The Olympic Skier Who Hunts Gold Medals—and Deer

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When two-time Olympic gold-medal skater David Wise began speaking out about the passion he pursued in his spare time, his agent warned him about it. His patrons refused. Then a few dropped it.

“You feel like you’ve been ripped off,” said Wise, who is working on forming his third U.S. Olympic team in the half-pipe skating event and competing in next year’s Beijing Olympics. “He’s like, ‘Why don’t you love me anymore?'” And one of the things they said was, “Well, because you’re a poacher.”

Instead of responding by hiding his hobby in the woods, Wise inflated it. He went on podcast fishing, and started an Instagram page highlighting the “off-the-grid” activities he engages with his wife and two children, including growing vegetables, raising chickens, and hunting.

“If something has to die to feed my family, I’m choosing to take responsibility for killing it myself,” Wise wrote on Instagram in August 2018.

That year, Wise said he realized he could be a powerful messenger for hunting, a chase often overshadowed by fierce debates about gun laws and bounty chases.

“I got to the point where I got really tired of trying to be someone other than what I was on my social media,” said Wise, now 31. “So I just decided, You know what? If I am happy and poor, I will feel much better than if I am rich and miserable.”

Although he sometimes shoots with a revolver, Wise most often uses a bow and arrow. This is partly because the archery season is early in the West so it doesn’t conflict with the ski season, partly because he feels bow hunting is more fair to the animal, and partly to the challenge.

“It’s like what I do on skates: The higher the difficulty, the greater the reward,” Wise said.

Wise competes in camouflage gear by sponsor First Lite, a hunting brand.


Sean M. Heavi/Getty Images

It follows the principles of “fair hunt” for the big game, hunts unfenced wildebeest, and hunts everything from geese to elk to wild boar. Wise says he hasn’t bought red meat from a supermarket since around 2015.

Although his day job often takes him outdoors, hunting takes him miles deeper into the wilderness than does cross-country skiing.

“When I start to feel stressed or exhausted from what I’ve been through, or even in a year like this where I’m preparing for the Olympics again, it’s normal to have anxiety that goes along with that,” Wise said. “When I start feeling that so deeply, I really need that opportunity to go and enjoy solitude in the wild.”

Wise still lives in the Reno, Nevada area, where he grew up as an outdoor sports kid who felt like a little bit weird. At one point he was in both an alpine race and a freestyle ski team—groups who looked at each other skeptically, he remembers—and enjoyed both.

“I’ve always kind of migrated between groups,” Wise said. “I just picked out certain things I’m passionate about and I don’t let the leadership in those groups dictate who I am or how I should be.”

Wise began hunting with his father and twin sister, who were four years ahead of him in school, when he was eight. He shot his first deer at age 12, and was hooked.

In an action esports culture always thirsty for the next teen phenomenon, Wise was different in other ways, too. He studies the daily routines of high performers, and his Instagram bio promotes faith, marriage, and parenthood — not exactly partying at the Chateau Marmont sentiment.

A decade ago, Wise started winning in the new event in which skaters perform tricks in the halfpipe just as snowboarders do. When interviewing, he didn’t mention hunting unless someone asked him about it.

Wise’s agent warned him that talking about hunting publicly could “damage your brand.” Then they went on a trip together – and the client became a boater.


Taylor Coleman for “First Lite”

When Wise told his agent in France, Issam Dabawi, that he wanted to start posting and talk about fishing, “I told him, ‘Man, that’s not good for your brand,'” Dabbawi recalls. Wise responded by taking Dabawi on a trip—and turning him into a fisherman.

“I’m actually going out of my house and looking for a deer,” said Dubaoui, who has deer and pigs near his home in Annecy, in the Alps, France.

In recent years, purchasing organic meat through hunting has become more common, and hunting has experienced a renaissance during the pandemic. Dubawi said the sponsors who brought down Wise, who has not been named, might now reconsider.

However, Wise said he has had conversations with people who said they resist hunting – although they share many of his views on the subject. Although he keeps animal horns, he doesn’t just hunt for trophies like animal heads or skins.

“I don’t believe in going out and killing a bunch of things, not eating meat, not respecting animals and posting on social media,” he said.

Wise often treats the ski coaches and support staff to dinner in the wilderness when they’re on the road. At a recent competition in Copper Mountain in Colorado, Wise used a pressure cooker to prepare axle deer from a trip to Hawaii and ducks he had released for a brisk walk a few days earlier.

“He’s definitely a good cook,” said Mike Riddle, head coach of the American Half-Pipe skating team.

Riddle said that unlike the half-barrel figure skating in which Americans Shawn White and Chloe Kim dominated competitions, no one in figure skating has similarly excelled. “Dave is probably as close to it as he gets,” Riddell said.

Hakim with his family at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where he won a gold medal in men’s free skating.


Boblev Sergey / Zuma Press

Wise competes in a First Lite camouflage jacket, making him one of the few, if not only, free skaters sponsored by a hunting brand. He says the jury is out on whether or not he filed with sponsorship, after he started talking more about hunting.

One thing is for sure, though.

“The fishing community has been inflamed,” Wise said.There are plenty of bow hunters in professional sports. Much. There is not a lot of skiing and snowboarding – I mean there are definitely a few. But Major League Baseball is full of them. Golf is full of them. hockey. And a lot of them aren’t locker hunters either, but there are plenty of locker hunters too.

“So I think the fishing industry is very excited to see someone like me take ownership of it — ‘Hey, I’m hunting. “I think wild game is the best diet for any athlete.”

Write to Rachel Bachman at

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