The co-founder of Catchin' Deers and former captain of the NHL's Nashville Predators recently answered a few of our questions.
"Every hunter's heard the phrase before," said Mike Fisher. He's referring to a buddy who arrived in deer camp years ago asking if the guys were "catchin' any deers."
The laughing, chiding, and eventual camaraderie that resulted from those two words caught on with the camp, and led to his brother making hats for the group the following year. You know, those popular foam trucker hats you see all over the place?
From that point to today, it's grown into a bit more than any of them really ever expected.
We spoke with Fisher, the former NHL star and Catchin' Deers co-founder, about his brand's marketing approach, a recent retail deal with Tractor Supply, and whether or not his wife will ever join him in the deer stand.
Growing up in the country in Peterborough, Ontario, Fisher was an avid outdoorsman whose family members all started hunting at a young age. He bird hunted close to his home, fished early on, and got into bowhunting for deer in his late teens. But hockey began to take up more and more of his time, and his passions led him to the rink more than the woods.
He didn't put it entirely on hold, and even hunted deer during the season while he was with the Ottawa Senators. An off day spent in a deer stand here or there during his stint with Nashville wasn't too far fetched, but now that he's retired, there are far more opportunities.
Those opportunities translated to not only getting outdoors, but finding a way to connect to the greater outdoor community with those two simple words, the phrase we've all heard before.
"We really didn't think much of it until we had the hats," Fisher says of the terrible terminology.
Of course they were a hit in that original camp, but wearing them around in public afterward garnered a big reaction. Fellow hunters were eager to find out where they could get their own.
"We realized we were connecting with hunters, and [asked] how can we bring them something that can connect them to other hunters," Fisher added. "Just a simple phrase, or something funny. Obviously our videos have really helped grow that, as far as awareness and making people laugh."
With central role help from his brother, Bud Fisher, the team put together a plan to bring a no-B.S. strategy to the modern age of online marketing. Do eye-catching stuff, make people chuckle, and give it to them in an easy-to-digest way.
Fisher and his team released the first video, which achieved viral status rather quickly, especially for a hunting-themed piece of online entertainment.
It's that format, the online video, that Catchin' Deers really took advantage of. Like the slogan goes, they take their hunting seriously, but themselves lightly.
"One of the things about hunting camp for me, at least in Kentucky where this brand was born, it was really like the locker room in hockey," Fisher said. "It's the same constant bickering and jabs, laughing, lighthearted stuff that you get at hunt camp. That's what we wanted to portray."
It's a fair analogy, but with that comes some side effects. Whereas locker room banter is typically behind closed doors, the guys at Catchin' Deers were openly offering up stereotypical hunter characteristics, not all of them totally positive, and counting the online views.
What about negative reactions and feedback to that sort of thing? Does Fisher and his team ever face backlash from those upset about hunters being shined in bad light?
"I wouldn't say we get a lot, but yeah," he responded. "You're going to get that anywhere when you bring in humor these days. But really, we're making fun of ourselves, too. I think we've all been there. I think that we need more of that, and to not always take ourselves too seriously."
When the subject of the partnership with Tractor Supply came up, Fisher's voice brightened. That, it seemed, was something he took a little more seriously, and for good reason.
"We couldn't have picked a better partner," he said of the retailer. "We love their company and I've shopped there for a long time. They're based here out of Nashville, and it all just came together. They're just a great company and great people, and I think their market is really our market too. We're obviously grateful to have a partner like that."
We're excited to announce an exclusive partnership with Tractor Supply. On August 5 our apparel will be available in...
Tractor Supply will have their own exclusive line of Catchin' Deers gear, which won't be available anywhere else.
Fisher's wife, Grammy Award winner Carrie Underwood, has a line of apparel in a big retail store as well. We had to ask, does she ever join him in the deer stand come fall?
"No," he laughed. "No, she's not a fan of hunting, but you know what? I tell her all the time, she can't have it all."
What about her sharing any advice regarding the clothing line biz?
He said he appreciated "seeing how she's really involved with it, and how passionate she is about it. I would say that I've learned some things from her company and she's done a great job. But she's not going to be a model for Catchin' Deers, that's for sure."
Fisher was preparing for the Kentucky archery opener when we spoke, and harvested the buck seen in the images in this post. He has a trip scheduled for Colorado elk in October, a duck lease to visit in Arkansas, and another rut hunt in Kentucky down the line this fall. Potential Alabama and Ohio deer hunts are on the docket, but he'd happily put more on his plate.
"You can never hunt enough!" he said.
As far as the future of Catchin' Deers, he admitted the fact that they're still a new company, and maintaining momentum and growth is important. You can have the funniest sayings on the best t-shirts and hoodies, but if you don't run things properly, it won't matter.
Fisher made a point to acknowledge the exclusion of Catchin' Deers in Canadian Tractor Supply stores, noting they were actively working on making it happen. Beyond that, he sounded like a typical retired athlete turned successful businessman whose list of accomplishments now includes owning a company he's obviously passionate about.
"There's definitely room to grow and develop," he said. "We're trying to put out the best we can as far as design and quality, and on the video side, we're still trying to make people laugh."
They're doing a hell of a job so far.