Wikman’s World

David Taintor

Junior Brandon Wikman freely admits he doesn’t look like the average hunter.

Usually sporting a designer wardrobe and a trendy mop-top haircut, Wikman hardly looks like he’d be comfortable pursuing white-tail deer through the woods or sitting in a tree stand.

But the 21-year-old’s polished exterior can be misleading. An avid hunter since he was at least 10, Wikman is today a co-host of an Outdoor Channel hunting show, the manager of his own summer hunting camp and a frequent contributor to several hunting magazines and Web sites.

So much for first impressions.

“I guess what I’m trying to do is break the stereotype of what constructs a hunter in people’s minds,” Wikman said, adding that most people are indeed surprised to learn of his passion for the outdoors.

An early beginning

But his passion- – surprising as it may be to some – is nothing new for the hunter from Friendship. Wikman said he was about 10 years old when his uncle took him along on a bow hunting excursion – an experience that proved to be pivotal.

“It just takes you one time to get you hooked,” Wikman said of that first hunting trip, “and from that day on I knew that this was something that I’d love.”

But Wikman’s interest in hunting far pre-dates his first official trip with his uncle. He said when he was about 8 years old he began watching hunting shows on television and establishing an interest in the outdoors; by the time his uncle officially introduced Wikman to the world of hunting, his interest had already long been established.

Working toward that first job

It wasn’t long after that first experience that Wikman began establishing the resumé that would make such a career possible. About one year after his first hunting excursion, Wikman and his cousin Joe Nawrot began videotaping their hunts together and producing amateur hunting footage.

And while Wikman jokingly laughs at the quality of those early videos, he was quick to add that he and his cousin eventually became quite good at using the equipment.

“Some of the stuff we’d say and some of the footage is just absolutely terrible,” Wikman said with a laugh.

Humorous as those early attempts may seem to Wikman now, the experience proved to be solid resume-builders for both young boys; Wikman said his cousin today is a freelance hunting cameraman, and Wikman himself now co-hosts a hunting television show on the Outdoor Channel.

At about the same time, he began submitting articles to hunting and outdoor publications and Web sites. All this helped him to eventually land a spot in high school on a hunting television show.

‘The Next Generation’

With his resume already well-established by the time he was a senior in high school, Wikman was ready for the big leagues.

And, apparently, the big leagues were ready for him. During his final year of high school, Wikman applied for and received a co-host spot on “Bass Pro Shops The Next Generation,” a hunting TV show targeted towards young audiences.

The show, he said, markets hunting and fishing to younger generations of television viewers by using a cast of young co-hosts to make hunting seem more accessible and less intimidating to young people.

“We’re portraying hunting and fishing and the outdoors to kids on their level and their perspective,” he said. “So we’re giving kids a chance to say, ‘I should try that,’ instead of seeing an old man on TV all the time.”

Not your typical summer camp

Wikman’s newest hunting project has him spending a little less time in front of a camera, but nevertheless keeping a young audience. This summer he opened a summer youth hunting camp near his home in central Wisconsin.

“There are basketball, soccer, football summer camps,” he said, “but there’s nothing quite for people who enjoy the outdoors … so that’s where I found the niche.”

The weekend camp ran from July through August and introduced visitors ages 7 to 21 to some of the basics of hunting, including introductory lessons on archery and firearms.

“The summer camp is just incredible,” Wikman’s mother, Sue Wikman, said, adding that Brandon sometimes gathered donations to help low-income children afford the camp fees.

“It’s his dream to carry on the hunting tradition,” she said. “So many parents just don’t have the time to interact with their kids. He tries to show these kids some of the things their parents just don’t have the time to show them.”

And on top of it all, a student

Wikman said that during much of the school year he usually spends his weekends and holiday breaks hunting for “The Next Generation.” As of this summer, he spends his vacation working at his own outdoors camp. And he’s always plugging away on freelance articles for various hunting publications. Somehow, he still finds time to be a student.

“Somehow I’ve been doing pretty decent with (school),” he said. “I don’t know how I end up pulling through, but I guess it’s all about time management – whether it’s on the airplane reading books or in the hotel room at the end of the day working on my computer.”

But for Wikman, an advertising major, even school ties back somehow to his passion. Though he said he decided to study advertising because of his love for design, he explained he will probably put his degree toward continuing his career in the hunting world rather than to find a job with a company.

“I don’t know how he handles everything and juggles all that,” said sophomore and friend Kailey Mezera, who added jokingly that Wikman usually does better than she does in the classes they’ve taken together.

Like Mezera, Sue Wikman said her son’s ability to handle all of his responsibilities surprises her.

“I still worry about his having too many things on his plate,” she said. “But it’s his love and it’s just his drive and determination … He’s just constantly going.”