Described as the greatest outdoor TV producer is history, Chris Dorsey is a former wildlife biologist, author of many outdoor books, past Editor-in-Chief for Ducks Unlimited and Sports Afield magazines with works appearing not only in most outdoor magazines but in Newsweek, National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. Having produced more than 2,000 episodes across 55 series, he’s hunted and fished on 5 continents, taking all 29 North American big game species, Africa’s Deadly 7 and all spiral horns. But he’s an ardent duck hunter, too, and one helluva great storyteller. His most recent achievement is the epic IMAX film, Wings Over Water.
The Steven Spielberg of the Outdoor Industry
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere under SCI. And today’s guest is among the world’s most traveled sportsmen, having traveled and hunted and fished on five continents. He’s served on board leadership and advisory roles, numerous conservation sporting advocacy groups, he’s a biologist. He’s the author of six books on outdoor subjects. Past Editor in Chief of both Sports Afield and Ducks Unlimited magazines. His works appeared throughout the outdoor industry in the English speaking world as well as National Geographic, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and Robb Report. I know he writes for Forbes. He’s been called the “Brand Father” of outdoor television. Having produced more than 2000 episodes, you’ve seen them, I promise you, across 55 series with the largest brands in the outdoors. He’s hosted more than 350 episodes. Has taken all 29 North American big game species, all of Africa’s deadly seven, the Turkey World Slam, Spiral Horn of Africa, hunted and fished on five continents. And on top of all that he’s a duck hunter. Hell of a good guy. Chris, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to be here. I think of you, Chris, as the Steven Spielberg of the outdoor industry. Is that a fair description?
Chris Dorsey: Well, I think as much as anything, I’ve just been trying to avoid honest work for a long, long time. And as a recovering magazine editor, it’s what else can you do? So that’s what I’ve been trying to figure out for about 20 years. But right now we’re just having fun.
Ramsey Russell: Where did you grow up? What is your background in hunting and fishing?
Chris Dorsey: I grew up in a small farm outside of Madison, Wisconsin, southern Wisconsin. So our critters were basically white tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, we had pheasants, we had a few grouse, not a lot of grouse in that particular area, some Hungarian partridge. And I made the most of those opportunities in the area.
Ramsey Russell: Did you got a degree in Wildlife Management?
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, I’ve got an English degree and a Wildlife Natural Resources degree. So what do you do with that? You know, get into media? I guess that’s a yeah. Anyway.
Ramsey Russell: When you were getting those two degrees, did you see yourself as becoming involved in media in the outdoor industry on that side or did you see yourself more being a wildlife biologist?
Chris Dorsey: You know, I actually started writing for national magazines, Field and Stream, Glenn Sapir, one of the old editors of Field and Stream magazine bought one of my articles, I think it was a freshman at Stevens Point at the time and that was kind of a big deal, for a freshman to sell a piece to Field and Stream magazine. Then I ended up writing a column for the Wisconsin State Journal when I was a junior and the State Journal in Wisconsin was the second biggest newspaper in the state. So that was kind of fun and I just kind of saw this thing evolve into, alright, there’s not a lot of people that can write pretty well, but also have sort of a biology background and natural resources background, really a grounding if you will, of the natural sciences in the natural world. So that was kind of my, you know, I think there’s a little bit of a niche here. Maybe I can exploit that. And that’s kind of what happened just very organically. It was not really a plan. It was just again, I enjoyed it. I had a little bit of aptitude toward it and just kept growing it. It was really just following a passion.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve said it a million times. But my advice is when you come to a fork in the road taken, just keep moving forward, keep moving that direction. Yogi Berra. When you got out of the wildlife program, did you start working in natural resource management as a biologist?
Chris Dorsey: No, actually I went straight from Stevens Point into a magazine and I was hired by David Morris. A tech guy, right. And David is a hell of a good guy and super knowledgeable. I think he’s got a Masters from Auburn in Wildlife Management and he was part of a group that had started Game and Fish magazine out of Atlanta. It was, I think two or three other partners. And so I was editing the upper Midwest magazines Minnesota, Wisconsin Michigan. And so that was kind of a baptism, previous to that, though, I had interned in Los Angeles with Craig Boddingtons and Hunting magazine when I was a junior at Stevens Point. And so it was always the media side. I mean I kind of knew that it would be the media play as opposed to, out in the field as a biologist. And I really just wanted to be a creek Dick. I wanted to be a game warden. And they weren’t hiring guys like me, I don’t know, I couldn’t pass the background check or something. But anyway, so I enjoyed the media side and kind of gravitated towards that. And that’s where we are today.
Ramsey Russell: How and when did you end up as the editor of Ducks Unlimited magazine because that’s where I personally remember you from?
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, it’s an interesting story actually because DU was going through, a lot of your listeners would probably remember some of this actually, going through a lot of change. They were based up in Long Grove, Illinois. Matt Connolly was the Executive Director, you know, CEO position of Ducks Unlimited at the time. And I was out of hunting magazine then I was a feature editor for the magazine working for Craig. I’d come back after Game and Fish magazine, gone back up to LA to work with Craig on Hunting magazine. And they had done sort of a search and they were moving from Long Grove, Illinois down to Memphis. And as part of that whole process they lost a lot of staff. A lot of staff just wasn’t going to make the move down south. It was kind of a big controversial deal within the organization at the time. And Connolly said, look culturally, we want to get back to our roots of hunting. We want to make sure we’re talking to our rank and file members in a way that was very pro hunting positive about hunting culturally, supporting that lifestyle. And Matt was very adamant about it. He just said look I want somebody who understands hunting in this role running the magazine. We want to make sure our members understand that we get them. And so that was the impetus. And I started on the magazine editing the magazine and started actually as a Senior Editor of the magazine. Then became the editor and then started running Communications at the DU. And I think I was 30 or 31, I was offered the group manager of Marketing Communications for DU, which is over special events, it was over the magazine and about the same time was offered the editorship of Outdoor Life in New York. And that’s when Matt had said look we’re going to we would love you to stay in Memphis and run our whole Marketing Communications program at DU. And I had just gotten engaged at the time and did my pair bonding at DU. My wife was from DU as well as the Director of Benefits and some of us just got more benefits than others. But anyway it was an interesting time in my life and it was a lot of fun and a really great team at DU. I mean DU was absolute kicking ass in that period of time. With Connolly, I think we raised a billion dollars in nine years something like that. It was really unprecedented amongst the camo coalition groups, so I stayed there, and that was a lot of fun and we created book programs and the magazine, obviously who did the Great Outdoors Festival which had 60,000 – 70,000 people at it. And it was just a massively successful organization at the time and it’s still doing very well. But that was, I would say sort of the halcyon years of DU was that Connolly era when he was running the organization.
Ramsey Russell: When did you break off into how I know you in terms of the big game world? I mean you have travel, I keep up with you of course, in social media you’ve been all over the world, and you shot all these species in North America and abroad.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, well, I think it was really hunting magazine which is principally a big game magazine. I mean, and I would get Boddingtons as leftovers and I was delighted to be able to go to Africa and hunt anything, I was a young guy at the time and so that got me into the big game world. Of course I hunted whitetails in Wisconsin and things like that, but in terms of the broader world of what’s out there. And you and I, probably, and some of your listeners would remember the American Sportsman and Curt Gowdy. And Curt ended up writing a forward for one of my books about international wing shooting about 15 years ago. But he was a big influence just because there were three television stations, that TV was transformed into a window into a world of sporting that most of us never even knew existed until we saw it on television on his American Sportsman show. But that was an inspiration and then getting into Hunting magazine, the ability to then travel around the world and principally do big game hunts, that started a narcotic, man, that I’m still not over it. It’s a crazy run but it’s been a lot of fun.
Ramsey Russell: I think of like Forrest Gump, I find myself thinking like Forrest Gump. You know, he wanted to run to end of the driveway then the edge of town, then across the state, next thing he knows, he’s zigzagging around. It just draws you in.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, it sure does. I mean and that’s a great way to describe it because it’s really about horizons near and far, and you start with a much closer horizon in your life and it, as you travel, the more you travel, the more it extends. And I mean I don’t know where you sleep at night because every time I see you, it’s on Instagram, and you’re bouncing from a pygmy goose on in South Africa, and next thing you’re in some stand someplace or whatever, and species I’ve, I thought I knew about, and then I see these birds, and am like what the hell is that? And so yeah, I mean just look at your own life and how much your travel now and the horizons you’ve expanded.
Little Time, a Big World, So Much to Do!
Ramsey Russell: Soon enough, I’ll be in the grave and I can sleep forever. But until then there’s a fuse burning. I’m out to see, it’s so much to do, as you know, we’re going to talk about it so much to do in so little time and it’s a big world.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah. Well, and think about the people that you’ve introduced the water falling world too, and because I look at your stuff and I’ve been doing this a long time and I look at your stuff and go, damn, I’d like to do that. That’s a beautiful bird. And between you and Gary Kramer, it’s like, I’ve never even heard of half these species. And so it’s pretty impressive to see. And because of these mediums, now you can introduce people to it, you can plant a seed and you never know where that seed is going to go. You never know when somebody’s going to go. And as I said to Curt Gowdy, I said, you didn’t know that this poor farm kid in southern Wisconsin who was watching you on ABC on Sunday afternoons would one day hunt buffalo and hunt these places that you showed me about many, many years ago. But you are a great inspiration to me. And that’s how it works, right? We stand on the shoulders of other folks and celebrate them in the process.
Ramsey Russell: As you’re going through it. You know, I tend to go on these duck concerts, these tours are my life experience, and so often times I realize I’ve got blinders on. I’m just I got my nose to the grindstone, I’m going on. I’ve become unaware that there really are people following this stuff and you are inspiring. I’ve talked to a lot of people just recently that are doing their own tours with their own decoys or their own little niche of it all, and they say, man, it is marching you.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Hey folks, listen, it’s a big world, Get out there and enjoy it.
Chris Dorsey: Well, and it’s fun to come to a show like SCI. I mean, number one, it’s a collection of old friends, right? I mean, a place to come together and thank God we can finally come together and see each other, and hug each other, and shake hands and celebrate, you know, this lifestyle that we’re blessed to be a part of. But what I love about coming to these shows is if people will come up to me very randomly and say, oh I remember this show from 6, 7 years ago or whatever. We’ll have a conversation about it and they’ll say something about, you know, I love it when your sons are on the show and now, you know my kids occasionally come to these shows and they get the sort of the same thing and they can kind of see this universe that’s out there. And look, they’ve got their own people that they’re following, and they’re not old farts like me, they’re following, kids that are, blacktip, catching these giant fish off the coast and stuff like that. They just drink that cool, they love it. So I think what’s interesting now is sort of celebrity in the outdoor space, and really celebrity everywhere is kind of being defined by different platforms, different mediums, different age brackets. And you know, the notion of there’s one giant star in the universe out there is just isn’t the world anymore. People have a niche now, and their friend group, their peer group kind of drives who do they gravitate towards. And I know in the water falling world there’s a hell of a lot of people following you. So you are the tip of the spear, taking them around the planet, showing them new opportunities. And what’s important about that, what’s really important about that is now they give a damn about those birds and they become conservationists, they become a voice for conservation. Because they’re aware of it, right? Plant that seed, create the passion, next thing they want to protect it. And without that connection, you don’t typically get that kind of support for conservation. That’s, as you know, that’s the story of hunting and conservation.
Telling Stories Through a Wildlife Management Lens
We’ve got to be much larger than our size when it comes to our voice.
Ramsey Russell: How big a role did your wildlife management background? How influential was it in shaping the way that you communicate and tell the stories through these different mediums?
Chris Dorsey: Yeah. I mean it’s always been very important. It’s always been kind of the reason, it’s kind of the why. I mean you know we can talk about hunting, and successful hunting, and all that kind of stuff but at the end of the day, what’s the give back? And I think we all have a contract with our ancestors when it comes to what we give back to conservation. And really the leadership, it’s not just money, it’s not just time but it’s the voice, right? And speaking for conservation, for species, for landscapes, et cetera. I think we just have a very important role to play. And I’ve been spending a lot of time in the industry in the last few years especially just talking about how do we mainstream our story, right? I mean we can all agree that were great people and conservationists and doing wonderful things, but it feels like very often to me that we’re saying it to ourselves.
Ramsey Russell: For sure.
Chris Dorsey: Right. In a vacuum situation, and I’m desperate to kind of push people into mainstreaming that conversation, and that story, and that value proposition to the mainstream. And maybe it’s just on your own social platform. Maybe it’s at a cocktail party having a conversation but engage, right. And I think that’s kind of the take away for most folks. Yeah, and they can make a difference, and you can be talking to school teachers, you can be talking to county commissioners, you can have a lot of influence in your area just by engaging. And if you just do that, I think we’ll be surprised at what we can do down the road.
Ramsey Russell: Every individual listening has that responsibility.
Chris Dorsey: I agree. 100%. We all own it. If we wanted to continue, we’re going to have to own it because at this point we’re less than 4% of the population, right? Less than 4% of the American population are hunters. So it’s not as if we’re going to overwhelm the ballot box with our influence, right? We’ve got to be much larger than our size when it comes to our voice. And I think it’s important that we recognize that. And in the media business, we look at different ways to sort of mainstream stuff. We’ve done a ton of shows over the years for non-outdoor networks that, you know, building Alaska, Maine, and cabin masters building off the grid. These kinds of shows, that give us a chance occasionally to break in hunting into them and have a little bit of a conversation. We did a series years ago for Discovery called Kodiak, which was really about the bear hunters on Kodiak Island. And the premise of the deal was we’re following these guys hunting these giant bears in a very sort of Jurassic setting of Kodiak Island, the giant trees, not the open plain kind of stuff of the coast, but Kodiak is such a unique environment physically. And so we celebrate that. But the takeaway was they have the highest bear densities in the world, not in spite of hunting, but because of hunting, and without hunting, you don’t have that dynamic. And we had this big international platform, Discovery, on 176 countries of the world, multiple languages. We had our chance than to talk about, this is the role hunter’s play in bear management on Kodiak Island, which is not really that much different than hunting around the world. And so we try and use those opportunities when we have them to kind of tell the broader story and then put it in context. And anyway, so that’s fun. I mean that’s where other than winning bar bets that are what I do with a biology degree.
The Wildlife That Pays Stays?
I mean, it’s the axiom we’ve known for a long, long time. But it’s one that’s not really known outside of the hunting community very well.
Ramsey Russell: You bring up a good point because I mean you’re from Wisconsin, man. I mean that’s Aldo Leopold ground, father of wildlife management who was a forester. And at a time in American history when they’re saying, well, wildlife is going to be a depleting resource. We’re going to have it like candy in the candy jar and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Aldo Leopold stepped up said no, we can manage it, it sustained use just like timber. He’s in wildlife management and here we go. And but you know, it’s hard, I’ve got those backgrounds, but it’s hard for me, even, it’s hard for me to articulate. How do you tell somebody that, I know you may have an issue with shooting an elephant, this iconic beautiful species, but in the shooting of an animal, I’m preserving and putting commodity value on everything else. It’s a very hard to communicate that to somebody that doesn’t understand hunting.
Chris Dorsey: Well, and I think it’s difficult to overcome emotion. And I think you can communicate the facts of the matter, right, which is countries that have sustained elephant hunting have better populations of elephants than those that have taken away the right to hunt or the ability to hunt in those countries, particularly Kenya. Dr. Richard Leakey, I think now was the first to say it was a mistake to ban hunting in Kenya. What happened was the elephants were slaughtered by poachers en mass. And it’s a tremendous example of what not to do. And yet it was a very emotional thing when it was done right. He collected the ivory, they burned it, they had all the international media outlets out there, saying this is the end of poaching in Africa, we’re putting a stamp on the ground, and intuitively the average person around the globe thought that made sense. This is the way we’re going to protect elephants, but of course it backfired and it was absolutely the worst thing you could have done to the elephants. And so now we’ve got to be really savvy and nuanced about how we tell that story to work around the emotional side of it, right? Because if you open with an elephant being brained, and that’s a good thing for conservation by God, you got a hell of a hurdle to overcome. So you better start looking through a different prism when you start telling that story. And as you look at the locals in Africa, the people that live among the wildlife, and the bottom line is wildlife that pays stays. I mean, it’s the axiom we’ve known for a long, long time. But it’s one that’s not really known outside of the hunting community very well. And so if you take away that incentive, of course that elephant or that lion or anything else isn’t going to be around. It’s going to be killed because it’s a conflict with crops, with houses, you know, lions are killing kids or killing cattle. If there’s no economic reason obviously to keep them around, obviously to us, I say. They’re not going to be around, they’re going to be exterminated. And we can all understand that. But how do we then tell that story in a way that sort of takes the emotion away from it? And the only thing I’ve looked at in the past when I’ve had these debates and done media stuff about that is to say, can we agree that we want more elephants? Well, yes, we want more elephants. Well, then what’s your proposal to get more elephants? Well, just protect them. Stop, you know, stop hunting them. So well, they’ve done that and it hasn’t worked very well. This solution over here is allow some limited hunting of those animals, which creates the incentive to keep them around, which creates finances for any poaching teams, etc. The locals get some meat so they’re not snaring them and killing them. That’s a model that’s worked. Yours hasn’t. So if we start with the premise of let’s have more elephants, then at least you’ve got a baseline to begin the conversation. Because if it’s just hunting is good and you can’t really articulate why in a way that sort of disarms an emotional reaction to it, then you’re kind of lost.
Trophy Hunting vs Experience
It always came back to the people or the place or the story or the culture and that bird was just a placeholder for that experience.
Ramsey Russell: How does someone as well traveled and hunting experienced as yourself, how do you reconcile trophy with experience? Pick an animal anywhere, how do you reconcile that?
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, well, I mean trophy has been co-opted to be a pejorative. I mean, so much of the population now views trophy hunting as a negative, you know you’re killing the animal, taking the head and whatever, and so you’ve got to redefine what it is. And I don’t think it’s semantics, I don’t think you do away with the word trophy, and that’s been debated in hunting circles. It’s like, well we’ve got to call it something other than trophy hunting. Well, okay, let’s call it something other than trophy hunting and then that becomes the pejorative, they’re still focused on the act, they’re not focused on the word, you’ve just given them that hook with that. So let’s have the understanding of what is trophy hunting. Let’s define a mature animal and the species as the trophy, and I think that’s a better long term play, but it’s a hotly debated topic for sure. But to me, I shoot white tails all the time because I love the meat. And you know, my family lives on wild game. So that’s all part of the deal. And so its how do we connect hunting with food, maybe we don’t need it to survive, but it’s really good for us and it’s good for our families, it’s good for our psychological health, it’s good for our physical health. And I think if we keep telling that story then it’s going to be better received by the mainstream. And that’s kind of the whole idea, so yeah.
Ramsey Russell: I was asked one time, how can I not be a trophy hunter? I go halfway across the world to shoot a pigeon, goose, or a red crested pochard. At one point in my life, I think I wanted an amount of these birds, I wanted to collect them, I wanted to set them up. And at some point in time it just I began to realize is, as you and I were walking through my collection, and I pointed this bird, and I started telling the story. It wasn’t about the bird, it wasn’t about the hunting, it was about the people. It always came back to the people or the place or the story or the culture and that bird was just a placeholder for that experience.
Chris Dorsey: 100%. Yeah. I mean it’s, and I use it as my Alzheimer’s test too when I got my trophy. It’s like if I can’t remember what that animal, where I was etcetera. But the good news is so far, I haven’t forgotten. But yeah, it’s really is true. I mean it’s an album, it’s a beautiful specimen. It’s a glorious creature. That’s all wonderful. But it’s a memory at the end of the day and that’s what’s valuable about it.
Ramsey Russell: All the hunts you’ve done and I hate this question myself, but I’m going to ask you anyway, some of your most memorable hunts. You’re sitting in your recliner, you’re just open palette one hunt, one time, one place, one moment that stands out and all your hunting travel.
Most Memorable Hunts
Chris Dorsey: Well, yeah, I mean there’s, yeah, that would be tough to distill, but for this audience, I’ll tell you about the time I was hunting on Kodiak Island. Of course I had gone up there trying to get the King Eiders, right? And did a little black tail hunting as well. And the guy that had had these chessies these giant chessies is the biggest damn chessies I’ve ever seen. And we’re sitting at, I think it was a whale pass, I’m just like half asleep on the edge of the deal. Not much was flying. And of course, we’ve been talking about the giant bears. They don’t really hibernate here because it’s the Japanese current keeps the water open. There’s just always active, part of the reason they get so big as they just keep eating, right. And I’m like nodding off and remembering these bear stories, and I’ve got a pocket full of slugs just in case, and all that kind of stuff. Next thing I know, I’m just in REM sleep in this damn Chesapeake comes up behind me, puts his cold nose on the back of my neck and I damn near came out of my skin. I was just like, yeah. And of course the guide is just laughing his ass off. And but yeah, anyway, I never fell asleep again on Kodiak Island. But yeah, it was fun. But there’s so many, again, it’s really the people you’re doing it with and the places you are that create the potion, that’s the memory, right? And I think the Okavango Delta is one of my favorite places on the planet. To me, it’s a manifestation of Eden. I mean if there were a place today that would be Eden, it’s the Okavango, and I love that place. I got a lot of great memories there hunting all sorts of critters.
Ramsey Russell: What was the hardest animal you ever went after? Did you just came up scratch and had to go back?
Chris Dorsey: Yeah. You know.
Ramsey Russell: I speak of it in the bird world, but man, you’ve been all over the world.
Chris Dorsey: Well, yeah, I mean there’s difficulty in terms of the physical, expenditure of energy to get the critter. There’s the distance you travel. A lot of these hunts is you spend a lot of time dreaming it before it finally happens. A mountain goat for me was, I think everybody always has something that’s like their nemesis, right? And in a mountain goat, I mean I went on three different mountain goat hunts. And of course I was hunting late season, I wanted the big pellets, I wanted that coat that was super thick, and that’s a late season proposition you’re going up in the snow, and it’s a little dicier that way, but again the mountain goat’s horns are 8 to 10 inches long at best. So the trophy really is the cape, that beautiful stunning white cape and you got a lot of light to do that. And when I finally got that sucker, I mean it was, we were filming a show about it and I set camera, it was a very, just a visceral reaction. It’s like that is the best mountain goat I’m ever going to shoot. I’m not coming up to do this again. But it was a great reward, and so many of these hunts are, you’re not going to do a lot of them, but when you finally achieve the goal and you’ve worked your ass off, and I didn’t have one more climb in me to get up to that. I mean I was like, forget it. If there’s not a helicopter in my future, I’m not getting back up there. So anyway, yeah, that was a great trophy. It’s one of those where you just go. Every time I see it I think thank God I don’t have to do that again. But it was incredibly memorable and satisfying. I think it’s the old Ivan Turgenev quote, which is, “The value of a trophy is directly proportional to the amount of energy expended in its acquisition.” That’s the Russian verbage but it’s translated that way. And it’s really true. I mean, you work your ass off for something, you appreciate it.
The Best Hunts in the World
I can’t explain what it is about that game bird but I know why it is revered as the preeminent game bird of Europe. It is a special hunt.
Ramsey Russell: You shot capercaillie before.
Chris Dorsey: I have, in fact, I’m going, I’m taking three other guys from Brays Island, I’ve got a place down in Brays Island in South Carolina, big wing shooting kind of community down there. And we’re going to Russia end of April to hunt them again. And it’s been 25 years I think since I’ve been in Russia hunting capercaillie, typically we did black grouse and woodcock at the same time and it’s a spring hunt. It’s a peculiar call. Have you hunted yourself?
Ramsey Russell: It is absolutely my favorite game bird hunts on earth.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, I mean it’s.
Ramsey Russell: Like turkey hunting in reverse.
Chris Dorsey: And it’s so unique that it’s really hard to describe. Now 25 years ago, my hearing was a hell of a lot better than it is right now. So this is a very hearing dependent kind of sport because you’re going out in the dark at least, last time I did it. And you’re going out in the dark, early morning, they’re up in the trees, they’re calling and they make a two tone call, and it’s that second portion of the call where they throw their head back, close their eyes and essentially glands in the ears swell up and act as earplugs, right? And that’s when you advance towards.
Ramsey Russell: Crunch, crunch.
Chris Dorsey: Towards the bird. And if you don’t move then you’re going to spook it and they’ll fly out of there. They are grouse, I mean they’re very alert critters. And, so yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how that goes because my left ear is my good ear as a left hand shooter, so my triangulation of sound is a little bit iffy, so we’ll see how it goes. But anyway, we’re going to have fun.
Ramsey Russell: My hearing is so bad from years of unprotected shotgun shooting since a child. I tell people, you ever see two men holding hands walking through the woods and rushing towards capercaillie hunting? My guys can hear them. And I’m having to hold onto their shirt sleeves so I can do the most, because when it gets to where I can hear them, I just got to find that birds killable. But to me it’s the biggest rush of anything I’ve ever hunted and I can’t explain it. It’s a beautiful grouse. Some of the tracks we’ve hunted over there were million acre single landowner just boreal fourth. We hike in for two miles down bear trails and stand in the freezing cold. You can literally hear your breath crystallized at times and we’re 20 kilometers from the Arctic Circle. And then the hunt starts. And it’s just the most, it’s the place and the time and the bird and the hunt, it’s just the whole drama of it all that pulled me into it. The first time I went, I missed the first bird. I mean, nobody told me they were big as a hen turkey. I was sitting by myself in the woods and one walk by, this is easy, bam and he flew off. I paced it out. It was 70 yards. I’m like, whoa, this must be a bigger bird. So we went back the next night, you know, its real dark when they’re singing, and its backlit. So I’m looking up through the black forest and everything is back lit. I couldn’t find him and he flew off, and the third time that I was like, no, we’re going to, I said, I’m going to the woods and that’s where I’m staying until I kill capercaillie. And we vested ourselves and we did. I never ever will forget. Pull the trigger, and he was sitting on the top of a little hemlock, the sun was up. They should have been done singing, and when I peeked around, a light beam was hitting me, looked like the angel on top of the Christmas tree, and all I could do was smile because I had. I’ve been back since then and it is, I love it. I can’t explain what it is about that game bird but I know why it is revered as the preeminent game bird of Europe. It is a special hunt.
Chris Dorsey: Well, it’s really almost like a big game animal of Europe. I mean you think of the big four of Europe, you’re talking about stags, and boar, and Roe deer, and capercaillie is probably in that mix. And it’s you know, if your listeners don’t know what this bird looks like, I mean it’s the world’s largest grouse, it’s got the head of almost like an eagle and it looks like a raptor of some kind. It’s just this kick ass game bird. So you’re drawn to the magnificence of the bird, right? The bird itself is just extraordinary when you see it. The first time I saw one, I was actually a student in, well, Steven’s Point, we did a field study in the Black Forest of Germany on natural sciences and they had a program reintroducing capercaillie to the Black Forest. And the first time I saw the bird, I was just mesmerized. I mean it was like, what the hell is that? And so it was many years later that I went back to them and it was an amazing story. But I mean that’s the whole deal as you get up in the darkness basically. And we were on the edge of Lake Ladoga, which is the largest freshwater lake in the world, right? And I’ve got a, it wasn’t even an interpreter, it was a driver. This Lennonesk steel jawed Russian driver picked me up and at the camp at 2:30 in the morning, I didn’t know what the hell times on I was in at the moment, I was just like days, I’m like, we’re hunting now. And he drops me off at the edge of Lake Ladoga. And this guy has like a bathtub, he’s paddling across the water to pick me up. And all along the lake I could see these bonfires, and I’m like, what the hell is going on? And later that day I talked to the interpreter, I said, what were these bonfires up and down the lake? And he said, oh, they’re catching a little fish. It’s about this big, I said smelt, they’re smelting. I said, that’s exactly what they did in Lake Superior where I grew up. And it’s essentially the same species. They’re smelting in there. You could see them silhouettes of everyone drinking vodka bottles. They’re smelting in the dark. And anyway, we go across this inlet and get to the forest where we’re hunting the same kind of a deal. I mean, you’re listening. And we had lots of birds around. I mean there was no shortage of birds and my guide would take me in until we got, maybe 150 yards away and then you’re on your own right, and you can go do this by yourself. And so it worked out well. But there was a guy in camp, a German, he was probably in his late sixties, early seventies. He, as a small child had lost most of his hearing from a bomb blast in World War II. And so he had always wanted to get a capercaillie. And so they struggled like hell. And finally the very last day he gets his capercaillie. And he was over the moon and it was quite a celebration to camp that night. But it’s yeah, again, these are the memories that are tied to these strange hunts. And so many hunts are variations on a theme. You’ve done a lot of the same kind of hunting, not capercaillie, it’s a one of a kind deal which is part of its charm.
Ramsey Russell: But I can’t get enough of it. Some hunts you go, you want it done. Any opportunity I have to go to Russia and do that again, I’m all in. I just, I absolutely love it.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, no, I’m hoping the hell they stay out of the Ukraine and we can, there’s no wars going on in the Ukraine when we go hunting and all that fun stuff. But yeah, it’s a great hunt, it’s one of those super peculiar interesting fun adventures and a lot of nuance to it.
Ramsey Russell: Was there ever a time in your young career or can you remember the first time you were somewhere hunting something that you stopped and said holy cow, because of the cultural context, it was just like, wow, it’s like I’m in the pages of National Geographic, I can’t believe I’m here. Was there ever a time it jumps out that you go holy cow, this is it?
Chris Dorsey: Well, I remember going to Ethiopia once for Mountain Nyala. I kept thinking Ethiopia’s this, everybody’s starving and it’s a baron, whatever and I get there and it’s like lush fields of wheat and barley, and I mean everything was green and healthy looking, and then we climbed out of that into the cloud forest that almost 10,000 ft, right? And just a very different environment from most of what I’ve been in Africa, right, the plains and in the bush and that kind of stuff. This was just a very different kind of environment all the way around with the cloud forest and it was just fascinating to get into it. It certainly looked like something out of National Geographic. And guys were pulling carts of wood with donkeys and mud huts everywhere, and just the mosaic of how they had protected their little villages. And then we got out of that into the cloud for us with the Colobus monkeys, and of course the Mountain Nyala being this spectacular antelope. I think there are fewer than 20 taken every year in the world. And most of those obviously come from Ethiopia. It’s a very interesting story because basically without the hunting of the mountain Nyala they wouldn’t exist. That forest would have been absorbed by the population. Ethiopia is a very populated country. I think it’s the second most populous country in Africa. So lots of demands on the natural resources there. And if not for like the Russo’s family that is, has really worked to protect that cloud forest area where the Mountain Nyala live, they wouldn’t exist.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Was there everywhere in your travel you were scared? I mean what’s the scariest moment you’ve ever been? I mean you get off the edge of the world and edge of civilization, be it culturally or environmental.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, I mean, other than walking the streets of Chicago. You know the closest call I’ve ever had, and I get this question a lot, and it’s always sort of tied to small aircraft and tied to two boats. I was hunting moose on the Wabash River, this was 20 plus years ago, and a guy by the name of Weldon Prosser was the outfitter, great guy. And we were doing a like a 10 day float trip for moose. Two hunters. We had two 27 ft river canoes, those big eastern maritime canoes that they used in New Brunswick and whatnot, he had brought those to Northern Alberta. And it’s a pretty substantial river. I mean it’s not a Mississippi, but its several 100 yards wide. And I’ll never forget the last morning. I’m sound asleep in the tent. We just pitched tent every time we stopped at night and Weldon starts screaming at the top of his lungs, get up! We got to get out of here. And I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. And I looked into the river and there’s a little bit of ice flow. Some chunks of ice coming down the river and I just didn’t compute that was a big deal. It just didn’t look like a big deal to me. And anyway, we loaded up those canoes as fast as we could, got into to the river and then about a mile and a half down. I realized why it was such a big deal. We got into an elbow and all the ice had built up in this elbow of the river, this ice jam. And we’re right in the middle and we’ve got ice on either side of us, we can’t really get the shore, we can’t get away from it. So we T-bone that ice jam in the middle of the river. And I mean it’s cold, it’s really, it’s probably in the twenties, 15-20 degrees, something like that. So the water was like liquid ice. And we T-boned that thing, go parallel with the ice jam. And then the ice starts building up on the canoes, and buckling the canoes, and we’re just taking the paddles and flailing around trying to bust the ice as much as we can, but it’s starting to buckle. We’re going to go under, right, and we’re going to be under that ice jam, and we’re dead. There’s no way you’re going to survive that. And I don’t know what possessed him, but Weldon was a big guy. He was like 6’3, 250-260, big dude, he steps to the middle of this big canoe, and starts jumping up and down. And it raises and bounces the canoe enough that the ice on the upriver side slides under the canoe, and lifts it up on top of the ice. And this all happened in like three minutes, right, I mean, we’re exhausted trying to bust the ice to keep from going under at that point, but he saved our lives. I mean it was, without a doubt that would have been the end of the line right there. But it was amazing quick thinking that he had and how it worked. I mean it was just extraordinary.
Ramsey Russell: That’s why you have a respect for him.
Chris Dorsey: Oh boy. Yeah, he knew what the hell he was doing and thank the Lord.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve been to Pakistan to hunt and it was an incredible hunt, and people have asked me, were you scared? Was there anytime you were scared? I’m like, man, it was the incredible hunt, and what I remember most about it was the hospitality, the utter and complete, unmitigated hospitality like I’ve never seen. And really just sitting down with people from a totally different cultural background, religion, everything. But we’re all hunters sitting around that campfire at night. It was hunters, but I was scared shitless on the way back in town because I got put in the car with a driver and man, they don’t have traffic rules over there. So we were doing as fast that little car would go, bobbing and weaving through big trucks. And the only thing they wouldn’t swerve for the dog. They tried to hit him. And I held on to that oh shit ball for four hours and I haven’t been on a carnival ride since. But other than that, you know, it was scary.
Chris Dorsey: There are a lot of places in the world where you just pray to God, you can get out of the city and get to where you’re going because the driving is so God awful. And of course there’s no such thing as an air bag and you can forget about an ambulance saving you. It’s just doesn’t exist. So yeah, that is a big part of the story, isn’t it, internationally?
Ramsey Russell: How would you compare conservation in the United States to other places in the world you’ve been?
Waiting for America to Solve a Conservation Problem?
It was a bunch of private owners, a bunch of guys that stuck their own necks out and contributed their wealth, work and wisdom to the whole equation.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, I mean, look, everybody talks about the North American model. I call it the American model of conservation. I dearly love our Canadian friends. But at the end of the day, let’s be honest about the whole deal. It was created in America. We ship money into Canada so that they would help save the ducks that are going to migrate south, and they were willing partners to take our money and get that. But anyway, I digress. Look at the end of the day, I think what’s emblematic of America, what’s distinctive about America is we don’t wait for the government to solve a conservation problem. And I think that’s kind of true with almost everything in our, hopefully it continues in our culture. But around the world, I mean, you’ve seen this, I mean there’s no sense of they’re going to save a wetland complex and create legislation that’s going to create a new way of doing things on the conservation landscape arena. They just don’t think that way. I mean, that’s the government’s role, that’s what they do. And of course, we try and get the government the hell out of how to save these things. And I think what’s really great is you’re seeing a lot of government agencies that will come along. They’ll follow the lead of conservation. So I was just down in west Texas doing a story for Forbes. I write a column for Forbes. And it was about this group called the Park City’s Quail Coalition out of Dallas. You might have been there. They would love you down there. You should go down to that event. But it’s this great group of folks and included T. Boone Pickens and the heaviest hitters in Texas, basically, that came together to say we’re going to solve our quail problem, particularly in west Texas, not so much south Texas. And we’re going to fund research to crack the code to see if we can resurrect our beloved bob-white quail. And again, it wasn’t the Texas Parks and Wildlife that was doing that. It was a bunch of private owners, a bunch of guys that stuck their own necks out and contributed their wealth, work and wisdom to the whole equation. And they’re leading the charge now. And they’ve brought in Texas A&M. They brought in some other universities, Texas Tech and the state agencies working side by side. So that public private approach to conservation just doesn’t exist outside the United States. It really doesn’t.
Ramsey Russell: It really doesn’t. And you bring up a very good point because here in America, we have the federal government agencies, plural state agencies to include universities, a lot of great NGOs. But it’s almost without the American hunter.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah. And I’m a big advocate and I’ve been on the congressional Sportsman’s Foundation board. So I’ll just say this is a disclaimer. this does not represent them. but my view basically is that the Pitman Robertson Act was created long before. We had most of these 501(c)(3) nonprofit conservation organizations, the DUs and Rocky Mountain Elk Quail, Turkeys, etcetera. And so it was designed as a self imposed tax. Sportsman came together and said, look, we’ve got to create solutions and a funding mechanism that make sure we’ve got wildlife after the dust bowl, after all the declines of wildlife in the early 20th century. And so we did. And they created this funding mechanism that has now raised billions of dollars for conservation. So what happens is when you buy something, guns, ammunition, a portion of that tax then goes to Washington or that tax does go to Washington. It’s then sent to the states to do conservation programs. And that’s fine. And again when that was created, we didn’t have a private sector delivery mechanism. Well now, we do. Now we have fully fledged organizations and Ducks Unlimited Rocky Mountain, now, turkey, etcetera. So my point to a lot of the leaders on the hill and agencies is why wouldn’t these 501 (c)(3) private sector organizations qualify for some of that money. Can we look at privatizing conservation in America? Can we shift away from the government controlling all that money again, a self-imposed tax? We created that. And so why shouldn’t we have a say now, why shouldn’t we evolve this into a way that these private sector organizations as they raise private dollars? There should be some kind of match available from Pitman Robertson. And I think does anybody really believe that a tax that gets sent to Washington that then gets sent to the States is an efficient use of money? I mean, how much are we losing in the transition of those funds alone. So is there a more efficient, more effective way to do it? And I think we just have to be as conservationists as sportsmen, as conservation leaders. We have to be aware of the fact that there might be a better way of doing things. Just because we’ve done something for 50, 60 years. It’s still a good play. But is it the best play, right? And frankly we’re on the clock, right? At the end of the day, we’re losing more acres than we’re gaining. And we’ve got to figure out that there are pressures up against what we’re doing here and we better be proactive on a timeline that can win.
Ramsey Russell: Along that same line Chris, I look at the U.S Postal Service, they’ve got the market cornered on delivering postage. And they’re losing five or $6 billion a year as a government inefficient agency versus UPS and FedEx. I mean that’s kind of what you’re saying.
Chris Dorsey: 100%.
Ramsey Russell: Why can’t we take some of this responsibility and give it to the experts to do something privately? Because then they can make money and do it more sufficiently.
Chris Dorsey: 100%. I mean, what can happen in a, and I’m not saying we get rid of government agencies and all that kind of stuff. I’m just saying what can we do to evolve, you know, getting more people involved in raising more private sector dollars? And one way to do that is to encourage this ability to get some kind of a match from the Pittman Robertson, Dingell Johnson on the fish side, etc. And I think we just have to recognize that we’ve got to be testing our models. Any business is always looking for continuous improvement, right? You’re always trying to get better that what you do, so let’s do that in wildlife conservation.
Ramsey Russell: Hey man, that’s a great idea. Where does SCI fall? I mean to me years ago, I thought it’s just a bunch of folks going to Africa to hunt and I had no idea what SCI was about until I came to this convention nearly a decade ago and realized that, man, they’re like the what NRA does for firearms these guys do for hunting. What are your thoughts on SCI how would you describe SCI to the listener that doesn’t understand really what SCI is.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, I mean I think at the end of the day the advocacy work that they do both domestically and abroad is really important. I think they’ve been really savvy and how they create facts. And as I tell my kids all the time, it’s like your argent is only as good as your facts, so you better know what the hell you’re talking about before you open your mouth. And I think SCI has done a really great job of bringing a lot of facts to bear on these debates. Now, it’s all of our jobs to amplify that messaging and whatever way we can just like we’re doing right now. But I think if you really want to see the value of SCI, go abroad. You start talking to African PHs, you start talking to villagers, you start talking to people that are working in the safari business and they get it. I mean, without the elephant in the room of SCI, they’re going to struggle. And they need that leadership and I think as much as anything, it’s not a huge organization, but it’s a very influential organization and that voice is so important. The voice that they bring. Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: They’re a great conduit for a lot of our $100 in promoting hunting worldwide.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah. And there’s a lot of fights going on, let me tell you having sat on the CSF board now for four years. The fights have moved from Washington to the states in many ways. And it’s a reverse engineered hit on hunting. That is okay, we’re going to take all the no ivory parts on anything in Connecticut, no trophy imports into Connecticut or New York or California, whatever. So it’s a back door way to shut down hunting internationally, which then of course takes away the incentive for those animals to even be around in Africa because they’re going to be killed without some kind of incentive to keep them around. And so just engaging in that story, making sure people are aware of that story. I try and do that and in communications as well just to tell that story. But the U.K band recently such a bunch of nonsense, and if your listeners don’t know, I mean, they’ve banned the importation of all sorts of African trophies. And again that’s the death sentence to those species at the end of the day. And that’s the sad reality. And so yeah I mean we’ve got to stay in the fight. I mean it’s going to be an eternal vigilance deal no doubt.
Ramsey Russell: President Barack Obama, back when he was administration signed an executive order and it sounded very noble is like an anti wildlife trafficking executive order. But if you read it was very murky. Just talked about protecting iconic species, now wait a minute, I get if you got a problem shooting elephants, bring them back in the states. I can kind of get my head wrapped around that a little bit. In my world iconic species as a mallard or duck. And I mean, it’s really is just a hop skip and a jump for bureaucrats to start with something iconic, animal cracker animals I call them, that anybody gets behind to anything coming in to state. And there are there is legislation proposed to ban the import of any wildlife from anywhere.
Creating a Movement
How do we brand that ecosystem where 70% of the water birds in North America originate, and give people a reason to give a damn about it, and protect it.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, where does it stop? At the end of the day it’s either science based conservation, or it’s emotion, and so what do you want to choose? And let’s let the professionals make those decisions. Look, I live in California or in Colorado rather, and we just went through this whole wolf introduction deal. And the state agency in Colorado said it would be a mistake to introduce wolves. Number one, the wolves are already coming into Colorado from Wyoming. So the fact that you would make hunters pay to introduce wolves into Colorado is the ultimate insult. Hunters didn’t want them there in the first place. It just doesn’t make any biological senses. It makes no sense whatsoever. We’ve got the biggest elk herd and it’s a big multibillion dollar industry in Colorado, employs a lot of people etc. So why would you do this? And so it was done on the ballot box and its ballot box biology. They went to Denver, they went to Boulder to get people to sign a petition that said, wouldn’t it be nice to have wolves in Colorado? And of course these people have no concept of what’s happening here relative to introducing wolves. The wolves are going to be introduced on the western slope. Never near Denver, never near Boulder, but they were fine to sign the petition that gets on the ballot box, and then it wins by popular vote. So we just completely disarmed science in our wildlife management strategies in Colorado, but that’s emblematic of what’s happening, not just in Colorado, not just in the United States, but internationally. So we’ve got to come back around to science-based conservation, if we don’t do that, we’re never going to win. The emotional debate in mainstream media about hunting. We’ve got to have science on our side and we’ve got to exploit that.
Ramsey Russell: That could be one of the greatest threats to conservation is if we start getting away from science based.
Chris Dorsey: 100%. Yeah. I mean once that cat is out of the bag, it’s tough. And we saw that in California with Prop 117 when they banned the mountain lion hunting in California. And of course now the state kills more mountain lions in California than hunters ever did. And hunters were paying for the privilege to do that in California. And they stop things like having mountain lion skins shipped to California for tanning. Some of the biggest tanneries in the country are in California. So I mean it’s all sort of upside down lunatic stuff, but that’s what we’re up against. We’re going to have to stay in the fight. Everybody’s going to have to stay in the fight.
Ramsey Russell: We’re ready to fight, aren’t we? Chris change the subject. So tell me about some of the film projects you got going on.
Chris Dorsey: We just did, your guys, I think would really enjoy this. We just did an IMAX film with Ducks Unlimited, the National Audubon Society and Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. And it’s all about the prairie wetlands. And this whole film concept really started at the Max McGraw Foundation out of Chicago, which is sort of a conservation think tank Charlie Potter who’s a cold waterfowler. And I think once upon a time he ran Delta, and is very active in the waterfowl world for a long, long time. Anyway, he convened a group of the top scientist, conservationist, conservation leaders in the waterfowl world in Chicago. I was brought in as a media guy, as a strategy guy, to say keep your eyes open and what you’re hearing here. And see if there’s a way we can create a strategy around it. And it was really a kind of looking at North American Wetlands Conservation Act, looking at North American wetlands management plan itself. And what do we do to sort of celebrate the success of that? But also to fine-tune the program. We’ve sent hundreds of millions of dollars into Canada, to preserve these wetlands up there, and it’s a great international success story. But again, the prairie wetlands or something, if you’re a duck hunter, you know about the prairie pothole region as the duck factory, but if you’re not a duck hunter, you don’t know about it, right? I mean you’ve heard of the Amazon, you’ve heard of the Serengeti, you’ve heard of even the Everglades, you have a concept of what that is. But nobody’s ever heard of the 275,000 square mile prairie wetlands, right? So how do we brand that was really the question that we came up with. How do we brand that ecosystem where 70% of the water birds in North America originate, and give people a reason to give a damn about it, and protect it. That’s the whole idea. And so we came up with this idea of creating an Imax film, it’s an 80 by 60 ft screen. When you step into that theater and you see the prairies, I mean you’re there. I mean you are transported into the prairie wetlands and obviously most people will never go to the prairies. They’re not going to see that. But once they see that film, they really do get a sense of, Oh my God, what an amazing ecosystem. We shoot from space and you see thousands of small shallow wetlands that are the incubators of our continental waterfowl populations. This soup kitchen of life for all these birds in North America and it’s such a special place. And as you know like 25% of the wetlands in the world are found in Canada. So it really is the richest duck zone, waterfall zone in the world. There is nothing bigger better than the prairie wetlands. So we got to save it, we got to protect it. Well the interesting thing about the format, about the IMAX format in addition to being immersive is that it stays in markets for up to 10 years. So when it goes into a theater it’s not like a Hollywood release where it opens nationwide on Friday night and stays for two weeks. This is in theaters 6 to 12 months and there’s a curriculum built around the film, so that we’re teaching kids throughout all these cities where this film is showing. We’re teaching them all about the ecosystem. We’re giving it a brand. They’re creating awareness that’s much more in depth than just a quick release film or a TV show. It’s really an immersive deal with a whole curriculum built around it and that’s really exciting. And people have said to me, are you celebrating hunting in the film? I said, well, you’re not going to get access to the IMAX platforms if you lead with hunting, but here’s what we can do, we can showcase this amazing ecosystem and then anywhere that film moves, we’re going to have a conversation around it in local television, radio, news print, magazine articles, national stories. We’re doing that all the time right now about the role of hunters and conservation. Who protected this ecosystem? Let’s talk about the National Wildlife Refuge system and how hunters have paid for that. Talk about the contributions, DU members, Delta, and Audubon, et cetera. All these people that have been hunting and what they’ve done, not just financially, but also as leaders of conservation. And so it’s really a great nuanced strategy to brand the prairies, but also at the same time bring hunters along with that messaging in a way that isn’t just punching people in the face, but it’s nuanced and subtle and clever. And I think what we’ve seen so far is the plan works pretty well.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I mean we started off talking about we hunters preaching to the choir. A project like that is reaching out to that middle ground and bringing us all together. We all want the same thing, which is vibrant wildlife popular.
Chris Dorsey: That’s right. And it’s really wasn’t about making a movie as much as it was creating a movement. Ad we’ve got to save that prairie ecosystem and there are lots of demands on it as. And we just had a very dry year up there. Well, what happened, they started plowing through the wetlands again and we lose the associated uplands, which are so important to duck production, but once the wetlands are plowed through, they’re not coming back. I mean they’re just not coming back. So it’s a net loss and it’s continually shrinking, and shrinking, and shrinking. At some point, we got to say, we got to put a stake in the ground and you got to start with a strategy that makes people aware of it. So they give a damn about it and they want to protect it. So that’s the phase we’re in right now.
Ramsey Russell: Where can we see these films?
Chris Dorsey: You see it just opened in Corpus Christi in Houston. It’s opening in St. Louis, in Denver, Pittsburgh. It’s coming to the Carnegie Center in Pittsburgh, it’s going to be in the American Museum of Natural History next month, I believe, Edmonton, Toronto. So it’ll move around basically the entire IMAX world over the next several years. That’s what’s going on.
Ramsey Russell: I can’t wait to see it.
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, you can go to wingsoverwater.com and that’s got all the cities listed and all theaters and all that kind of stuff. Michael Keaton Birdman himself as the narrator. So it’s a fun film? We had a great team on it and its just brilliant work.
Ramsey Russell: How has outdoor media change during your career? The internet didn’t even exist when you got out of college.
Chris Dorsey: Everything was black and white when I started. Yeah it’s been such a transformation. I mean back in the day we started as really branded entertainment cable TV guys that was our whole deal, right? And back in the day it was ESPN it was TNN. TNN then became Spike TV, which then became Paramount which is where Yellowstone is on the big series. That’s killing it right now. And those were Sunday night airings on TNN. Man, it was 98 million homes, it was reaching almost the entire country, and big distribution and those outdoor blocks were doing super numbers, big-big numbers. I mean, basically doing numbers that some of the broadcast shows are doing right now. So yeah, that’s been quite a transformation. So that cable market has shrunk a little bit obviously, some cord cutters. Now there’s a percentage of that going into streaming. Now you’ve got all these other OTT platforms that are distributing content. I guess the good news for guys like me as content creators is there’s never been more places to put content but trying to figure out that landscape and monetize all that stuff is ever challenging. But in the outdoor space it’s interesting. I mean there’s a lot of movement around the waypoints, the obsession media, OTT’s. And their syndication now and we’re trying to kind of negotiate all that and try and get our content in as many places as we can just to get it out there. But it’s not as simple as you put it on ESPN on Saturday mornings anymore. That’s for damn sure.
Ramsey Russell: No, it became a lot more organic.
Chris Dorsey: Absolutely. I mean podcasts didn’t exist then and podcasts have become a huge deal now. So yeah, we look at it really almost as an agnostic deal. When we create content it’s not really just for television, it’s really for all the platforms. And let it be the universal donor of content video that is. But at the end of the day I don’t really care where it lives, as long as somebody’s listening, watching.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. What’s next for Chris Dorsey?
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, I don’t know, I mean, it’s someday I’m going to grow up in and see what happens here. But we’ve got other projects. I just wrapped up a book trilogy project with Sporting Classics magazine, which is a lot of fun. And this was really taking our hunting and fishing library over 25 years of doing television productions almost 60 outdoor series. So I had this massive library. 1,50,000 hour HD video library from all over the world. And I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. And Covid sort of accelerated it. I had to do something or go crazy over Covid. And part of it was finishing up these books. One was director’s cut, which is all about big game around the world. And we married that with every chapter has a 10-12 minute film from the same area. So it was filmed where the chapter was written. We had these great still photographers supporting life guys. Some of the best in the business come with us over 20 years. So we built a huge still library in addition to the video library. So we just put it all together. It was like nobody’s really ever done that, I don’t think, where you’ve got a great video content, film content, you’ve got a book chapter, and then you’ve got stunning photography. We did it in large format books, beautiful books. So the companion concept of book and film is kind of interesting and different, and we can only really do it because we had this big library, right. We had already monetized this through television and it wouldn’t make financial sense otherwise. But it was one of those labors of love and passion projects that I really wanted to do. I thought I would do it a little later. But again, I had some time I wanted to stay sane over Covid and that was the impetus behind getting going on that. But then we did a fly fishing book which is Casting Call, same deal, companion film set. And then Call Time is the third book, which is the wing shooting book, Tom wrote the forward for me and. We did a series with Tom for almost 10 years and got to know him quite well, keen bird hunter, grew up in South Dakota. Yeah, have fun stuff.
Ramsey Russell: Chris, I’ve never asked anybody this question, but I want to ask you this, what will be your legacy in the outdoor world? Have you given any thought at some point?
Chris Dorsey: Well, yeah, I mean, I know I haven’t really. I think, I’m still young enough. I don’t have to think about legacy too much. But I hope anyway that this notion of mainstreaming our belief system and who we are as sportsmen will be successful. I hope at the end of the day a greater percentage of our population will come to appreciate and understand that hunters and hunting is redeeming, and it’s good for people, and it’s good for wildlife, and I hope that can be something. That is a legacy we all share, frankly.
Ramsey Russell: Fantastic. How can everybody connect with your books, your films?
Chris Dorsey: Yeah, all the books are sold through sportingclassics.com. They’ve got their online bookstore there. And we do Instagram sporting classics TV. And yeah, that’s kind of that’s most of it. And the shows are the shows, you can find us at Dorseypictures.com as well.
Ramsey Russell: I know you’re very busy for the last few days here at convention. I greatly appreciate you taking time away to —
Chris Dorsey: Well, this is a treat. I mean we’ve talked about this for a long time but you’re on the go all the time.
Ramsey Russell: My hunt scheduling yours.
Chris Dorsey: I think yours is stuff for the mind but I’ve always enjoyed your work and so it’s a real privilege to be on actually.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you Chris, I appreciate. Folks, you have been listening to Chris Dorsey. The person that creates the memories. I do believe he is the Steven Spielberg of the outdoor world. And now you all know why. You all check him out. Look up those resources. Thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere. We’ll see you next time.