Travis “T-Bone” Turner is a world-renowned hunter and one of the most revered archers in the world. Over the past thirty years, he has won many state championship titles in addition to winning the 1991 ASA World Championship, earning his distinction as an ASA Pro shooter. In addition to hosting TV show Realtree Road Trips, T-Bone currently co-hosts an Outdoor Channel television show, Bone Collector, alongside Michael Waddell and Nick Mundt. Recently, I had the privilege of talking to T-Bone about hunting, archery, fame, fatherhood and much more.
Steven Wright: Where did you grow up?
Travis “T-Bone” Turner: I was born in Dayton, Ohio, and we lived there until I was about 5 years old. My dad was a fireman in Dayton, and we moved to the suburbs of Atlanta when he was transferred. And I’ve been living in the Atlanta area ever since.
SW: What led you to the place you live now?
T-Bone: After leaving Ohio, I grew up in Douglasville, Georgia, but I moved farther south to Hogansville, Georgia (about an hour to an hour-and-a-half south of Atlanta). It was about 1996 when I made the move. Douglasville had been swallowed by Atlanta — and the city started being a lot more hustle and bustle. I moved because the best hunting and fishing was south of Atlanta, so I wanted to live in that and get away from the concrete jungle.
SW: Were there a lot of hunting opportunities in Douglasville before Atlanta’s industrialization swallowed up the area?
T-Bone: Oh yeah, I grew up hunting and fishing in Douglasville all the time. There’s still good hunting and fishing there, but instead of having 300-400 acres to roam, it’s been cut down to 30-50 acres. So it’s not quite as big, but folks all across the country have to deal with that, too, because of industry and population growth.
The deer have to adapt, and we have to adapt, too. For example, we do a hunt every year up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania right in the suburbs where we are hunting in 1-2 acre spots of timber right behind people’s houses.
SW: Who taught you how to hunt?
T-Bone: Well, several folks influenced me — but I’d say my number one was my dad, like so many other folks. He took me squirrel hunting and fishing when I was 4 or 5 years old. He bought me my first bow for getting good grades when I was 9 or 10. Actually, he wasn’t well-versed in archery equipment, so he bought a bow that was a little too stout for me. But, nonetheless, he had great intentions. It was extremely hard for me to pull, though.
SW: If you’re using a bow that is too stout, how does that affect your archery experience?
T-Bone: Most of the time, you can adapt to a gun faster because it can easily fit more people than one. But with archery equipment, the bow has to be fitted to that person's dominant eye, and tailor-fit drawing must be applied.
When my dad bought me my first bow, he bought a generic bow that was legal for an adult to hunt with — a 45-pound recurve. A recurve bow doesn’t have “let-off” to make it easier to hold at full draw, and here I am at 9 or 10 years old trying to shoot a bow that is made for an adult male in his 20s.
At that age, I was only able to bend the strings 10 inches or so. I wasn’t able to pull the bow all the way back, and it made me feel like a weakling. I wasn’t having fun. So my first experience in archery was actually a negative one. I talk about this a lot in seminars to show how important it is to get set up with a bow that fits correctly in order to have a positive first experience with archery.
SW: Do you remember that first hunting experience when you thought “Wow, this is something I’m going to do for the rest of my life?”
T-Bone: I was hooked like a fish from the word “go” with fishing and outdoor-related stuff — no pun intended. Because my first bow gave me a negative first experience, I actually shied away from archery. So I only shot the bow for target practice for a couple years because I couldn’t pull enough to hunt with it.
But I loved small-game hunting. I didn’t actually deer hunt until I was about 15 or 16 and went a few times with a gun. At 10 years old, I had it planted in my head that I couldn’t pull a 45-pound bow, but I gained a lot of strength as I grew up. I was a football player in high school and bench-pressing a little over 300 pounds but, for some reason, I had that hurdle in my head that made me think I couldn’t pull a 45-pound bow.
Well, I was in a hunting club with some friends of mine and they asked if I wanted to join them bow hunting. I started making all kinds of excuses about why I didn’t want to go because of that negative experience as a child. But they eventually talked me in to getting a bow. The salesman put the bow on 64 pounds and I thought to myself, “There is absolutely no way I’m going to be able to pull this thing!” I wouldn’t even try it in front of my friends because I didn’t think I’d be able to pull it.
I took it home to try it by myself so I wouldn’t be embarrassed. I built myself up and I was so nervous about doing it. But, honestly, I about “ripped the wheels” off of it. I had gotten so much stronger and was able to pull it with ease — it was almost like a 180-degree transformation. I couldn’t believe all I had to do was just try archery again. I was able to pull it with so much ease. I ended up jacking the bow up to about 80 pounds and even pulling that much weight was easy.
So, long story short, some guys from the local archery range were in the shop that day and they asked my friends and me to come out and shoot in a tournament. None of us had ever even shot in a tournament. We practiced that Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and they finally talked me into going. I was just proud to be able to shoot again!
We signed up for the Novice division (for beginners) with about 30 other people in that division. We absolutely had a ball. Turns out, I beat everybody in the entire Novice division. At 18 years old, I had finally found something I was good at. So that’s what created the archery monster I am today.
SW: When did you start to receive a lot of publicity for hunting?
T-Bone: The publicity came shortly after that first archery tournament in 1988. I couldn’t wait to get back to competing. I began immersing myself in tournaments. Two or three times every weekend, I travelled all over the southeast competing in these tournaments.
I won my first Georgia State Championship in 1990. So I moved up the ranks quickly just two years into shooting in the professional division. The next year, I was asked to be on the National Shooting Pro Staff for Browning Archery out of Utah. And I won the ASA World Championships! 38 states were represented with 500+ people in my class. I compare myself to a “blind hog finding an acorn,” but I happened to be the best there in 1991. So from that point on, I shot professionally all throughout the ‘90s and even had my own outdoor store in the late ‘90s. Then, I transitioned to hunting on television, working with Jeff Foxworthy and co-hosting Realtree’s Monster Bucks television show around 2000.
I still shoot tournaments from time to time but I haven’t been on the tournament tour circuit since about 2002.
SW: Where did the nickname “T-Bone” come from?
T-Bone: Realtree is located about 45 minutes south of here in Columbus, Georgia. That company has had the most successful television and DVD series for hunting, called “Monster Bucks,” for 25 years. I became good friends with the folks at Realtree, and I started setting up the bows for celebrity guests on their show. On set, I repaired and arranged bows for influential people like country singers and professional ball players to ensure that they had great first experiences with archery and bow hunting.
One day, they decided they wanted to set up Jeff Foxworthy with a bow, and they asked me to be a character personality in their series with him. And that’s where the nickname "T-Bone" came from. My character had the big “Bubba” teeth and a big floppy hat — it was a real “hick-ish” character that I played alongside Jeff Foxworthy and people loved it.
SW: What draws you to archery more so than other hunting techniques?
T-Bone: I’m a fan of all hunting techniques as long as they are legal. But for me, archery equipment is most therapeutic. There’s something about watching an arrow fly. It’s amazing to know that this is a man-made tool that projects an arrow with such accuracy.
No matter how good you are at archery, you can always be better. There is no such thing as perfection with it. You can always get better by shooting for the center of the center. It’s such a gratifying feeling to watch an arrow fly and hit its mark.
SW: What is a busy day in the life of T-Bone like?
T-Bone: Well, I think the common perception among folks who watch Bone Collector or Road Trips is that they think we’re busy from about September to January and then we goof off for the rest of the year.
It is a busy lifestyle, but it’s a career that I absolutely love. In the mornings, I usually get up and do some office work. I get on phone calls, renew contracts, put together social media posts — stuff like that. Also, because of my expertise in archery, I do a lot of research and development with the companies and partners that we work with. And, naturally, we’re hunting a lot during hunting season — both morning and evening.
When I’m at home, I try to do my office work up until the time my wife and son get home around 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. Because I travel so much, it’s really important that I spend that family time with them until we go to bed. But no two days are the same, and I think that’s a huge reason why I love this career so much. And when I’m not doing all of that, I’m giving public speeches, going to trade shows and doing meet-and-greets as the national spokesperson for Whitetails Unlimited.
SW: What is your most exciting hunting story?
T-Bone: I get asked that a lot, and I’ve had so many exciting hunting experiences. I think my most exciting hunting experience is when I took my son hunting for the first time.
My son is 11 years old and he’s high-functioning on the autism spectrum. We killed our first doe together when he was around 7 years old. It meant a lot to me to introduce my son to hunting the way my father introduced me to hunting. I was more excited to watch him hunt than I would have been to shoot that deer myself. The look on my boy’s face is forever imprinted in my mind. It brought back so many memories from the first deer I killed, too. In that moment, all I could think was “Welcome to the Brotherhood, son.”
T-Bone: The folks at Lock Laces® contacted me. Honestly, when I was first contacted, I thought, “how can you reinvent something as simple as shoelaces?” But once I replaced my laces with Lock Laces®, I saw all the advantages of no-tie shoelaces.
You don’t really realize how much time you spend tying and retying laces until you try Lock Laces®. Through experience, I can honestly say that once you lace up someone’s shoes or boots with Lock Laces®, they never want to use traditional tying laces again. People get so accustomed to the ease and convenience of these no-tie laces.
SW: How are Lock Laces® helpful when hunting?
T-Bone: When hunting, you’re walking through lots of leaves and brush and your shoes naturally come untied all the time. Lock Laces® completely solve this problem. I tell people that Lock Laces® provide tension when needed but also relaxation when needed. So if you get your foot caught in a tight place, the elastic laces stretch slightly to avoid cutting off circulation.
Naturally, we know we need our boots snug for hiking and walking. But a whitetail deer hunter spends a lot of time sitting and waiting in a tree stand. Once you get up in the tree stand — especially in winter — you don’t always want to have tight boots. You want to be able to flex your toes and let your blood circulate to your toes so your feet don’t get cold. Lock Laces® provide the elasticity your foot needs to maintain blood flow, and it only takes a couple seconds to fully loosen the lock on your Lock Laces®. There are so many pros to Lock Laces®.
SW: Do you ever wear Lock Laces® when you are not hunting as well?
T-Bone: Of course! I wear them in my tennis shoes every day!
SW: Have you heard any testimonials from friends, family or fans about how Lock Laces® helped their daily lives?
T-Bone: As I mentioned earlier, my son has autism spectrum disorder and attends a special needs school. I had heard that Lock Laces® are great for children with autism because a lot of people with special needs have fine motor skill deficiencies. So we gave about 200 pairs to my son’s school and I’m getting a ton of great feedback from the school. So many of the kids had problems tying their shoes. Now, they don’t have to worry about walking around with untied, flopping shoelaces because they have Lock Laces®.
SW: Do you remember any specific moments when you were grateful to have Lock Laces® when hunting?
T-Bone: Lock Laces® are like a breath of fresh air when you’re hunting. Because I had to tie my boot laces for my whole life before discovering Lock Laces®, I always knew that I’d have to stop and retie my shoes over and over again throughout a day of hunting. Every time I go hunting since lacing up with Lock Laces®, I’m always so grateful that I don’t have to worry about interrupting my hunting experience to tie and retie my shoes.
SW: Have you tried other no-tie shoelaces or shoes before? If so, how are Lock Laces® a better option?
T-Bone: No, I never replaced my traditional laces with any no-tie shoelaces before I found Lock Laces®. I have worn slip-on shoes like Velcro shoes — especially back in the ‘80s. But Lock Laces® are so much better than Velcro and other no-tie shoe options because you can install Lock Laces® in nearly any shoe with eyelets!
SW: What are people’s first reactions when you tell them about Lock Laces® and their functionality?
T-Bone: When I talk to people about Lock Laces®, I hope they pick up on the passion and validity behind my explanation. I really believe in these shoelaces, and I wouldn’t tell people about them if I didn’t.
When I first tell people about these no-tie laces, they think it’s a lazy alternative to tying shoes. They don’t know any different because they’ve been tying shoelaces their entire lives. But when I tell them about all the positive aspects and functions of Lock Laces®, they realize that Lock Laces® are not only easier but also better. It’s a no-brainer! Usually, they want to get laced up immediately when they realize how much easier and better these laces are. And once they get laced up, they’re loyal to Lock Laces® for life.