*Note, the following article appeared in the LSJ’s August magazine titled ‘Hunting With The Stars’ and can be viewed by clicking here.
By Jason Goorman
But he never dreamed he would get a chance to be on the show, hunting with Bushman and his crew.
And he certainly never dreamed that a national television audience would witness him bag his first buck.
But that all came true for Palmer late last year.
The Jackie Bushman Show, which draws millions of viewers from across the nation, has several online drawings every year, and the prize is an all-expense-paid hunting trip with the crew from the show.
The trips are filmed and highlights are shown on the show.
Palmer, a 23-year-old who lives in northern Muskegon County, saw a notice for one of the drawings last fall and decided he might as well throw his name in. He knew the odds of winning were pretty long, since roughly 30,000 people enter each contest.
But lo and behold, he won!
“A lady called me to tell me I was in the running, then Jackie Bushman himself called me back five minutes later and told me I had won,” said Palmer, a 2013 graduate of Reeths-Puffer High School who works at GE Aviation in Muskegon.
“At first I didn’t know if it was 100 percent real, but he asked me if I knew who he was, and I thought I recognized his voice. He said ‘Yeah, this is Jackie Bushman, and you won a hunt and you’re going to Louisiana.
“It was a pretty good day!”
Jackie Bushman said he gets a kick out of calling the contest winners himself, rather than having a staff member do it.
“It’s always fun because they think I’m messing with them when they get my call,” Bushman told Local Sports Journal. “A lot of times I have to call a winner back because they hang up on me!”
Highlights of Palmer’s hunt will be televised on the Outdoor Channel on Aug. 21 at noon, Aug. 23 at 3:30 p.m. and Aug. 26 at 9 a.m.
A GOOD OLD TIME
Palmer flew to Monroe, Louisiana, where he was met by the show’s camera crew, then they were off to a privately-owned lodge in Olla, Louisiana for five glorious days of deer hunting and fun.
The hunting trip lasted from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3.
One of the prizes Palmer won was a new Savage 308 hunting rifle, which he took on the trip.
“They sent the gun to me up here, so I could have two weeks to get acquainted with it,” Palmer said. “They sent two boxes of ammo, too.
“I flew the rifle down there with me. You have to have it in a hard case with several locks on it. I actually bought the case myself. You can use any cheap old case, but I wanted a good one because they tend to throw your luggage around pretty good.
“I saw them loading the gun case and throw it on the plane. I thought, yup, I’m glad I bought that case.”
Palmer was greeted at the lodge by Bushman, co-host Jacob Landry and his brother, the owners of the lodge and the television crew.
He said the hunting lodge was spectacular and the southern hospitality was great.
“They have 20,000 acres,” he said. “Two thousand acres are fenced in. In the other part it’s fenced in on three sides so the deer can come and go. They planted a huge food plot all up and down miles and miles of power lines, so the deer just love that.
“We ate pretty good. Every day they had an in-house cook. She knew what she was doing. She made us a four-course meal every day. Every meal was huge.
“On one of the nights Landry cooked us up some alligator and venison backstraps. That was the best. Most people will fry up the tail of the alligator because it’s cheaper meat. The best though is the alligator cheek. He rolled it in egg and dehydrated milk and threw it in the fryer and that was really good.
“They made everything real comfortable. They were super nice people. I felt like I had been there a few times.”
Palmer said his hosts weren’t afraid to have a good time when the hunting was done for the day.
“I was with my camera guy each hunt, and then we would all meet up at the saloon,” he said.
“I told Jacob Landry where I was from and he said ‘Wow, you’re a Yankee, huh? They called me ‘Michigan Yankee.’ But he was a super nice guy. Really funny too. One of the nights we talked all kinds of craziness, like about when he was a kid and he’d go gator hunting and all kinds of stuff.
“One night a guy named Big Bill fell down because he got a little tipsy, and he almost fell on me. He’s about seven feet tall and I couldn’t catch him. He cracked his eye brow. Jacob is an EMT and ended up patching him up for the night so he didn’t have to go to the hospital.
“They laughed about the idea of me trying to catch him. They said no way, he would have squished me.”
Not every part of the hunt went according to plan. There were several rainy days, and one notable breakdown, according to Palmer.
“They have these bad boy buggies we would ride in,” Palmer said. “They run off gas and electricity. Ours ran out of gas and we were running on the battery. Then the battery ran out when we were half way out to the blind. We just walked the rest of the way to the blind and they picked us up with the truck.”
While he’s obviously busy hosting and producing his show, Jackie Bushman was a full participant in the hunt, and took special pride in making Palmer feel comfortable with his crew.
“I was there the whole week and we just had a good old time,” Bushman said. “Sam and I would see each other in the morning, then at lunch and supper. We hung out. He got the full red neck indoctrination.
“To have a young man like Sam win, and to watch him come into camp and be nervous meeting the crew, then by the end of the week have him be part of the camp, was really great.”
THAT FIRST BUCK
Palmer has been an avid hunter for a few years, but he had never shot a buck before.
“I really got into hunting when I got into high school,” he said. “My cousin Patrick Stone got me into it. He asked me if I ever shot a bow before. Before that all I ever did was squirrel hunt. He let me try his bow, I hit the target every time, and he said ‘You know what, we’re going to take you hunting.
“The first time he took me hunting a big old six-point came walking in. But I dropped my arrow because I was too excited. He said that was the best chance we could have had, right there. It was 20 yards away and I had the perfect shot.”
Palmer saw plenty of deer during the hunt in Louisiana, but for most of the trip his bad buck luck persisted.
“Each day we would wake up at 6 a.m. and hunt until noon and then come in for breakfast and lunch and then go back out and hunt until dark.
“We saw a whole bunch of deer every day. We saw this monster six-point. He moved out at 400 yards and we couldn’t get a shot. We saw him every day but he just wouldn’t cooperate.”
His luck finally changed near the end of the trip, when he shot a nine-pointer.
“It was on the second to last day,” Palmer said. “I got him about a half hour before dark.
“I had some chances with a goofy-antlered deer. They called it a tall buck. I decided to wait for the right one, and then this big buck walked out and pushed the goofy one away and I ended up taking him.
“He stepped out on the power line to eat at the food plot. Once he got clear from the other buck, I took the shot.
“It was about an 80-yard shot. It was a big thrill rush. I had my heart in my throat a little bit, just because I didn’t want to miss on camera.”
“The camera guy was pretty excited. He said he was glad we got it done, because the weather forecast wasn’t looking too good and neither one of us wanted to go out the next day in the rain.”
Amazingly, Palmer’s first buck was a drop shot. While the vast majority of deer run after they are hit, and sometimes have to be tracked for hours, Palmer’s buck went down on the spot, saving everyone a lot of trouble.
“The camera guy told me they don’t get many drop shots on film,” Palmer said. “Most of the time they have to do some tracking.
“Right when we got back to the lodge, they replayed the film for me. Jacob said it was super cool, especially because it was the first buck I got. Jackie was cool too. He was really happy for me.”
“It was pretty special to get down there for a once in a life time chance. There were 30,000 people entered in that contest. That’s like lottery odds! It was pretty crazy. I was shaking a little bit because it was my first buck.
“It’s at the taxidermist right now and it’s almost done!”