Jared Bruno, Matt Steele, and brothers Lance and Duell Thompson are a team of guys who each claim a spot on the thin blue line, proudly serving their western Pennsylvania communities as law enforcement officers. They're the kind of guys you want on the job, but it's their off-duty work that's been gaining the attention of some outdoor industry giants. In the woods surrounding western Pennsylvania, each member of Blueline Bowhunters spent their childhood learning the area's strong hunting tradition from their Dads. Father and son hunts still make the calendar every year, but it's as a team that Blueline faces a common challenge that helps them escape the battles they share when they're on the clock. Jared and Lance are almost as skilled with cameras as they are with firearms and bows. In 2017, they grouped up and began documenting their hunts. Their talent and drive have already landed them work with some of the greatest brands in archery and they're only getting started.
You all work odd and long hours. How are you able to fit adventure into your schedules?
Lance: You're right about the long hours! And we all work completely different schedules. On top of that, a couple of us are running our own businesses, and we've all got families who mean the world to us. In the end, I guess it's not a question of "how". We're kind of desperate to get out there. Not just because we're passionate about the outdoors, but also because we share the burden that comes with serving as a LEO. All four of us work in roles that require dealing with members of our community while they're at their lowest point. Blueline Bowhunters gives us something to celebrate together, and a welcome topic of conversation while we're sitting around the fire.
What's the toughest day you guys have had in the woods?
Jared: Man, we've had plenty of tough days. One of our worst in the field was on a hunt in New Brunswick, Canada. The weather started off at 70 degrees with no rain in the forecast. We packed and prepared for an afternoon hunt based on the information available. As soon as we were dropped off in the middle of a one-million acre tract of wilderness, a storm began to blow in. With almost zero warning, the trees were bending from high winds, rain was coming in sideways, and the temp dropped to below 50. The storm lasted for hours and we had nothing more than light jackets to protect us from it. We were completely soaked and shivering under a pine tree when our radio started to crackle with the sound of our guide's voice. An hour or so later, we saw the headlights of his truck coming down the road and that's still one of the happiest moments of my life.
Matt: You know, as bad as our day in New Brunswick was, we've had plenty like it. That's what you sign up for as an outdoorsman. In a way, it's why you sign up. Gritting it through a challenging day in the woods is much more rewarding than a walk in the park. And each trip out, we get better and better at preparing so we're more equipped to come out on top, hopefully with at least one dry layer of clothing. We no longer rely on the forecast when creating a packing list, and instead plan and pack for the worst. We've also learned that an investment in great gear pays off in a hurry.
Police work requires an intense focus on preparation. How do you guys prepare for a hunt, and which one of you typically organizes it all?
Jared: We all get so excited to hunt together that we start packing and prepping months in advance. It's really half the fun. Whether we succeeded or failed on previous hunts, we always gained intel. Each improvement to our preparation is a small victory, and they all add up. We're constantly on a group text together, and that's how we keep organized throughout the planning phase. I tend to be the person who gets the chatter started since Matt and Lance both have kids, and Duell is a bachelor and has better things to do. As we get closer and closer to launch, our phones start heating up from all the back and forth.
What are some items that always ride under your DiamondBacks?
Duell: I'm on our regional SWAT team which requires me to be ready for anything at any time, so I'm hauling my tactical gear 365 days a year. Jared's been remodeling his house for the last few years and his truck looks like it belongs to a contractor. His bed is full of tools, and he's almost always carrying building materials on top of his cover. Whatever tools and gear we've got in our trucks, you can be sure we found room for some fishing rods and our archery equipment.
Lance: Over the years, I've learned how important adaptability is. Being able to quickly move and change plans is a game changer and that's the case whether on-duty, on a wrestling mat, or on a hunt. The same is also true of our vehicles, and especially our DiamondBacks. They're adaptable to any adventure, situation, or need, and we feel ready for anything as a result.