SI Vault
'Hey, You Wanna Deer?'
Robert H. Boyle
January 10, 1983
Then pay attention to Joe DeFalco, 'Famous Author, Hunter and Lecturer,' who's shot more than 100 deer, cut up 10,000 and made a million friends
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
January 10, 1983

'hey, You Wanna Deer?'

Then pay attention to Joe DeFalco, 'Famous Author, Hunter and Lecturer,' who's shot more than 100 deer, cut up 10,000 and made a million friends

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

A local weekly, the Franklin Square Bulletin, took on Joe DeFalco as its hunting and fishing columnist, and he began calling himself "Franklin Square's Own Famed Hunter-Guide-Rifle-Long-Bow Expert." (He later became, briefly, "Long Island's Famed Hunter," but he now simply refers to himself as "Joe DeFalco, Famous Hunter," on the grounds that "if I was under oath and was asked who the most well-known hunter in the country is, I would have to say, from the bottom of my heart, Joe DeFalco.") In response to the 5,600 letters he received after the demonstration at the Starlight Meat Center, Joe DeFalco announced that he would put on another demonstration three weeks later at the Platt-deutsche Park Restaurant, which could hold more people than his butcher store. Three thousand jammed into the restaurant, and a neighbor suggested that if Joe DeFalco could draw crowds like that, he ought to write a book. He immediately started on The Complete Deer Hunt. To help pay for 25,000 hard-cover copies he had printed for 88¢ apiece, he sold a brand-new Cadillac. "Only 1,800 miles, and my ex-wife said, 'You're crazy.' "

To promote the book, Joe DeFalco quit butchering. "I wrote to every sporting-goods store I could to tell them the book was coming out," he says. "I had friends who would call a store and say, 'Have you got The Complete Deer Hunt by Joe DeFalco?' In them days, you had to push Joe DeFalco down people's throats. But the week before we came out, every store must have had 10 calls, and when we would walk in they would say, 'Wow, have we been waitin' for you!' "

Joe DeFalco rented space at the sportsman's show in New York City. Through happenstance, the promoters of the show had hired Namath, who knew Joe DeFalco, to make an appearance. "When he saw me there, he came over to the booth," says Joe DeFalco. "He started autographin' books with me, and I got an award for drawin' the biggest crowd of the show. We ran out of books." He had more printed. "We probably blew out legitimately more than a couple hundred thousand copies," Joe DeFalco says. Playworld stores bought 2,500 copies when Joe DeFalco made an appearance, and drew "one of the biggest crowds they ever had. They had a parade for me." A representative of Times Square Stores was there at the time, and as a result, the firm bought 10,000 copies and hired Joe DeFalco to promote guns at its 12 stores. Grosset & Dunlap, the publishers, asked to publish the book, but just before Joe DeFalco sold them the rights, he printed up another 100,000 copies for himself. By this time he had started referring to himself in the third person. "I made Joe DeFalco another person so I could talk about him," Joe DeFalco explains.

He also began promoting himself as the best-known hunter in the country. For several years, in the mid-1970s, Joe DeFalco had his own program, The Outdoorsman, on Long Island cable TV: He would feature athletes and celebrities as guests.

Back at the Adelphi-Calderone, Joe DeFalco is saying, "Outdoor Life Book Club called me 'one of the leadin' authorities in the country on the white-tailed deer,' O.K.?" The book club printed an excerpt from The Complete Deer Hunt in 1969 and says it was "so good that we've brought it out again."

Lipari introduces a magic act—Steve Rodman and Linda. Steve pulls doves out of handkerchiefs and Linda twirls offstage with them. Jack Fontana, a comedian, comes on next. "I hunt," says Fontana. "I got an Italian dog. Ever hear an Italian dog bark? Woofa, woofa."

Joe DeFalco comes back onstage, and with brother Tommy wielding the knife, demonstrates how a deer should be dressed in the field. Joe DeFalco is adamant that a deer be dressed out on the exact spot it was downed. He says the hunter should cut a half-inch hole in the upper belly and then step back to let gas escape. He tells how to remove the intestines, the liver, the heart and the kidneys, and how to cut the windpipe and the esophagus. He says make a cut around the anus and pull firmly on the rectal tube to facilitate drainage of the blood when the deer is hung high.

Joe DeFalco makes a lot of appearances for nothing. "Nobody has ever paid Joe DeFalco a fee for a charity," he says. "If it's for kids, it's for nothin'. I love kids. Kids are not black, Hispanic, Italian. Kids are kids." But if any kid gives Joe DeFalco some lip, he lifts them up against the wall and says, "Shut up, ya little bastid." Joe DeFalco and a couple of Jets helped put a stop to most of the kid pilfering in the Times Square Store in Hempstead several years ago by talking to youngsters in the neighborhood, but he got in trouble when he gave a speech to the Chamber of Commerce and was quoted in Newsday as saying that the store had no problem with kids because it was policy to kick their butts. "Their families don't give 'em discipline," says Joe DeFalco. "I do. I tell 'em to stay straight with sports. I tell 'em about huntin' and fishin' and I take them outdoors. I put on shows. I bring athletes. We go to grammar schools, churches, Little Leagues, you name it."

Onstage, there is much sawing and chopping. Joe DeFalco holds up the liver, the heart and lungs. "Anybody hungry?" he asks. "O.K., Tommy," he says, "take the legs off. O.K., let's talk about glands for a minute, O.K.?" Then it's "Cut the shoulder off. O.K., the youngest kid in the house, bring him up." A man climbs onstage with a year-old boy in his arms. Joe DeFalco gives them some venison. He asks for the oldest man in the house. An 82-year-old with a cane limps onstage. "Let's give him a big round of applause," Joe DeFalco says. "Is everybody having a good time?" It is 10:40 when the show ends, and Joe DeFalco thanks everyone for coming.

In 1979, just after Joe DeFalco had finished making a TV pilot with Catfish Hunter for a hunting series that was to be nationally syndicated, he was riding his motorcycle when a truck hit him and sent him flying 60 feet. "I had $9,000 worth of medical bills," Joe DeFalco says. "I sued, but I lost 'cause a jury thinks that if you're 50 and ridin' a motorcycle you're retarded."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4