Editor’s Note: John Phillips is a tight end for the San Diego Chargers. After graduation from the University of Virginia, he’s played in the NFL (National Football League) for 6 years. Being born and raised in Virginia, he can’t remember a time when he hasn’t hunted for black bears, grey squirrels and all animals in-between.
Someone asked me, “What would be your dream hunt?” I would love to go to Africa and hunt a leopard or any of the other big cats in Africa. I think they’re beautiful animals, and I know they’re really tough to take. But to be honest, anytime I’m in the woods hunting I’m where I want to be. I bowhunted some when I was in high school but had more time to practice then than I do now. The practicing I’m doing today is catching a football, blocking and tackling. I’m on the special teams for San Diego, and I play fullback sometimes. I spend a lot of time practicing and studying film. Because I only may have a couple of days to harvest an animal when I can hunt, I take one of my rifles when I go hunting. I’ve got quite a few rifles, but I especially like my .280 that I’ve had a lot of custom work done on and think it’s a great cartridge for taking whitetails.
When I return to my home in Virginia to hunt black bears, I usually take a .358. I even took a red stag with this rifle a couple of years ago. I wasn’t deliberately hunting red stag. I just happened to be on a ranch that had some of those critters. I was duck hunting with a friend of mine, Michael Spears, when another friend, Steve Mayberry, offered me the opportunity to get in a deer stand. He knew that he had some red stag on the property after seeing them at night, but not in the daytime. He had put out high-protein pellets, so that the whitetails and the red stag would come in at night and eat. I had a green light to take a red stag, if I saw one. This stag had one of his antlers broken off and only had one horn sticking out. When Steve told me that I could take the red stag, I squeezed off a round, and that goofy-horned stag went down. Steve told me they hadn’t seen a red stag in daylight hours in 5 years. He was really glad I had taken him. The red stag was the last thing I had planned to take. I was watching a bobcat off to the left side of my shooting blind, when I spotted the red stag. So, I gave up hunting for the bobcat and took the red stag instead.