As hunters grow old, we need more of the younger generation to step up and continue. John and Keagan Zelko of the family-oriented TV show, Hardcore Generation TV, are on a mission to encourage more young people to discover deer hunting. They share about the reasons and the philosophy on why they hunt and how they talk about their experiences to others. Touching as well on the impact of social media, they give their insights on how they use it to spread the word on hunting.
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Discover Deer Hunting – Hardcore Generation TV – Keagan and John Zelko
We’re heading out to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We’re going to meet up with the Hardcore Generation TV team and that’s John and Keagan Zelko. Welcome to the show. What do you want to say to the people on Facebook about the show, Keagan?
We’re hoping that we’re going to be popular and a lot of people are going to watch our show.
You’re a special kid because you go out and you talk to other kids about hunting. What do you tell them?
They need to practice a lot with their bows and have fun and go out with their family.Practice a lot with your bows and just have fun. Click To Tweet
You’ve got a pretty special dad too because he’s made all thing possible. John, when you see Keagan and his boat fishing exploits, what did he win the other year?
Junior Fisher of the Year for the US. He does a lot of boat fishing during the summer and then a lot of a whitetail hunting in the winter.
In Pennsylvania, a lot of people whitetail hunt. Why did you start the show, John?
The kids got it in their head that they wanted to try it and we were on an entrance to another show. He said it would be a good idea for us. We’ve been working on it for about three years because we wanted to do it right and not just jump right in. I wanted to do something for the kids and they’re using it to introduce other kids to the sports.When you do something, do it right; don’t just jump right in. Click To Tweet
Keagan, it’s really important that we recruit kids. Hunters are getting old and I’m a perfect example of it. The tipping point is over 50 years old for the average age of hunters. We hunt hard, but we need kids just like you to do exactly what you’re doing, getting on my show and saying, “Get your dad, get your mom, get your uncle, get somebody and let’s get out in the woods together.” Do you shoot a TenPoint crossbow?
Yes, they’re one of our sponsors.
How many deer have you taken with your crossbow?
Is it all bucks and does? Tell me about your first one.
It started to get dark. We heard sounds from behind us and it came out from the side and I said, “Dad, look. There’s a big buck.” It came right in the view. I found a perfect shot, but unfortunately, the camera couldn’t get on it and I put it right behind the shoulder. It was a perfect shot.
You double-logged them. How far did it go?
It was about 40 yards into the woods.
He bailed. You piled him up. You smoked them. I hate it when the deer come up behind me because I ground hunt. I’m sitting on the ground and I hear him coming. They’re not ten, twenty yards away and you hear him coming. It’s not a squirrel because of their sound, their steps. You’d sit there and go, “It’s going to be a buck or doe.” They have to get by me because I’m right handed and I can’t pivot. They have to get in front of me. It’s like a turkey hunt. For me, hunting whitetails off the ground are like turkey hunting because I’ve got my gun up. It’s in my rest and they have to get into my firing lane and then I shoot a red dot. That goes behind the shoulder and I pull the trigger. It’s a done deal. If I just blink, if I do anything, smiled, cracked my head at all, they blow up and go. It really sucks. How do you keep yourself together? Because I cheat and turn my head a little bit. They are only ten yards away eyeball by eyeball. How do you keep your stuff together?
It’s really hard. I have to wait until they get in the right spot. My dad tells me when he’s got the camera on and I’ve got to find him, then I can take the shot.
Do you use a red dot or a scope or what do you use on your TenPoint?
I use a scope.
It’s the red dot for the TenPoint.
Some audience might say, “Bruce, no. You’re wrong.” For whitetail hunting, the red dot is probably the best because you’re taking 10, 20, 30-yard shots at max. It’s simple. You don’t have to find them in the scope. You don’t have to do anything. Both eyes are open. It’s like shotgunning. With both eyes open, you get on the game and pull the trigger. It’s simple. John, how’d you start hunting? Who got you going?
My step-dad took me the first time I went out and then my uncles and my grandfathers just kept me going. As I turned sixteen, it was on because we can hop on our own at sixteen. I was out there as much as I could be.
When did you kill your first buck?
I was probably sixteen. The first one was with a rifle. It wasn’t very big, not like his. He and I were out in the stand and a legal one came out and he was excited. I was the only one that had a tag. He was like, “Shoot it. I’m going to record it.” It wasn’t a big one but we shot it. It was family time. It was fun.
They all eat well. I did not shoot a buck because I passed on all the bucks. That’s the way it was. I had a great season. You figure out what you’re going to be comfortable with and our crew killed a lot of does on the farm. We had plenty of meat. It’s a matter of finding what you want. Keagan, what do you tell kids when they ask you why do you hunt? There have got to be some kids at your school that hunting just doesn’t work for them.
I tell them that it’s a great family experience. I love being out with my family. It’s always a great experience to get the deer and hold it in your hands for the first time, especially if it’s your first year.
My first year was in 1966. It’s been a while, a couple of years since I have killed a deer. We’ll get back at it in the years ahead. It’s a matter of the right deer coming through. What do you think social media impact is on hunting right now, Keagan?
Not a lot of people like hunting, but most people enjoy it.
John, what do you think about social media? You’re all over social media. I’ve checked your sites and everything. Is social media a good thing or a bad thing for us?
It can be good and bad. It’s good to get it out there, but there’s much bickering nowadays between, “It’s got to be this big. I can’t believe you shot that.” If it’s legal, it’s legal. More power to you, especially with these little guys who are even adults with their first deer. You see them post it. They’re happy as can be in and it’s, “You should have never shot that. You shouldn’t have done this. You shouldn’t have done that.” Just congratulate them. That’s not helping our sport either.
How many people are on the Hardcore Generation TV crew?
It’s me, Keagan and his older brother, John. I’m usually caught behind the camera. I don’t get to shoot too much, but that’s all right.
What do you want to happen to your show?
I’d like it to get big enough for them and keep it where we still remember where we came from and not get these big heads and still be involved with the kids. We do a lot of charity events and donate and stuff for sick kids and that kind of thing. We’re always taking new kids out for these adventures. With boat fishing, we have kids that want to go all the time. We have a boat going out every weekend where we take somebody new. We have a kid from Keagan’s hockey team that’s never shot a deer that we’re going to hopefully get out and get him on film getting one. For us, it’s all about helping with the kids and I’m hoping that’s how it stays.
If somebody wants to look you guys up, where can you be found?
Right now we’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We started a YouTube channel, which is Hardcore Generation TV, but we don’t have a whole lot of videos on yet because we’re still in the process of doing all the editing in that for the show. We’re definitely going to be on Gen7 TV, like on Hulu and that kind of TV. We’re trying to keep it low budget the first year as far as where we’re outputting. We can get more adventures in and once we get more sponsors, we’ll build it up and hopefully get on Pursuit Channel which is what we’re looking for.
Good luck to that cause that’s a money play. It isn’t cheap.
Right now, everything’s coming out of my pocket pretty much.
You’re going to have to get sponsors for that.
Buffalo Valley Game Calls has stepped up to the plate and has helped us and does a lot for these boys. TenPoint, they’d been great. We can’t complain with the guys we have right now.
It’s great to see that you’re getting support because Keagan, the future of hunting is in your hands literally. The more you can do, the more you can write blogs, do interviews like you’re doing now and getting the word out. It’s important because kids will say, “He plays hockey, does all this stuff and he hunts. What’s special about hunting?” You sit and talk to him and say, “Come with us and experience it.” I’ll guarantee you the first time they hear that deer walking up behind them or seeing them come over a hill or something, it will light them up.\
It’s great with the kids. We’ve got a lot of companies that send us stuff every time we ask when it comes to kids. Tribe Archery, they give us all our boat fishing stuff. Everything we use for these kids comes from Tribe and they even donate stuff when we get these charity events and everything. They’re just great. Steady Form gives us stuff. They want to see our first year before they step up with more, which I can understand. There are a lot of companies interested in us as long as they get to see our first year.
You have produced as good a quality as you can. That’s basically it. What’s your philosophy on hunting? Do you like tree stands, still hunts, spot and stalk, running gun? What do you guys like to do in the most?
I like tree stands and ground. Sometimes we’d sit on the ground. We’d move around a little bit but not too much because when we have new areas, we don’t move. You just set up a Treezyn and sit there all day.
Is it double set hang-ons or ladder stands?
We have climbers.
How does that work out?
I go up first and he goes up behind me in case if I have any trouble.
How does he get above you to do the filming?
I take mine apart when I get up there, just the top part and put it in between his and get it around to the side so that we’re level. I stand up and hide behind the tree.
What kind of camera gear do you have?
It’s a Canon. I can’t remember the actual brand.
Keagan, do you like shooting more or filming?
When it comes to my dad, I don’t really care. I just like to see him shoot deer. I also like shooting because it’s always fun getting a deer and taking pictures.
Campbell Cameras. It’s a regular hunting Canon. Buffalo Valley actually bought this camera for us. They got us more than started. It has everything. We’ve got a shotgun, mic, everything for it.
When you guys hunt many different places, how do you scout them?
All summer long before we get in.
With long distance scouting, are you using trail cameras? What are you doing?
We use trail cams. We drive a lot. We have a friend who has a farm in Erie that we go up and we put cameras out. We have a great friend out Spittler and Pine Grove, PA that hooks this up with an amazing place to hunt. He does the scouting there for us. We have a farm in Virginia that we travel down to and put cameras out. Maryland also.
Maryland has some big bucks. I’m not that familiar with Virginia. The people I’ve talked to at Maryland, even though you’d think it’s suburban, there’s a lot of agriculture. I know it’s great goose hunting in Maryland. There are some really nice bucks in Maryland if you know where to go.
We hunted in an area that’s archery only.
How do you decide where you’re going to hunt each year?
We go to all of them each year, but it all depends on the schedule with him playing hockey in all the different places. It’s four hours to Erie. It’s only an hour to Maryland, an hour to Pine Grove and then four hours to Virginia. We pick our weekends and go back and forth.
What do you do with all the venison?
It goes quick. It’s in the freezer.
Do you do the process of venison yourself?
We share it with some families like deer meat but don’t hunt too. Then we process and give it to them.
What’s your favorite cut Keagan?
I like steaks, tenderloins.
Then the backstraps. I love jerky because I have the jerky made up from this year’s deer and then I eat it next year. That’s what I like to do on that.
Do you make those up yourself?
No, a local butcher does that for us.
When you think about everything you’ve got ahead of you, Keagan, what are you looking for? What grade are you in?
I’m in seventh.
You’re a big kid for thirteen. At least your pictures look like you’re a big kid. Do you play defense on hockey?
You pound the guys into the boards I bet. Can you board in your league or not?
He can go check but you’re not allowed to board.
In three years, you’re going to be a sophomore in high school. What do you think is going to happen with your hunting career?
I’m really hoping it takes off. We’re on a lot more hunting channels and we’ll get more popular and have a lot more sponsors.
Are you guys going to ATA?
No, we don’t have the access at this point.
Your show hasn’t been published yet.
I’m not really sure how to get in. I thought we might have a way to get in like a company or something. It’s a lot of money involved.
It just depends who sponsors because you could go in with TenPoint.
I didn’t even think of that.
I’m going to be there. I’m press. I’m a member of POMA, Professional Outdoor Media Association. I do promos and I do interviews three days straight and talking to all the companies and finding out what’s new and all that. I would go to your sponsor since you’ve got TenPoint behind you. Call them up and say, “Can we get to Louisville and hang out at your booth and meet people because that’s the best place in the archery world to be?” If you can do anything in the archery world, you need to be at ATA. You need to get there. If you don’t get there this year, get there next year. Work really hard and develop some relationships so you can be part of ATA. There’s no question about it. What are your thoughts, John, about what you see in your son and how he’s developed his confidence and his character just because he hunts?
I’ve been really proud of him. He does a lot of charity events too. He helps with auctions. They sell turkey calls an act to raise money to pay for children’s doctor bills and that kind of stuff. He’s a runner. He helps with that. He collected stuff to take up for those underprivileged kids. He’s always telling his friends about his experiences and telling them they’ve got to come along and bring him. He’s like his older brother. His older brother does the same thing, helps anybody and is always there. I can’t be prouder of my boys.
You’re a proud father. It’s been a pleasure to having you guys on. I wish you guys all the best and reach out to me, make sure I know what’s going on. If I can help you, just let me know.
We’ll definitely keep in touch. I’ll take you boat fishing.
I’m up for my ties. Any evidence of my success is slim to none.
Were you anywhere close to Pikes Peak?
I can see it right off my bed.
We’re coming out there for turkey and elk.
Where are you going to turkey hunt?
Right in the Sangre. Does that sound right?
Sangre de Cristo is south of me.
A partner of Rocky Outfitters is a friend of mine. He’s bringing us out the film and using our footage. He is getting a deal and he’s helping us out.
When you get here, you give me a call. I’ll come and spend a day with you.
The last time we were out, my oldest son was twelve. He shot a nice elk and there were elk everywhere. It was unbelievable.
Is it private land or public land?
Were you hunting with an outfitter?
The Heart of The Rockies. They took us. We stayed in a tent for a week. We stank a little but it was fun.
It’s all good. Just email me and say, “Bruce, we’re coming out. Let’s meet up.” I’d love to spend a day with you in camp.
That sounds good.
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