Hunter and filmmaker Tom Opre needed no introduction to the outdoors industry. Tom spent his childhood fishing, hunting, and traveling all around Michigan. His father, after all, is famed outdoor writer Tom E. Opre, Following in his dad’s footsteps, Tom found his own medium to express his love of the outdoors: film. Tom currently hosts Eye of the Hunter on NBC Sports and runs the fifth annual Extreme Huntress Competition. We were fortunate to sit down with Tom and learn more about his upcoming projects as well as his thoughts on life, hunting, and the outdoors.
OutdoorHub: With the influence of your father, it’s no surprise that you are working in the outdoor industry. But why specifically film?
Tom Opre: Well, when you grow up with a father who was an outdoor writer, who was in fact the outdoors editor for the Detroit Free Press for over 25 years, you walk around in that kind of world and you get exposed to some pretty cool stuff. I am absolutely blessed to have had the upbringing that I did. You don’t realize the opportunities that are presented to you sometimes, but when I was real young my dad used to make outdoor films. As soon as I was old enough I would sneak into my dad’s office and play around with his films and camera equipment. I thought it was really cool and said to myself, “Man, I want to do that one day.”
I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to Grand Valley State and there was a local PBS station that I got involved in. I got some experience there at a local level and then decided to go work in the film industry. Worked my way up to a director and began producing my own projects. I began shooting extreme sports campaigns and decided that I would venture into outdoors television, but I knew I would be doing my own thing and not what everyone else is doing.
And that kind of spirit manifests itself in your show Eye of the Hunter. Could you tell us a little about it?
We’re really excited about the show. NBC Sports is the largest audience for outdoor sports programming in the world. We’re going to have somewhere between six and eight hundred thousand people watching the show, and it’s a great audience. Eye of the Hunter is not your typical your outdoors show, it’s about real-life adventures. It is not necessarily a hunting show. The premise focuses on the adventures we go on while having these hunts. We travel all over the world, up in the mountains of Montana, Alaska, or Mexico and even visit Africa on safari. Part of the great experience we get from hunting is meeting all these new people and places. My wife and I hunt quite often along with friends, it’s all about the camaraderie. Its so much more than just pulling the trigger. It’s about telling the real story.
I’m a filmmaker by trade and I’ve done a lot of high-end commercials, especially for the auto industry. What interests me about this is that I never know what will happen next. It’s nice to have to adjust in order to tell that story based on what happens like weather, gear breaking down, or even the animals not cooperating. Anything can happen, it’s real. It goes nicely with my background as a filmmaker and my wife is a hunting consultant, which means she’s basically a travel agent for hunting all over the world. She has hunted and fished on every continent and bagged over 80 species. She’s killed a lot more animals than I have and she’s better on the eyes.
Hunting brown bear in Alaska:
Speaking of which, encouraging women to hunt and promoting huntresses has been a long-time project of yours. Tell us about the Extreme Huntress competition.
The Extreme Huntress Competition was designed to promote female hunters and to create a positive role model for aspiring woman hunters. The idea is to preserve outdoor heritage. We want moms out hunting, and if moms are out hunting, then kids are out hunting.
We love the outdoors and we love hunting and everything that goes along with it. Now we’re looking for huntresses with unique stories to tell. In a nutshell we asked contestants to write a 500-word essay with a few pictures thrown in. Our panel of celebrity judges scored these essays and then we posted them on our website for the public. The scoring system works as a combination of the judges’ opinions and an online vote. This works because these gals practically become a one-person PR machine because they want to win, and they get everybody and their brother to come on the site and vote. We had some traditional media like USA Today and TV shows pick up on it too. What it does is that it puts the word out that woman can be serious hunters. What we did this year was invite our top four semifinalists to the Triple-7 Ranch in Texas for a hunt.
The contestants will go through challenges like dangerous game shoot-off, which is done with movable targets and will involve a buffalo target charging at you. Then we have a biathlon, a two-mile shooting course. It will be a full-on, high-end production that we’ll be filming. Over the last few days we had about over a thousand visitors per day on our site and over 12,000 votes. It’s a great way of getting our message out there.
At the end of the competition, the winner will be announced in a major wildlife conservation black tie awards dinner. Every year we take our winner on the hunt of a lifetime.
Learn more about the competition in the video below:
You’ve traveled all over the world, but what is your most memorable experience?
My most memorable experiences are when I spend with great, quality people like my friends and family. I have been blessed to know great people in the outdoors industry–in fact I am looking forward to hunting in August with Pete Brownell, who is the current president of Brownells. It’s not like I’m some great hunter or expert. I hunt because I love it and want to set a good example for my children. To answer your question, there is no one occasion. I love going to Alaska or the Rocky Mountains but I also love the culture of hunting.
Tom hunts moose in Sweden:
We’d like to thank Tom for giving us the time to interview him and you can find more of his videos on YouTube. Eye of the Hunter airs July 28 at 9 PM EST on NBC Sports and July 27 at 5:30 AM on Discovery Channel’s Destination America.
Editor’s note: This interview is part of a series with OutdoorHub’s featured video partners. Click here to read our interview with huntress Larysa Switlyk of Larysa Unleased , and click here to read our interview with firearm enthusiast Eric Blandford of the Iraqveteran8888 YouTube channel.
Image courtesy Tom Opre