“This show is about making a connection with the outdoors. For me, going hunting or fishing has a soothing, calming effect and lets me reconnect with nature. No one knew how the show would affect kids like Jake, but it allowed them to just enjoy being outdoors.”
— Craig Conrad, a former Moffat County High School teacher, on the purpose of the new television show he hosts, “Wyoming’s Call of the Wild”
For the past year, Craig Conrad has been living a busy life.
Conrad, a Craig resident and former Moffat County High School teacher, was chosen last November as the host of a new outdoor experience reality show, “Wyoming’s Call of the Wild,” produced by Orion Entertainment.
In February, Conrad and Orion began searching to find youth to take out on hunting and fishing trips for the 13-episode series before filming began in May.
Filming wrapped up in November, but for almost seven months, Conrad had to pull double duty.
As the author of “Unstoppable,” Conrad goes on the road multiple weeks a year as a motivational speaker at high schools all over the country.
However, in the final week of 2011, Conrad got to relax, as “Call of the Wild” aired at 5 p.m. Wednesday on the Sportsman Channel.
The first episode will have an encore showing at 10 a.m. today.
“It is an awesome feeling,” Conrad said of the show finally airing. “I had the chance to meet so many amazing people through the show. Each kid we took out was awesome and had such an incredible story.
“I thought speaking would be the most amazing thing I would do, and it is still up there, but (television) was pretty amazing.”
In the first episode, Conrad takes Jake Bullock, of Rifle, out on a turkey hunt.
Bullock graduated from Rifle High School in May, but not without fighting for it.
Bullock lost his father to cancer years ago and is a lung cancer survivor himself.
Conrad said he had a chance to talk with Bullock in the mornings, and was glad he was able to help Bullock get an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.
“As a shop teacher, I was a father figure for a lot of my students, and I felt that with Jake, too,” he said. “One morning over breakfast, Jake opened up to me and it was hard to fight back tears. He had gone through more in his (young life) than most will go through in a lifetime.”
Conrad said the show had the exact effect on Bullock he and Orion were hoping for.
“This show is about making a connection with the outdoors,” he said. “For me, going hunting or fishing has a soothing, calming effect and lets me reconnect with nature. No one knew how the show would affect kids like Jake, but it allowed them to just enjoy being outdoors.”
Conrad said he had the opportunity to hunt and fish with kids from all different types of situations — brothers with cancer, a girl who had never been outside the big city, and a mother and her son.
But, the one who will always stick with Conrad, he said, was a 16-year-old boy, Michael, who had Down syndrome.
Conrad said he, along with the Wyoming Game and Fish department, took Michael fishing in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
“Michael would easily burst into emotion, and when he caught his first fish, cleaned it and cooked it, he was so happy,” Conrad said. “One day, we were in the middle of the lake, and he got a chance to drive the boat. It was the first time he had ever been behind the wheel of a vehicle and had a death grip on the wheel, but within five minutes he had one hand on the wheel and one hand waving his hat in the air.
“I will never forget that.”
Conrad said he spent on average five days with each kid or group on each episode, and even had a chance to film an episode with him taking Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead out hunting with his family.
One of the biggest obstacles, he said, was overcoming a camera crew following him on hunts.
“The cameras took some getting used to, and some kids never did, but once they really got into it, they forgot all about them,” Conrad said. “Luckily, the camera guys were all great and they made it easy for us to go out there and do the real deal even with cameras and tripods.”
Conrad said he hopes when the 13 episodes are done airing, more people will want to go outside and enjoy the natural playground.
“Any hunter or fisher will say that their greatest moment wasn’t the trophy buck or fish, it was taking their kid out with them,” he said. “I got a chance to experience that with over a dozen kids through this show, and every time I had the chance to see them light up with excitement.”
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