We sat down with Tyler Sharp in his Montana home to talk about his history with Tecovas, the origins of Modern Huntsman, and what lies ahead.
Tyler Sharp is the Founder, CEO, and Editor in Chief of Modern Huntsman. What’s Modern Huntsman you ask? You’ll soon find out. Prior to Modern Huntsman, Tyler was traveling the world with his camera and notebook capturing stories from some of the most remote places in the world. Where? Again, right place. Tecovas has a long history with Tyler and a budding one with Modern Huntsman and we’re proud to share the 101 on both, right here.
Team Tecovas: Fun fact: Tyler took the very first photos of Tecovas boots. Tyler, how did that go down? Was our founder, Paul, your model? Where did you shoot?
Tylers Sharp: Yes! I had the privilege of being there at the beginning of Tecovas before Paul had a mustache or any stores. Some mutual friends had given him my name, as I used to shoot a lot of western stuff and had a few projects with the Texas Historical Commission. My mother grew up in Nocona, which is a famous boot-making town, so I already had a background and deep love for hand-made boots. I also think it helped that I laughed at Paul’s “dad jokes.” He showed up with the first pairs of Tecovas in the back of his old 4Runner, and our first shoot was in Aubrey, Texas back in 2015 with some stylish woodworker friends of mine. I was shooting both lifestyle and product, and we ended up going down to Leon, Mexico to document the first run of boots made, which we made a film about as well. Pretty sure it’s still on the site! From there we shot and designed the first catalog, and had a few more shoots in Austin, Dripping Springs, Terlingua, and Marfa. It’s been so amazing to see how far the brand has come since then and was honored to have been part of that initial journey.
Tell us about a couple of your favorite photographic adventures before Modern Huntsman.
TS: It’s hard to imagine what life before Modern Huntsman was like, feels like a lifetime ago, but I would have to say that it was when I was living in East Africa. I was on staff as a filmmaker and photographer for a couple of safari companies, and it was basically my job to follow along on some pretty wild adventures and document those for books, publications, short films, and TV shows. In three years I went to over 30 countries, got to see some of the most remote places in the world, and lived to tell the tale of some pretty close calls with wildlife — a few of which I’ve written about in Modern Huntsman. Apart from being chased by lions, charged by elephants, struck at by black mambas, and attacked at night by a massive colony of ants, one of the most memorable trips was to Pakistan. I went in 2009 to film an Ibex hunt, then was able to stay an extra month as the guest of a local prince. I had grown a beard out and was wearing the local clothes, and most folks thought I was Pakistani, so I was able to get access to some amazing situations and experience their culture. It was one of the most beautiful and culturally rich places I have ever been, and I hope to be able to return someday. I still don’t think I’ve eaten better food than in Pakistan.
TT: Where did the idea for Modern Huntsman come from? Why not just keep shooting for other publications?
TS: The idea for Modern Huntsman was a culmination of a few things, but mostly was an underlying frustration with the way that hunting was perceived in mainstream media. While I was traveling around the world documenting these hunts, I learned a lot about local traditions, hunting cultures, and philosophies. When I would return back to the US, or visit friends in other cities, there was often a misperception of what hunters were or what role hunting played in conservation. The flip side of that was that many hunting organizations and TV shows were doing a terrible job of communicating those merits and modern traditions, and I just felt that if it could be communicated in a more honest, artistic, and welcoming manner, it might have a positive effect on how hunting is perceived by the 75-80% of the global population that doesn’t hunt. But it was also born out of frustration with working for other publications that did not want to take risks, discuss controversial topics, or take a more creative approach to storytelling around hunting and conservation. It was sort of a perfect storm, and the time felt right to pursue it. I was actually laid off from the only full-time job I’ve had in the past 10 years, and so I was forced to sink or swim. Thankfully the reception was really positive, and we’ve been able to move things forward in a pretty amazing way. We just published our eighth volume, and we’ve expanded that into films, podcasts, a food series, panel talks, and commercial work for clients like the Tecovas stories you see on the Outpost! It’s been a wild ride, and while there are certainly tons of challenges, I don’t think I could ever go back to working for other publications or companies.
TT: What does Modern Huntsman bring to the conversation that other content creators/publications miss?
TS: I think our strength lies in our ability to discuss what would otherwise be considered controversial or taboo topics in a way that brings about constructive conversations. Yes, we are a hunting-based publication, but it is actually intended for all ranges of people who don’t hunt. It’s meant to bring a lot of different perspectives, ideas, and backgrounds together under a common cause. You don’t see a lot of constructive discussion in today’s media, it’s often just name-calling, finger-pointing, and sh*t-talking. I believe that we have been able to move past a lot of that and set an example for what things can be like when folks from different backgrounds actually sit down to discuss hard stuff in an intelligent, engaging, and often very culturally cool way.
We are very lucky to have so many talented people in our sphere and have been able to work with some incredibly smart and successful people who are doing things that are making a major difference for wildlife and wild places. The hunting industry can often be very polarizing or make people feel like they “can’t join the club,” but we’re trying to be the opposite of that, and provide a more approachable point of access. That of course means that there are a lot of people that don’t agree with what we say or even like hunting in general, but the fact that we treat those people with respect and understanding makes a big difference, and we’ve seen it pay off in spades. I’ve tried to come up with a few slogans over the years, and one that I’ve always liked is “Diplomacy for Hunting.” Maybe we should make t-shirts, you guys know anyone who could do that?! Another strength we have is storytelling for brands that isn’t too heavy-handed, and allows us to help our partners expand their message in areas outside of just product-focused stories, and venture into conservation storytelling. That’s why it’s been so great to work with y’all on the Outpost stories, because there are real people doing amazing things, and we get to help make that connection. They need great boots and ranch wear, and Tecovas wants to have great stories of products getting used in the field. We’re really excited to keep expanding this in 2022 with films, more podcasts, and hopefully some in-store events.
TT: What can we look forward to from your crew at Modern Huntsman in the future?
TS: We’ve got a lot of things we’re rolling out this year, but the most recent is our Africa Issue. It’s starting to ship any day now, and I can honestly say no one has ever published something like this before. We do a deep dive into some really touchy subject matter, and I’m excited for people to read it. Like everyone, we’ve had some delays in plans the past year and a half, but the new site is about to launch, and we’re going to start offering digital subscriptions to our archive that will have every story we’ve ever published. But I think the most exciting thing is the events we’re going to start hosting this year, some of which will be exclusive to subscribers to start giving back to the amazing folks who have supported us on this journey. We’ve been laying low a bit the past year, but we’re going to start having magazine launch parties, wild game cooking events, sotol & tequila tastings, workshops on photography and writing, and butchering classes.
We’re also going to start leading international trips to some of these amazing places I fell in love with. We’ll curate an itinerary of hunting, cooking, embedding with local cultures, and learning about conservation, anti-poaching, and traditional techniques. In short, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve and sure would love some of y’all Tecovas faithful to join in on the fun.
Thanks so much for having me on here, I really appreciate the opportunity. Looking forward to working with Team Tecovas more this year!
TT: Cheers, Tyler!
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