Jim Shockey shared some definitive answers to questions we've wanted to ask him for a long time.
"Sorry I haven't been able to talk sooner, I've been a little bit busy for the last, well, 30 years."
When Jim Shockey agreed to talk to us at Wide Open Spaces, there were plenty of things we wanted to ask. Knowing full well he's a busy man, to say the least, we decided on a select few questions and were thankful for his time and thoughtful responses.
Among the industry's most respected leaders, Shockey has set himself apart as a true storyteller, one who shares the experiences many of us dream about in unprecedented ways.
Right off the bat, we wanted to find out if he ever has a moment to reflect, to think about what he's done and where he's been throughout the years. His Outdoor Channel shows Jim Shockey's Hunting Adventures and Jim's Shockey's UNCHARTED are perennial favorites, and the debut season Jim Shockey's The Professionals on Sportsman Channel couldn't possibly allow time to relax and think back, could it?
"I'm not one to spend a lot of time in the past," he said, matter of factly. "I love setting goals, I love challenges, meeting challenges, and I obviously like to accomplish these goals. But I honestly never look backwards. I don't think about it, you know what I mean? I'm planning the next trip today, the logistics. I'm always living in the present or the future, I don't think that much about the past at all."
We still couldn't resist asking about the early stages, and whether or not a TV show was the ultimate goal. What method, exactly, did he plan to use to tell us his story?
"When I started 31 years ago as a professional in the industry, that was writing. Essentially the medium we use to tell the stories has changed," said Shockey. "There's not so much writing anymore as there are visuals. You've got video and television, so it's a natural progression from allowing me to tell a story in a different medium. So I didn't plan to get into television, although it was pretty obvious as I was writing 1,000 articles back in the '80s and early '90s that television was the future. It was just a part of storytelling, to reach more people."
How then, considering an accelerating ability to connect to even more people, does the internet weigh in? Is it, and all that comes with it, helping tell hunting stories?
"Yeah absolutely. I think that the growth of social media, cable television, the ability to distribute the signal, which in essence is the story, has been a huge factor in the growth of hunting and the acceptance of hunting. We now have a way to reach out into the public, into these households that don't hunt, and tell them what hunting's about."
As a continuation of Shockey's effort to tell those stories, he's taken a different angle with Jim Shockey's The Professionals. The new Sportsman Channel show, airing Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. EDT, will give viewers more of a behind-the-scenes perspective on the planning, logistics, and of course the tribulations connected to the incredible hunts he goes on.
"We consciously made the decision to bring the viewers in behind the story," he explained. "Hunting television has been pretty straightforward since its advent: you arrive at a place, you go out, the deer or animal comes, you shoot it, and have big smiles, and the show is over. But there's so much more to it than that. It's difficult to get into the behind the scenes and still show the hunt itself. With The Professionals, we said, 'Lets just spend the time behind the scenes,' and the actual kill of the animal becomes secondary to telling the story of what hunting's really about."
When we asked about hunting with his kids, the change in tone of Shockey's voice was noticeable. He's certainly someone who values his family relationships.
"Oh, I mean, any parent that's taken their children out into the wild lands and hunted with them, knows that there's no greater satisfaction than hunting with your family," he said. "I get asked all the time 'What's your most memorable hunt?' Any hunt with my family, particularly with Branlin or Eva, our children, but also when my father was alive, hunting with him. Those were by far the most memorable hunts. It wouldn't matter if a world record walked in front of me, if it meant I was going to miss a hunt with one of my children. I wouldn't even give that record a second look."
That says a lot, and the fact that he'd gladly pass up a major hunting accomplishment for a hunt with his kids is something to be admired.
Shockey also shared some recommendations and tips, including the best and most affordable hunt (Canadian black bear), his favorite wild game dish (braised moose ribs with sesame oil and Bull's-Eye BBQ sauce, but also liver and heart), and the regimen that's kept him hunting in the backcountry all these years (stay away from breads and starchy foods, no sugary drinks, and "you've got to keep moving").
He's come a long way, and really doesn't plan to slow down all that much in the immediate future. "I don't have any intention of stopping hunting, that's for sure," he said, but admitted that remote mountain excursions may begin to be fewer and farther between. As long as people will watch, he doesn't have plans to slow down his filming and production schedule. One goal he does have is more travel in North America, and more public interaction "just to be able to reach more people."
Before we ended our conversation, Shockey took it upon himself to add one more piece of advice, one that any hunter could put to good use.
"You should never, ever apologize for being a hunter," he said. "Eva says that, and it's so true. What we're doing is right for wildlife, and hunters are true conservationists. Without hunters and the efforts they but in, the wildlife of this world is in a lot of trouble.
"Any hunter who is attacked by a non-hunter, or threatened online, never, ever worry for a second about those people. They're nothing, they're not important. What's important is that we stay the course, and protect the wildlife of this world. And hunting is really the only way to do it. Always be proud of being a hunter, it's the greatest thing you can do with your time."
That is the kind of story any hunter would like to tell, but Jim Shockey's doing a pretty great job of it already.