FLORENCE – There is a lot more to hunting than pulling the trigger.
A Florence couple is creating a name for themselves in the world of outdoor television by producing a series called Skull Bound TV that takes viewers behind the scenes of hunting expeditions.
“It’s not about the kill,” said Jana Waller, the show’s host. “It’s all about the journey, the challenge, the people you meet, and the adventure.”
Teamed with executive producer Jim Kinsey, this two-person crew traveled from Alaska to Texas this past year to film new adventures to share on their program that’s now found its way to prime-time hours on The Sportsman Channel.
When the pair first began discussing the idea of creating a show that might have a chance to compete at a time when just about everyone with a camera is hoping to do the same, they knew it would have to be totally different from what’s out there now.
“We talked about what was missing,” Kinsey said. “There aren’t many hunting-type programs that have a positive female model. And there aren’t many that really offer good storytelling either.”
Beyond that, Waller had a skill that no one else had ever really featured. Years ago, she’d tapped her inner artist to create eye-catching and unique designs on animal skulls. Those skulls have brought in thousands of dollars for a variety of conservation organizations over the years.
So the couple decided to put all three of those ingredients into their program and see where it might take them.
“We found our niche and it’s working,” Waller said.
Last year, their program aired on Saturday mornings and by the end of season it had been nominated as the best combination show in the Sportsman Channel Choice Awards.
After that early success, the half-hour program was moved to the channel’s Big Game Night, airing twice on Wednesday night and in a Friday morning slot.
The producers are proud of the fact that they’ve added a “conservation minute” to their program that offers a look at the multitude of ways that sportsmen work to maintain wildlife habitat and foot the bill for important research.
This year’s programming includes a look at the ongoing elk/predator study in the southern reaches of the Bitterroot Valley.
The couple filmed a wolf and elk calf capture and talked directly with the biologists conducting the field research.
That’s not the only program that is Montana centric.
The pair traveled to eastern Montana to spend time with the “Montana Doggers,” who use mountain cur hounds to hunt the wily coyote on the wide-open plains. Waller also tagged along on mountain lion and antelope hunts in the state.
In one of this year’s favorites for the couple, Waller finally connected with a bull elk after spending three unsuccessful years hunting on public lands in Montana. That hunt included a bootless stalk and an amazing 510-yard cross-canyon shot.
“It’s important for people to know that I practice all the time at distances much further than that,” she said. “I was very confident in being able to make that shot.”
In a sport where participation is on the decline, Kinsey said it’s very important that their program offers Waller as a strong role model for women and girls who might consider giving hunting a try.
Studies show that the percentage of young people who hunt is much higher in a household where the mother is a hunter, Waller said. If only the father hunts, that percentage drops dramatically, she said.
“We want to encourage young people to hunt,” she said. “We want to encourage them to get outdoors.”
This year’s season includes 13 episodes.
“It can be kind of exhausting when you are the host for all 13,” Waller said. “Once we finish the editing, we’re right back at it filming adventures for the next season.”
There aren’t many two-person crews left in this competitive business anymore.
“I think we’re unique in that way,” Kinsey said.