There are some people whom you admire in this life and there are people you look up to in life and Jim Zumbo is one of those people whom I look up to. Promoting the Nation’s Outdoor Sportsmen’s Show has been an opportunity of a lifetime for me and I had the opportunity to book Jim Zumbo and I took that opportunity very seriously. Talking to him on the phone and sending this interview to him was and has been a pleasure.
Jim Zumbo has done a tremendously great service in promoting conservation and hunting throughout the country and I hope you all enjoy this interview. Jim is a true conservation Hero!
What did you do before you got involved in the outdoors industry?
I’ve always been involved in the outdoors. I have two degrees in forestry and wildlife, and worked for 15 years as forester and wildlife biologist for state and government agencies. I joined Outdoor Life full time in June, 1978.
How did you first get introduced to the outdoors?
My family. At a young age I was introduced to hunting and fishing by my dad, grandfather, and uncles.
What led you to seek out a career in the outdoor industry?
Always wanted to be an outdoor journalist/photographer, and began writing free-lance articles while in college. When Outdoor Life made the offer in 1978, I walked away from the government whistling and never looked back.
What advise would you give for aspiring outdoor writers?
Three T’s…talent, tenacity, and timing. Be able to write, hang in, and network yourself until the right opportunities come along. A BS degree is helpful, if not essential, with plenty of classes in journalism, creative writing, and natural resouces.
How long did it take to get your first book written and then published?
I wrote my first book, I think, in 1974, on Fishing Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah, a popular destination for huge brown and lake trout. I self-published it. Since then, I’ve written some 20 more, six of them self-published.
What is your favorite animal to hunt and why?
No surprise to people who know me….elk. They live in the most magnificent country in America, are a challenge to hunt from a physical perspective, are charismatic, are vocal and can be called, are noble, handsome, have impressive antlers, and fantastic as table fare.
What is your dream hunt?
No dream hunts, though there are many I want to pursue. I also am fondest of hunts with my best friends and kids. To me, a squirrel hunt with a 10 year old child is on my highest priority list.
What should new hunters know about filming their hunts and what advise would you give people pursuing a career in outdoor television?
Don’t understand the question. Do you mean new hunters who are filming for family entertainment? If so, I’d suggest learning how to use a camera well, use a tripod when possible, don’t show excessive blood, and graphic footage of an expiring animal, and etc. Avoid long dialogues…very boring.
As far as advice to people pursuing a career in outdoor TV, it’s exceedingly competitive and expensive. Many people are attempting to get into it, and there is currently a large number of shows that are being filmed with hopes of “making it.” Having money to buy air time on quality networks (which is very expensive in itself) is not going to guarantee the show will ever see the light of day. Network program managers will pick and choose only the top quality shows. To defray the costs of producing shows, there are two general ways..an investor or group of investors, or sponsors. The latter are the most common, but potential sponsors are so overwhelmed with show producers to buy in, that the potential sponsors are looking at only those shows where they get most exposure, as all have limited budgets. Expenses include airtime, equipment (cameras, mikes, lights, accessories. etc) editing time(very expensive), travel costs, hunting license fees, and etc.
What does hunting teach you about yourself?
It teaches you about your attitudes, your character, your willingness to overcome challenges during the hunt, the way you feel about the quarry, the environment, and allows you the ability to temporarily eliminate the stresses in your life.
What conservation organizations do you work with and why?
I’m a member of many, but I am primarily involved with RMEF . Elk, elk hunting, and elk country are my passions regarding the outdoors.
Tell us about your favorite gear that you are using currently.
I believe in a shooting rest for my rifle, a good, waterproof day pack to hold all my gear, clothing that will protect me from the elements, good binocs, boots that fit well. I’m not a high tech guy. I don’t use GPS, range finders, two way radios and other accessories, merely because I’m more of a traditional hunter.
Tell us a story of the big one that got away and what you could of done differently to have been successful.
Came upon a huge bull elk bedded under a thick tree 250 yards from a road well traveled by hunters on public land. I was with my son, who was 8. I was in a hurry to leave home, and forgot my binocs. It was the last day of the season and I was hunting a high pressure area where very few people saw an elk. The elk and I looked at each other at 30 yards, but because I had no binocs, I couldn’t identify it as a bull. Suddenly he lurched up and in one bound disappeared. The tree came alive with antlers as he left his bed. Obviously, had I had binocs I could have seen the antlers in the confusion of the shaded tree branches.
What should beginning hunters know before heading west for their first do it yourself elk adventure?
This is a question that has no short answer. I talk and write about it a great deal, and in fact, wrote a book, “How To Plan Your Western Big Game Hunt” (out of print.) Short version…plan, do your homework, research. This will be a primary topic in my seminar.
What is the biggest tip you can offer new hunters today?
Scout the country you intend to hunt thoroughly, learn behavior characteristics of the quarry, learn hunt strategies, try to get in the best physical shape you can if you intend to hunt western mountains.
How was your hunting season this year?
I do some 20 hunts or more each year. This past year I hunted black bears in Canada, turkeys, two trips to Argentina (red stag and doves) and two trips to Africa; sika deer in Maryland, blacktails on Kodiak Island, mule deer in Wyoming, whitetails in Illinois, moose in Canada, and others. Many of my hunts are with wounded warriors from Walter Reed hospital who are double-leg amputees. I host them on hunts and usually never pull the trigger myself. My satisfaction is seeing these heroes enjoying themselves on hunts.
What animal have you taken are you most proud of and why?
There are several. One that comes to mind is a small bull elk I took with a bow. It was my only bowhunt for elk. Taking that animal with a bow was the ultimate challenge for me. Other memorable hunts are those with my children. I have three daughters and a son, all of whom have taken small game and big game. The first hunt with each child and their very first animal taken was, and is, a special memory.
What trips are on your horizon for 2008?
Right now I’m in the process of scheduling and planning hunts. I expect another in Africa, a couple in western Canada, Alaska, western US, and various places in the east and south. I will be ramping up my efforts to work with disabled soldiers. One hunt I’m looking forward to is a desert mule deer hunt in Mexico. Haven’t done that before.