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Television program is aimed for the average outdoorsman

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2002

GRAND LAKE, Okla. (AP) -- Shawn Jones didn't want to have an everyday-run-of-the-mill outdoors show. He wanted something to set it apart from the others.

Through ''Wildlife Quest,'' which airs on ESPN2 Saturdays at 8:30 a.m., he's accomplishing that.

''We can go on extreme safaris, but the average outdoorsman wants to see what he can do in his own backyard,'' said Jones, who is based in Tulsa and spends his free time on Grand Lake with his wife, Debbie and two sons.

''That is who our show is geared toward.''

The show aired for the first time recently and the response has been favorable.

''The wife of our outfitter said they have been inundated with calls ... they're booked for the next two years.'' Jones said. ''That is the real reward.''

With more than 15 years of outdoor television and video production experience, Jones thought ''Wildlife Quest'' was a natural progression.

He was the first to film a bowhunt for Russian boar and he took a Safari Club International world record on camera for the video, ''Raging Boars II.''

His ''Raging Boars'' and ''Raging Boars II'' are two of the all-time best selling videos in the hunting industry across the U.S. and internationally.

Jones has done 14 other videos featuring boar, turkey, deer and elk hunts.

A couple years ago Jones was approached about developing a television show on the former Nashville Network.

''I was a newlywed and decided to stay in video because I thought it was saturated. I went a different route on The Outdoor Channel,'' Jones said. ''This (hunting) has been my true love ever since I was a kid. There was nothing I wanted to do more.''

He joined forces with NaturalGear, a Little Rock-based manufacturer of camouflage equipment, to develop ''Wildlife Quest.''

A meeting with the brass at ESPN went well.

''They thought there was a market for the avid outdoorsman from the Midwest and they thought it would work well with their current programming,'' Jones said.

Demographically, the action adventure series targets a male audience between 18 and 45 with a discretionary income spent on the +outdoor+ industry equal to 30 percent of their annual salary.

Episodes this season will be centered around elk in the Rocky Mountains and South Dakota, whitetail deer in Iowa and Texas, snow geese along the Gulf Coast, Canada geese in the Columbia River Basin of Washington and Oregon, turkey with NASCAR champion Ward Burton in Virginia, more turkey in Kansas, Russian boar in the Missouri, Ozarks, Alaska coastal black bear, pronghorn in New Mexico, ducks along the Platte River in Nebraska and a dream hunt for migratory birds in Argentina.

It took about a year to hammer out the details.

''We try to portray a good quality hunt, conservation, including kids, family and women and try to have a show geared to the avid outdoorsman,'' Jones said.

''They are really pushing it (the outdoor programming block) and are doing some stuff on their own,'' Jones said.

Jones said taping for the season has been completed, but he's heading to Alaska with his father on a fishing trip. He is taking a camera along, just in case.

His next major hunt will be for mule deer in North Dakota.

Jones was 9 when he got his first whitetail using a 6 mm Remington while hunting with his father.

''I was hooked and have been doing it avidly ever since,'' he said.

The younger Jones was a blue chip high school football player in Harlingen, Texas and was eventually signed by Oklahoma State University and then head coach Jimmy Johnson.

''Jimmy is a motivator,'' Jones said. ''He can take an average kid, like me and turn him into what he calls one of his 'book players.'''

Jones played for the Cowboys in the 1980s when they were saddled with an NCAA probation.

''We didn't have the caliber of athletes you need due to the probation, but we had a lot of heart,'' he said.

Jones gave pro football a shot, landing with the San Antonio Gun Slingers of the long-defunct United State Football League.

While in San Antonio, Jones was exposed to the television production industry and the just-blooming home video market.

''You can't play football forever, but you can enjoy the outdoors forever,'' he said. ''I have two young sons (Hunter and Colten) and what makes it nice is I can bring them up in the outdoors. We're passing the heritage on as well as a respect of nature hunting laws. It's a valuable part of life and I am having a ball with it.''

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