A Day in the Life
Most of my days start with a plan, but first things first: Coffee. On my porch. Good morning, Paradise Valley, Montana.
Notice some ravens swooping in the distance. Set down coffee. Grab binoculars. Black birds can lead to bears. And these birds are definitely onto something.
Forget coffee (oops). Forget plan. Round up crew. Throw cameras, film equipment and sleepy cameramen in my aging Toyota. Gun it towards those birds…and hopefully, bears.
Hike. Track. Tiptoe. Film like crazy. Then stay up waaaay too late making everyone watch the footage. (Hello, cold coffee.)
The next day could mean muskrats. Mountain lions. Mozambique. Or maybe the wilds of my email inbox, if Deny, the CEO of my film company, has any say.
Day off? Nah. The wilderness doesn’t take one.
I go where wildlife is (and usually get in way over my head, which is where the best stories come from). True barstool tales may include:
• When I filmed polar bears in a 5,000-year-old Alaskan village. (Seriously, nine bears just in town.) Connecting with the Iñupiat culture was just as much of a rush.
• When I starred on “Dude, You’re Screwed.” The show left me stranded on a barren ice cap with only a faux fur coat, an ice skate, a broomstick, and a kiddie pool. I cried. Then I built an elaborate ice cave and won.
• How to lose 27 pounds in 5 days: drink some sketchy fermented buffalo milk in a Himalayan rock house.
• I once guided urban Singaporean youth on their first jungle expedition. True story: I helped one city-kid conquer his fear of plants.
• I also guided a Make-A-Wish teen on a grizzly tracking day, here in Montana. That kid helped me conquer my fear of anything.
While working as a curator at a drive-through wildlife park, I rescued a grizzly cub from an uncertain future (captivity in overcrowded conditions or more likely, euthanasia).
I was 26. I made $8,000 a year. But I was determined to give Brutus the most bear-like life that a bottle-fed soon-to-be 900-lb grizzly could have.
Brutus lives there, and will for the rest of his 30 years, when he’s not out hiking with me or starring in movies. Even though the sanctuary is a piece of Montana paradise, even though Brutus loves to educate sanctuary visitors, even though it’s the best possible home for a humanized bear…it will never sit quite right with me that Brutus, a wild being, lives in captivity.
The bears in our sanctuary are all refugees of inhumane captivities. My hope as a wildlife educator is this: as people learn more about wildlife and their respect for wildlife deepens, captivity won’t be something we need to rescue animals from.
I was a shy Helena kid who preferred tracking wildlife with a camera to being in front of one. I only worked up the guts to star in my own shoots because no one believed my animal encounter stories.
(Except my dad, who used to jailbreak me out of school to track wildlife. Ask him about the time I got us both treed by grizzlies.)
There is no degree for wandering the wild. For me, a long leash to explore Montana was my wilderness prep school.
Truth in Filmmaking
My purpose has been to share the rawness and realness of the wild with others. I started VisionHawk Films to tell true wildlife stories with state-of-the-art filmmaking equipment. My crew is a rare breed—wildlife-obsessed filmmakers who work with nature’s whims, my whims, their own incredible talent, and some seriously fancy camera gear.