With Friends Like That …

Some years back it was my pleasure to work closely with Tony Knight who is best known as the father of the modern inline muzzleloading rifle. Tony’s invention of the Knight MK-85 and the founding of Modern Muzzleloading set blackpowder hunting around the world on an entirely new and revitalized course in the late 1980s.

At Tony’s invitation, I was included in several of the Iowa Governor’s Deer Hunt Events over the years. These were a big deal and based out of Centerville, Iowa where the Knight headquarters were based. They included big name dignitaries from all of the country including actors, athletes, politicians, professional hunters, and all the rest.

The weekend always began with a huge reception and banquet at one of the hotel ballrooms in Centerville. There were cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, speeches, buffets, auctions, raffles, and the whole shooting match. One of the sponsors of the opening night festivities was the local meat processor who laid out a spread of their finest delicacies you could have made from your deer should you be fortunate enough to bag one. There were tables and tables covered with sausages, jerky, pates, snack sticks, and more.

Well because I attended as host of North American Hunter television, I stayed pretty danged busy at the opening gala interviewing the celebs on camera, taking pictures, and jotting notes for the magazine articles I’d been assigned. In fact, I never got to fill my glass or settle in for a bite until it was time for dessert. It didn’t really matter because we’d gathered a ton of great footage for the show and content for the magazine.

So the weekend unfolded. North American Hunting Club founder, Steve Burke, shot a truly great buck on Tony’s farm, and I managed a half a 10-point there myself. The buck I shot had a beautiful 5-point antler on one side and club on the other. I was proud of myself because I shot the buck left-handed as it came around the “wrong side” of the tree we were sitting in. Shooting it wrong-handed (for me) was the only way to take the buck on camera, but I managed to drop the buck in its tracks.

Well, on Sunday night, Tony always had a reception at his home for his friends. I got my deer fairly late that afternoon, so I had to run back to town to register the buck and clean up before driving back out to Tony’s place. I called it being fashionably late, but Tony and his buddies just called it just plain old late.

When I arrived there were about 20 people sitting around Tony and Rose’s living room. Jim Zumbo was in the kitchen doing the cooking and everyone was having a great time. I got the typical Norm from Cheers treatment when I walked in, grabbed a beer and sat down in a folding chair—minding my own business like I almost always do.

In about a minute, Tony was standing in front of me with a beautifully arranged tray of sausage and jerky. He said the folks from the meat processor felt so bad I hadn’t had the chance to sample their wares at the opening gala that they’d sent this tray over so I could sample everything and decide what I’d want to have done with my deer.

With great appreciation, I reached out, grabbed several strips of jerky and tore off a big hunk in my mouth. I chewed and chewed and chewed. The more saliva the jerky soaked up, the more it was like eating particle board!

What could I do? I couldn’t let these folks think I was so unappreciative that I’d spit this out—even though it was by far the worst jerky I’d ever tasted. I just chewed and chewed until I could get the first big bite down. Then I took another and began to repeat, but I sure knew by then what I was not going to have made from my buck!

Tony had made it almost all the way back to the kitchen before he collapsed on the floor. He was laughing convulsively, and the whole room was joining in, including my TV producer who was rolling on the floor beside Mr. Knight!

While I was being late, Tony and crew had concocted the plan to feed me dog treat jerky strips from the cache of Tony’s Brittney “Birdy Dawg.” To top it off, Tony knew me so well, he’d predicted to everyone present that I’d be too polite to say anything … and he was exactly right! The second bite was just frosting on his cake!

Ever heard the saying that starts … “With friends like that … ?”

Several years later, Tony invited me to go along with him as back up on a grizzly hunt in Alaska. I eagerly said, “Yes!” and immediately began plotting my revenge, but that’s another story …

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