Eric Morris's path to becoming an outdoor television producer and host began as a little boy running around the woods of Talladega, Alabama. As he grew, so did his interest in the outdoors.
He picked up a passion for hunting and fishing that he brought with him to each duty station during his long career in the Army. At each post he tried to make time for outdoor experiences. It was his way to unwind.
When his military service was finishing up, his thoughts turned towards how he might spend his retirement. He was at a crossroads. He could get a cushy government job and live comfortably with nice paychecks coming in on both ends, or he could do what he really loved: hunting and fishing.
"Growing up, the people in my family and in my circle did not see the outdoors as a viable way to make a living," Morris said. "Where I'm from, most of the people I know, I'm talking black folks, they only see the outdoors as a recreation, something to do for fun."
Morris Starts a New Outdoor Chapter
After retirement, Morris launched a guide service, primarily focusing on fishing. He still owns and operates NTO Guide Service, but these days most of Morris's guiding focuses on upland bird hunts. His operation is unique because he uses a Chesapeake Retriever, a breed more often used for duck hunting than quail hunting.
While working on his guide service, Morris started seriously considering launching his own television show. Unfortunately, the road was not smooth.
His first pilot, while praised for concept, was rejected on basis of quality. Soon after, he guided an outdoor television personality on a quail hunt. That host shared some of his contacts with Morris, and that got the ball rolling on a second attempt.
Morris was successful, and N.onT.ypical Outdoorsman is currently in its third season. Viewers can catch episodes on the Pursuit Channel or subscribe at www.ntotv.com.
The show is intentionally different from what most mainstream hunting and fishing shows are. The focus is on having fun, enjoying the outdoors Southern-style, and increasing the racial diversity among America's hunters and outdoorsmen. It is not about trophy hunting, fancy private lands, or flashy gear.
Even after breaking through the barrier and establishing N.onT.ypical Outdoorsman, one of the first hunting shows hosted and led by a black man, Morris was still in for some unexpected surprises from the outdoor industry. As top brands tailored messaging to convey the pillars of diversity, inclusion, and equity, behind the scenes Morris was experiencing something different.
He struggled to find traction and gather support. After reaching out to hundreds of brands for potential sponsorships, only one invested in his show: Thorogood Boots.
"People will tell you anything to get you out of their face," Morris said. "People will tell you a good story, but don't follow through when it is time to send a check. Thorogood said yes to being a sponsor of my show when nobody else did."
What he was experiencing from brands, however, was inquiries to use his likeness for their diversity efforts.
"A lot of companies don't do what is right, they do what is popular," Morris said. "They jump on the bandwagon of whatever is popular so they don't look out of place. Sadly though, the thing I realized is that a lot of what we see it is not authentic in some cases. There are a lot of organizations out there that talk about diversity, inclusion and equity and want to show diversity within their channels, but the problem is that often those pictures are not from within their organization. They contact people like me or other black outdoorsman and use their images to convey diversity. they check off the box. They might show a black person on the website, but the company isn't really diverse."
He encourages those brands to do real work to promote diversity.
"I often tell them, instead of calling and asking to borrow somebody's picture that shows what you say you can do, why don't you connect and create your own pictures and establish a diverse network?" Morris said.
More Than Just an Outdoorsman
Morris is more than just a television personality and guide. He is also an outdoor diversity consultant, public speaker, and most recently, founder of a non-profit.
His newest venture, NonTypical Outdoorsman, Inc. is a non-profit he launched to promote real diversity and inclusion in the outdoors. It will focus on efforts beyond television, such as events, education, training, and meaningful connections.
Whether his N.onT.ypical Outdoorsman television show will continue is yet to be determined. He is currently developing a production schedule for season four, but the future beyond that depends on dollars. The lack of sponsorship investment has brought Morris to yet another crossroads.
Individuals or companies interested in collaborating with Morris in diversity efforts or show sponsorships can contact him via email at [email protected].