HomeOutdoorsChuck Yeager Dies at 97: The Record-Breaking Pilot Was Also a Legendary Sportsman

Chuck Yeager Dies at 97: The Record-Breaking Pilot Was Also a Legendary Sportsman

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by US Air Force/US Air Force/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

Chuck Yeager, astronaut and famed test pilot who was the first person to ever break the sound barrier, has died. He was 97 years old.

His wife, Victoria D’Angelo, broke the news via his official Twitter account.

Chuck Yeager Was a Lifelong Hunter and Fisher

Yeager’s death-defying exploits in the cockpit are things of legend, but long before he was in the air he was traipsing through the backwoods of West Virginia. There he hunted and fished to feed his family and found a love of the outdoors.

He once told legendary outdoor writer Jim Zumbo that he would prefer to hunt than fly. In fact, he went hunting the day he set a world record by reaching 1,600 miles per hour in his X-1A. He got up at dawn and went goose hunting before the flight, Time said. His family ate the goose for dinner that night.

He found a way to combine his two loves, though. In fact, Chicago Tribune noted in 1985 that he was known for shooting antelope with a fighter plane. A local Wyoming news site also mentions the fighter plane hunting feat. Attendees of the Lander One Shot Antelope Hunt in Fremont County are sure to remember the moment. He stunned attendees with his nearly unbelievable stories about his mid-air antelope hunts while stationed at Casper Air Station. A legend- and an outdoorsman- through and through.

Following the release of his autobiography in 1985, he ignored interview requests and media glorification, Los Angeles Times reports. Yeager wasn’t in front of a camera or microphone following the release. No, he was in the High Sierra backpacking and trout fishing.

He continued to hunt and fish late into his life. At 87, he went on safari in South Africa. There he brought down a blue wildebeest, capered hartebeest, and ram springbok. All with single shots, according to his guide Joe da Silva, who blogged about the experience.

“I was quite frankly astounded at (Yeager’s) control, judgment and reflexes. “I’ve done this before … with planes!” was his response at my astonishment,” da Silva wrote.

Zumbo wrote about an elk hunt he took with Yeager some years ago. After a long day trudging through Colorado mountain snow, the men settled down by the campfire. Of course, we know taking a seat around the campfire is just the beginning of any story of strong bonds or life lessons. While sitting by that fire, Yeager explained his love of the outdoors.

“One day, we were sitting in elk camp, and a stiff breeze blew yellow aspen leaves off a tree,” Zumbo wrote. “Chuck pointed them out, remarking how lovely they were as they gently floated to the ground.

“That’s what hunting is all about,” he said. “Everything in the woods is beautiful.” We can’t agree more. This legend may be the absolute definition of an Outsider. Chuck Yeager gets it.

Yeager’s wife and four adult children survive him. Both of his sons are also avid outdoorsmen.