Written by: Lily Weinacht< Back to Articles
There’s nothing like the morning when the animals wake up and you hear the birds come alive, and everything starts to move around,” says Clayton Hass of hunting. The 33-year-old professional steer wrestler, tie-down roper, and team roping header from Weatherford, Texas, juggles his passions of rodeo and hunting in the fall every year, but he feels his time spent in the deer stand or following his hunting dog is always worth the effort. “I started hunting with my dad as a kid growing up, and we hunted birds and deer and ducks. I go with family and friends, and I do like to be by myself sometimes too. You do a lot of thinking. Out there, everything is good, and there’s no cell phone service and no one calling me. You can just be out there in the wild, enjoy nature, and blow off some steam. There’s a lot of similarities between rodeo and hunting. Just like if you make a bad run, if you make a bad shot, there’s nothing you can do about it now. The ultimate thing is to take the next shot or the next run. In a way, it’s like riding a bike—you don’t forget—but first of the season, you practice a bit.”
Clayton has never had to step out of his state for hunting opportunities since Texas wildlife is so diverse. He often hunts on the Waite Ranch near Fredericksburg, Texas, and stays at the lodge for the weekend since it’s several hours from home. Clayton narrows his favorites down to quail and white tail deer, though he wants to harvest an elk this year as well. “I really enjoy quail hunting and watching the dogs work and seeing how smart they are. Most of them are my friends’ dogs, but I have an 11-year-old dog, Max, that I’ve had since he was 6 months old. My cousin is a dog trainer in Texas, and he started Max. The hunting is fast—not as long as sitting in a deer stand. I can go quail hunting and then get back and do whatever I need to for the day. I like dove hunting as well. You breast one out, wrap it in bacon, and put a jalapeño in it and bake it. It’s not bad at all.”
Within the last seven or eight years, Clayton discovered how much he enjoys bow hunting, particularly the extra challenge and being that much closer to the deer. “With a rifle, guys are shooting 500–700 yards, but with a bow, the maximum is probably 110 yards, and most people don’t shoot over 50. I grew up shooting my bow around the house, but I never hunted with it. I decided to buy one, and after I harvested my first deer with it, I was hooked. The hardest thing about wanting to go hunting is that elk archery season starts the first of September, which is hard with rodeo season. But after the All American finals in Waco, I was able to slip away and do some hunting. I have some acreage here in Weatherford, but we just leave the deer in the pasture alone. I’d like to set up a feeder here just so the kids can see the deer come in.”
Clayton’s wife, Alex, enjoys bird hunting with him, and Clayton hopes their six-month-old son, Maclaren, will be his hunting buddy a few years down the road. “My daughter, Addy, (5) isn’t much into hunting, but she likes the meat. We make breakfast sausage with it, and last year, we did the process ourselves and made some links and breakfast sausage.”
Clayton also uses his down-time between rodeo seasons to travel with his family and train horses. Though he mounted out most of the year on Sterling Wallace’s horse, Cadillac, a two-time AQHA–PRCA Horse of the Year, Clayton did win Pendleton in the all-around and steer wrestling riding his 19-year-old gelding, Rusty. “I use Nutrena for my horses and steers. They digest it better and the fiber is lower, and they’re dang sure looking good,” says Clayton. He won numerous rodeos in the all-around, team roping, and steer wrestling this year, and missed qualifying for the WNFR by $606. “But I’m going to work hard, get better, and come back strong next year,” he says. Until then, the three-time WNFR qualifier will be soaking up time with his family, and working toward his goal of harvesting an elk or a bear this season.