John Stallone is a bowhunter, guide, TV and podcast personality, author, and more. His hunting has taken him throughout the country and led him to take on some pretty impressive hunts. He recently sat down to interview with Rack Camp:
How did hunting become a passion for you?
As a very young boy my father started taking me in the woods. Every morning we would go for a walk in the woods and try to shoot squirrels with a sling shot. By the time I was 5 I was accompanying him on my first deer hunt. As the years went on sling shots turned to BB guns and BB guns turned to bows and arrows and by the time I was teenager archery had become a passion for me.
What is your favorite animal to hunt?
It’s hard for me to choose because I really love all big game hunting. I always tell people that my favorite animal to hunt is the season that’s open. I love stalking high country muleys in August, chasing bugles in September, the chess match of whitetails in October, the thrill of rutting coues deer in December, and I’d go crazy if I didn’t get my fill of big rutty desert mule deer each January. But if I had to choose one and only one species to hunt for the rest of my days it would be a hard toss-up between elk and whitetail. Elk because I love the elk rut and whitetail because there are so many subspecies and so much opportunity to hunt them in so many different places in so many different styles.
What is your favorite thing about hunting?
I love being away from it all, I love the comradery of hunting with friends, I love exploring the unknown, I love being in nature and the connection it gives me … but if I’m being honest with myself, I love the challenge. I love that it gives me Geiger meter of which to judge myself, to see what I’m made of so to speak.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken?
There are so many it’s hard to choose, but the one that stands out to me is my second Ibex hunt in the Florida Mountains in New Mexico. I had drawn Ibex back to back years after waiting 10 years to draw the first time in 2015-2016. 2015 I managed to shoot the number 8 SCI archery Ibex billy on film and it was an amazing hunt full of ups and downs both literally and metaphorically, but the very next year the adventure was a whole new level. I was so determined to shoot a second billy and become a part of only a hand full of people who have done it twice that I found myself cliffed out on a 6” ledge 92 yards LOS with a 32 yard hold over shooting straight down contemplating whether or not killing this billy was worth my life, I went with “yes”. Consequently I missed … but this just fueled me to try harder and take more risks. My drive and desire to want to harvest a second billy found me questioning my sanity on multiple occasions. Sadly I never end up shooting one and I had to leave before the season was over for a family trip back to New York where I grew up so I decided to hunt whitetails and I was able to shoot a buck I hunted for 4 years and my biggest whitetail to date.
Favorite place to hunt?
Again this is a tough one for me … it all depends on the season, but again if there was a gun to my head I would probably pick South Dakota — it’s where I shot my biggest mule deer, my first antelope and the first time I ever successfully spot and stalk a Midwest whitetail with a bow. They have a very long deer season and it’s a game rich environment.
Do you have any dream hunts you have your sights on?
Too many to list, but the one that looks like it may become a reality for me is red stag in Argentina in 2020 during “The Roar”. I’m putting together a trip with some friends and our wives to go hunt stags and then hit wine country afterwards.
What are some of your favorite gear items?
Well I tell people all the time if I’m hunting out here in AZ I would rather leave my pants at home then forget my Swarovski 15 x56 binos. No, but seriously, the items are always changing as new and better comes out, but the companies I use always stay the same. I find items I like and can trust, then I approach the companies to build a relationship and not the other way around. I find there are too many snake oil salesmen in this industry representing any and every company that will give them free stuff or money and that’s just not right in my book. We are ambassadors of the sport and people look to us for advice and direction and I feel it’s important that you stand behind what you use and choose to rep.
Do you prefer rifle or bow?
For a long time I looked down my nose a rifle hunting I had the motto “I’d rather fail with my bow than succeed with my rifle.” In fact I only rifle hunted once a year for coues deer because I felt it was the only hunt where rifle hunting was just as exciting and challenging as most bow hunts. However, somewhere along the line 8- 10 years ago I started hunting differently with a rifle in my hand and grew to love it again. But if you ask me I’m a bowhunter at heart and 80% of all my hunts are bow hunts.
Why do you love to guide where you do?
I’m a guide here in AZ — all public land — and I guide a week or two in South Dakota for mule deer and whitetails on private land. I love guiding here because it’s often a very different experience than what most hunters we guide are used to, and I enjoy being a part of that. Plus my two favorite animals to guide for are rifle coues deer hunts and archery rutting elk, and Arizona has some of the best hunting in the country for both. I love guiding for rutting bucks in SD because it’s about as textbook of a rut hunt as you can ever hope for.
And to check out his podcast, click here.