraising model?
Nick: So it’s gonna be… I think… Well, first of all, we’re not requiring branches to have a banquet. That used to be a requirement, they had to hold a banquet. And so now it’s gonna be more flexible. Some groups would on a banquet and you might gross $30,000 at this banquet, but then the net was so bad because they spent $33,000 to do it, burned out a whole bunch of volunteers in the process, where they’re finding out you can do a gun raffle and make five grand with just pushing a few tickets. So that type of thing. I would like to, once restrictions loosen up a little bit, go to sort of the small gathering pub model, a little more intimate, where you can get into deep conversation about mission, and while you’re there, you may raffle off a nice gun or something along those lines. But having…
Michelle: Something more unique maybe, instead of all these prints and all this, like you say, knick-knacks, it’s something a little more unique and special and… Right. And maybe more high dollar, but like you said, you might be doing less, but your margin might be more, because of the high dollar item that you’re raffling.
Nick: I think also connecting with people who really love your mission and care about is important, because if you’re a donor and I just spend a little bit of time with you and you write me a cheque, that is the easiest money to earn, because it’s just a little bit of a person’s time to develop the relationship. It’s not a number of volunteers that when they signed up for your organization, they didn’t sign up to run banquets, they signed up because they were interested in the mission.
Nick: And so we just did a big town hall with our chapter leaders, our branch leaders, at the QDMA, and I told them that I want them to be involved with the things that they signed up to be involved with, and that’s the mission and getting our mission on the ground, our Field to Fork program, which is very relatable to what we’re talking about here, is important, and I want to invest in that. And I wanna have conversations with people who… I’ll cut to the chase. So I have this vision that some day we would have people that join our organization that have no intention of shooting a deer.
Michelle: Oh, I love it.
Nick: Just like someone might join Ducks Unlimited. A lot of people buy duck stamps and they’re not gonna shoot a duck.
Nick: And a lot of people belong to Trout Unlimited because they care about clean water and habitat.
Michelle: I belong to Pheasants Forever but I probably won’t shoot a pheasant this year… I mean… Because I care about their habitat. Yeah.
Nick: Yeah, you care about it. And that’s part of my vision, to get away from the just sort of a gun and bow toting nut. Anyone listening to this, don’t freak out, I’m not saying we’re going away from hunting.
Nick: I’m as red neck…
Scott: And we like our gun and bow toting nuts. We like them all.
Nick: We do.
Nick: But if we’re just relying on that crowd, it’s a small crowd. So we need to get more people under our roof that care about deer that, by the way, are accepting of hunting. And I also think that that’s the long way… It’s a longer game if you’re willing to play it, but I think that’s how you recruit more hunters in the long run because you have more people that are knowledgeable, and sympathetic to it, and understand that deer… Seven out of 10 people that are hunting, hunting deer, and that generates the bulk of the money that goes to manage all wildlife, whether you’re a songbird lover, you get tickled to see a raccoon or a possum cross the road, deer matter to you, and that’s the message we have to get out.
Scott: And you know, one of the things that I’ve done over the years, in addition to doing banquets, is small groups for conservation outfits, like a Ducks Unlimited or a California Waterfowl. Ten to 20 people who have the wherewithal to write a check. I’ll come in, I’ll cook a little bit, we talk, somebody from the organization will talk about their vision and their mission, and then hopefully at the end of the night, people are writing cheques. And then you’ve got the right people there during the fundraising, and then you’ve got field people that are doing all the work, and working on habitat, and the environment, and meeting with people one-on-one. And it really makes a lot more sense to me anyway. So I’ve been doing that for years.
Nick: Yeah, and I’m aware of your work and seen videos of it and… But you really can connect with people that way, and over food, connect with them over food.
Michelle: And wine.
Nick: Yeah. Of course. We can’t let Michelle there because she’ll be talking down to everybody there.
Michelle: What are you drinking?
Scott: She’ll say, “Yes, this really needs to breathe,”… And yeah whatever.
Nick: “Is that…? What’s wrong with you? I can’t even talk to you.” No, that’s exactly where we wanna head, and frankly, we should talk, Scott, about this going forward because that’s what we wanna do. We wanna connect with people on that really intimate level and have real relationships and… I got prints stacked up downstairs, that will never see a wall in my house.
Nick: I would…
Scott: Well, at some point, your wife’s gonna say, “That’s gonna look really good in the garage or in your office.” Right?
Nick: That some point has happened a while ago.
Scott: Right. Oh good, more camouflage.
Nick: Yeah. If someone brought me another print, I would say, “Let me just give you $100 not to give it to me. And here, take all these other ones too.”
Michelle: Well, now, even if you tried to auction them off, now shipping, shipping prints, every time I’ve tried to ship one, the glass breaks. And then you’re scratch… And then the print gets scratched and it’s just like, “Oh, this was… This was a mess.” Well, this is wonderful.
Scott: Moving forward, though, that all makes sense with the smaller groups, and… I’m doing some virtual cooking classes now, that kind of thing, for smaller groups. We send them deer cuts and what ingredients they’re gonna need. They cook along with me, and they can ask me questions while we cook. So that kind of thing, that’s… Some of the things that we’ve discovered this year is that we have to be a little bit more creative than usual. And, after the first couple of months of being distracted and for me, it’s…
Scott: Early on, it was a bit hard to focus on any one task because the whole atmosphere was so very annoying, but at this point it’s like I’m just gonna make the best out of it. And if… When the phone rings and they say, “Guess what, that event’s been canceled,” I’ll go, “Well, I mean, “Go to hell. No kidding.” And I expect it to cancel. So my expectations now are reasonably low, but I wanna move forward based on where things are, and they’re virtual and they’re small groups. And the right small group can earn you a lot more than a bunch of guys drinking beer all night…
Michelle: Nick, can I put you on the spot?
Nick: I love… Me or Scott?
Michelle: Nick, you. Can I put you on the spot?
Nick: Oh. This is your show. So, whatever you want.
Michelle: Pretend you are in charge of SHOT Show. What do you do? [laughter]
Nick: Yeah. Well, that is on the spot because my buddy Chris Dolnack is in charge of SHOT Show.
Michelle: Yeah, I do not envy Chris, right. This is hard.
Nick: I would do exactly what they’re doing right now. And that is that they’re moving ahead. And they have said that unless local government says we can’t have the show, we’re having it. And they’ve also given the vendors an opportunity to… If the show gets canceled, to… They’ll get half their money back, and they can use the other half toward next year.
Michelle: Oh, I didn’t know that. That’s great.
Nick: Yeah. And so that’s really cool. And it really comes down to then the attendance of it… Might we have a SHOT Show where we can actually walk around and… [chuckle] You know what that madness is there. I would just do what they’re doing because things change so rapidly.
Michelle: It’s still six months away, yeah.
Nick: It’s still six months away, and so even… And this is all guessing and pie in the sky and whatever, but let’s say that even a percentage of the population is able to get to a vaccine before then or around that time, that’s positive news. Let’s see… Let’s hope that maybe we’ve learned some things, learned some hard lessons about things like mask wearing and… What we should and shouldn’t do. I think there are ways you can have the show that are darn near as safe as going to your local grocery store and shopping.
Michelle: I agree.
Nick: But it comes down to personal responsibility, and it comes down to their enforcement of it. I would have no problem wearing a mask the entire time of SHOT Show.
Michelle: I agree.
Nick: Because I just feel like it’s a responsibility.
Michelle: I agree.
Scott: But when you think about what it’s like in the hall, on the way in and on the way out when it’s a complete sea of elbow-to-elbow humanity, I don’t know that a mask is gonna make that… It’s gonna make some difference, but you’re still… There’s no social distancing at SHOT Show. I just don’t know that there can be.
Nick: No, I don’t think there is. The only thing they may be able to do is if your badge number is between this and this, you go during these hours, if your badge number is this and this, you go during these hours. But again, it’s easy for me to sit here and say that. Yeah… The other thing is we all gather there and we end up going in these small meeting rooms and have these meetings. Vegas is a big place. Find some creative ways to have them in more open spaces. You know the weather will always be okay. You could do a lot of this outside kind of a thing. So I just think it comes down to getting creative and it can be done and I’m hopeful that they’re able to have the show and…
Michelle: Well, they’re a very creative group, like you said. The things they’ve done in the last even five years just blow my mind. And like I said, I don’t envy them, but I do appreciate the amount of communication they’ve been putting out. I read it. I read every little bit of it. ATA too, they’re doing the same thing. They’re saying the same things. I don’t know about the exhibitor stuff, but they’re saying the same things as long as the state will allow it and…
Nick: So I’ll put you two on the spot. If SHOT Show’s a go, will we all see each other there?
Scott: You know, I will go to SHOT Show. I normally go when I’m working SHOT Show. I’m in a booth cooking, that kind of thing. If I’m not hired to go anywhere… I haven’t found… A lot of guys will go and try and get sponsors for their TV shows. I found that’s not one of the better times to get a sponsor for your TV Show ’cause there’s eight million guys with cameras asking the same questions, trying to get the same thing. And it’s a relatively close… It’s an hour and 10 flight for me. So it’s close, I can go there in one day and come back the same day, but I’m not sure what I’m gonna see that’s new. And so for me, I worked it for 15, 16 years in a row, and then I haven’t been for the last couple of years so…
Nick: Maybe it’s time.
Scott: Could be time. I’ve been to a bunch of them. But on the consumer side, you’ve got the Great American Outdoor Show in February usually, and that is another elbow-to-elbow deal with a sea of humanity. I don’t know how that’s gonna work either.
Nick: Yeah, that one’s right in my backyard.
Scott: Right, right.
Nick: In some ways, it’s worse than SHOT Show.
Michelle: I agree. Yeah.
Scott: Well, I like that because there’s every known human being there at the Great American Outdoor Show. From people that have come out of the woods to go to the Great American Outdoor Show to the suit and tie guys, you see every possible permutation of humanity there at the Great American Outdoor Show. That’s one of my favorite places to watch people.
Nick: I just wanna point out that they’re not all Pennsylvanians.
Nick: Most of them are actually probably from New York.
Scott: From New York, right. They tell me they’re from New York when I talk to them.
Scott: So, and a side story there, one of the most memorable deals at the Great American Outdoor Show, I’m in the booth. I’m at Sportsman Channel booth, and a guy walks up and he’s got his three or four girls with him, and he looks really normal. And the girls look normal. And then he tells me and another buddy of mine, “I haven’t worn shoes for five years.” So you know what February in Pennsylvania’s like, right?
Scott: There’s snow on the ground, it’s a cold, the whole deal. As he’s walking away, the bottom of his feet were jet black. He had not worn shoes for five years. So if you’re listening, put your shoes on. I don’t know what to tell you but… ‘Cause your daughters are really embarrassed because you don’t wear shoes. But he looked perfectly normal, he just didn’t wear shoes. The Great American Outdoor Show.
Nick: You just gotta ask yourself why.
Michelle: What a story.
Nick: What’s the endgame?
Scott: Well, he said he had worn construction boots all his life, and now that he retired, he didn’t wanna have to wear boots anymore, so he went to the office with his…
Michelle: He could wear flip-flops, whatever.
Scott: There are other options besides barefoot in February.
Michelle: Yeah. I was just thinking, Scott, back to SHOT Show, when you did go there, a lot of times the sponsors would rent a house and then have you come in and cook at the house.
Michelle: I’m wondering, during this time, if that’s not the way to go now, right? Let’s rent a house, maybe…
Scott: It’s small groups, right?
Michelle: Yeah, let’s have our people stay at the house or whatever. We’re probably sending less people, right?
Michelle: And then if we wanna have some VIPs over, let’s hire a chef or let’s see what we can do.
Scott: And I used to do a lot of winemaker dinners where it was five courses, different wine with every course and all that kind of snotty stuff. And what I’ve found that’s a lot more fun is just to set up a cook station and I just… I’ll cook 20 dishes in an hour and a half to two hours, and people just kind of hang out. Some people…
Michelle: Like tapas?
Scott: Some people care, some people don’t. I put it… I cut it up into small pieces, put it on a plate and say, “Try the quail, try the fish, try the shrimp, try the whatever.” And some people won’t leave the counter, other people kinda come and go, other people don’t really care, it doesn’t matter. It gives the people who organize it a chance to actually talk to these people. I did a lot with pharmaceutical companies in a different life when the rules were different. I did close to a thousand pharmaceutical programs, where you would get a couple of docs together, and they just hang out with me, and it gave the drug rep a chance to actually talk to the doc, instead of just sit in the waiting room for two hours, so the guy could give him 30 seconds and say, “No, I’m not interested.” So it works that way, yeah.
Michelle: So it’s all coming back around. What’s old is new again.
Scott: I don’t know. It’s either keep doing this or retire, I don’t know.
Michelle: But you can’t retire ’cause you’re my client. So…
Scott: Well, and one of the things that I’ve discovered this year is I’m really not ready for retirement yet. I like working. I like doing what I do, and I don’t wanna retire.
Michelle: You and Janel cannot retire at the same time. That’s obvious.
Scott: No, no, right.
Michelle: So Nick, what do you think of the wine now that you’ve been drinking it? The Viral.
Nick: It’s good. I like it. It’s something that I would buy more of. Yeah, if it was…
Michelle: The more I drink it, the more I’m liking it. I don’t know what that means, but…
Scott: Right. The last time you switched to dark liquor, I think, ’cause you didn’t like the wine.
Michelle: I switched to whiskey.
Scott: Nick, this is better. Our last deal was the best $10 to $12 bottle of wine. So this is a better deal today. So…
Nick: Yeah, this is good, yeah.
Michelle: We took it up a notch.
Scott: And so Nick, for your basic everyday deer hunter, what does QDMA do for them? What is it that… Why would they wanna support QDMA?
Nick: Yeah, so I should have said as part of the merger, it won’t be QDMA anymore.
Scott: Oh, oh…
Nick: It will be more… The QDMA and NDA will go away. We’re gonna have a new name. But that being said, the core programs are gonna pretty much remain the same. So QDMA really was started with this idea that most people were shooting all the youngest age classes of deer, particularly bucks. You never really achieve a balanced herd, that way you weren’t shooting enough antlerless deer. And people never got to see what a buck that got to maturity looked like. And so you didn’t have really normal types of breeding seasons and whatnot.
Nick: And so the very basics of it was just simply you let the young ones go for a while and you’ll be surprised, you’ll be impressed. And then from that though… And this is where it’s been unfortunate, but I always feel like QDMA has gotten a raw deal. They’ve never been able to overcome the name in a lot of ways… Quality Deer Management Association. A lot of people just immediately think, “Oh, that’s a big buck organization.”
Nick: But they’re a conservation organization, doing a lot of different habitat projects. They’re teaching people with land or people who manage land, and not just about food plots, that’s what gets all the headlines, people watch Outdoor TV and they see people planting food plots, but early successional habitat, which benefits so many different animals. Just getting people connected with the land, the science behind deer, QDMA has supported and participated in so much research over the years.
Nick: We’ve learned so much more about deer. So if you’re someone that wants to be a little more than just, you’re casually interested, you buy a license occasionally and put a couple of days in a year, if you’re someone that’s interested in learning more, it’s a really good organization for you.
Nick: And now with the National Deer Alliance, we were focused 100% on policy. So a lot of our issues that we battle in the deer or hunting conservation world happened in places like Capitol Hill and state legislatures, and even local jurisdictions. And so, no hunter typically wants to deal in that. They are all on their own, but they like to know that somebody’s out there doing it for them. So we’re marrying this boots on the ground conservation mission with the policy part of it, and we’re willing to play the long game with programs like Field to Folk, that we see as a tool to recruit more deer enthusiasts, which I think ultimately translates into hunters.
Scott: And I’ll tell you, one of the things that I see when you go on forums or even places where people… Or cooking forums, where people don’t necessarily cook a lot of wild game, one of the things that I see when they say, “Do you have any venison recipes?” Most of it is either the jalapeno bacon wrap thing or grind it or turn it into chilly and that kind of thing. People don’t know how to cook a deer.
Scott: I had a guy in West Virginia, and I think I’ve probably mentioned this on the podcast before, that I was doing elk burgers at an event, and I know that I can’t serve medium rare to these folks, ’cause they’re just… That’s not gonna happen. So there was just barely. You had to squint and see a little pink in there, and a guy brought this back and he said, “Man, this deer is raw.” And I said, “I’ll cook you another one.” I said, “Do you eat venison?” He said, “Yeah, we eat venison all the time.” I said, “How do you cook your venison steaks?” He said, “Well, the first thing we do is we boil it.” So they…
Nick: What the fuck.
Scott: I know. This was normal for him, they boil their venison steaks and then…
Michelle: You were getting educated.
Scott: And then they put it on the grill. And I’m going… I didn’t wanna judge, not outwardly, anyway.
Scott: And I would just love to get these people that boil their steaks and say, “Try a bite of this.” And that’s one of the things that I’ve done at consumer shows, where you say, “Try this.” And they’ll say, “What did you do?” And I will say, “A whole lot less than what you’re probably doing.” And that whole, how do you… The different parts of an animal and how to cook different parts, and don’t just grind the whole thing and then keep the backstraps and tenderloins, there is more to it than that. So to me, that’s part of the education process, from my perspective anyway.
Nick: Yeah, there’s no question, because if your first experience with venison is a boiled steak, you might as well just eat the belt your wearing because they’re about the same, right?
Michelle: I just can’t even imagine. I don’t even know.
Nick: No. And so, I’m a little bit blind to it in a sense, because I’ve always known how to cook wild game, all the different types of wild game. I have a rule that I don’t flip anything more than once, and it’s gotta be rare to medium rare. Absolutely. And so, you almost have to trick people who have only eaten it other ways to get them to do it. And I’ve had really bad experiences too, where I’ve been over at a friend’s place and they’re like, “Oh hey, we’re having venison tonight.” And they put this thing in front of me, and I’m like, “Good Lord. I’m gonna have to force this down.”
Nick: And here in California, another thing when I used to work in a waterfowl organization, the same thing. They cook waterfowl like it’s chicken.
Nick: And it’s like, “Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa… ” So that’s your world, you’re living that. And yeah, we have to educate people because it’s a completely different meal if you do it right.
Scott: Yep, I agree. And utilizing the whole animal too, as opposed to just keeping the primals and grinding everything else and not keeping the shanks that are some of my favorite parts of the deer and that kind of thing all seems to make sense with what you guys are doing too.
Nick: Well, I think too, with things like chronic wasting disease, it’s gonna be harder to find a commercial processor to cut your meat up, too. And so, I think getting people connected on that part of it, the processing and then the preparation, I think they may become more appreciative of where those cuts come from and why they may be cooked a certain way. So I think there’s a lot of education that needs to happen that way as well, as opposed to, like you said, they drop it off at the processor like, “Give me the backstraps, and this many pounds of jerky and just grind the rest up.”
Scott: And grind the rest. I know. That hurts. It hurts when they do that.
Michelle: It hurts your feelings. [laughter]
Scott: It really does. I wanna take them aside and say, “Try this. Try this.” So I had a question and it just disappeared, and that’s yet another sign of…
Scott: I’m blaming COVID on that.
Michelle: Or the petite petite.
Scott: Or the Petite Petit.
Nick: Michelle, I gotta ask, are you planning to try my wine tonight or is that a different…
Michelle: I think I’m gonna have to do it a different night. This is hitting me.
Michelle: I should see what the percent of alcohol is on here. But I can feel my face is like flushed. 14.5%, which isn’t bad.
Scott: The Lodi stuff’s usually a little higher. It’s usually 14 and above, I think.
Michelle: Yeah. Their Zinfandel is like 17%, so…
Scott: It is not 17%. It can’t be.
Michelle: I’m gonna find it.
Scott: It’s not 17%.
Michelle: I’m gonna take a screenshot, and I’m gonna email it to you.
Scott: It’s not 17%.
Michelle: Alright, well, thank you so much, Nick, unless Scott can remember his question.
Scott: I’ll send it to you.
Michelle: There you go.
Michelle: We really appreciate having you on this evening and talking about all the different roles that you have in your world. We neglected to mention what a wonderful husband and father you are.
Nick: Oh, thank you.
Michelle: Yeah. How old is your little one now?
Nick: He’s between three and a half and four. We just blew up a… We got an oversized blow-up pool, backyard pool.
Michelle: Oh fun.
Nick: And I did that right before I come on the show, and we took him out, and he’s all excited. And when I left, he was down there splashing around in his pool.
Michelle: How did you get your hands on a pool? “Cause I understand that it’s extremely difficult to find pools anymore.
Nick: Yeah, we just… Amazon.
Michelle: Really? [laughter]
Nick: Yeah, it’s an inflatable and it’s… I don’t know. It’s pretty big, though. It’s like eight feet long by five feet, and so it took about an hour to fill up, but it’s great.
Scott: And Nick, what… Do we know the name of the new organization?
Nick: We don’t.
Michelle: Is deer gonna be in the name?
Nick: Send suggestions.
Michelle: Right here on the podcast. Here we go. We’re gonna have a naming contest.
Nick: You may name the new organization, but we’re trying to stay away from words that confine us. So with Quality Deer Management Association, quality and management already put some boundaries on. We don’t wanna do that. I’m trying to stay away from US this or National this.
Nick: National, I could live with, but I don’t wanna call it the Whitetail Organization, because we’ll do advocacy for mule deer, blacktails and whatnot. So I’m trying to stay away from those kind of words. And we’ve gotten some pretty good suggestions so far, and I’m looking forward to connecting with our consultant here, hopefully, by the end of the week and get an idea of what he’s come up with.
Scott: Well, when you do come up with the name, we’ll do what we can to get the word out and help people support what it is you’re doing, ’cause we believe in it, 100%.
Nick: Well, I appreciate that, and I hope to see you both in person sooner than later.
Scott: Let’s do it.
Michelle: Yes. Alright, thank you everybody.
Scott: Thanks, guys.
Outro: Well, time sure flies when you’re loading up on good food, good wine, and great conversation. Find more Scott Leysath at www.sportingchef.com , where you can also nab a free wild game e-book and sign up for his two times a month newsletter, track him on social media, and see how to watch The Sporting Chef airing on Sportsman Channel and Dead Meat on Sportsman Channel and MyOutdoorTV. For more Michelle, check out www.bulletproofcomm.com. She runs her own marketing communications firm, handling PR, social media, and more for some of the biggest names in the outdoors. That’s it for now. We’ll see you next time when, again, we go Off the Record with The Sporting Chef and Michelle.