Underwriting provided by:
The Laura Moore Cunningham

The Early History of Outdoor Idaho

Outdoor Idaho began as a collaboration between Idaho Public Television and the Idaho Department of Fish & Game. Royce Williams and Peter Morrill were the driving force behind the show. Royce, an employee of Fish & Game, wrote the show. Peter, an employee of Idaho Public Television, shot and edited it and got it onto the airwaves. Doug Copsey was the host. The first episode aired in October, 1983.

Doug Copsey on set

"The name Outdoor Idaho suggests that the program really was an outdoor program," said Peter Morrill. "But in the beginning much of the program actually was 'Indoor Idaho.' What we sought to do is have a marriage of two agencies; and it really was a great marriage."

"The show kind of evolved," explained Royce Williams. "There were a lot of biologists at Fish & Game doing fantastic research. They were exploding old theories about wildlife, so we decided we would cover some of these stories."

"Back then," noted Peter, "we were just thinking show to show and month to month. No one thought the show would last more than a few years. But I think the reason it has staying power is that it does something that no one else is doing. It looks at issues and concerns of the great outdoors that affect people who live in Idaho. And it's also the energy and beauty of the state we live in. It transports well to other parts of the country. And it has one thing that a lot of people can relate to — it has a true human voice."

Peter, Royce, Bruce at Jump Creek

Since Outdoor Idaho was a co-production of Idaho Public Television and Fish & Game, there were lots of stories on hunter orange, fishing regulations and road closures for elk. But there were also video essays, which opened every show.

Aside from Peter and Royce, there were others who worked on the early show. Jeff Tucker was a high school intern who became a valued member of the crew. Both he and Ricardo Ochoa and Al Hagenlock ventured out on shoots that took them far from the highways and even the dirt roads of Idaho. They knew first-hand the vagaries of television equipment! For several years Al Hagenlock also directed and edited the half-hour show.

In April of 1986 Bruce Reichert became the host. His first assignment was Jump Creek, where he proceeded to contract a terrible case of poison ivy. He was wearing contac lenses, and his eyes swelled up so that even his friends couldn't recognize him!

Peter and Bruce on sailboat at Lake Pend Oreille

By this time, the show had gone "outdoors" and would never look back. Of course, this meant more problems with equipment, often far from home.

"I think in the early days, the show was ahead of the equipment, way ahead of the equipment," explains Jeff Tucker, remembering a trip into Chamberlain Basin. "We got about a hundred yards down the trail, and said, this is a pretty picture, let's unpack everything and shoot some video. We tried to shoot and nothing worked. It was a little capacitor that broke off, and it ruined the whole thing."

Ricardo Ochoa also remembers a few of those early shoots. "In the old days we actually did hang out of a helicopter, without a strap, with the side doors gone, and we shot 'til we got back."

In 1990 Outdoor Idaho took a dramatic shift in direction. Idaho Public Television became the sole producer of the show, as both agencies decided they wanted different things. Royce Williams and Peter Morrill had moved on to other jobs by this time, and Bruce Reichert assumed the duties of producer and writer, as well as host.

Sauni Symonds took on the job of director, editor, and chief videographer. "I was the little woman behind the man," jokes Sauni Symonds. "Bruce would pretty much do anything I told him to. He even jumped out of airplanes! Standups were always a challenge for Bruce. Once we got the walking and talking down, then there were the props. It was always hard to get Bruce to concentrate on standups, because he always wanted to fish."

Sauni and Bruce shooting hang glider

Sauni worked on the show for about four years. In 1994 Pat Metzler became the director/videographer/editor, a position he holds today.

Others who deserve recognition for their efforts are Roger Fuhrman and Victoria Osborn, two producers who worked during the 1990's on some of our more popular programs. Sue Nass, an employee of Fish & Game, also produced shows for several years. Later, producer Jim Peck and videographer/editor Alberto Moreno contributed to the effort with some wonderful shows. Others who have worked to create programs are Jay Krajic, Thanh Tan, Greg Hahn, Chuck Cathcart, Aaron Kunz, and Seth Ogilvie.

Pat on Middle Fork

While each of them had other television responsibilities, they all enjoyed working on the program when time allowed; and they all created their own niche.

Marcia Franklin and Joan Cartan-Hansen still work on the show and have each made important contributions since the 1990's. They were joined by John Crancer in the 1990's, who assumed the job of lead producer of the show.

It's safe to say that no one believed Outdoor Idaho would be alive and kickin' into its 30th year. Its longevity is due in large part to those who watch the show and who support it, and to the talented individuals who have contributed to the program.

It truly is a labor of love.