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Jonathon M. Seidl


f theres a story that perfectly describes
best friends Nate Wallick and Zac Hoffman, its the one from high school about
intentionally setting fire to a cup of hay
in Hoffmans minivan.
I saw two hay bales one day while driving around with Ben [Nates older brother
and a former Navy SEAL], the 30-year-old
Hoffmanabout 5 feet 6 inches tall with
an athletic buildsays from the front seat
of Wallicks truck as we drive to the Illinois
River. Were about to dress up in helmets
and shin guards while wielding homemade
weapons to exterminate some Asian carp,
a nuisance fish that has invaded the waterway and is threatening to spread to the
Great Lakes. Almost inexplicably, the fish
also leap feet in the air when certain boats
drive overhead.
And I was like, Man, I miss the country, he says in a fast-paced, Chicago accent
after explaining how they replaced the
back seats with the bales.
It evolved from there.
I said, I want to smell like the county
fair. So I had some Zippo fluid and I put
some hay in a mug and then I lit it on fire
[in the cup holder]. The smoke started
coming out of it and I said, That smells like
the county fair!
For the next couple days, he and Wallicka 28-year-old former college running
back that looks like a mix between Arnold



Schwarzenegger and a frat brotherdrove

around with smoke billowing out the windows and ski goggles on to protect their
eyes from burning.
Nate would [roll down the window at
stop lights and] be like, Hey, you know
where the Grateful Dead concert is?
Meet the high-octane Peoria Carp
Hunters, a pair of childhood friends who
have turned a weird fish phenomenon into
numerous viral videos and a small side
business. And their story is everything
thats great about America.


I first heard about the duo in spring 2011.

In order to promote Wallicks business
located in the town of Peoria, Ill., about
three hours southwest of Chicagothe
guys came up with a crazy idea: film themselves in outrageous outfits on water skis
and tubes trying to slay the droves of silver
fish that flash across their faces.
The video went viral, Internet-speak for
describing its nearly 700,000 views. It
quickly became one of TheBlaze.coms
most popular stories.
Scheduling conflicts kept me from visiting in the past, but we finally settled on a
date this summer. I went hoping to capture
footage of whats turned them into a sensation (theyve already been featured on
Animal Planet and companies are sending

them free products to feature), but I found

so much more.


Shes my boat driver, Wallick says about his

7-months-pregnant wife Sallya tall blonde
with a gentle, high-pitched voice and cuteas-a-button personality. He introduces us in
the kitchen of their three-bedroom ranch
home that sits on a cul-de-sac. A sign near
the door asks you to check your shoes for
dirt and, I can only imagine, fish parts.
When I pulled up, Nate had been readying the boat for our first excursion, a Friday afternoon aerial bow-fishing adventure clients pay $140 an hour to experience.
When he eventually walked into the house,
I didnt immediately follow, not sure
whether I was fully welcome in his inner
sanctum. After belatedly sauntering in, I
was greeted with a what-took-you-so-long
offer for a soda. I shouldve known.
She was what I used to call homescrewed, Nate says cheekily, describing
his term for Sallys home-schooling upbringing. He admits now that was a little
ignorant, but Sallys not offended, lamenting how the home-schoolers she
grew up with were too sheltered.
The couple explained how they met
a few years earlier at a Christian conference. Having rekindled his faith
after thwarting a shooting in 2007,


Nate attended the event with a renewed

interest. But to say the two met is slightly misleading. Instead, Sallys parents introduced themselves to Nate. He didnt
think much of it until a few weeks later
when they tracked down his email address
and started writing.
Little did he know he was being vetted
for a future relationship. Eventually, he flew
out to California to visit, and thats when
things with Sally started.
They stalked me, he says half-jokingly. They were engaged and married within
six months, and Sally packed up and
moved to Peoria.


The first trip on the water is successfulat

least for me.
Nate tells me the carp arent jumping as
much as they usually do, but I dont know
that. Normally, the frequency created underwater by the hum of the engine and the
vibrations of the boats aluminum hull (fiberglass hulls absorb the vibrations) creates a fog of fish. Today, it was more like a
morning mist. Still, I manage to shoot one
of them out of the air with a bow and an
arrow attached to a string and reel.
After our first outing, we go to dinner to
celebrate at Schooners, a local nauticalthemed hangout owned by a
man Nate credits with getting
him his day job as a local
firefighter. Four steps outside the door, Nate is already greeted with a hug
and a Hows it going?it

doesnt matter that hes on his phone.

It isnt long before he starts talking politics and guns. So the question is, just like
Piers Morgan is asking, what do you need
[an AR-15] for? He leans in and says he
doesnt really need it for hunting or home
defense. What I told a couple guys that I
know is, what do you need a motorcycle
that can go over 65 miles an hour for?
Round here, the fastest you can go is 65
miles an hour, so what do you need a motorcycle that can do like 200 miles an hour?
You dont. But you have one because you
like to have one.
Its my constitutional right to have it,
he concludes.
Nates an interesting combination of a
gun-toting conservative whos also an
active union member. And hes got a perspective on guns most dont: While in college six years ago, he stepped in to break
up a fight. One thug pulled out a loaded
gun while Nate pleaded with him not to
shoot. They wrestled. Nate won. The guy
later accepted a plea of assault with a deadly weapon.
That changed him from rabble-rouser
to righteous.
So Im lying in my bed that night, and
Im thinking, All right. So, if he did pull the
trigger, and I dropped dead right there on
the spot, Im gonna stand before the Lord
Almighty. What am I going to say to Him?
I was gonna get with it? I was going to do
it? Cmon, man.


Zac poses for a picture the next day in an

antlered baseball helmet as he celebrates a very Carp Hunter accomplishment: Hes just speared a jumping fish with a trident while being
pulled behind the boat on skis.
He lives and works in Chicagocloser to where the guys grew
upand doesnt get to Peoria as
much. This was his first time out
hunting this summer, and the cravings hes been experiencing show in
the voracity of his celebration.
If Nate is the brawn behind the
business, then Zac is the fun-loving
energy shot. He seems to bring a certain life-of-the-party quality to the
duo. Its not obnoxious or overpoweringits the perfect mixture of
leaning over the edge but not
jumping off the cliff. For example, not only did he help
design some of the pairs most
ridiculous weapons, he was
also quick to retire some of

the ones that became too dangerous.

The razor-sharp sword? The gash on his
finger screamed no more!
The medieval-looking Louisville Slugger
covered in nails? He quickly realized the risk
of puncturing ones own leg.
The garbage-can-turned-body-armor
outfitted with giant treble hooks? He encouraged Nate to give it up once he saw
what might happen if he wiped out on the
I would never even put it on, he says
while describing it. Nates special.


The morning sun trickles through the trees

as we wind through the back roads 30 minutes outside Peoria. The tall, sprawling
corn strains for the rays like baby birds
yearning for their morning feeding. Were
on our way to Nates land so they can show
me what they do with the carp once they
get some.
After buying 70 acres in the middle of
the woods and farm country, Nates building a modest home to share with his parents. Why? The worlds getting crazier, he
says. His dad used his retirement account
to help with the costs. Both couples prefer
the security of their own land should the
country deteriorate even more.
We turn down a gravel road, which just
feels right. While Nate usually spreads the
fish carcasses in areas hes eventually going
to farm (he sees the wisdom in growing his
own food), he decides to show me the other
way its done. They strap some light, legal
explosives (Tannerite) to three of the fish,
and we use an AR-15 to turn the 10- to
15-pound filter feeders into instant fertilizer.
With each mini-explosion, Nate lets out
a boyhood, wicked-witch cackle that upsets the otherwise quiet woods.
As I turn my car back down the road,
Nate shows off the under-construction
house to Zac for the first time. I imagine
them about 20-years younger, running
around it like a jungle gym and likely raising just enough hell to make things fun.
But then Will Hoges country song
Strong plays in the car:
Hes a 20-year straight get to work on time;
Hes a love one woman for all his life;
Everybody knows he aint just tough;
Hes strong.
Thats more fitting, I think to myself.
O W N C A R P - H U N T I N G AT T E M P T S , V I S I T

Jonathon M. Seidl

6*;6),9  THEBLAZE 


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