Two of hunting television's greats talked to us about their new approach, and reflected on balancing hunting, family, and life.
Pat Reeve's been doing ultimately the same thing for three decades, and it's made him pretty dang successful in the hunting industry. Now he's telling me about how his main tactic is to learn even more, discover how to apply it to his trade, and give even more of himself to the greater hunting community.
I'm wondering if he's really that dedicated, or maybe a little obsessive, but by the time I'm done talking with Pat and his wife Nicole, I'm convinced it's all coming from a really, really good place.
We caught up with the couple in mid-August, and the anticipation of what would come in just a few weeks was audible in their voices. If you've seen Driven with Pat and Nicole, you know what Pat was talking about.
"We're already in full motion right now to get everything ready for our fall upcoming whitetail season, from our gear, getting our new bows in hand, getting all the new stuff in house," he said. "But we're also, of course, actively getting our land prepped."
He went into the long, typical list of what any good whitetail hunter knows needs to be done. "There's lots going on outside the production, but we're also producing Q3 and Q4 original series episodes right now, along with this new digital format."
Nicole quickly followed that: "Not to mention all our kids' summer activities, and everything else we have thrown in the mix here too," she said with a laugh. There's really no such thing as "busy time" for these two, because they're always busy.
Driven is currently airing its 14th season, but Pat has been in the business over 30 years, starting out as a cameraman and working his way up to owning his own show.
"It just happened to work out," he said in reflection. "People always say 'How does a guy get started?' And I just kind of fell into it at the right time. When T.V. was just starting with mainly hunting series, I was a well-known cameraman and built my name and reputation that way."
That translated to a great relationship with the people and companies that helped him reach the level of work he's at now.
"When it got to a point where I could possibly do my own show, I already had that backbone of relationships with people that would financially support me," he said. "In 2004 when I started, it was a little bit easier to convince people to invest in you and their program, where nowadays it's going the other way."
To counter that and keep themselves above the standard they helped set long ago, they're building off what they have and branching out with more, albeit it slightly different, ways to see and hear them.
"It's important to understand," Pat said, "we did a 52-week show on Outdoor Channel, and we also do the MyOutdoorTV digital platform as well, and that's a foundation for us. But we felt that there was a lot of room for expansion, and to gain a different type of audience outside of people that just watch T.V."
"And to compliment our brand as well," Nicole added.
"So we decided to hit more of some of those people who are millennials, cord-cutting type of people, that will be watching and looking at content on their mobile or through their computers," Pat said.
It makes sense. More television networks are making it hard to argue more eyes and ears, and a cellphone or computer is beginning to dominate our consumption. The Reeve family doesn't see it as a bad thing in the least. They're embracing it. And they're viewing it as an extension of the core audience just as much as a way to attract a new one.
"A lot of people want more of Driven, more than just what is in a 30-minute episode," said Nicole. "This digital platform allows us to go above and beyond our show, and show more of Pat and Nicole, and our family, and what Driven is all about."
Here's what you can expect from the Reeve camp: a good amount of extra footage, behind-the-scenes, never-seen, and even blooper-style clips released on multiple platforms; tips and tactics in shorter, easy to digest formats; a wild game cooking and preparation show; a podcast; real estate advice; and an overhauled website.
"I have five children, and people that work for us, depend on us to make a living," Pat said. "I have to try and do the best job I can out there. That's what motivates me."
Without being asked, he followed that with another poignant fact.
"Besides that, I love doing what I do," he said. "That's why we named it Driven. I wanted it to be something that represented me, not just come up with a cool name. I wanted to always represent who we were, and what we were about. If you met me and I did not do this for a living, or any T.V. or anything, I'd still be the same hunter, and the same outdoorsman I am today. I'd still be doing the same things, I just get to do it as my occupation."
That authenticity is what should be taken away the most, because of what Pat said was one of the most important things about the hunting entertainment space.
"Obviously a lot of people know who we are because they watched the show," he said. "But they want to learn more. They want to see stuff that they'd never seen on T.V."
They spent some time talking with me about their kids, and how they're lucky enough to spend free time doing the things they love together.
"That's what our family loves to do, we don't really need free time to do other stuff, you know?" Nicole said. Their three-year-old's singing while checking cameras notwithstanding, the family members are all excited and appreciative of being a part of each other's lives.
"We also realize that it's so important for the future of the sport we enjoy the most," Pat said. "They see how we bring our kids into it just naturally, and they've watched them grow up right on the television screen. Then we become role models for those people, and we're big advocates for getting people into the outdoors."
That couldn't be more true, and that's why going in the direction Pat and Nicole are going is advantageous. They were sure to point out that it's not just kids, but adults who deserve the introduction as well. If that's a big part of the legacy that the Driven team can look back on, then they've made the right kind of impact.
It's exciting to know that tuning into an episode of Driven can mean you're going to see a bull elk hunt in an amazingly scenic place, or the duo stalking whitetails with the newest Mathews bow. They keep it varied and authentic, and know a lot of the keys to success. Mission Crossbows has signed on as a sponsor, so you can expect some more hunts with those. And they're still traveling the country to experience the best of the best when it comes to the outdoors.
What's even more exciting is solidifying your good opinion of the people you look up to after talking with them for a while. Pat and Nicole are worth emulating in a lot of ways, and they're willing to show you even more reasons why.