Melissa Bachman has been hunting her entire life and is now an outdoor TV producer and host of “Winchester Deadly Passion,” which is currently in its fourth season. She hunts more than 200 days per year and produces 26 episodes a season. You can catch Melissa’s show every Sunday at 11:30am EST on The Sportsman Channel.
DM: OHUB visitors might be surprised to learn that we worked together for several years (North American Hunter) and live near each other in our home state of Minnesota. Before you landed in front of the camera, you gained valuable experience behind it. You are one of the best TV producers I’ve ever seen. I assume you credit all of your current success to filming me on various hunts, correct?
Melissa: Well, I sure appreciate the kind words, and honestly I credit a lot of my knowledge and experience to the people I worked with at North American Hunter. After graduating from St. Cloud State University [Minnesota], I was on the hunt for a job and learned very quickly what a tough industry I wanted to enter. I applied at 74 locations, and every single company responded with the same words: “Sorry, we’re looking for someone with experience.” After hearing that 74 times, I decided to try another angle. I went through the list and picked my No. 1 company, which was North American Hunter, and called them with an offer they couldn’t refuse. I asked if they were interested in bringing me on as a FREE intern to prove my dedication and determination. I offered to help out with anything that was needed and knew this was the only way to gain the needed experience.
This turned out to be the golden ticket into the industry, however, this work arrangement had its disadvantages. I was driving 150 miles per day back and forth from St. Cloud to work at North American in Minnetonka for free, then working as a waitress at night to pay for my gas and rent. After 4 months of free hard work, I was hired as a full-time producer and became part of the team.
For the next 4 years, my job was filming and editing episodes for a variety of hunters – including you! This was incredible experience both as a hunter, and on the production side of the business. I was able to work with extremely talented producers, excellent hunters, and I was given the opportunity to excel in an industry I always dreamed of being involved in.
The transition from producer to on-camera wasn’t an easy road, either. In fact, the way I did it was by working for 30 days straight, filming others so I would be given comp days to compensate all the weekend work and long hours. During this “break,” I would spend any spare time and money filming myself, buying camera equipment, and trying to complete shows on my own time. I would then edit them together and wait until North American Hunter was a show short, and offer my work up for free. Free labor again turned out to be the golden ticket, and as more and more of my episodes ran, sponsors took note.
Since then I’ve started my own production company and am filming the sixth season of my show, Winchester Deadly Passion. I still do a lot of production work for a variety of companies on the side, sell all the sponsorships, film 26-new episodes a season, and did all the editing on the show for the first four seasons. Now I’m lucky enough to have help on the editing side from one of the first people I worked with, and who I always felt was the best editor in the field, Brad Hadsall. Over the years I’ve learned to surround myself with great people who are extremely talented, and good things will happen. That’s exactly what I’ve done from the start, and can’t thank everyone enough who helped me break into this industry, supported me, and pushed me to always do my best and never give up regardless of how difficult things may have seemed.
DM: We might as well start at the beginning in Paynesville, MN. Were you a tomboy?
Melissa: Growing up in central Minnesota, I was extremely lucky to have parents that were willing to take my brother and me hunting and fishing with them whenever they headed out. It became a family tradition to hunt together, process the meat, package it, and we still reminisce about those memories. It was something we all loved and could do together. With that said, yes, I was an absolutely tomboy. I had two favorite shirts, a motorcycle one and a little camo shirt. That’s all I ever wanted to wear. Instead of Barbie dolls, I had rubber band guns and G.I. Joes.
DM: Your website is filled with great pics of you hunting and fishing as a child. Did any of your girlfriends share your love of the outdoors?
Melissa: I can’t think of very many girls that I was friends with who enjoyed hunting, but I also never felt unwelcomed to the hunting world. I believe what helped significantly was the fact that my mom hunted. I always had a role model to look up to, and never worried that it seemed heavily dominated by men. I spent a lot of time out hunting on my own in high school before school, and also hunting with my guy friends in high school and in college.
DM: You’re followed by almost 45,000 people on Facebook. While social media is a great way to interact with likeminded individuals, it’s no secret that some hunters, especially females, have been targeted by the anti-hunting crowd. Do the pros outweigh the cons?
Melissa: I do believe the pros outweigh the cons, and I’ve seen some of the worst when it comes to the anti-hunting crowd. In the beginning it bothered me a lot, and I was trying to figure out what I did differently to be subject to this much rage from a group of people. After really thinking everything through, I believe some of the reason they have targeted women so heavily is the fact that we are making progress. I believe they see women as the ultimate threat. We are getting more women involved, we are getting families involved, we are spreading the word about a healthy lifestyle with free-ranging wild game, and it’s working. For years the anti-hunting agenda has been full of beautiful women celebrities trying to paint an awful picture of what the average hunter looks like. Now, we are changing the face of hunting, and they are scared.
The reason I believe social media has more pros, even with all this, simply comes from the women and kids I meet at trade shows. To see a little girl who started hunting because she wanted a chance to be on my show in the Memory Chase segment truly makes me smile. Social media is a way to spread the word and interest new hunters, and to me that’s a win every time. The excitement from kids enjoying hunting for the first time should make each and every one of us hunters proud. As an example, check out the little girl in the Memory Chase video below who got an early start from Texas and made an incredible shot with her crossbow.
DM: Not only do you spend a lot of time in the field, but you have a very busy appearance schedule, too. Do you ever find time to simply chill out at home?
Melissa: Unfortunately, the answer to that is “not much.” Last year I was on the road 317 days, which is an awful lot of time away from home. At some point, I would like to scale that back a little so I can have some free time, but honestly I love what I’m doing. I truly enjoy doing speaking engagements, trade shows, and of course hunting. I did get my new little puppy, Pork Chop, this year to bring with me on the road. I love having her with me, and she’s turned out to be an amazing little sidekick. She hunts with me, travels with me, and makes it a little more fun being gone so much.
DM: Because of your job, you’ve been fortunate to hunt with many of the finest guides and outfitters in the world. That said, I know that when it comes to skill and determination, you rank near the top of my “best hunters” list. Do you take special pride in DIY success?
Melissa: Well, I sure appreciate that because you know a lot of hunters, so that means a lot! I do take special pride in DIY success and find that each hunt has its own challenges. One of my favorite DIY hunts is heading up to Prince of Wales in Alaska for black bear. On this hunt, I hire a pilot to drop me, my cameraman, and a kayak along with our gear, in a remote location for 2 weeks. I then head out in my kayak searching for black bears, and I use predator calls to lure them into archery range (pic below). Looking back over all the years that I’ve hunted, this is probably one of my most memorable hunts, and the fact that it was a DIY success made it even sweeter.
DM: Quick gear question – For whitetails, what is your favorite rifle/cartridge/scope combo?
Melissa: For whitetails, my favorite hunting setup is a Winchester XPR bolt action in .300 Win. Mag. I use Winchester Deer Season XP in a 150-grain bullet with a Swarovski Z6i scope.
DM: I can share with the world two little-known Melissa facts: You went to college on a pole-vaulting scholarship, and you can sleep anytime/anywhere. So, what was the height of your best pole vault, and care to confess any most-embarrassing sleeping scenarios?
Melissa: Yes, I attended St. Cloud State University on a pole-vaulting scholarship and really enjoyed participating in college sports. My personal best was 11 feet 6 inches, and I actually trained with the college team while in high school through a pole vault club that was called Altitude with Attitude.
As far as sleeping anywhere, that is the truth! Luckily I’ve become much better now, but there were a few years I was convinced I had narcolepsy. Now, I understand the importance of a good night sleep and have less trouble. The most embarrassing sleeping story took place on a hunt in Kentucky. A large group of us were sitting around a table eating, and I fell asleep right at the table and about fell in my food. Luckily, my cameraman kicked me before I made too big of a scene, but it was pretty embarrassing.
DM: Final question – If you could take part in only one more outdoor adventure, where would you go, what would you do, and who would join you?
Melissa: If I could take part in only one more adventure I would bring my entire family to Australia. My dream has always been to swim with the great white sharks, and I think it would be the ultimate adventure. I’m not 100 percent confident everyone in my family would be as excited, but I think it would be a blast!
Editor’s note: Check out the original “Women Who“ series on CarbonTV that explores a woman’s take on typically male-dominated pursuits. Whether it’s shooting, hunting or farming, these women make no apology for who they are and aim to inspire the same passion in others.
Images courtesy of Melissa Bachman