By Mark Kenyon
When I opened the email, my stomach dropped to the floor. It started, “I’ve got good news and bad news.”
The bad news? The first story I’d ever been assigned to write for Outdoor Life magazine needed to be re-worked. I was embarrassed and worried. The opportunity to write a story in Outdoor Life was a big deal and a huge honor, and I really wanted to make a great first impression. Unfortunately, I hadn’t. Discouraged, I read on.
“The good news: We’re strongly considering putting you on the cover of our April issue”
My stomach leapt back up off the floor and right up into my throat. The cover of Outdoor Life magazine? I was shocked. And that night I spent a good two hours laying in bed tossing and turning, one part excited, another part nervous, two parts overwhelmed.
Several months later, it’s all come to fruition. The April issue of Outdoor Life magazine is on newsstands and in mailboxes, and unbelievably I’m on the cover, the story about Wired To Hunt is within, and the article I had to re-write made it in too!
It definitely is. And today I thought I’d share a little behind-the-scenes look at how this all went from an email to a story and finally the cover of Outdoor Life. Because, you know, this kind thing doesn’t happen every day.
Before that, I first want to say thank you. None of this would be possible if you and your friends and millions of other whitetail addicts out there didn’t follow Wired To Hunt and give me the opportunity to share my stories and lessons learned. It’s been a blessing and an honor and I appreciate it with all my heart.
That all said … how does a gomer like me end up on the cover of Outdoor Life? Well, it began at a bar and grill in Indianapolis …
Outdoor Life’s April edition is their “How-To” issue and this year they wanted to take a unique spin on that idea, by examining “how-to” make money hunting for a living, as well as money saving tips related to hunting. I fit into this whole deal because I’ve managed to piece together a living in the hunting industry in a somewhat unique way and Outdoor Life wanted to hear more about it. I was asked to meet one of their writers at a bar and grill in Indy and chat. Two or three hours later, I’d divulged my life story, had a few laughs at my own expense and made plans to meet a photographer soon in southern Ohio.
I’ve looked at a lot of magazine covers over the years, but never once did I realize how much work goes into creating one. Now, I do.
The concept for this cover shot was that I’m this “new media” hunter and they’d convey this on the cover by having me in all my hunting gear, but also strewn with an array of media equipment. Once this idea was settled upon I began receiving emails from the OL team asking questions about what kind of camera gear I used in the field, what I recorded my podcasts with, what kind of stuff do I bring in the woods with me and much more. Next, they asked that I take a photo of my own, with all the gear I use to tell my stories (video, audio, written) while in full camo, to get a better idea of what they were working with. That photo, that I had snapped behind my house, is embarrassingly bad. But somehow, they still wanted to work with me. Feel free to laugh at me, I do too.
From there I got numerous notes and updates about locations, plans and concepts for the photo shoot and finally at the end of January I drove down to southern Ohio to meet the team.
Now, when we arrived at the planned meeting location, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never been a part of a professional photo shoot, let alone be the focus of one. And to be honest, I was kind of nervous. What if I didn’t look the part? What if I wasn’t good at standing still and looking at a camera? What if I looked as dumb in the professional photos as I did in the photos I took at home!?
Luckily, my fears were overblown. Working with me that day was the photo editor for Outdoor Life, a professional freelance photographer and his assistant and they were all awesome. As they started moving equipment from their rental vehicle to my truck, I realized that these guys weren’t messing around either. This was serious business.
Over the course of the next half hour or so, we ferried boxes and gear, my bow, all my camo, cameras, GoPros, tripods, monopods, boom mics, lights and flashes and everything in between, all the way out into the middle of a cornfield. And finally, we began snapping photos. For the first 10 minutes I had a hard time not laughing, this whole thing was just so surreal and ridiculous. How in the world did I get chosen for this? The gumpy kid from Wired To Hunt on the front of Outdoor Life? It was crazy.
“Move your feet. No, that’s not natural. Just walk around. Move them some more. Try again. Wait, there, freeze! That’s it.”
I heard this general line of commands over and over and after a few minutes I came to find out that in these kinds of shoots, it’s all about the feet and how you’re standing. I was constantly having to readjust my stance, change where I placed my weight, bend my knee, straighten my knee, shift my foot that way and then turn it this way. But just as soon as I got my feet right, my head or something else was all wrong! Turn my head, turn it back, lower my chin, stretch out my arm, bring it back down, etc, etc. Next it was smile, smirk, serious, a “blue steel” face, and then just laughter. I laughed a lot, mostly because I knew I must look pretty stupid doing all of these things. And luckily the photo team-members were great sports about it. This continued on for nearly six hours.
As things finally wrapped up, I had a hard time believing what we’d just done. As nervous as I was about the whole thing, it ended up going just fine and we had a blast. And over the course of those six hours we shot what seemed like a million different variations for the cover shoot, numerous options for an inside spread, and a number of closer up profile shots. For those shots I did everything from standing with all my gear, to having eight GoPros strapped to me, to interviewing a deer decoy. And as you can see from the photos shown above and below, they turned out kind of cool, right?
All in all, it was one heck of an experience. And still today, I can’t really believe it happened. Sitting here at my computer, typing all of this up, I’m simply overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for this opportunity. I don’t deserve this, but I certainly appreciate it and I’m excited for the opportunities that this might open up for Wired To Hunt.
That said, hopefully things will only continue to get better here at Wired To Hunt and you can expect more blogs, podcasts and videos in the days, weeks, and months to come. I’m going to keep working hard to make this the best possible resource for you that it can be, and I hope you’ll stick around with me to see where things go next.
Thank you again for your support, your time and of course, for staying wired to hunt.
– Mark Kenyon
If you don’t subscribe to Outdoor Life, be sure to head to the nearest newsstand and pick up a copy of the April issue to see the cover story about me/Wired To Hunt and the articles I wrote in this issue as well!