StruttinBuck OUTDOORS

Story by Jeannie Stone

An Arkansas reality show has become a national phenomenon after hitting the Internet with filmed hunts and landing on the Sportsman Channel for a season. The home-grown show is redefining the way outdoor television targets mainstream hunting fans thanks to the talented crew behind the lens and bows. The show recently flew the coup and landed in the realm of Fox TV land. The show now airs at 8 a.m. on the local Fox 16 station. 

StruttinBuck Outdoors is the brainchild of Heath Graham, Brandon Hunt and Charlie Parton, and even they’ll admit, it all started as a joke. “I met Brandon and Charlie at the gym. David Clayton and Jeremiah McNeely and I had been friends for years. We all shared a passion for hunting,” Graham said. “The whole idea kind of started up as a big joke between David and Jeremiah,” Graham said.

The two were camping out during the first weekend of deer season seven years ago and began a pipe dream about having their own outdoor show.

“They started throwing around names for their imaginary show,” Graham added. StruttinBuck was born.

Several years later, Graham put together a Web site under the name and told his friends to visit the site.

“They didn’t believe me at first,” he said. But the joke was on them.

Graham, the initial cameraman, began posting footage from actual hunts on the Web site and within the first year more than 100,000 fans viewed the site.

“It spread by word of mouth,” Graham said. “We never expected it.”

What surprised the most, however, were the calls from well-known companies wanting to advertise on the site.

“We knew we were on to something when Mathews SoloCam — one of the largest bow manufacturers — called us and asked what we were doing,” Graham said. In July, 2007, the Sportsman Channel picked up the show and their fan base multiplied.

“People loved our name and the logo,” Graham said. “There’s tons of hunting shows out there, but we’re different. We’re not professional. Our show relates to normal, everyday outdoorsmen.”

It’s that common factor that appeals to viewers according to Graham. The men hunt for the most part on public lands. And they hunt without a script.

“We’re just hauling a camera around doing what we are doing,” Graham said.

“It’s a reality show, Heath said. “Whatever happens will likely be aired. It does put pressure on you.”

Parton’s several frightful brushes with calamity are the focus of several segments.

“That’s something else that draws viewers in because most shows hide the mistakes and don’t show the misses,” Graham said.

“Charlie is kind of our comedian,” Graham said. “He just fell through the roof of a chicken house a while back.”

The 15 ft. fall was anything but planned. Parton fell on a concrete floor and shattered a couple of vertebrae. The killer part of that for him was that it happened a day before hunting season.

“He was rushed to the hospital in Dardanelle, and they called Air-Evac. It was scary, but it provided us some great footage.” The crew incorporated his hospital stay into the show including a clip of Parton in the hospital before and after the surgery.

“Viewers really liked that,” Graham said. “Female fans flocked to the hospital.” Parton is one of two single men on the show.

“He loved that,” Hunt said. “His head grew 10 times. He thinks he’s hot stuff.”

There are a lot of bucks strutting across the big screen TV, but some fans tune in to watch bucks of the two-legged variety — Graham, Hunt, Parton, Shane Coley, Zack Reddell, Scott Greathouse and Matt Gray.

Another memorable episode showed Parton at the tattoo parlor.

“He wanted to get a StruttinBucks tattoo,” Graham said. “People loved that show. He’s StruttinBucks for life now.”

“We try to take care of Heath,” Hunt said. “He’s the only editor we got, so he’s not going to be working on any chicken houses anytime soon.”

Graham filmed the clips at the beginning of the wild adventure, but everyone has had their turn behind the lens. The men don’t claim to be professionals in their hunting nor their filming.

“Our show is just as much about the cameraman as the hunting,” he said.

One of the largest outdoor internet sites, myoutdoorstv.com, started airing StruttinBuck episodes at no cost to the team during the first season. The ad- driven programing exposed more hunting enthusiasts to the show.

“Not everybody gets cable,” Graham said, “and broadening our viewership allowed us to promote Arkansas to more people. He posts all shows online.

“Just as many follow us on Facebook as watch us on TV,” said Graham. “I can post the video anywhere on the Internet. In that regard, we ahead of most of the shows like ours. We don’t have anything to lose. We just want to build our fan base.”

When StruttinBuck Outdoors signed with Sportsman Channel two years ago, they were required to have 13 original shows for the following year.

“We had one show done,” Graham said. “It was a walk on faith.”

Making the move to Fox brings the show back home to Arkansas.

“We want to promote Arkansas hunting. Most people don’t know what a beautiful state this is,” Graham said.

The guys will still be on the road to a lesser degree.

“It takes a lot of footage to make the season work,” Graham said. “Because our limits are high here, it’s harder to find that trophy deer sometimes. About 80 percent of our hunts will be in Arkansas, but we’ll supplement our shows with out-of-state hunts.”

The SB Team hunts just about anything including feral hogs, turkey, deer, bear, waterfowl, pheasant and fishing. Other shows are planned. In another cutting edge marketing move, the team has added launch teams in Kansas, North Carolina and Illinois where other hunters are filming their hunts to add some extra footage.

Traveling to promote the show has kept the young fathers busy. They plan to sponsor a booth at the Big Buck Classic followed by the ATA show in Minneapolis.

“We get to spend the winters meeting fans,” Graham said. “We plan on streaming live shows from the Big Buck Classic this year.”

Hunting is just getting started for the season. The taped segments from this year will air next year. One of the upcoming shows will feature Hunt’s hunt in Iowa last year.

“Brandon drew an Iowa tag, so he and I went out there,” Graham said. “In hindsight, he passed up deer that he might should have shot. A bigger deer never came. We all laugh at him now.”

“We always put our success rates on the Web site,” Parton said. “That went on there too.”

It’s obvious the buddies enjoy the company. They laugh at each other’s escapades and misses. They have a nickname for Parton.

“We call him Big Sexy,” Graham said. “They call me Heath Randall, and there’s

no significance to that whatsoever. We call Brandon Big B.”

Their fame has allowed them to participate in worthwhile endeavors such as Hope Outdoors, a Christian organization devoted to enabling kids with disabilities the chance to hunt.

“The look in those guys’ eyes when they shoot something just melts you,” Graham said.

Showcasing sponsors is necessary to attract the almighty advertising dollar Graham said.

“It takes a lot of money to pull this off. Basically, what we are is an advertising business. All the commercial advertising pays for the show, but we wouldn’t be able to do what we do if it weren’t for the sponsors.”

Arkansas sponsors include Wilkins Brothers Outdoors, River Valley Furniture, The Journey church, LeAnn’s Fine Jewelry, Plot’s Plus out of Conway, Maxx Nutrition, Scent Drifter, Natural Gear Camouflage, John Deere – Maus Implement Company, Honda of Russellville, Taylor Oil, Inc., Rescue Refueling and Roll’n Wrapz, L.L.C.

Facing the unknown in the world of syndications, advertising and sponsorships has been a challenge, but there have been huge benefits for Team SB.

“It’s provided us unbelievable opportunities to meet some fascinating people around the country,” Graham said, “such as Ray Scott, the founder of B.A.S.S., Bill Dance, and we’ve made some good friends in Destin, Florida, so we can add salt water fishing to our show format.”

“It helps that we have wonderful wives,” Graham said. “They are our greatest marketers.

Graham, father of Gavin, 6, and Riley Kate, 1, is married to Christie and is a campus minister for Arkansas Tech University.

Hunt, a territory manager for an animal health pharmaceutical company, is married to Karmen and is father to Hannah, 5, and Reese,1.

Parton works on a farm in Cardon Bottoms and is father to three children: Kayli, 12, Brooklyn, 11, and Brayden, 3.

Greathouse, employed by MBM Enterprises, is married to Candace and is father to Jessie, 8, Jonathan, 5, and Samantha, 10 months.

Coley, employed by J.W. Aluminum, is married to Amanda and is father to 1 year old Addison.

Reddell is married to Lindsey and father to Logan, 8, and Cole, 4 1⁄2. Gray is employed by the City of Russellville and remains single.

There‘s a special camaraderie between hunters who celebrate trophy successes and sympathize over missed opportunities. “Basically, we have fun,” Graham said.  

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