Photo Courtesy of Josh Larsen

How One Veteran Aims to Help Others Heal in the Great Outdoors

Veteran Josh Larsen shares his love of nature and sportsman pursuits through Primitive Patriot Outdoors.

It was 8:30 a.m. and frosty cold, and Josh Larsen was sitting beneath an apple tree. The fog rose all around him, lifting slowly as the morning dew dried and the sun peeked through crystalline trees. He was dressed in mismatched camouflage, armed with a 30.06, and had very little experience or knowledge to aid him. He waited patiently, and a 132-inch 9-pointer walked into view. A moment later, it was over. His first buck. He was ecstatic.

A sudden thought ruined his elation. "Here's the thing: I was 26 years old and I didn't know how to gut a deer," he says. "So, I called my dad, and he came out into the woods. I told him he was going to have to teach me ... and he said he didn't remember how to gut a deer either."

It was messy, but they figured it out together. Now Larsen considers that to be one of the best experiences he's ever had with his dad. "Nothing tops that moment," he says. "Well, maybe my elk kill."

The man behind startup Primitive Patriot Outdoors, Larsen is the type of person who oozes enthusiasm. His eyes brighten and his voice kicks up when he talks about something he's passionate about—in this case, the 3-year-old company he founded that's "dedicated to preserving the tradition of the sportsman and woman" by offering conservation, preservation, and ethics advice; organizing fishing and hunting events; and coordinating outdoor experiences for veterans and civilians alike. The journey has been an interesting one.

How Larsen Founded Primitive Patriot Outdoors

Josh Larsen and his brother Joe Chapman. Photo Courtesy of Josh Larsen

Larsen's path evolved from outdoor novice to expert with just a few short years between. Once he started to get more comfortable in the field, he wanted to share what he had learned with others. He started Primitive Patriot Outdoors as a Facebook page with the simple aim of encouraging people to get outdoors. It quickly grew as an online community, both in size and scope. Next was hosting a big buck contest and a walleye fishing tournament. He collaborated with other fishermen around New York to kick off the WNY Walleye Classic in 2021. In the first year, the tournament hosted 43 teams.

All along, Larsen filmed his outdoor adventures for YouTube. His wanderlust, just like his military service, took him around the world, from pursuing elk in Colorado to hunting gemsbok, a species of large antelope, in South Africa. While there, Larsen and Primitive Patriot Outdoors pro staffer Owen Teijeira took part in conservation efforts to help the white rhino. Larsen even bonded with a baby rhino named Hope who followed him around like a puppy.

All the while, Larsen was pouring his soul into Primitive Patriot Outdoors, and it started to gain followers, sponsors, and credibility. Soon after Primitive Patriot Outdoors took off, he signed a contract to add his show, "Lead and Lures," to Roku TV Channel 716. Recently, he announced that a new show, "The Dream," will be found exclusively on PPO TV, the new streaming app he is currently working on, built for the common outdoorsman.

"I've always wanted to have an impact on other people," Larsen says. "I didn't have that growing up, and I want to be that person for others. I want to share the peace that I have found in the outdoors."

Larsen's Journey From Marine to Outdoorsman

Photo Courtesy of Josh Larsen

A veteran, Larsen spent 8½ years in the Marines with a total of four deployments. His dad was a Marine. His uncle was a Marine. His great-uncle was a three-star general in the Marines. For him, enlisting felt like going into the family business.

But before he was a Marine, Larsen was an outcast. A self-described lonely kid, he didn't have friends growing up. As a teenager, he struggled. It wasn't until he got involved with the track-and-field team that he started to make friends. The Marine Corps offered him a place to belong.

During his time in the Marine Corps, Larsen worked his way up from ammunition technician to explosives, then became the designated marksman for his unit. But after his service was completed and he left the Marines, he felt lost in the world. He was alone again, and he turned to drinking. He quickly realized that he needed an outlet, a focus, and a better way to cope.

"They don't transition you very well back into civilian life," Larsen says. "I struggled a lot when I first got back. I drank a lot. I was an angry dude. The outdoors was kind of what brought me back into a level head."

He threw himself wholeheartedly into hunting and fishing. As a kid, Larsen remembers dabbling in outdoor pursuits with his father, Lloyd. "My dad liked the outdoors," he says. "He liked hunting and fishing but wasn't very good at it. We'd go to the creek and throw a line in for 20 minutes and he'd say there were no fish there. It was a worm and a hook. That's it. It was the same with hunting. I can remember we went out for youth day, but he brought the wrong shells."

About 'Heroes Hunt'

Left to right, Rickie Thompson, Jeff Mason from Primitive Patriot Outdoors, Jason Fisher from Hilltop Hunting Blinds who donated a ground blind to the Heroes Hunt initiative, Brent Campbell, our veteran recipient of the donated ground blind, Josh Larsen, and Campbell's son. Photo Courtesy of Josh Larsen.

While many of Primitive Patriot's offerings are open to all, Larsen particularly wants to help other veterans heal through outdoor pursuits. "I want them to experience the peace of the outdoors like I do," he says.

That's why he organized the Heroes Hunt in 2022, which uses fundraising to take veterans and first responders on guided hunts with travel, lodging, camo, and fees all covered. One of these hunts took Larsen and a veteran with PTSD to the mountains of Colorado to chase elk.

"He left that mountain completely different, just like I did," Larsen says. "There is a spot 12,000 feet up and you can see for thousands of miles. It took my breath away. It took me out of reality. It didn't bring you back down, it took you out. All those things you think about, like bills and all that stuff, nothing was there. Your mind is empty."

The Future of Primitive Patriot Outdoors

Josh Larsen and Primitive Patriot Outdoors pro staffer Jeff Mason.

At its core, Primitive Patriot Outdoors is a business, and according to Larsen, every business needs a signature product. He has been working to develop a standalone streaming app, called PPO TV, for outdoor content shows like his. It's still in the preliminary stages, but the plan is to launch within the next year or two. The vision is an alternative to big-name hunting shows on Netflix and other major streaming platforms.

The goal is to showcase the "normal guys" creating outdoor content in fair-chase scenarios, as an alternative to celebrity names who mostly use guided hunts or hunt fenced-in areas. Larsen's got a heart for the underdog, and he wants to offer other outdoor content creators a chance to be featured on a network.

"Think of Netflix," Larsen says. "There's 'Meateater' and there's 'Duck Dynasty.' PPO TV offers an alternative to the mainstream rich guys."

With anything Larsen pursues, it's all gas straight ahead. "There is no plan B," he says—giving up is never an option. Just like with that first buck he shot, when he gets himself in the woods, things tend to work out for him.

READ MORE: How the Outdoors Helped a Navy Seal's Transition Back to Normal Life