Craig Morgan would love to be in the woods at this very moment.
Sure, the 51-year-old Tennessee native is mostly known for his country music career, which has included seven albums and seven top-10 hits, but he’s been an outdoorsman longer than he’s been gracing the stage at the Grand Ole Opry.
He started generally hunting with his family as an 8-year-old then evolved into a big-game hunter.
“Predator hunting was something we did in the process of our other hunting. It wasn’t something we set out to do,” said Morgan, who started hunting predators specifically about 20-25 years ago. “If you were deer hunting and a coyote came around, you shot it. It wasn’t until later in my life I started hunting predators by themselves.”
Even when Morgan began predator hunting, he didn’t stay within only that category — hunting a number of animals on his show, Outdoor Channel’s Craig Morgan All-Access. However, there’s something special about predator hunting that he enjoys.
“I love turkey hunting, and for me, the interaction that you have to do predator hunting is so much harder than other animals,” Morgan said. “Calling an animal in, to me, is unbelievable, communicating like that.”
Morgan’s favoritism within predator hunting falls to chasing coyotes. He joked, saying he likes the ease of bagging the canines, comparing them to a turkey and saying, “they can be the hardest thing to hunt, but when it works it’s freaking awesome. It seems so easy when it works.”
Morgan, who prefers to be equipped with a .223 Remington while hunting predators, admits to not being an expert at calling, but adds he’s had success in the tricky game. He prefers electronic calls, especially a fawn-distress call, but Morgan has improvised a new strategy in the past and continues practicing it.
“I was on a Grand Ole Opry hunt in Mississippi, it’s a hunt we do every year. I was actually deer hunting, but I was sitting in a tree and saw a bobcat probably 100 yards away,” Morgan said. “I started making a squeaking sound with my mouth — no diaphragm, no call, nothing. The bobcat heard it, started coming in and came from 100 yards away just from that squeak. It came within 50 yards before I shot. That bobcat is mounted in my basement.
“We’ve had almost as much success with those calls as I have with electronic calls. We were in Nebraska on a mule deer hunt and were just laying on the side of a hill in sage grass. I saw a coyote and sort of squealed a little bit, got its attention and it started coming to me. Since then we started just started doing mouse calls.”
Morgan’s busy schedule keeps him out of the woods more than he’d like, but he’s found ways to hunt as much as possible, saying he hunts “probably more than some, but not as much as guys that do it for a living like I do.”
When touring in the winter, Morgan will typically perform Fridays and Saturdays then will hunt Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before preparing for the weekend’s shows.
“There are some things we take time off for — I’ll be heading to New Zealand this year,” he said. “The other problem with that is it’s during my turkey season, but one of the cool things we get to do there is we get to hunt this opossum they have there that is absolutely awesome. It looks more like our raccoon, but it’s their opossum.”
Morgan’s personal hunting land is in middle Tennessee, 60 miles west of Nashville. The property includes numerous wildlife and he “absolutely” practices predator management.
“I’m probably not the best person to talk to about coyotes, but they devastate my turkey population and have been known to even take down young fawns and house animals in town. So I do what I can to eliminate them from my place,” Morgan said.
There are numerous future projects on schedule for Morgan. His New Zealand hunt is in April then a predator hunt in Oklahoma follows when he gets back — both being filmed for his show. Morgan is also busy with touring and working with a number of non-profit organizations he’s involved with.
Music takes first priority for Morgan, but he was open to talking about a day that could change.
“Music is my primary occupation, but I’ll be honest and say there are days in my life that I wish hunting my primary occupation, as I’m sure most of us that hunt would. It’s not just being outdoors and harvesting,” he said.
Morgan’s time toward hunting is currently “between 30-40 percent,” with the rest going toward music. He said music has been a blessing and will always be part of his life, but the same goes for hunting.
“We’ve gotten to do things that if I wasn’t in the industry we wouldn’t have been able to do and they’d be things I wouldn’t even have been aware of,” he said. “There’s so much we can do with predator hunting around the country year-around that people aren’t even aware of. I’ve talked about being in Florida hog hunting and will talk to people that didn’t know we could do during that type of year — you can do it all times of the year. Because of the career, it’s educated me on a lot, and I know at some point in my life my careers will switch a bit. That’s just the beast of the business. There are very few people that live their entire lives with a touring career, but you can name a few. And, I’ll always be in the music business, I’ll always be a member of the Grand Ole Opry, so I’ll always play the Grand Ole Opry and tour some dates. But I think at some point, years from now, I’ll do less music and more hunting.”