“Wild Outdoors” Jay Gregory on Bowhunting with his family
Editor’s Note: Jay Gregory is the host of the “Wild Outdoors” TV show that airs on the Outdoor Channel several days each week. The show, now in its 19th year, is all about bowhunting, primarily for whitetails, elk, antelope and mule deer and then turkeys in the spring. All of his hunts are fair chase, and his family hunts with him, including his wife Tammi and his 13-year-old son Wyatt.
Question: Jay, you’re living every bowhunter’s dream. You and your family are traveling all over the country bowhunting, producing TV shows and speaking at seminars and bowhunting events. How did you get started, and why did you begin doing a TV show?
Gregory: Like most other outdoor people, my bowhunting and videoing started out as a hobby. I began filming hunts back in the late 1980s. A friend and I just started shooting videos of our hunts and playing with it. We really liked to hunt and got into shooting a video camera. We were making videos just for our own entertainment at first.
As luck would have it, I met Mark Drury, the creator of M.A.D. Calls, back then. At that time, the video market was really hot. Mark and Terry Drury had formed their Drury Productions Company, were videoing their turkey hunts and were talking about selling videotapes of their deer hunts. Mark Drury hired me to work for him, and I started shooting video for him. We were lucky enough to take some really-nice deer on camera. I did several productions with Mark over 2-3 years, and I found-out that there was a local TV show that was looking for someone to do an outdoor show. So, I submitted some videos that we had shot and told them that I’d like to be their local outdoor TV host. I told them about the experience I had, I showed them the videos that we had already shot, and I got the job. I started in a very-small market back then. That TV station was an ABC affiliate, and we did that local show for several years. Then we heard about a new channel coming-out on satellite TV – the Outdoor Channel. The Outdoor Channel was just starting out, and so were we. Satellite TV was new, and not many people had it then. We submitted a pilot show to the Outdoor Channel, which liked our show and took it. Today we’re the longest-running TV show on the Outdoor Channel.
Question: So, Mark Drury was more or less your mentor. He introduced you to filming videos, and then did he introduce you to TV?
Gregory: Well, kind of, but not really. Mark was my mentor and is still a very-close friend. He did hire me and teach me a lot about videos. But I started a TV show before Mark did. You’ve got to remember, way back then there weren’t that many outdoor TV shows, and everyone was trying to make hunting videos and sell them. Mark helped teach me the video business. Now TV is bigger than videos and DVDs, and Mark and I still talk a lot, compare notes and help each other. Mark is such a good friend. He was so sold on PSE, how good their products were, and how well their bows performed that he more or less twisted my arm to try the PSE products and join the PSE family. I’ll be forever grateful that he did.
You’re right – my family and I are living a bowhunter’s dream that back in the 1980s wasn’t even a possible dream or an idea out of which I could make a dream. My family has been extremely fortunate, and we’re so glad that we have the job we do and have come on board as part of the PSE family. Everyone in my family and all the members of our crew shoot PSE bows. If we didn’t believe in the PSE products, company and people, we wouldn’t have joined PSE’s team. What’s more important is that if the PSE bows didn’t help us take deer the way we want to take deer, we couldn’t have used them. Not only have we found the PSE bows to be great bows, they have surpassed our expectations. Too, you can’t beat the folks like Pete Shepley, Blake Shelby and the other members of the PSE company.
Question: Jay, how did you decide to bring your wife Tammi and your son Wyatt into your TV show and make them an integral part of your TV production company?
Gregory: When Tammi and I first started doing the show, we didn’t have any children. I’ve just introduced them to the outdoors and to archery. Really and truly, Tammi and Wyatt more or less just evolved into the show. What has happened from the time we’ve started is that Tammi and Wyatt both have really developed a love and a passion for bowhunting. If I were to pass away tomorrow, I feel sure they’d both keep on shooting PSE bows and hunting white-tailed deer. Tammi really loves being outdoors hunting and filming. I believe her love of the outdoors comes through in our TV shows.
The good news is, Tammi has really progressed as a bowhunter since she first started. The bad news is, when Tammi first started learning to hunt and shoot a bow, all of her mistakes were caught by the watchful eye of the video camera and were shown on our TV shows back in those early days. Every mistake she’s ever made bowhunting from day one has been shown on TV. I don’t really think that’s been a bad thing, because people have been able to see Tammi progress as a bowhunter from the beginning until today. Now that she’s an accomplished bowhunter, the people who have been watching “Wild Outdoors” know that Tammi is for real. If I had to do it all over again, in retrospect, I probably wouldn’t have shown as many of Tammi’s bowhunting mistakes as I did. At the time, we were shooting the shows, we felt like the viewers seeing and understanding that we’re real people, and we’re just like them was important. As a beginner, Tammi made all the mistakes that they’d made or that they would make. I believed that gave credibility both to Tammi and to “Wild Outdoors.”
Question: You’ve done something right to first of all get Tammi to start shooting archery with you in the backyard, next start bowhunting with you and then become part of your TV show. What do you think you’ve done right, and what advice do you have for other hunters who want to get their families to hunt with them?
Gregory: The whole process starts with introducing your wife to archery and just letting her shoot in the backyard. Make shooting in the backyard fun for her. Everyone wants to succeed, and no-one enjoys being criticized. So, if you make shooting the bow in the backyard fun for her, she’ll want to come out and shoot every time you do. That’s how Tammi and I got started. We just shot targets in the backyard. Then she started going with me in the evenings when I’d ride-around and look for deer. She really enjoyed the time we spent together and looking for big bucks.
Back in those days, trail cameras were just coming to the market. She went with me to put-out trail cameras and began to look at the pictures they were producing. Before long, Tammi said, “Maybe I’ll try this bowhunting.” So the first year that she and I hunted together, I just tried to get her a shot at a doe. After she took her first doe, then she wanted to take a buck. We worked on that. Then after she’d taken several bucks, she wanted to take an older-age-class buck. Tammi went through the same progression that I did to learn to be an archer first, a bowhunter next, a better and better bowhunter and then become more selective in the animals that she and I took. When I first started bowhunting, I had to learn the sport by myself, because I didn’t have anyone to teach me. But since Tammi started, I’ve had a lot of fun sharing what I’ve learned with her and seeing her become successful. Tammi’s learning to be a bowhunter has been a long process, but it’s been fun for both of us through the years.
I think some keys that I could suggest include, get your wife a nice PSE bow first. If she learns to shoot the bow but never wants to be a bowhunter, then let her know that’s okay. I think once a wife sees all the different aspects of hunting, besides just the bow, I think you’ll have a lot of luck in getting your spouse to participate in archery as well as going bowhunting with you. I think the real key here is to not try to rush your wife when she’s learning to shoot the bow or rush her into the sport of bowhunting. I never rushed Tammi, but instead waited on her to push me to teach her what she wanted to know in every phase of the learning process of being an archer and then a bowhunter.
Question: After your wife became your bowhunting partner and a business partner in your TV show “Wild Outdoors,” the two of you had your son, Wyatt. How did you get Wyatt into archery and bowhunting?
Gregory: Wyatt’s my buddy. I have pictures of him in a backpack on my back going with me into the woods to put-out and check trail cameras. He goes with me everywhere I go and does everything I do. If I go to the golf course, he’s right there with me. If I’m scouting for deer, he’s tagging along. As he got older, I could tell that he was really going to like becoming a bowhunter. I think children are products of their environments, and Wyatt has definitely been a product of the outdoors, archery and bowhunting.
But, Wyatt’s not the end of the story. We have a little girl now named Whitly. She’ll be 3-years old in February 2011. We have an archery range in our basement, and all of us shoot there all the time. Within the last few weeks, we got Whitly a little bow that I wasn’t sure she could even draw. She’s down at the range with us all the time, saying, “Daddy, help me. I want to shoot my bow.” So she’s getting the bowhunting fever in her blood already, and I have no doubts that I’ll have another bowhunting partner as soon as she’s big enough to pull a big-person bow and shoot accurately.
Question: So, you believe that the best way to start youngsters in bowhunting is to not start them off in bowhunting, but rather have them become your buddy and spend time with them. Then when they see you shooting a bow, they’ll want to shoot too. When they watch you checking trail cameras, they want to go too. As they get older, when they go to woods with you when you hunt, becoming a bowhunter is a natural progression. Right?
Gregory: That’s exactly right. Remember, these children are yours. They’re going to want to do whatever you do. But don’t force archery or bowhunting on them. If they want to learn to shoot bows, then teach them. If they don’t, that’s fine. You can let them watch and see how much you enjoy shooting your bow. They may not want to do everything you do, but if they show interests in shooting bows, then do everything you can to make sure they have satisfying experiences. Make archery fun, and praise the child often.
Question: Does your entire family hunt turkeys with bows?
Gregory: Yes, we do, and we’ve been very successful. I think turkey hunting with a bow is a vastly-overrated sport. By that I mean many people think taking a turkey with a bow is extremely difficult. But it’s not if you have the right equipment. Of course, the right equipment starts with a PSE bow that fits you, and that you’re comfortable shooting. But then if you’ve got a blind – we use Double Bull blinds – some good decoys, and you know how to call turkeys, I believe that taking a turkey with a bow is much easier than taking a turkey with a shotgun. One of the big advantages of using a blind is that you’re able to set-up and call in many-different places that you can’t set-up without a blind, such as in open fields or any type of open terrain.
The other advantage that a blind and turkey decoys give a turkey hunter is that we’re taking most of our turkeys with our bows at less than 10 yards. We feel so confident about our ability to take turkeys with bows that we’re making a rule this spring that we don’t want our hunters to take anything but head and neck shots. We’re trying not to shoot turkeys in their bodies this year. Taking a shot at the head and neck of a turkey sounds like a really-difficult task, and it is if the turkey is at 20, 30, 40 or 50 yards. However, when you’ve got that turkey within 10 yards or less, he’s standing dead still, and you’ve got a broadside shot at his head and neck, that’s really not that difficult of a shot. To prove this to yourself, get a turkey-head target, and practice shooting that turkey head at 5, 8 and 10 yards. You should be able to hit the kill zone nearly every time, if not every time, you shoot.
Question: What broadhead are you shooting for turkey hunting?
Gregory: We’ll be shooting the same broadhead that we use to shoot deer – the two-bladed Rage broadhead.
Question: What most people don’t realize is for every deer you take on camera, you probably have an opportunity to take several other deer that you don’t shoot, since the cameraman can’t get the footage that you’ve come to get. How many really-nice bucks come-in that you don’t shoot, because you can’t get the footage and make the show that you want to create?
Gregory: That scenario does happen, but it probably doesn’t happen as many times as you may think. The philosophy we’ve adopted when we go to a location to try to get a show is set-up the shooter and the cameraman as the most-important parts of the trip. We’ve decided that the camera work comes first. Therefore, we won’t set-up in an area where we know we may be able to take a big deer, unless we know that the cameraman can get the footage he needs to produce a great show. Very-few times have we had to let a really-nice buck walk-off, because the cameraman couldn’t get the footage. I really believe that one of the most-critical elements in getting good footage for a TV show is setting-up so that when the animal comes in, the hunter will be able to get the shot, and the cameraman will get the footage. We have had to let deer walk-off, because the shot angles haven’t been right, but very-few times have the camera or the cameraman prevent us from taking a nice buck with a bow.
When you’re filming hunts, you have to look at the hunting environment differently than when you’re just bowhunting. Our first consideration is finding a tree that’s big enough for two tree stands and being able to place those two tree stands, so that the cameraman can get the shots he needs, and the bowhunter can get the shot he wants to take. We have to make sure we have enough cover around us, so the hunter and the cameraman don’t look like two raisins stuck on a toothpick. If we find a place to take a deer but can’t have the hunter and the cameraman in the same tree and well-hidden, we won’t set-up at that spot. A hunt is no good for us if we can’t capture the hunt on film.
Question: What is on your list now of animals you want to take with your PSE bow?
Gregory: I want to take a grizzly bear or a coastal brown bear with my bow on camera. I realize this is a dangerous hunt, but that’s something I want to do. My other dream hunt is to take a moose with my bow. We major on whitetail hunting, because that’s what most bowhunters enjoy. I also enjoy hunting antelope, elk and mule deer. But the brown bear and the moose just really get me excited. And now that I’m with PSE and have the equipment that I feel confident can make those dreams come true, I can hardly wait for these two hunts to happen.
Question: Jay, you don’t do this alone, you have a team of people videoing hunts and providing footage for you, Tammi and Wyatt to produce as many shows as you do so that “Wild Outdoors” can run 52 weeks a year on the Outdoor Channel. Will your entire team be shooting PSE this year and become part of the PSE family?
Gregory: Yes, they will. We have 14 people who hunt for and with us, and they’ll all be shooting PSE bows this year.
Question: What’s the future for you, your family, your TV show and your relationship with PSE?
Gregory: We all hope we can continue what we’re doing. But the industry is changing by leaps and bounds every year. We’re learning more and better ways to communicate the message of the outdoors as new technology comes to our industry. So, we have to make sure that we’re changing with the times. For instance, when we first got into shooting videos, making and producing hunting videos was one of the new ways of communicating the outdoors experience. Next, television production ushered-in a new day and a new wave of TV hosts, mainly on a local level. Then the Outdoor Channel opened its doors to the outdoor industry. You have to remember, at that time, satellite TV and a channel devoted strictly to outdoor sports was unheard of, so we evolved into that means of communication. We don’t know what technological changes will influence the outdoor industry in the future. But we do know that we plan to be part of those changes.
The bowhunting industry has been through many changes, too. Remember when the stick bow was the only bow? Next there was the recurve, then the compound bow, and next the wheel bows, cam bows and the reintroduction of the crossbows. So, not only will the way my family and I communicate the outdoors experience change in the future, more than likely we’ll see changes and new technology impacting the sport of bowhunting like we’ve seen over the years with the improvements PSE has made throughout its offering of bows. My family and I will try to keep our show as new and up-to-date as we can.
However, we realize that unless we have good hunts, all the fancy graphics, sounds, bells and whistles that we can add to our production won’t matter. The real key to a great outdoor show is to have great hunts each year. We know that we have to put the time in and spend the time on the road to get that really-good footage that the outdoorsmen of today want to see. Our show is on 52 weeks a year and has been for almost two decades. We’ve been able to get great footage year after year, because bowhunting is what we love to do. We love putting-in the time that’s required to get those hunts to share with everyone. As far as the future for us, I don’t see us slowing-down at all. Now that we’ve got Wyatt growing-up and a great staff of people to work with, and our long-term relationship with PSE, I foresee that our show and our hunting and our ability to communicate the outdoors, especially bowhunting, will be better in the future than it has been in the past. As far as PSE goes, every year the company makes better and better bows, and allows us to have better equipment than we’ve ever had previously. So as far as our future with PSE, it’s great now, and I expect it to be even better in the future.
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