Interview with Willi Schmidt, host for Pure Hunting
CC- Willi, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
WS- I’m a Colorado native, I grew up in Fort Collins. My dad was a wildlife biologist at Colorado State University and he is where I got my passion from for the outdoors. Note: Willi is married and a father of two kids; he has a very large and noticeable passion to be outdoors and genuinely loves talking about hunting. Willi tries to get to the mountains and ski when he can but with a busy family life that sometimes proves difficult.
CC- Where and when did hunting start for you?
WS- My dad hunted and when I was a kid you couldn’t start hunting big game in Colorado until you were 14, its 12 now I think. I was in the duck blind and walking the fields for doves when I was 4 or 5 but my first big game hunt wasn’t until I was 14. It was a rifle hunt that my father and I went on. I got into the archery game in 1992, it was after college due to the lack of time I had when I was in school. I didn’t really have any friends my age that hunted so all my hunting buddies were my dad and his friends. I grew up hearing their stories and was inspired to make some myself.
CC-How did hunting lead you to be the host for Pure Hunting TV?
WS- It’s kind of a funny story; I was a banker in my first life. Some of my customers ran a production company called Orion Multimedia. I left the bank in 2007 and let all my clients know I was getting out of the business. I had a great relationship with the guys who owned Orion so when I told them I was leaving they asked if I would be interested in doing some guest hosting for their shows. I started with co-hosting whitetail revolution. A few of the guys from Orion broke off and started True Sight Media and were in need of a new show. We talked about what the other shows were doing and what we wanted to do, mostly we wanted to do what other shows weren’t. At the time there were only a couple shows doing DIY western hunting and the production wasn’t great on either of them. We wanted a show that was do it yourself but also had a great production value. Who would have thought that a guy’s hunting passion would turn into his business interest?
CC-Is Pure Hunting your full time job or do you do something else to pay the bills?
WS-No, it’s not. A lot of people think that since I have a show that it is, but for most cases such as myself it’s not. I own a couple carwashes with my cousin and that’s my primary income. The carwash allows me the flexibility and time to hunt and take off when the season rolls around. Each year the show becomes more and more of a focus so it is a year round, full time job in itself.
CC-What do you consider your favorite hunt that has been captured on Pure Hunting?
WS- (without hesitation) Alaska Caribou. It was an archery/rifle hunt, where either take was acceptable. A buddy and I did a drop camp and 5 days later when they picked us up our tags were filled. We both ended up using rifles to take the caribou’s.
CC-If you could only hunt one species for rest of your days, what would it be and why?
WS- (we discussed this in length prior to the interview so I wasn’t surprised a bit when I got the answer) archery elk. The why being; I was raised in the west and hearing my dad and his friends stories about hunting elk really got me excited. I mean, an elk bugle is as surreal and western as it gets! More than anything it’s the whole experience, there are fewer hunters in the woods and the fact that you have to get so close to get it done.
CC-How difficult is it to become sponsored and what route do you suggest for someone to take if that’s the goal?
WS-If I were to put it on a difficulty scale it would be, very difficult. Even if you have relationships with the prostaff, most sponsors want quality production for a sustained period of time. They want to see a “sizzle reel” or “promo reel” to understand the concept of the show. There are a lot of guys that have their buddy’s tape them or are making videos in their basement and may only put out a sizzle reel but don’t have the cash flow to put out more episodes the next year. The sponsors want to know, okay we saw your promo reel, but can you put together an episode with great production, how about a series? Then, what about next year, and the year after that? The longer you are in it the better, or easier it gets (Willi mentioned it’s still not a cake walk) to get sponsors. Basically sponsors want to see that you can keep it going before they commit. There is a steep learning curve with this stuff so being a co-host prior definitely helps. But, to do it from scratch isn’t easy.
CC-What kind of advice do you have for someone looking for a career in the outdoor industry?
WS-Be realistic on how hard it is before you start. Do your research and touch base with people who are doing it. Most importantly, don’t quit your day job. I had a buddy tell me; take all your money, your friend’s money, and your family’s money, put it in your front yard, dump lighter fluid on it and light on fire, because that’s what it will be like for the first few years.
CC-What do you think social media is doing for the sport?
WS-It’s great for making new contacts. I had a guy reach out to me from Arkansas and say, hey you outta come down here and hunt, the hunting’s great. I told him; don’t invite me unless you mean it because I will come. A year and a half ago I went down, the first time I met the guy in person was at the airport, it was a little weird just because of the nature of it, but we hit it off immediately. Now we are great friends. I was hunting elk this year in Colorado and a guy happened to see my truck at the trail head so he pinged me and said, hey I’m guessing you’re in here hunting elk? He explained he had a later season tag and would love to trade information on what he found and what I found. That was great, and he may not have said anything unless he saw the Pure Hunting sticker on my truck and looked us up. That’s what it’s all about, sharing info and the sport, it’s what the industry should be. On the other end of it; a lot of guys feel like unless their posting something to Facebook or Twitter they aren’t “competing” with the other guys. That can create jealousy and isn’t productive for anyone.
Sitting down and having dinner and a couple beers with Willi was great, he’s a standup guy and real straight shooter. We talked hunting for a couple hours and I got to see inside the life a hunting host for the Sportsman Channel. The conversation consisted of a lot of things, from daily life to killing critters, to how heavy of an arrow I shoot and some of his future business endeavors. If you ever see Willi in passing take a minute to stop and introduce yourself, you may be surprised in what you have in common. Make sure to check Pure Hunting out online and on the Sportsman Channel, you won’t regret it.