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I Had to Tell a Lie to Work on My Hunting TV Show

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John’s Note: When I called to interview Cody Robbins, he said, “Can I call you back, John, in about 2 hours? We’ve just seen a giant mule deer buck, and my friend is about to take him. I’m shooting the video and the pictures.” Robbins is the owner and producer of the TV show, “Live 2 Hunt (www.live2hunt.com) with Cody and Kelsy Robbins.” Many deer hunters have said, “If I had the money and the time I’d have my own TV show.” Others have told friends, “I bet those guys who have the hunting TV shows can’t find and take a buck on public lands.” Yet another group may think, “If those hosts of TV deer-hunting shows would let me hunt where they get to hunt, I could take a lot of deer, too!” This week we’ll learn how true those statements are by talking with Cody Robbins of central Saskatchewan, Canada. So, what’s required to get your own TV show, how do you learn that business, and what’s the best way to get into it? I’ve known, hunted with and interviewed many of the outdoor hunting TV hosts and learned that they’re hard-working people who are engaged in hunting all year long. The story of Cody Robbins, how he’s learned his craft, and how he’s put a TV show on the “Outdoor Channel” is well worth the telling. 

1After Jim Shockey came to my house (see Day 3) and watched 3 hours of video featuring trophy bucks I’d filmed in the wild and saw the video of the 198-inch whitetail, then he asked me to video for him for the next 30 days. While we were in the blind together those 30 days, Jim shared with me his dream of one day having his own hunting TV show on North American big-game hunting on the new American network called the “Outdoor Channel.” We were sitting in the blind together for 10 hours a day for 30 days, and Jim talked me through how he planned to do this television show. I’d shown Jim where I’d filmed the 198-inch whitetail, and Jim went to the farmer who owned the land and got permission to hunt that deer. We hunted that same buck out of the same blind for 30 days. Finally Jim took the buck! I got all the footage of the hunt of Jim taking the huge buck and everything we needed for a TV show. To this day, that’s the largest whitetail buck Jim Shockey ever has taken. His official Boone & Crockett score on that buck after deductions was 191 points. That hunt ended about December 3rd or 4th that year, and Jim shook my hand, loaded up all his camera gear and went home.

About January 5th, Jim called me up and said, “I want to start this TV show that we discussed. You did a good job during white-tailed season, and I want to hire you as my cameraman and editor for this TV show that I’m going to present to the ‘Outdoor Channel.’” He said he wanted me to work full-time for him, 7 days a week, to shoot enough footage to produce this TV show. When Jim asked, “How good are you with computers?” I knew that Jim was going to offer me that job. I also knew I couldn’t screw up the chance of getting the job of a lifetime – shooting video for a hunting show that would be aired in the U.S. So, I answered, “I’m a computer whiz! I took computer classes in high school and have my own computer; and I’ve been doing my own editing. I don’t hesitate to say that I’m good with computers.”

The words rolled off my tongue instinctively, and I knew as soon as I said them that I was lying through my teeth! In the 10th grade, I had a computer-literacy class, and the highest I could score was in the 47th percentile. I failed the class. In the 11th grade, I dropped out of the computer class, and in the 12th grade I never even went to computer class. As soon as I got through lying to Jim about my computer skills, he answered, “Perfect! I’m ordering a brand-new computer for you and an entire editing suite and all the software that goes with it. I’ll send that equipment to your house. Also, I’m sending each of my hunting videos to you by courier. You’ll have my entire video library.” I answered, “Fantastic I can make this show happen.” Jim had a contract signed with the “Outdoor Channel” to produce three complete shows of “Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures” and get them to the “Outdoor Channel” by May 1st that year. I told Jim I could do it all during that call at the first of January.

3I was 19-years old when I hung up the phone, and I started crying my eyes out! I just had told a major, a major lie to my hero, Jim Shockey. When I quit crying, I went over to my parents and told them I didn’t know what to do. I just had lied to Mr. Shockey, and I had no idea of how to even turn on a computer. I’d just told him that I could take his complete video library, create three shows and have them to the “Outdoor Channel” by May 1st that year. I never will forget how my dad looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Is this something you really want?” and I answered, “Yes, siree. I want this more than anything else in life, and this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.” I never will forget what my dad said as he looked me square in the eyes, “Then figure it out. When you get that computer, software and editing suite, take all the manuals, and start reading. You’ll figure it out.”

When that computer, software and editing suite arrived, I dove into those five manuals! Luckily Jim’s son Branlin, who today produces “Jim Shockey UNCHARTED,” (http://outdoorchannel.com/uncharted) was a friend of mine when he was 14 or 15 years old. I didn’t want Jim to know I didn’t know how to install the software; so I got Branlin to help me install the software. I took the computer out of the box, set it up on top of the desk and found a disk that said Install Disk. I knew I didn’t know what to do, but I acted cool like I did. I went to Branlin’s room and asked, “Branlin, do you think you could come with me and help me figure out what to do with this new stuff for the computer?” Branlin answered, “Yeah,” and installed the software. I told him he could help me if he wanted to, but he smiled and walked away.

I learned how to import footage from Jim’s hunts, read the manual and start trying to put together a TV show. You have to remember, at the time I didn’t know what a timeline was, a canvas or any other terms that the computer would ask me for, but I started reading those manuals and went step by step. When I’d get to a place where I didn’t know what I was doing, I’d pull the manual out and study it. Finally, at the end of a month and a half, I’d stumbled my way through enough in the manual to put together a TV show. I delivered the three TV shows I’d edited and produced to Jim before May 1st. Jim presented those shows to the “Outdoor Channel” and got the contract to do, “Jim Shockey’s Outdoor Adventures,” (http://www.jimshockey.com). For 7 years, I was Shockey’s cameraman and producer; but I was also his student – both in television and in hunting.

4After serving a 7-year apprenticeship, not only had I learned how to produce a TV show and how to find big deer, but I’d also met a large number of people in the outdoor industry who would help me in the future to create and market my own TV show. I call those 7 years, “My 7-Year Master’s Degree at Jim Shockey’s University.” Jim Shockey is probably one of the best hunters I’ll ever hunt with in my lifetime. His instincts, his desire to hunt and his drive to not only take trophy animals but to produce great outdoor television are absolutely off the charts. In my opinion, Jim’s a super human when it comes to hunting. I wasn’t only working for my hero, I was able to be a part of one of the highest-rated outdoor-hunting shows on television.

Then in 2008, I started my own television show, something Jim and I had been talking for about 3 years. I had told him I didn’t want to only be a cameraman, but I wanted to be the hunter and have my own show. A year after I went out on my own, Jim started a second show called “Jim Shockey’s The Professionals,” (http://www.jimshockey.com), and I was really excited to see some of the concepts Jim and I had talked about incorporated in that show.

To get John E. Phillips’ eBooks and print books on hunting deer, including his newest deer-hunting book, “Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big Bucks,” available at http://amzn.to/2bYwYOK/, click on these books to learn more, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,”PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” “How to Take Monster Bucks,” “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” and “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows,” or to prepare venison, “Deer & Fixings.” Or, go to www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer. You also can find John’s books on Nook at www.barnesandnoble.com.

For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book, “How to Prepare Venison Jerky: The Ultimate Snack Food,” from https://johninthewild.com/fee-books.

Next: Meet Kelsey Robbins – a City Girl Who’s Learned to Love Hunting

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