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Bucks and bulls

8/18/2010

Editor's note: To accompany Deer Camp '09, we've asked athletes, prominent figures and outdoorsmen to relate their first deer kill.

Austin Meier of Kinta, Okla., makes his living as a professional bull rider in the PBR.

At 22 years of age, he's already collected career earnings of $432,972 and notched an event win on the prestigious Built Ford Tough Series. This year alone he's ranked 12th in the world and has already won more than $78,000 heading into the World Finals. But when he's not riding bulls, Meier can generally be found in a tree stand somewhere in Oklahoma, looking for his next big trophy.

ESPN.com caught up with Meier a week before the 2009 PBR World Finals, but this young gun wasn't in the middle of a workout or a practice — he was on his way to the taxidermist.

ESPN.com: Do you remember the first time you went hunting as a kid?

Austin Meier: I remember the first time that I was actually sent out with a rifle, and actually hunting, not just sitting there and falling asleep while someone else was hunting. I guess I was probably about 12 when I was sent out with my grandpa's .243.

We had set this tree stand up for me and everything and we knew a bunch of deer had been crossing that fence line and my dad has been hunting that spot quite a while in the past and had a lot of success there. Shoot, I ended up killing probably one of the best does I ever killed at that spot that day. And since then hunting's been good.

Shoot, I've grown up with a gun in hand from the time I was really little, hunting with my dogs and all that, and being by myself with a firearm. So I was comfortable being by myself, but it is a different situation when it's the first time you're going after a deer. And when I saw her coming through, it was something that I was prepared for and I knew I was a good aim, so it wasn't a matter of whether I knew I could hit it or not.

But you always get the jitters when you're after something, but it's just a matter of being able to control your anxiety and use it to your advantage not your disadvantage — kind of like riding bulls.

ESPN.com: I know these are your two favorite pastimes, but do you see any similarities between riding bulls and hunting?

Meier: Yeah, you know I think there are a lot of similarities between riding bulls and hunting. With riding bulls, especially like now when we're coming into the World Finals, you've got the pressure and anxiety of wanting to ride your bulls and needing to ride your bulls, and certain bulls out there are more prestigious or ranker than other bulls.

And it's the same in deer hunting when you're after, say a certain buck or something, when you see him come in you really gotta be able to make sure your focus is in the right place at the right time.

In the same way, I think luck plays into both hunting and bull riding, but there's also a lot of time and effort that goes into it. It takes a lot more preparation ahead of time than just walking into the woods, sitting down and seeing a deer. You have to have that prior preparation to be successful in either one.

ESPN.com: Who taught you how to hunt growing up?

Meier: My dad and some of my cousins, but mostly myself. I'm definitely the biggest hunter of the family.

ESPN.com: The PBR season is practically year round. How often are you able to get out and go hunting?

Meier: You know, it depends on the time of year or what I'm hunting, and it also depends on the weather — we've had a lot of rain this year, it's been crazy. Luckily my wife loves to eat deer meat, so she lets me hunt more than most wives do. But Tuesday through Saturday during deer season, I'm out there pretty much every day. I've also got a lifetime Oklahoma hunting and fishing license, so that makes it easier.

I just love it — I love getting out there and hunting. I'm actually on my way to the taxidermist right now to pick up a big 'ol bear I killed the other day.

Check out all the action from the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on ESPN Rodeo + Bull Riding, and watch the WNFR nightly at approximately 9:45 p.m. ET on ESPN360 through Dec. 12.