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McNairy Central Soccer Coach Nick Cook spends off-season outdoors

Nick Cook poses next to his finished taxidermy projects of a deer, raccoon, moose, squirrel, and fox. Photo by Amanda Lowrance

Over the summer McNairy Central’s soccer coach Nick Cook has been spending many hours outdoors and with a newly discovered passion.

“Over the past 6 years, I’ve turned down a total of 7 coaching positions,” said Cook, “for fall sports both in and out of the county because fall sports interfere with deer hunting.”

I’ve missed less than ten days of deer season over the past four years. On average, I spend 20-30 hours per week monitoring or hunting deer between August and February.”

Q. How long have you been into the outdoors?

A. I don’t ever remember not being totally obsessed with wildlife. My family tells me that my first and favorite phrase as a child was “Fish in water!” which I would say every time I saw a lake, mud-hole, toilet, or whatever. My favorite things to do as a little kid were to practice casting my fishing pole into a bucket, target practice with my .22, or practice for hours on end with my game calls. Pa (that’s what I call my grandfather) had me hitting targets with a gun and accurately casting my own fishing pole before I was 4 years old. 

Q. What inspired you? 

A. For some, hunting and fishing are social activities, for others they are a form of relaxation, for others they are competitive. For me, hunting and fishing are mostly about learning about the animals that I have always admired and studied. Animals make a lot more sense to me than people do. It has always been that way. People make me extremely nervous because they seem unpredictable and irrational. Most animals have two basic needs that come before anything else. They need to eat, and they need to feel safe. There’s no hidden agenda.

Also, 90 percent of my diet is from game I’ve harvested. During the summer months, I eat fish about 4-5 times per week, and during the winter, I live on mainly an venison diet. I process all of my own meat, so it cuts down on the grocery bill. In college, when everyone else bought microwaves and mini fridges, I bought a deep freezer, a skillet, and lots of shells. There’s just something satisfying about living off of food that I provided myself.

Q. How did you start your business and how do you promote it?

A. Dad and Pa always taught me that a man could do cheaper and many times better work by learning to do things himself. I try to do as much as I can by myself. I make my own bass lures, I process my own meat, I build, and I try to be as self-reliant as I can. I always wanted a house full of mounts, but I’ve never had enough money to pay for taxidermy service. A few years ago, I killed my biggest buck to date, and I took it to Ben Cupples who runs Critter Connections in Finger. I still think that Ben does some of the best looking mounts around. He was nice enough to coach me through my first couple of mounts and let me use his tools. I had no intentions of starting a business. I learned the art by mounting animals for my friends, and as my techniques got better, and people saw my mounts, folks started coming out of the woodwork. When I found out that my wife Monica was pregnant, I decided to build a shop at home both to prevent me from constantly being gone, and because my “man room” where I kept my hunting equipment was about to become a nursery. I wanted to do enough commercial work to pay for my own mounts, but I ended up with over 30 jobs. I’m a night owl anyway, so after the family goes to bed, I like to work until the wee hours of the morning. This year, I was able to have nearly all of the mounts done before soccer practice started in February.

Q. Any memorable jobs? 

A. Every job presents its own challenges ranging from fixing wounds to building habitats, but my first deer was my most memorable and painful job. I had a little over 29 hours of labor in it, and to this day, I’m not satisfied with how it turned out. I keep it on the wall as a reminder of how far I’ve come. I’ve mounted nearly every local mammal, and this year I even had the privilege of mounting an Alaska Moose and a Russian Boar. “If you want to be the best at something you’ve got to do extra things. You’ve got to do more than the rest.” – Troy Landry 

On Friday, ten month old, Jackson pointed to and said, “Fish, fish, fish!” The proud mom and dad immediately took a video and reported the special moment.

“I’ve collected over 200 pages of statistics and data from my own personal hunting, scouting, and fishing trips. I keep track of everything from barometric pressure to the exact minute when I saw each animal on all of my hunting trips.”

“I’ve compiled all of my studies and insights so far into a book that is already over 100 pages long. Hopefully when I get old, I can pass it down to my son and maybe there will be something in there to help him out some day.”

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