Callin’ Coyotes with Mark Zepp

In the late 1990’s, I found myself living out of my Ford 350 van, pulling a 20 foot Wells Cargo trailer, filled with a gas grill, ammo and fur stretchers,  and traveling the wide open roads of the wild west.  I had graduated from college in OH in 1986 and then spent close to the next ten years working in MO for a company by the name of Wick Outdoor Works.  John Wick was, and is today, perhaps the most knowledgeable and famous coon hound trainer and personality in that sport.  As a kid he was one of my hero’s and it was a dream fulfilled to work for he an Linda and to be John ‘s “right hand man” for all of those years.

As I look back on that time, much of my life was like a traveling carnival act.  I worked almost every day of the year for several years and spent months of the year on the road, traveling from one hound event to the next in the south and Midwest.  It was a great life for a young, single guy, but like all good things, it came to an end when I was unable to buy into the company I was working for.

So I left and was unsure what the next adventure in my life would be.  I spent a few months on the island of Maui and then flew back to MO where my “rig” was waiting at my friends, Dave and Betty  Hollenberg, farm.  I had $4k in cash in the van hidden in a water jug, no house payment, no debt, no responsibilities and a desire to see the world and call coyotes.

I had blown into a predator calls and coon squallers since I was kid and called fox while growing up on our thousand acre farm in OH and then, years later, calling coyotes while in MO.  As a kid and young adult I fished, trapped, bow hunted, called and coon hunted.  I had very few other interests in life and always knew that hunting and being outdoors meant more to me that anyone else I knew at that time.  Even as a kid, I was never been good at moderation.  Whatever I do, I usually do with 100% gusto and have only recently been able to find a little balance and moderation, which I credit to my wife Amber.  I think it’s healthier, both mentally and physically.

As I look back, I can honestly say, that getting a formal education through college was single toughest event I’ve ever faced in life.  I had close to zero desire to be there, yet that small piece of paper is a real deal breaker down the road of life and those extremely liberal viewed professors seemed to know that.  I took me five long years and I can’t thank my folks enough for paying almost every nickel of it.  I know they would be disappointed to hear this, but to this day, I consider the entire college experience to be highly over rated.

So, I spent the next year and a half in my van calling in AZ, NM, TX, SD, ND, CA, OR, WA, ID, MT and a few other states I’m sure I am over looking as I type this.  While in Idaho, I read a local sales magazine and a guy was advertising a couple of super VHS camera’s for sale.  Long story short, I bought one of them a week or so later and began filming what would end up being,  Callin’ Coyotes with Mark Zepp, From Warsaw to the Rincons.  One day, I pulled into Rawlins, WY  after killing a few coyotes in the morning, just ahead of a major snow storm.  A van, pulling a trailer, is no rig for slippery roads.  I had purchased some calls from Dan Thompson a few years earlier and on the hand written receipt, he wrote, “Stop in if you’re ever in the area.”  Since I was snowed in for several days, I called Dan and met both he and his wife, Wanda.  I stopped in a couple of times over the next few days and really hit it off with the Thompsons.  Then I headed to the Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons.  I thought about taking a job in a resort up there as a sled guide in Yellowstone, but couldn’t shake my time with Dan.  So I called him on the phone and told him I’d like to hunt with him and film the hunts.  This was before Randy Anderson started the coyote video craze and I knew there was a market for this stuff, a guy just needed to get it on film and do a quality job with it.  Dan agreed and I spent the next couple of months in Rawlins.  I rented a hole in the wall hotel room for $60 a week, which was better than living out of the van and hunted with Dan when he was available and hunted alone when he wasn’t.  Camera and tape problems and a host of other things surfaced but we shot some great footage together and I learned a tremendous amount about hunting coyotes from Dan.  I tell everyone that I thought I was a coyote hunter and new about coyotes until I met Dan.  He taught me about vocalization and a host of other things.  I was skeptical about some of what he said at first, but in time, all of his information and his knowledge panned out to be 110% dead on.   I will be forever indebted to him for this.  Dan Thompson is a true “wolfer” in every sense of the word and there aren’t many of those guys left out there.

By the following Fall, it was time to get back to the real world.  The truth is, I was damn near hunted out and needed to feel productive again, so I found work at Tri-Tronics in Tucson, AZ where I was a shoe in for a Sales and Marketing position with my background.  I now had a steady income again, bought a better camera and a few months later, I met Eddie Hawkins at a local shooting range and he became my new hunting partner.

Those were great days.  Eddie was 100% green and 1000% enthusiastic.  He had done a little calling without much success.  The first morning we hunted together I had coyotes crawling all around him.  It was a day that changed both of our lives.  He had the fever and a couple of years later, I had a helluva shooter and caller.  He went almost everyday that first year, even in the summer months when it was 110 degrees and made every mistake a guy can make, but he learned from every one of those mistakes and got better and better.  He was always on time, which is a big deal to me.  To this day, if you tell Eddie to meet you at a specified spot at 4:00am, he’ll be waiting on you.  If he’s a minute late, something is up and there is a problem.

A couple of years went by.  I had to buy another camera, a computer, editing software, and then figure out how to “drive the thing” and I knew nothing about computers or editing.  By the time I released   Callin’ Coyotes with Mark Zepp,  there were several DVD’s on the market, but I don’t think any of them compared to this project in terms of camera work, scenery and educational value.  Even today, I think it is one of the “prettiest”, best edited, coyote hunting videos ever done.

All of my DVD’s have a subtitle that have a lot of meaning to me personally, and for the most part, very little to anyone else.  I’ve never forgotten where I came from and how special that family farm was that was sold in 1994.  My parents are terrific people.  My dad, through all of his faults, and we all have them, is the greatest man I know.  He never understood my desire to hunt and had absolutely no interest in it at all, but he made darn sure I had every bit of hunting gear and everything else that I ever needed or wanted.  When others doubted, he encouraged, when I needed knocked down a few levels as a punk kid, he did that too, and he gave me a work ethic like few others can understand.  Digging miles of fence post holes in rocky ground  and stretching barb wire in the hot summer sun can do that for a kid.  Every job I’ve had since then has seemed like a vacation.   This first DVD, From Warsaw to the Rincons, was a way to tie my small hometown of Warsaw, OH and my incredible journey to the mountains around Tucson, the Rincons, into one package.  I hope you enjoy it.

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