• Digital Magazine
        • Single Issues
        • Annual
  • Insider

Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

The Buckmen, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Willie Robertson, Ryan Busbice, Adam LaRoche, Tyler Farr, Ryan Langerhans, Tombo Martin

Hook & Barrel’s John Radzwilla interviews the Buckmen of ‘Buck Commander’, and things get (somewhat) controversial.

For generations, bonds have been built around the campfire at hunting camps around the country. Whether it be belly laughs or deep conversations, times of too many drinks or being short on ice, hunting blind pranks or lending a helping hand, these relationships can often last a lifetime—a deer woods brotherhood. The Buck Commander guys are no exception.

The group consists of Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Tyler Farr, Willie Robertson, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Langerhans, Tombo Martin, and the newest member of the crew, Ryan Busbice. With this mix of country music mega-stars, MLB players, and outdoors industry CEOs, one thing has become evident over their 15 seasons on the Outdoor Channel and YouTube: there are no shortages of good times. 

Earlier this year, Hook & Barrel was invited to Luke Bryan’s farm near Franklin, Tennessee, for an exclusive Q&A with the Buckmen as they refer to themselves. The guys may have thought I was there to ask them about tips and tricks, maybe some questions about the show, or to discuss music and sports, but that wasn’t the case.

I wanted to find out who they really were when the cameras weren’t rolling, ask life questions, ask parenting questions, and more. It was time to get real and discuss things of substance, meaning, and to discover what they truly value. To put it another way: to find out if they could hang at a real deer camp or was it best they keep it on TV. 

Interview: The Buckmen

the buckmen

John J. Radzwilla: The first question is for you, Adam. In any sport, there’s community. Talk to me about the hunting community.

Adam LaRoche (Former MLB First Baseman): I can speak from the sport side, baseball specifically. When guys get out, that’s the one thing as an former athlete that you miss the most—the guys, the team room, the camaraderie, the clubhouse. It’s so cool because we get to re-create that now with this team. It’s about having that brotherhood again. And it’s not just about big deer. It’s more about the laughs. Here we are 20 years later, and literally nothing has changed [with us]: the sense of humor, the love for each other, and our brotherhood. I think it resonates with people. 

JJR: Willie, within the hunting community, there tends to be infighting. I feel like we have so many outside pressures already from the anti-community, what’s your opinion? Are we doing ourselves a disservice?

Willie Robertson (CEO, Duck Commander): I think that is kind of the nature of anything really. I don’t think I would call it unhealthy—there will always be a difference of opinion on how it’s done. But with this group, we wanted to get away from that. We wanted to say, “It’s about the community and the fun we have.” We talk about the great hunts and even the mistakes. But if you go on social media… you’ll see people talking, but we’re used to that. 

JJR: How about you, Ryan? What do you think? For example, crossbow vs. vertical bow hunters?

Ryan Busbice (CEO, Barnett Crossbows): It is very difficult for an any group of people to work together to establish a common goal when there are so many different opinions to get there. The hunting industry is no different, except for the huge factor that there are so many outside forces that want guns and hunting gone that we need to do everything we can to put aside our differences and position ourselves against the antis rather than try to make everyone hunt with the same beliefs. 

JJR: Do you read the comments?

Roberston: No, not at all. 

JJR: Luke, you’ve been blessed to be on American Idol and travel from coast to coast. As Brantley Gilbert sang, country must be countrywide, do you believe that?

Luke Bryan (country music artist and American Idol host): Certainly. I have been to all corners of the country, and when I am on stage, whether it be some festival in Oregon or Maine, the common thread is that there are country folks all across this country, and there are so many people that love to hunt and fish. 

I want to use my voice to make people who don’t understand hunting have a better reality about it. There are programs like Hunters for the Hungry helping people in need. That is just one of many who are doing good to raise awareness.  Another avenue to pay attention to is when your state says that there are healthy populations of deer out there, and they say we need to take so many this season to keep things healthy, I think it is up to us to really educate those who freak out about it. We are conservationists—we care for the long-term benefits of game populations. There is so much misinformation out there about the hunting and fishing community. Creating an environment that celebrates hunting is important because it is such a necessary thing.

JJR: Jason, you have achieved what few have: Artist of the Decade. How do you mitigate and navigate cancel culture and do you feel like you have to filter your life as a hunter?

Jason Aldean (country music artist): I feel like cancel culture is one of those things that came out of nowhere, and I don’t agree with it. It is not a healthy thing. We are now almost teaching our kids not to mess up, because if you mess up once, you’re done. It’s sending the wrong message. Part of learning is making mistakes, figuring out how to become better, and cancel culture takes away from that learning process. Not a big fan and honestly, don’t pay much attention to it. 

JJR: As hunters, we are in the crosshairs of cancel culture often times though.

Aldean: People are always going to have their opinions of things, and the sooner we realize that these people think this way and that these people think that way. We are never going to see eye-to-eye. And that’s OK.

Robertson interjects: “And I think that we see people that were probably anti-hunting at one point who are now  pro field-to-table. We see people going out there and getting their own meat. They realize that you can trust that a lot more than what you can buy in a grocery store. I think that we saw a shift during COVID when there were food shortages. People realized that hunting was OK, and they may want that skill.

Aldean: Also today, people just want to be healthier. Feed their children healthier stuff. It doesn’t get cleaner than going out and hunting. But it’s like Luke said, it’s about making people knowledgeable. It’s more than a trophy photo. I mean so much of this meat is donated and feeds so many families.

Tyler Farr (country music artist) jumps in: I would bet too if you look at statistics, you would see that kids who grew up hunting with friends and family, I would not hesitate to say that they got in less crime, got in less drugs, got in less problems, and I would think that the reason was because they were around people that they loved and who loved them; who cared about them and showed them things; taught them about guns and how to handle a gun—hunting teaches a lot of self-discipline. That’s what I love about this group: We are all Christian men who hold each other accountable and all believe in God, family, friends, America, hard work, and you get out what you put in.

JJR: As I look at what is going on in this country, I look to mental health issues. I think with awareness on the rise, we can talk about it more. What do you all think about the mental health situation, and do you see the outdoors as a possible solution to that problem?

Ryan Langerhans (Former MLB Outfielder): I think it is one of the best vehicless out there. You may not want to hunt, maybe even just ride four-wheelers and blow off steam—it’s just a release. Adam can talk to this with all the people he hosts at his place.

LaRoche: The outdoors in general for whatever reason, just being out in God’s creation, a ton of people find peace they don’t get elsewhere. There are people we have out to our ranch who’ve never been out to the country or seen a gravel road or wild animal. But I don’t think it’s just the outdoors, it’s people bringing them in that care about them and who spend the time with them. Whether that is in a blind, on a boat, or just sitting around camp hanging with them—especially kids. I mean just catching a fish, which to us is no big deal, but to them it can be life changing. 

Same with the veterans I host. They may be only there for a few days, but then I get a call from their wives telling me about the impact it had. 

Langerhans: There is just something about it that causes people to let their guards down. 

LaRoche: I mean how about just a father and son? How many times were you in a blind and just heard stuff that turns into unbelievable conversation? You’re not even looking for deer anymore, you’re talking about real life stuff. 

But back to your question about mental health: it’s the biggest problem in the world right now. 

Aldean: It’s a product of society right now and social media to some extent. I mean even for me, when I get to go to Adam’s place, after a whole year of touring—I am burnt out. Just to get in a tree, no phone—it gives me a chance to re-energize. It’s good for me mentally. It’s good to clear your mind for a bit. 

JJR: Tombo, do you think America has forgotten what it means to be a man?

Tombo Martin (Former MLB Pitcher): If you rewind about 20 years ago, people pretty much stayed in their lane. My problem with what’s going on is: don’t try and tell us what we should do or think with our kids. I choose the Bible and the outdoors over anybody who tries and tell me what I am doing is wrong. 

JJR: I lost my dad when I was seven. I would bet he would pay $13 million to have another day with me if he had it. What advice would you give fathers raising young boys?

*** Quick back story: LaRoche walked from his $13-million MLB contract with the Chicago White Sox in 2016 when the Executive Vice President would not allow his son to join him in the clubhouse any longer. He never returned to the game.

LaRoche: Prioritize it. I know that is easier said than done, because we can justify chasing the money, and justify it as “it’s for my family.” Sometimes it may be the right direction, but often times it’s in greed. We think, “If I can get to this, I’ll be happy.” One of the best quotes I ever heard was: “If you set your heart and mind on money, you’ll be equally disappointed whether you get it or you don’t.” That’s hard to say to someone who is broke, but look at some of the people who win the lottery and the disaster it brings to their family life. The point is, you can chase it for as long as you want, but it will never fully satisfy you. 

JJR: Ryan, you have two young boys—one is about to be a teenager. How do you show them love now that they are little bit older?

Langerhans: Time. It’s the same as when they are younger, but just how you spend it with them is different when they are older. Whether it is in a blind or “Dad, can we go to batting practice?” it’s like, “Yeah, you bet.” There is nothing I can buy that will replace time.

JJR: Anyone else want to jump in?

Aldean: I have two older daughters that got into volleyball. I didn’t know anything about volleyball. I wanted them to play softball. But, I went to games and learned as much I could about volleyball, and we talked about it. For this group it’s hard. We all travel so much. When I am with them, I take as much advantage of it as I can. When I am at home, I don’t hang out much. I spend time with my family. I may sneak out to hunt [chuckles] from time to time. But for the most part, I am there with my family giving them my undivided attention. 

JJR: Willie, you and Phil (Phil Roberston, Willie’s dad), are starkly different dads. Is that a fair statement?

Robertson: I would say that is more than a fair statement [everyone laughs].

JJR: How has being a father evolved over the years, and how has, back to being a man, have you taught your boys to be men?

Roberston: What I wanted to do was refine what I didn’t like while pulling in the great things that my dad did and that he told me—to keep those lessons going. It’s not about being the same, like, “Well…that’s what my dad did or said,” because honestly some of the things were wrong. I try to be a better version of my dad. I think key is authenticity. Your kids need to see the real you. Now, my kids have kids of their own, and so it starts all over again. Now my role is to help promote, teach, and pass on wisdom. Whether or not they are big outdoorsmen or not. If they are into something different, I’ll be there. I even set up dollhouses. You gotta have your soft spots too. 

JJR: Luke, how do we teach our boys to be men, before the world teaches them otherwise?

Bryan: First of all, your boys are going to watch their dad. I even reflect on that sometimes.  Just last week I had to tell one of my boys, “I know you have seen me do this… but that doesn’t mean you do it.” But it all starts with the father in the home—they lean on us as the example. I did it with my dad. I mean my wife tells me once a week, “You sound like your daddy.” When I know I have a hunting trip coming up, my dad used to do it too, my gear is all laid out perfectly and ready to go—I do it the same way he did it, and now my boys do it too. 

I think too, through all their good days and bad, you have to uplift them. To teach them to cut themselves some slack. I have seen this world put pressures on my boys that I never even thought about when I was a kid. Especially in my case, just because they are my children, I have to sit them down and remind that it will be ok. 

Positive reinforcement and being stern with them. Also, they watch the way I treat my wife. When they see me wrap my arms around my wife, and love on her, they associate that with the way you show affection—they pick up on all of that. 

Aldean: You’re a product of your environment. The home and the parents are the biggest part of that. You lead by example. Being a parent and trying to navigate what’s going on in the world is extremely tough right now. I mean my kids are about to start school and with how things are, I don’t even want to do that.

Bryan: The best compliment I get is when I drop my kids off at somebody’s house and they say they have never seen kids with manners like theirs.

Langerhans: I think it is about knowing when to put your foot down and showing them what it is like to sacrifice—whether small or large—for another member of the family. 

JJR: Tyler, you’re a new father, how are you passing on your traditions of the outdoors?

Farr: [Chuckles] My daughter is going to be a redneck. I saw turkeys in my backyard yesterday, and she went crazy. All she wants to do is ride around on the side-by-side and look for deer. So, at least I know I am doing my job right. I take her outdoors, and that’s just what we do. 

JJR: We are all Christians here, do you think that our country now more than ever, needs Jesus? Or is that a worry that every generation has had?

Martin: Not only is that the truth, but it is time we put boots on the ground.

Busbice: Absolutely we need God and Jesus more than ever. It is crystal clear that there is evil in this world beyond comprehension. However, I truly feel like there are way more people that want to do good and stop the evil. The fastest way to accomplish this is through God and  Jesus.

Aldean: Taking prayer out of school was the beginning of the snowball. They were like, “We got that, now let’s go for something else.” I don’t think things were better with our parents’ generation, but it certainly was a simpler time. There was no internet and social media. I think prayer back in school would be huge. I mean, do they even do the Pledge of Allegiance anymore? That was something I did every day. All of a sudden you come to our country and a kid or two in the whole school might be offended if they have to do it.

Farr: It was: one nation under God. 

Martin: There is hope, and it spreads.

Aldean: But I always feel like here it takes something dramatic to happen, like 9/11, to rally everyone together again. 

Langerhans: I feel like we are at a low point right now. 

Farr: Yes, we need Jesus… a lot. 

Aldean: We need a lot of things, but that would be a good start. 

JJR: Elections are generally won in the margins — so are our hunting rights. What is one piece of advice you would give to those sitting on the fence about hunting and our lifestyle? 

Martin: Do your research. 

LaRoche: I would challenge them to find someone who hunts and ask them to go with them and find out first hand. 

Busbice: Get out there and try it with an open mind and realize that hunting doesn’t mean always harvesting animals (that is just a bonus). It is the camaraderie and unplugging you experience that gives true peace and solitude that we are all yearn for. 

Bryan: People on the fence they gotta understand that there are levels of government agencies watching our natural resources. When they say this is the animal population data and this is what needs to happen, they say it for a reason. If hunters go away, then these populations suffer and turn for the worse. It’s all about proper management. 

The only way we remove the negative stigma that hunting has gotten is to openly speak about the benefits of the sport. 

JJR: Y’all, I want to say thank you and how good it was to have this opportunity to talk to guys that have the exposure to all facets of America, whether it be sports, television, music, or big business. I think the one thing that our country truly misses is the ability to have a constructive conversation.

Each of you guys have such an influential platform that it is nice to show that we’re able to have these conversations openly. Maybe, together we can bring some of those people over to from the middle or those against it to our way of life by showing them that we’re not all that with social media portrays hunters to be. Let’s use those platforms to the benefit of all outdoorsmen. 

Johnny Joey Jones Believes In The Healing Power Of Hunting
Did you enjoy this story? SUBSCRIBE today to get more like this!

Trending articles

Related articles

Shopping Cart

You’ll hear from us one time per week!

The Latest Content
Hook & Barrel INSIDER
Sneak Previews of  Upcoming Issues
Exclusive Discounts & Special Offers