Karl Malone

With his
playing days
behind him,
Hall of Famer
Karl Malone
Dougl as Collier
© 2013 TIME INC. Photos by
savors the hunt—
whether he’s
pursuing homegrown game or
bigger quarry in
Alaska and beyond
Fl avor
In a 19-year Hall of Fame career
that elevated him to No. 2 on the NBA’s all-time
scoring list, Karl Malone earned lots of hardware,
including two league MVP awards, a pair of Olympic gold medals and a roomful of All-NBA first
team and all-defensive team honors.
But those prizes sit tucked away at the back of
the house in rural Ruston, La., in the Mailman’s
man cave. The front room is reserved for a different display. “When you walk through the front
door, you walk into the trophy room,” Malone says,
“and it’s not hardware, it’s horns.”
A self-described “country boy” throughout his
pro career—all but one season spent with the
Utah Jazz, who picked him in the first round of
the 1985 NBA draft—Malone grew up the youngest son in a family of nine children, hunting and
“Karl is fearless,” Peay says. “I have
watched him kill two grizzly bears and
an African lion … and he did not flinch.”
Malone was
an intense
competitor during
his playing days.
He brings the
same level of
to his hunting
fishing in Louisiana. Squirrels and panfish like
bluegill and bream were his quarry then, and he
still pursues them with the same single-minded
drive that made him arguably the best power
forward to play the game. “If I had to pick only one
kind of hunting to do I’d pick squirrel hunting,” he
says. “Because that’s what I grew up doing. It’s my
history, my passion.”
But Malone doesn’t have to pick. He retired as an
NBA player in 2004, and he now has the time and
means to hunt all over the world. He has long since
moved on to bigger game, stalking moose, caribou
and grizzly bear in Alaska; bighorn sheep, elk and
mule deer in Utah; plains game in Africa; and whitetail deer and turkey in his native Louisiana.
In fact, Malone believes his greatest accomplishment as a sportsman is his grand slam of
wild sheep, harvesting all four North American
subspecies: Rocky Mountain bighorn, desert
bighorn, Dall and Stone sheep. “In the hunting
world, the grand slam is the equivalent to an NBA
championship, a World Series championship and
an NFL Super Bowl all in one,” he says. “You have
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scales the ladder
to a
deer stand on his
proper ty in Louisia
“I believe if you continue to
take what Mother Nature has
given us, she’s going to stop giving.”
to be in tip-top shape to chase sheep. It’s not
for the faint of heart.”
MALONE WAS ANYTHING but faint-hearted during his long NBA career. He brings a similar
headlong enthusiasm to the field. “Karl Malone is
fearless,” says Don Peay, Malone’s longtime hunting partner and founder of Sportsmen for Fish and
Wildlife (SFW). “I have watched him kill two grizzly
bears and an African lion at under 20 yards and he
did not flinch.... He’s tough. Not just NBA tough.
He’s outdoorsman tough.”
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During one memorable sheep
hunt, Malone and Peay were forced
to spend the night on a mountain.
“The only flat spot was where a grizzly bear had dug out a gopher hole,”
Peay recalls. “Karl had forgotten his
sleeping bag, so the two of us huddled
under a tarp in that bear dig in the
cold all night.” The next day Malone
spotted a sheep at 3 p.m., shot it at
midnight, then hiked through the night
with the meat, cape and gear to catch a
helicopter that transported them out of
the remote area.
Andy Madsen, a longtime business
partner of Malone’s who has hunted and
fished with him for 20 years, recalls another memorable outing for mountain goats. The
hunting guide tried to discourage the party from
scaling a high peak for a goat he judged too small
to justify the effort. But Malone seemed intrigued
by the physical challenge, never mind the animal’s
lack of trophy potential. “Karl says, ‘Can you
handle it?’ And the guide says, ‘Can you?’” Madsen
recalls. “Wham! The competition was on.
“There’s not a mountain tall enough or an animal far enough away to slow him down,” Madsen
adds. “He has those long legs and he just hikes
everybody into the ground. He can flat haul right
up a mountain.”
YET THE MAILMAN has a soft spot for the
type of hunting and fishing he did as a kid. Fishing
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one of Malone’s many stocked
ponds, Madsen remembers seeing Malone sitting on the bank,
cane pole in hand, hauling
in bream no bigger than his
hand. “I said, ‘Karl, what the
heck are you doing?’” Madsen
recalls. “He said, ‘Hey, this is
where I come from, it’s what I
love doing.’”
Malone casts a similarly
fond eye on the taxidermy
gracing his home. “What
I think about when I look
at these mounts is the
journey,” he says. “People
think it’s all about bagging the animal, and the
first thing that happens
when it hits the ground
is, ‘Let’s get the tape
measure out.’ I don’t
care what it scores.
What I care about is I’m
out there, with friends,
with family, and we’re
having a great time.”
Malone believes it’s important to
introduce kids to the outdoors—but
not to push them. “You can’t make
your kids do anything, but if hunting is
something they are interested in, they’ll
embrace it,” he says. “I believe in passing on hunting to our youth, and I take
mine whenever they want to go.”
He also believes in preserving the
rights, the land and the animals that
make hunting possible, and he backed
up those beliefs with donations to conservation organizations and by putting
his name behind Utah’s Proposition
5, a successful 1998 ballot measure
requiring a two-thirds majority for any
initiatives by Utah citizens to change
state wildlife regulations.
Peay credits Malone with helping return Rocky Mountain bighorn
sheep to Utah. “Karl contributed
$250,000 to help us go to Canada
and capture sheep and bring them
back,” says Peay, whose conservation group SFW spearheaded a sheep
transplant project with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Malone
Malone b E FUTURE:
elieves h
e has
an essen
tial duty
to give
time and
conservat urces to
ion ef fort
“You walk into the
trophy room, and it’s
not hardware, it’s horns.”
has also funded restoration projects
that proved pivotal in improving
habitat for elk, pronghorn and mule
deer; purchased high-dollar hunting
tags that support conservation; and
helped start SFW’s Hunts for the
Brave, a program that funds biggame hunts for wounded soldiers.
“I believe that if you continue to
take what Mother Nature has given
us, she’s going to stop giving,” Malone
says. “I believe in giving back, and I
want to give my time, my resources
and my effort.”
Indeed, when the moment came to
release the bighorn sheep for Utah’s
restoration project, Malone was on
hand. “Karl was there,” Peay says, “to
open the door and turn the wild sheep
loose.” —Steven Hill