Ken Cobb of York County has hunted in 29 states, Mexico and Canada and experienced just about everything Mother Nature has to offer.
On Sunday, Cobb and his crew will be aiming at a large target – acceptance by viewers of the NBC Sports Network.
Cobb’s show, “Huntin’ The World Southern Style,” debuts at 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
While Cobb’s company, Huntin’ The World TV, has had an outdoor show on cable television for a decade, he’ll have some goosebumps as he makes the jump to a bigger audience. His audience on previous networks had the potential to reach 30 million households. The NBC Sports Network has viewers in 90 million households.
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Cobb is the show’s triple threat: he hunts, he narrates and he helps produce.
“It’s not about hunting, it’s all about Ken,” says Joel LeMaster of Charlotte, one of the show’s hunters and photographers. “He has a personality that draws in the viewers.”
What makes “Huntin’ The World Southern Style” different, say Cobb, LeMaster and others, is it features average guys pursuing their passion. It’s also about animals and life itself. “That’s the star of the show,” LeMaster said.
Cobb, 54, has had no special training; he said much of what is seen on TV was learned by trial and error. Even his passion for hunting came by chance, Cobb said.
Cobb tried all the usual sports while growing up in Clover. It wasn’t until he attended Winthrop University that Cobb went hunting. Billy Carroll, his roommate, invited him to a family hunt for whitetail deer at the Sumter National Forest.
They hunted with bows. He wasn’t successful that trip, and it took several more years before Cobb downed his first whitetail with a bow. Nonetheless, Cobb was hooked from that first hunt.
Cobb’s interests soon expanded beyond just the hunt. He became a guest and then a commentator on an outdoor radio program. In 2003 he filmed his first outdoor television show called “Carolina Outdoors.” The show’s first guest was former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.
They went shark fishing off the South Carolina coast, and Marino was so strong that he broke his pole while trying to reel in a shark, Cobb said.
Not wanting to be pegged as a “small market” show, Cobb and his partners changed the name to “Huntin’ The World Southern Style,” which aired on the Outdoor Channel until 2013. He and his crew produced about 25 shows a season, spending about 180 days hunting and shooting.
A media broker pitched the show to the NBC Sports Network. The network liked the show because of its previous success.
“While many shows in the genre have tried to transform to be younger and hipper, Huntin’ The World’s traditional, quality production resonates with our outdoors audience,” said Dan Masonson of the NBC Sports Network.
To meet the network’s exacting standards, Cobb and his crew edited an existing show five times. The episode covered a winter whitetail deer hunt in Saskatchewan, Canada. NBC wanted the show to be more of a story and not just a hunt.
Cobb and his crew produced 10 shows for the NBC Sports Network. The program seeks to show that average outdoorsmen can step away from their jobs for a weekend “and live their dream,” Cobb said.
John Kennedy, a Chester native, is one of the show’s primary cameramen and occasional hunter. He has worked with Cobb for so long they anticipate what each other is going to do. That’s essential for the mostly unscripted show.
“It’s raw reality; there is no control over anything,” Kennedy said.
The reality often means sitting in a hunting blind for hours waiting for nature to unfold.
“I try to look for shots most people don’t see,” Kennedy said. “What I’m getting on video, it’s like I’m hunting.”
The challenge is getting the dramatic “close encounter shot” with nature, he said. Sometimes Mother Nature cooperates, often it doesn’t, he said.
After they return from the hunt, the focus shifts to a small studio near the Rock Hill-York County Airport. At the studio, Cobb, producer Anil Dhokai and others take the raw footage and turn it into a finished 30-minute show.
Cobb’s job includes watching the footage while consulting his journal. He then writes the show’s script, which is constantly revised as the program is edited. He records the narration in a portable sound booth – a plastic storage crate turned on its side with a professional microphone surrounded by acoustic foam.
“Huntin’ The World Southern Style” is one of several of Cobb’s video productions. The firm also produces music videos, industrial training videos, commercials and other outdoor shows.
“The Calling,” a hunting reality series, makes it debut Oct. 4 on Discovery’s “Destination America.” The show’s cast includes an army hero, a firefighter and a model. Fans will vote for their favorite cast member through social media. A casting call for the show’s second season will be Aug. 17 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 3870 Homestead Road, Rock Hill. “You get 90 seconds to tell why you would be a good contestant,” Cobb said.
Cobb, LeMaster and Kennedy say they’ll be watching Sunday evening, which they they normally don’t do because of all the time they put into the show. But they say Sunday’s show is special. It could result in more opportunities for them and their sponsors.
The show follows Cobb at the Turkey Hunting World Championship, which he won in 2012 and 2013.