Behind the Scenes at an Outdoor Television Show

Through blurry eyes I could see that my roommate and newest friend, Josh Hill was already awake. I'm certain that Josh is the hardest working fella in outdoor television and for good reason, he's the award winning cameraman for ScentBlocker's Most Wanted on the Outdoor Channel. I had a unique opportunity to hunt in African with the crews from ScentBlocker Most Wanted as well as ScentBlocker's The Chase with Leigh and Travis. The African hunt was certainly the trip of my lifetime, and I'll never forget every detail of it. What I learned about outdoor television gave me a whole new appreciation for what it takes to produce this entertaining product.

6S4W0788 The hardest working man in outdoor TV- Josh Hill takes a break from the action to have a little fun and get footage of me taking pictures.

 

If a survey of hunters were taken across the nation, I'm willing to bet that most would admit they'd like to have their own outdoor television show. Most people I talk to think that being an outdoor personality means “... you get to hunt for a living..., all sorts of free gear and hunts, on the best spots...” I now realize that although there are fringe benefits to every job, all of these assumptions about hunting on TV are simply not true.

 

“It costs me a lot of money each week to keep this show running...” I was speaking to Outdoor television veteran, Bob Richardson, host of Most Wanted and also Outdoors in the Heartland. Bob and partner Larry Woodward own Heartland Productions, and are certain anomalies in the outdoor industry. For the last twenty years Bob and Larry have somehow managed to squeak out a living making Outdoor TV! On average, most outdoor television shows are on and off in three years, so successfully lasting twenty is amazing. “I gotta pay Josh (cameraman) and Patrick (editor) as well as Larry and my salaries. Plus, we have to pay for travel, hunts, equipment, food, etc... man I could go on and on...” Well- there went the ideal that these guys hunted for free!

6S4W0695 Leigh taking a few practice shots before her first African hunt while Travis patiently offers some last minute shooting tips. The Creekbaums really worked well together.

 

Leigh and Travis take a bit of a different approach to producing their show. They both have “real” jobs as financial advisers hailing from Birmingham, Alabama and their show airs full time on The Sportsman Channel. A wonderfully talented digital artist, Tyler Krampe from St. Louis takes all the footage the Creekbaums come up with and produces their show. With their son Gray keeping them rather busy, it's a wonder they have time to hunt at all- let alone create a show! They do have camermen, but did not bring any to Africa. Leigh and Travis wanted the African adventure to be a bit more personal for them and constantly worked as a team, filming each other. Travis does most of the technical work in the mornings and evenings. The first night we were in camp Travis shot a huge Kudu bull with Leigh behind the camera, but after that point, while Leigh (at least in Africa) did a majority of the hunting. One day Leigh wasn't feeling well, but it didn't slow Travis down, he simply set up the equipment and filmed himself!

 

Stateside, when Leigh and Travis go on a hunt, they fire up the giant bus and bring the whole family along! Travis shared that his bus “gets about 4-5 miles per gallon”.

 

Wow I said, “that must get expensive.”

 

“Yes... it is. But well worth it.” With the bus, the Creekbaums bring son Gray and Travis' mom along on their adventures! Leigh and Travis have a very unique story about how they got involved in the outdoor industry. Check out the ScentBlocker website to learn more about how God brought them to where they are now. Trust me- it's worth reading. http://www.robinsonoutdoors.com/shop/news/faith-tv-show/

6S4W0558 Bob and Nicole talking strategy at the airport while Josh documents it all

 

The average day on a hunt begins very early, with Josh making sure all batteries are charged, all footage is downloaded, and everything's packed up to go at a moment's notice. The cameraman is the backbone of the operation, but ironically enough, everyone almost forgets that he's there. A welcomed member to any hunting camp, Josh is treated like one of the guys, but when it's time to film, everyone just ignores him as he gathers precious video. From what I noticed, Josh films everything! He even had our room adequately covered with GoPro's when I pulled back my sheets one night to discover a very long snake warming my bed! I felt like one of the team after my initiation, and now look back with laughs. Like I said- Josh films everything.

 

While on the hunt, it's all business. Everyone is in the industry because they love hunting, and want to have fun, but the teams from Most Wanted and The Chase also realize the importance of taking things seriously. A lot of stars need to align to clearly get a kill on film, so when the right animal comes close, everyone goes into production mode. The cameraman and hunter need to be in constant communication, making sure the footage is clear and that the kill can be captured on film. Often, as I learned when I was asked to film Nicole McClain for Most Wanted, either the cameraman or the hunter can't see the animal. One particular impala gave Nicole and I fits- but he eventually wandered back, and this time we could both simultaneously see him! The rest is outdoor video history! (stay tuned next season to Most Wanted to see my filming debut)

 

Once the kill footage is gathered, it's time to get to work! “B Roll” material is everything that helps to tell the whole story and hasn't been documented yet, like interviews and such. This is where more traveling footage is filmed, setting up stands, strategy sessions, scouting, etc... Everything that happens in the great outdoors needs to be documented. One thing I'll always remember are the evening fireside interviews. Josh and Bob set up one night next to a the outdoor fireplace and they'd interview everyone about the days hunt. One particular evening I was paying attention as Nicole McClain was being interviewed about her recent success. It was hard to hear, because everyone on the inside was having a wonderful time relaxing and reminiscing on the day's adventures. Not everyone on our trip was involved with the TV shows, so they had no intention of being quiet. Bob understood and did his best to gather the interview footage he needed while making sure everyone was still having fun. I even had a chance to do an interview- and although I was being completely serious with my recommendation that “people who get motion sickness shouldn't watch my footage” Bob and Josh thought it was hilarious and were stifling laughs off camera.

6S4W3250 Nicole's fireside interview. Josh was filming while Bob asked starter questions.

 

When the crews aren't on the road hunting, it's time for business. Partnerships need to be arranged and relationships need to be maintained. Store appearances, speaking events, and charitable activities occupy most of the hosts free time. And then of course everyone has a family as well. I know when we went to Africa, Larry had to cut a family vacation on the Gulf short to catch our flight to Johannesburg. He was sad that he had to leave early, but glad everyone else got to enjoy the rest of their time together. Josh spent the two weeks trying to call his new bride. Barely married two months, he had a hard time making contact with her I could tell he missed his wife terribly, and couldn't wait to get back home.

 

All things considered, I had a wonderful time in Africa! I can't wait to get back to the Dark Continent. I gained a whole new appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes at a outdoor television show and my general conclusion is this- it's a lot of work. I want to close with some words that Bob shared with me. “It's getting harder and harder... these days there are over 200 outdoor television shows. Thank God we have loyal partners who have been with us through thick and thin. I honestly don't know how anyone could break into this industry and start a TV show nowadays.”

 

Travis added, “If we didn’t love doing this, we wouldn't do it. There's not a lot of money left over, and it's a huge commitment. Without our bus, and the fact that our family can come along, The Chase wouldn't exist.”

 

To see the final product of all this hard work and dedication, be sure to check out ScentBlocker's The Chase with Leigh and Travis on The Sportsman Channel. For their schedule and more info, please visit http://www.thechaselt.com.

 

To watch ScentBlocker's Most Wanted, and maybe catch a peek of my footage and interview, or learn more about the guys, be sure to check out their schedule on The Outdoor Channel and Fox Sports Midwest at scentblockermostwanted.com.

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