Matt Hughes has faced a lifetime of adrenalin-primed moments as a nine-time Welterweight Champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The MMA legend also has taken his fair share of big game animals as a lifelong hunter, and most recently as host of "Trophy Hunters TV," a production of Texas Trophy Hunters Association airing Saturdays on Outdoor Channel at 8 p.m. ET.
Yet nothing compares to the thrill he experienced when son Joey harvested his first whitetail buck.
“Yeah, I’ve had my fair share of excitement but that ranks at the top for me,” Hughes said. “There’s just nothing that compares to it.”
Three years have past since that memorable milestone when Joey was only 8 years old at the time. Even now, Hughes gets stoked telling the story.
“I was just a train-wrecked father,” he said.
The hunt stretched out over two afternoons where the father and son had taken stand over a lush field of alfalfa on the family farm in south-central Illinois. On the first day the timing was perfect for taking a shot when a buck ventured into the field at sundown.
“He just couldn’t pull the trigger,” the anxious father said. “So we had to wait another day to try it again. And it was a long wait after that first buck.”
Opportunity appeared again at sunset when a 7-point buck ventured into the field and within 60 yards of the stand. This time Joey took aim, squeezed the trigger on his shotgun, and scored his first antlered whitetail.
“After it went down I was trying to high-five him and he was just as calm as he could be,” Hughes said. “I’m a laid-back guy but I was more excited for him than I’ve ever been for myself. It was a moment I’ll never forget.”
Since then more hunting memories have been shared. Even so, Hughes has observed a valuable life lesson that unfolds each time he shares the stand with Joey.
“What it’s all about now is the father-son, quality time we spend together,” he said. “We can get away and just talk about life issues, his schoolwork, the challenges he faces growing up, everything.
“It’s a time when we can get away, be alone together. I realize he’s at the age where he’s very impressionable and that he’ll always remember our time together out there. That’s what hunting is all about now for me.”