"It's irrefutably the right thing to do to be a hands-on conservationist, to monitor the good Mother Earth's health," he says on the phone from his spread in Crawford, Texas, a few miles from the presidential ranch. "Not to mention the joys and stimuli of the shooting sports, of being independent and gathering your own food and shelter and medicine."
It's early in the morning, but Nugent already has taken his all-terrain vehicle out to check the trap lines on his property. "I trapped a beautiful red fox today. I trap coyote, skunks, bobcats and various vermin," he says. "When I go out, I pack a cooler with an apple, a couple of oranges, a jug of water and some wild boar sausages. All the stuff we have at home, we kill ourselves."
While no one was paying attention, Nugent, the rock star, has been establishing a hearty second career as an organic carnivore.
It's that role - as a camo-clad bowhunter of some renown - that brings the Nuge to Fort Washington this weekend for two appearances at the Greater Philadelphia Sport, Travel & Outdoor Show.
And make no mistake - the hunting sodality has clasped this amplified character to their orange-vested breasts.
By a wide margin, the readers of North American Hunter magazine recently selected Nugent as their preferred partner for a Dream Hunt Adventure. (He beat out professional hunters such as Jim Shockey as well as celebrity shooters Tom Selleck and Brett Favre.)
That's not to say Nugent isn't controversial. "I get asked at almost every seminar I go to: 'Do you think he's good for the sport?' " says Bob Foulkrod, the legendary hunter from Troy, Pa. "People say, 'He's got an attitude,' and I say, 'He's a rock-and-roll singer.' I think he's a great ambassador for the sport.
"He's got long hair. I've got short hair," Foulkrod continues. "I hope we got over that in the '60s. I think there should be a little more of Ted Nugent in all of us, to speak our minds and tell it like it is."
On the other side of the aisle, the people who know Nugent as a musician can only shake their heads in amazement.
"His philosophy of if you're going to eat meat, kill it and grill it yourself, I think that works. That's awesome," Sammy Hagar says on the phone from Mexico. The two rockers have often toured and socialized over the years. "He certainly does what he says and lives like he says.
"But when you see a guy taking a knife and tearing a deer's guts out, that's a little much for me," Hagar says. "Ted is an awesome guy to jam with. He's one of the funnest hangs on the planet. We've been buddies forever. But I never went hunting with him and I don't plan to."
For his own part, Nugent has no trouble reconciling his two callings. He typically tours during the summer months and hunts the rest of the year. "Last year, I did over 100 concerts," says the rocker famous for guitar squalls like "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Wango Tango."
"I still crave the inspiration of performing. And nothing makes you want to get more loud and obnoxious than sitting in a tree stand for days."
He maintains stocked game preserves in Crawford and in his native Michigan. You can even pay for the privilege of hunting with the Nuge, as at his forthcoming Spring Pork Slam. "We go after these European wild boar we raise," he says. "I've been known to take out the guitar around the campfire while we're chowing down on fresh boar kielbasa. We have so much fun, it's stupid."
Nugent credits his back-to-basics approach for his robust health. "I was 57 last month and I'm climbing trees and running with the dogs," he says. "I look back at my dad. When he was 57, he was 57. Everything I'm doing today, I was doing at 27. I attribute it to the purity of my natural game diet."
It's a lifestyle he promotes in Kill It & Grill It: A Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish, which he wrote with his wife, Shemane, and Blood Trails II: The Truth About Bowhunting, copies of which he will be signing in Fort Washington.
He also hosts two series on cable's OLN, Spirit of the Wild, a hunting show, and Wanted: Ted or Alive, a reality show. Each season on Wanted, five urban tenderfeet are shipped to Ted's property in Jackson, Mich., to grapple with tooth-and-claw survival challenges. "You will kill. You will eat what you kill. You will wear and sleep on what you kill," he instructs each group upon arrival.
Given his notoriety, his ready wit, his strong opinions, and his mix of patriotism and pragmatism, perhaps it's inevitable that Nugent would throw his camo cowboy hat into the political ring. He nearly ran for governor of Michigan this year and is planning to enter the race in 2010.
"There would be no handouts to any able-bodied citizen," he says, spelling out his platform. "And if you conduct yourself in a fashion to make yourself a liability - if you drink and drive and crash and lose your leg, we're not paying for your wheelchair. We'll give it to a kid with leukemia. When you make bad decisions, you don't benefit at the expense of the people who conduct themselves in a responsible fashion.
"The pimps and the whores, the welfare brats, the crybabies and the bloodsuckers would be completely cut off from society's teat, so to speak," Nugent continues, his voice growing more passionate. "I see these people on TV who claim they can't make ends meet, they can't afford fuel oil. But they've got beer. They've got cell phones. That would come to a screeching halt.
"You've got people collecting from every possible welfare and prescription assistance program, but they get whiskey and beer and cigarettes," he says. "If you can afford cigarettes, I'm not paying for your prescriptions! What lunatic came up with that? If you have a house full of dogs and cats, I'm not paying for your heating oil. It's irresponsible to have superfluous expenses and then say you can't pay for basics. Am I out of line here?"
For the time being, Nugent stays busy at events such as this weekend's. "I have become increasingly bombarded with invitations to speak about the hunting life," he says. He attributes his popularity to the fact that he seems to be one of the few speakers who can articulate the sport's virtues.
"The president of this sporting group and the chairman of that conservation club, they get on TV and I struggle to maintain attention," he says. "They're trying to placate the other side, to be politically correct. I've always celebrated hunting. I've never defended it.
"I never, ever give a brief thought to how someone might interpret my savagery," he says. "I kill my dinner. It's a perfect harmonious ballet."
Nugent estimates that he gets more than 300 invitations a year to address hunting and gun groups. He'd like to oblige more of them but there's a catch. "Mrs. Nugent has an electronic tether on a certain part of my anatomy," he says.
Even the mighty hunter sometimes becomes the prey.
Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Go
Ted Nugent at the Greater Philadelphia Sport, Travel & Outdoor Show.
* Where: Fort Washington Expo Center, 1100 Virginia Dr., Fort Washington.
* When: Tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m.
* Admission: $10 for adults, $4 for children. Purchase tickets at the center box office.