Janesville youth chases dream to host outdoor TV show
At age 15, Ryan Valley isn’t getting any younger.
That’s why the Janesville teen decided to get such an early start on his dream to host a hunting and fishing show on TV.
Valley two years ago started filming his deer hunting trips with a digital flip camera mounted on his hunting bow. He’s since moved on to a full-size, Panasonic DVC80 digital camera.
Now, with the help of his father, Keith Valley, and his uncle Tim Reynolds of Edgerton, Valley is aiming into uncharted territory. As far as he knows, he’s the only teen trying to land an outdoors television show.
“It’d be a first, and it’d be a good thing,” the Parker High School junior said. “You’d get more youths getting involved in the outdoor sports. Young kids could watch someone their own age doing this, hunting, fishing. They could see it’s possible for younger people to do all this stuff.”
The Valleys and Reynolds, with help from friends and family, have shot a dozen snippets of hunting and fishing footage, mostly on small digital cameras. Ryan has posted them to YouTube and Facebook.
The footage, which is mostly of turkey hunts and bass fishing, is shaky and rough around the edges. Some has windblown audio. But it’s a start.
The trio has used its early efforts to develop a concept and a name: “The Fields Edge Outdoors,” a family-based outdoor show. Ryan is the host. Keith co-hosts. Reynolds is the main cameraman. They have a website and even a few sponsors, mostly local hunting and fishing outfitters and taxidermists.
On Thursday north of Edgerton, Keith watched as Ryan and Reynolds hauled a bow and their new camera up a tree. They were on private land, practicing for deer archery season, which starts Sept. 17. The trio plans to film several bow hunts this year.
In two stands in a tree at the edge of a thicket, Ryan and Reynolds looked out over a wheat field sandwiched near cornfields and more woods.
Ryan shot a target with arrows while Reynolds filmed from behind. He accidentally dropped the camera’s lens cap to the ground.
“This is all pretty new to us,” Keith said. “We’re by no means experts. We’re all learning the ropes together.”
The biggest challenge for Ryan is learning the mechanics of hunting while someone’s filming him.
“It’s a lot different than just going out hunting. You’ve got to worry about camera angles and where you’re shooting. And it’s harder to hide a cameraman while you’re hunting. Filming fishing is easier,” he said.
At a recent outdoor showcase, Ryan met two of his heroes: Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, who host “The Crush,” a national hunting show on the Outdoor Channel. The pair has major corporate sponsors and a production crew, but Ryan said they told him they started out small—just a few of them in the woods with a camera. That inspired him.
“They told me you just have to start filming and filming and filming. That’s the only way you’re going to get better,” he said.
Keith said production companies say Ryan is too young for TV. They won’t consider anyone under 18. Plus he said it costs as much as $22,000 to air just 15 minutes of footage on a major outdoor network.
Ryan plans to film as many hunts as he can in the next two years. He’ll keep posting clips to YouTube and Facebook, and he’ll keep sending footage to potential sponsors.
Getting enough footage won’t be hard. Along with deer hunting and fishing, he hunts birds, he traps and he even bow-hunts carp.
Reynolds said he’s proud of his nephew. He can’t think of a better way to spend family time than to be in the woods hunting or on the water fishing.
“We’re just here to support him, whatever happens. This is really about him,” Reynolds said.
Some of Ryan’s friends dismiss his efforts, telling him he’ll never land a TV show. But he said they’re the first to respond to Facebook posts on his upcoming hunts.
“They ask, ‘Where are you going? What are you doing?’” Ryan said. “I just tell them, ‘Wait. One day, you’ll be seeing me on TV.”