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Bruce: Five, four, three, two, one. Welcome to another episode of Whitetail Rendezvous. We’re excited to welcome to the community today Jason Keffer co-host of World Went Dark Outdoors. Jason, welcome to the show.
Jason: Thanks for having me, Bruce. I’m glad to be here.
Bruce: Hey, tell us about how you came up with the name of your business and what you’re doing out there in the whitetail world.
Jason: Well the name World Went Dark Outdoors was a phrase coined by my by brother, Jeff, after a hunt. In 2007 we were filming and he was filming me in the tree and I got lucky enough to kill a [inaudible 00:00:44] young buck with a bow here in Pennsylvania. About 140 inch, eight pointer which is a dandy anyway you go. And to make a long story short, after all the celebrating was done I went to get the truck to pick the deer up and head home. While I did, a friend of ours that was with us asked my brother, “Hey, you had a front row seat to this and you had no pressure to make the shot happen so you saw that probably clearer than anyone. Why don’t you tell me what happened?” And he relayed his story about how I called this deer in and he walked in 20 yards and stood behind a tree for what seemed like forever and then I shot him.
As he was celebrating in the tree with me I told him to be quiet because I wanted to hear the deer fall and we heard it. As he’s relaying this story he says, “After I heard that deer fall I knew that’s when his world went dark.”
So that was in ’07. Fast forward to 2009 when him and I decided to do this. He said, “Hey, let’s come up with a name.” The first thing that I thought of was that phrase, “world went dark” so we decided to call the show “World Went Dark Outdoors” and we’re on the Pursuit channel now and excited to be there.
Bruce: What a great story and a beginning of a great journey for you and your brother. Tell me why you like whitetails.
Jason: Why I like whitetails? Well, I mean, you know, we grew up in a hunting family. My uncles and grandparents and parents and everyone in the family hunted. I can remember that from a very young age. I was walking along on small game hunts probably when I was four years old. And it’s just something that I knew I wanted to do and wanted to get into.
And of course, here in PA, back then you couldn’t until you were 12. So when I was 12 I took the hunter’s safety course and my grandfather started taking me whitetail hunting. I don’t know if you want to call it a tradition but it’s something that’s just ingrained. I love trying to outsmart mature whitetail deer. It’s always a challenge. You never know everything. I’m learning pretty much on every hunt and it’s just something I love to do and I have a passion for it. Especially bow hunting them because it’s up close and in your face which is the premise of the show, really.
Bruce: Thanks for sharing that. Over the years you’ve had different situations where you just couldn’t figure out what was going wrong or wasn’t coming together. Then all the sudden you’re in your truck, you’re in a stand, you’re walking to a stand, you’re out in whitetail land and the answer comes to you. I call them “ah-ha” moments or other people say, “The light bulb went on.” Can you share a couple of those with us?
Jason: Yeah, absolutely. You know as a teenager and a young adult, I think here in PA, what my brother and I used to do, and this used to be our, I don’t know if you want to call it a trademark, is we’d gain a new property and we’d do some scouting then we’d go in and hang stands and basically we would hang stands willy-nilly so to speak and then we’d just move on them as we had to.
And over the years I figured out that the biggest thing about placing a stand, to me, and for me is terrain features. Whitetails, no matter how subtle the terrain feature is, will use terrain features to move around their home range and really any property that they’re on. I don’t remember when but one specific property, it was a big oak ridge so of course there are acorns everywhere and you think deer are going to be everywhere and to some degree they were.
But over the course of that season, whenever that was, years and years ago I figured out that there was this subtle little drainage. And I mean, the only reason I saw it is because I watched so many deer run this same trail and run the same spot. And finally, the ah-ha moment, as you call it, went off and I realized they’re running that because it’s small, little saddle or drainage on the top of the ridge and they just felt more secure in it.
And I think, from that point on, when we’re scouting a new property or we gain a new property the first thing I want to do, on top of looking at aerial views and finding funnels and looking at topo maps, I want to walk the property and find the subtle, little terrain features that are going to make the whitetail follow a certain path or walk a certain way. And I can setup on those terrain features and have great success that way. And that’s kind of how we went from hunting any dear, meat hunters and to some degree I still do that, but to hunting more mature deer because the more mature deer don’t just ramble around every tree. You got to be smart to hunt them and I think the terrain features are the biggest key to me. That was an ah-ha moment I had years ago.
And then recently, I would say, the biggest ah-ha moment I had and it’s probably not an ah-ha moment to everyone but when we started the show we decided, “Okay, we’re going to base our show on the average Joe.” Because the shows you see on TV now, and I enjoy watching as much as the next guy, but everybody wants to let 140s and 150s walk and trying to kill 160 and all that stuff. Our show is reality to most people. I’m not letting a 120 walk because I’m looking for a 140. Maybe even less than that. It’s hard for us to let a good buck walk, especially in PA. Maybe when we’re out of state it’s different. I think the biggest ah-ha moment I had was when you’re hunting a mature deer, if you want to kill a mature deer, you cannot kill an immature deer.
So we’ve gone to letting a lot of two and half year old deer walk to kill the three year and half year old and older deer. So that was the recent ah-ha moment, I think, in this journey.
Bruce: Thanks for sharing that, Jason. I made some notes and one of the things . . . there are 10 to 14 million whitetail hunters, guys and gals, kids, grandparents, and they enjoy the passion, the hunt and the tradition of the hunt and you said two things already that resonate strongly with me and the Whitetail Rendezvous community, and that’s tradition. Do you help kids get out into the field or is there any part of your business that you focus on kids?
Jason: Yeah, actually theres . . . Obviously we go out and we film kids. In fact, in a couple weeks here we’re leaving to go film some new turkey hunters. It may be a friend’s nephew or a friend’s son or our own kids. We both have kids that are getting ready to reach that age there.
But more importantly than all that, obviously, the filming to them and it’s great because kids don’t know any better. So to them, they’re very innocent and no matter what happens it’s exciting to them. That’s fun for us to capture that on film and not only be able to live it on the show but to have their family be able to relive it over and over again is great for us.
And then we’re also involved with a foundation called the One Wish Foundation and they take sick children on adventures of a lifetime whether that be fishing or hunting or camping, basically whatever that child wants they’ll accommodate them and make that happen. And that includes, not only terminally ill children but I think they’re big in the autism community. A lot of kids with autism, they get out and introduce into the outdoors and kind of take their mind off of everything, including the parents, that goes on in the daily life of someone with that diagnosis.
So we’re involved heavily with them. So we go along on these hunts and film some of them. So we’re pretty big into getting youth into the outdoors, for sure.
Bruce: And thank you for sharing that because we’ve got our listeners out that sometimes ask, “What can I do? How can I help the tradition of hunting continue?” And the very simplest way is just invite a kid and take him hunting.
Bruce: Or take him out into the outdoors.
Jason: Absolutely. I mean, they’re the future of the sport. You got to look at it that way.
Bruce: Agreed on that. Let’s talk about one thing that you learned last year that you’re going to incorporate into your hunting plan or hunting techniques this coming season.
Jason: Last year, probably persistence is the keyword for me. I had a rough season. I mean, I went through October and I think I killed just one doe. And I’m speaking purely of bow hunting, I’m purely a bow hunter. I think I killed one doe through the entire month of October and we had been hunting since the beginning of September. We were in Kentucky and everywhere else.
And, you know, no matter how much you tell yourself not to get worked up or down on yourself when it doesn’t happen the way you think it should, you got to stay persistent. When I say that I mean it’s easy after 40 some days of hunting to say, “You know what? It’s not working out. I’m going to sleep in today.” Or “I don’t feel like going today because it’s not going to happen anyway.” I think last season that was a valuable lesson that I learned is just stick with it.
If you’re doing things right and you’re controlling your scent and the deer don’t really know you’re hunting them eventually you’re going to capitalize on a mistake or be in the right place at the right time. You just got to keep at it. And I know not everybody has 40 some days of hunting. I used to be one of them guys where I would hunt pretty much Saturday only. It’s the same thing. Persistence is the key. You just can’t give up and you just got to persist through the tough times and eventually it’s going to happen. Last year was a good example for me. It took me awhile but eventually it started to turn around. And then the flood gates open and there’s one after the other so, persistence.
Bruce: Out west we just say, “Stay with it till you get ‘er done.”
Jason: Yeah. Honestly, the farthest west we’ve been so far is Kansas but we’re going on a Utah elk hunt this year so I’m looking forward to that.
Bruce: It’ll be fun. I can guarantee you.
Jason: Oh, it all is.
Bruce: Let’s talk about your filming. There are probably a lot of listeners to the show that are wondering, “Gee, how do you get into that? How do you get involved in that? What does it really take to get some good footage of the hunting experience?” Can share a few minutes about how you get started, how equipment has changed and a couple of comments about your setups?
Jason: Yeah, I mean, honestly, the first and foremost thing to getting good footage is to have a decent quality camera. Now, cameras today compared to 15 years ago when we kind of started dabbling in filming everything have changed drastically. Fifteen years ago a quality camera for cinematic viewing would have cost probably upwards between $20,000 and $50,000. Today, not so much. The game has changed and you can buy a camera for a couple hundred bucks and film in full HD. Now, it’s not going to have all the bells and whistles but for you to get a good, quality footage piece a couple hundred bucks is going to do you good. And really, after that it’s just going out there and doing it and figuring out the intricacies of using the camera and creating the right shot and being able to do all that while trying to harvest whatever the animal may be that you’re after.
We solely use Canon. We use Canon cameras and we’re always running multiple angles so for us it’s definitely a fun challenge. I mean, we got three or four angles running on every hunt. You have two people in the tree or in the blind or on the stalk, depending on what we’re doing. It’s definitely a challenge.
We kind of learned as we went. We had some friends in the industry that helped us out as much as they could and told us what to do and how to do it but for the most part is was, we just figured it out on our own. The way we got started, really, was we started filming our hunts and putting them online, putting them on YouTube, on Vimeo, on any site that would take our footage. We would put it out there and it just so happens the right person saw it and called us and here we are today.
There are so many resources out there to go online with your footage. And granted, at the beginning we were taking footage and just slapping it on there raw. And then eventually we started editing it up and getting into the editing programs. Then we started putting together a half hour segment of each hunt. And at some point a producer for the Pursuit Channel spotted it and said, “Hey, you guys got what it takes. Why don’t we talk?” The rest is history. Here we are.
Bruce: And how many years did that take you from the first camera shot to where you got picked up by the Pursuit channel?
Jason: We started this company back in ’09 but we were filming and putting our stuff online probably since 2002. So I would say probably nine years. Nine years until somebody contacted us. It wasn’t a quick process. In all reality, we weren’t even really doing it to get noticed. We were just doing it because it’s what we love and we just wanted to share it with other people. Somehow somebody noticed and gave us a call and we went from there.
Bruce: The takeaway from this, listeners, is it took 10, 12 years but they started off because they just loved doing it and it became their passion and they got better and better and then as fate has it, somebody noticed, made the call and here they are today with a great show and they’re producing great footage that they create memories with. So hats off to you guys.
Jason: Thank you.
Bruce: Let’s talk about the best advice you ever got for whitetail hunting and who gave it to you.
Jason: The best advice I ever got to kill a whitetail or to harvest a whitetail? I’ll tell you what. My grandfather is the one who really encouraged us in the outdoors. As of most children, you know, parents work and it’s busy and they’re busy and of course, my grandfather is retired so every weekend when it was hunting season we were pretty much doing something as far as hunting goes and vice-versa with the fishing.
And I think the best piece of advice he ever gave me, when you’re 12 and 13 and 14 it’s all about the kill. If you don’t kill something you’re not satisfied and I was the same way and I’m sure my brother was as well. And I think the best piece of advice he ever gave me was when I was down and out one day because we came back from a hunt and I still hadn’t killed a deer yet. And he said, “Listen. The hunt is not all about the kill. It’s the journey getting there that makes the hunt.”
I think that was probably when I was 14 or 15 and that kind of changed the amount of fun I was having hunting these crazy animals called whitetail deer. And it really brought out that passion in me when I realized that just because I didn’t kill anything that day doesn’t make it a bad day. And that’s probably the best advice I ever got.
Bruce: Thanks for verbalizing the joy of the hunt, the passion of why millions of people do this. Let’s take a different track here. You just purchased a brand new 100 acres. You haven’t been on it. You’ve heard good reports. You know there are good bucks in the area. There is a good, healthy deer herd. What are the steps you’re going to take from now until hunting season to get ready to bow hunt it?
Jason: Well, normally what we do is, the first thing I like to do is look at an aerial view of the property and right away see if I can pinpoint any funnels that I can use during the rut because my favorite thing to do is hunt funnels in the rut. So I’ll look at an aerial map and I’ll check the property out and see if I can find any fingers, any funnels, anything that’s going to funnel the deer to a certain area or through a certain area is what I’m looking for. And once we do that it’s kind of just busting boot leather and get out there and walk the property and we’ll scout for old rub lines and old scrape lines, bedding areas and what not.
I learned a long time ago that your deer need three main things. They need cover, they need water and they need food. So when I’m out there walking the property the first three things I’m looking for are cover, water and food. If I can find those I know the property is going to turn into a dynamite spot. And it doesn’t take very much resource to create those things. I mean, it might take as little digging a small hole so that it collects water. And I know people that go as far as they dig holes and they put 55 gallon drums in them so it holds the water. There is a whole bunch of different things you can do to increase the amount of deer that want to use your property. And then, of course, there are always food plots and that stuff. Cutting a couple trees down will create bedding cover because it’ll allow the low brush cover to grow. So, you know, if I have to go that drastic measure I will but most properties that we hunt don’t need that. They’ve already got the three essentials and then we just need to get out there and scout them.
Once we scout them, like I talked about earlier, I look for, honestly, water, cover and food but then I want to look for the terrain features. When I’m scouting that’s the number one thing I’m looking for, is a small, little, subtle terrain feature that’s going to funnel deer the way I want them.
Bruce: Thanks for that. Talk to me about how you utilize trail cameras.
Jason: How we utilize trail cameras? I’ll tell you what, there are a lot of people out there that run tons of trail cameras and they use them to study the deer and get to know the deer and basically they can probably tell you what the deer’s home range is. We don’t do that as much. We pretty much utilize the trail cameras to take inventory of what bucks we have on the property. We don’t run enough to really learn the entire home range of a deer.
What we want is we want to know is are there mature bucks on the property? If so, who are they? Then once we know that, the trail cameras pretty much don’t serve a purpose to us until the rut. And then once the rut hits we check the trail cameras and when we start seeing daylight movement then we really hit the woods.
We don’t really get crazy with the trail cameras. I just don’t know if you can cover up all your scent going in there and checking them things every week or every couple weeks. We kind of try and stay away as much as possible. So they’re kind of just an inventory thing for us, because were firm believers in . . . and I speak of where we’re at in PA, we’re in a good area of the state for mature and big bucks. And I’m a firm believer that no matter what property you go on there is at least one big buck using that property. And I say that because friends of ours are always saying to us, “You guys have the best properties in the area to hunt.” And I kind of chuckle at that. My response to that is, “No, we don’t. We just hunt them right and that’s that.” If the deer know you’re hunting them the game is over. The whitetail is not a dumb animal. If a whitetail picks up human scent in the wrong area and he’s mature, he goes underground. It’s game over.
And I tell these guys all the time. There are big bucks everywhere. You can’t tell me that big bucks only live on the properties that we hunt. They live everywhere, you just don’t know it. So, you know, as far as trail cameras go it kind of just gives us an idea of what’s there. And then once we have that idea and we know a big buck is there we will hesitate to go in there until the time is right.
Bruce: Thanks for sharing that Jason because so many times, and I’m guilty of it, you just think the deer aren’t there. They’ve gone away. But you know they are but I think you said it earlier, the persistence and staying after it. But the confidence that you just spoke to speaks volumes about what every whitetail hunter should think about because with whitetails 20 acres, 40 acres there could be a dandy buck in there and you’ll never see him if he knows you’re there.
Jason: Absolutely. And, you know, a lot of areas around where we’re at in PA it’s suburban hunting if you want to call it that. It’s not big mountains. It’s little plots, 40, 60, 80, maybe a 100 acres but I’m not joking when I tell you some of the biggest bucks that come out of our state are killed in those small little plots. The people that live there didn’t even know the deer was there. And it’s just because the deer have adapted so well around us, around people they can move around without anyone ever knowing they’re there even if it’s only 20 acres.
Bruce: It sounds like I needed to have you back on the show to talk about the points that we’re just touching on. Share with us, before we do the wrap up, share with us one funny thing that happened to or your brother or your crew last year. Maybe it wasn’t so funny when it happened but when you got back to camp or in the truck you guys just started laughing.
Jason: I’ll tell you what, the funniest memory, and like you said it wasn’t funny at the time. I mean, it was funny for me but it was not funny for my brother. I was filming him in the tree. I want to say it was in November but it might have been right around Halloween. We were hunting two specific bucks. We knew they were there. We had camera pictures from them all summer watching them grow and balloon into pretty big, mature deer. And I had had an encounter with one the night before and once again he outwitted me. He was 50 yards away and he was with a doe. I couldn’t get him to leave her but it’s all in the experience so it was a great experience.
The next day, we got in a tree maybe 80 yards away from where we were the night before and it was starting to get dark and things were starting to wrap up and we had family coming into town and we were kind of planning on going out to dinner with everybody that night. My brother was actually texting his wife asking her, “What time are we meeting for dinner, because we’re still in the tree?” He texted her and put his phone in his pocket and I’m filming all this and I hear a deer come and I turn around and it’s one of the hit-listers. He’s walking right at us and he’s dead to rights at 30 yards already coming. And Jeff got up and got ready and we had a decoy out. We’re big believers in using a decoy. And sure enough, this buck locked onto the decoy and started half-circling our stand site. And it’s one of those moments where it happened so fast. He got worked up right away and even me, as a cameraman, I was worked up.
It just didn’t work out. He tried to draw his bow and something was in the way. Then he tried to let the deer walk out further and everything that could go wrong on that hunt went wrong and the deer got away that night. I got him on film at 15 yards from our stand we didn’t make it happen.
And after it was over I knew that he was mad. So, the climb down out of the tree nothing was said and when we got down I simply said to him, “You know, what just happened there? We have to talk about this so that it never happens again.” He was so mad at me he said, “Jay, I don’t want to talk about. Don’t talk to me. Let’s just get out to the truck.” It was a completely silent walk out to the truck and when we got out there he said, “I’m really sorry for getting worked up to you but a half hour after this monster gets away and you want to talk about it and I’m not interested in talking about it.”
Well, the funny part of that story is when we got down he realized he left his rattling antlers hanging up in the tree so he had to climb back up and when he climbed back down the last few steps he tripped and landed on his back and I could not stop laughing.
Bruce: Oh, no.
Jason: That was kind of one of those moments that I know wasn’t funny for him. It was funny for me and we laugh about it now. Bu those things happen to the best of us. That was that moment last year.
Bruce: Thanks for sharing that Jason. We all experience things we wish didn’t happen. I thought you were going to say his wife texted him back and it went “beep”, or his text notification went off and the buck just went inside out and he was gone but that didn’t happen. Folks, I’m just so pleased to have Jason with us today from World Went Dark Outdoors. Jason, now is your time to share with our listeners how to get a hold of you, what TV stations you’re on in the east, whatever information you want to share.
Jason: Yeah, we’re on the Pursuit channel Sunday mornings at 8:00 a.m. and then Saturday at 12:30 a.m. That’s for the west coast viewers so they get to watch it at 9:30 p.m. out there. And you can get in touch with us through Facebook, Facebook.com/WWDOTV. You can get in touch with me on Twitter, Twitter.com/WWDOutdoors. You can find all my contact info on there. You can email me. You can call me. My numbers are on there. I’m more than willing to talk about hunting with anyone, anytime they want.
Bruce: Thank you so much, Jason. And it’s been a real pleasure to welcome you to the Whitetail Rendezvous community. And folks, stay tuned. We got some great guests coming up but ladies and gentleman we just heard some really good whitetail information. So again, Jason thank you so much and hey folks, check out World Went Dark Outdoors. Thank you for listening.
Jason: Thanks for having me, Bruce. It’s been a pleasure.