Vinatieri kicked them for the Colts, now hunts for the adventure

NASHVILLE, TENN. — No one should be surprised that Adam Vinatieri can shoot straight after scoring an all-time-most 2,673 NFL points by kicking straight.

The former New England Patriot and Indianapolis Colt — who still maintains an Indiana home — was on four Super Bowl championship teams during his 24 seasons in the league, but his passion for hunting predates his allegiance to football.

Growing up in South Dakota, Vinatieri, who last kicked for Indianapolis in 2019 and is now 50, was raised in a hunting family — on both sides — and he and siblings hunted whitetail deer in the Black Hills and pursued ducks and pheasant with uncles.

And yes, the kicker-hunter does see similarities between his one-time job in football and his hunting avocation, including concentration, aiming and dealing with the pressure of circumstances.

Practicing the disciplines of shooting and kicking lead to the culmination of performing the task at the key moment when confidence takes control, he said.

“You’ve got the pressure of your heart rate pounding and still being able to execute,” Vinatieri said. “The adrenaline. Then your body takes over.”

Right now, Vinatieri is living out a fresher dream, though one he had in mind for many years. After retiring from pro football, he established his own hunting operation in Fulton, Missouri, called Record Breaking Ranch.

Advertising his place and its opportunities to hunters brought Vinatieri to the recent Safari Club International convention held for the first time in Nashville. The browsers knew who he was, and he didn’t try to downplay his football background and blended it with his hunting heritage.

Each end of Vinatieri’s large booth was bookended by him featured in a blow-up photo in a Patriots uniform, and a counter was accented by a basket of blue plastic giveaway footballs with his name on them. One older gentleman walked up, grabbed a football, looked up and said to no one in particular, “It’s for my grandson.”

A handful of New Hampshire conventiongoers stopped by, excited just to meet Vinatieri. Then they began reminiscing about his famous January 2002 playoff game 45-yard field goal in a blizzard to send the contest with the Oakland Raiders into overtime before he won it with a 23-yarder. One of the guys said he was at Foxboro Stadium for that victory that led to the Patriots’ first Super Bowl title.

Not that Vinatieri was going to forget that game, either, but he kicked a record 599 of them in regular-season play and won 12 games in overtime with his foot, so there are crowds of good football memories. In his years with the Colts, 11 times Vinatieri scored more than 100 points in a season.

Since Vinatieri developed from a humble kicking background at South Dakota State and honed his boots during a season with the little-remembered Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe, his tremendous success was not forecast.

The 6-foot, 212-pound Vinatieri, who does not have the string-bean look of many kickers, will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2025. He said he maintains good relations with both the Patriots and the Colts, rooting for both clubs to do well. When they go head-to-head, Vinatieri said, “That’s a bit tricky” in terms of choosing a personal favorite.

When Vinatieri was young, in junior high and high school, and then college, he faced a serious time management problem. Hunting season is in the fall in most places, and so is football season.

“You couldn’t be missing games,” Vinatieri said of his public school days, so he crammed in more late-season hunting and hunted some Sundays on grandparents’ farms. In college, he said he hunted in late afternoons following practice before the sun went down. “I tried to get a bird or two.”

Vinatieri played in the NFL about as long as anyone else ever, though some believed he might kick forever. He stepped away after undergoing three knee operations.

“I gave ‘er hell as long as I could,” Vinatieri said.

In the brochure advertising hunts on his Missouri property, primarily for elk and whitetail deer but also some exotic species, such as red stag, Vinatieri proclaimed, “I have three passions in life — family, football and hunting.” He credits the football career with allowing him the lifestyle he has now, which he said is operating “a premier hunting ranch.”

Record Breaking Ranch has a 10,000-square-foot lodge. The price, $6,500 and up (depending on whitetail score) or $8,000 and up (depending on elk score), covers sleeping accommodations, guide fees, meals, field dressing and caping. It costs extra to be guided by Vinatieri himself.

“I knew I loved going out hunting, but I wanted to give others the opportunity,” Vinatieri said.

Vinatieri has expanded his hunting horizons since retiring from football. He said he has been to Africa seven or eight times, gone to Alaska and Argentina. He has bagged a lion in Africa but hasn’t hunted elephants. Nor has he hunted polar bears, which can be hunted in Canada, but under international rulings, their hides and mounts cannot be taken into the United States.

These days, Vinatieri also hunts with his sons. He is very focused on the management of the Missouri place and is hands-on with food plots and raising animals that will be healthy and trophy-sized for what he calls “businessman” hunters who might not be able to afford time away from jobs or to take long trips.

“There is a niche for the gentleman hunter,” Vinatieri said, “who doesn’t have time to work the land, who doesn’t have time for an African safari, but would like to have a cool drink and good food at the end of the day.”

For Vinatieri, providing high-class experiences is one thing, and he enjoys taking such trips, but he never forgets his own hunting roots taking him back to the fundamentals and the pleasures of just being out with family.

“I like being outside,” Vinatieri said. “I love being in nature.”

Adam Vinatieri doesn’t even mind the before-dawn cold in the air. They called him “Iceman” when he was kicking, so it just could be he was preordained to kick that legendary field goal in the snow for the Patriots.