HAZARD—When asked to describe the culture of Eastern Kentucky, some words that come to mind first may be coal mining or small town — for one Breathitt County native, however, the words on the top of that list would be hunting or fishing.
Todd Duff, host of the local hunting show “Jak’d Up,” said, like many in the area, hunting has always been a part of his life and has always been something he wanted to be able to do as more than just a hobby.
“Ever since I was real young, following my grandfather and my dad through the woods, whether we’re out there hunting or we’re out on the boat fishing or whatever, it’s always been a dream of mine,” he said.
Now, that dream is becoming an even bigger reality than he thought it ever could. Starting in October of this year, Duff’s hunting show, which debuted last year on TVS 24 in Hindman, Ky., to 50,000 viewers, will air on Hunting Channel TV on Dish Network to an audience of more than 14 million.
“I have to try to put my hand on the back of my head to catch it sometimes because it just goes over my head,” Duff joked.
Duff said “Jak’d Up Outdoors” started simply as the product of filming guided tours led by his hunting guide company, Low Gap Outfitters, which he started in college with a friend from his college baseball team.
“We started developing it because we played baseball together at Alice Lloyd College. I was actually a rotating pitcher and he was my rotating catcher behind the plate and we just kind of developed a friendship because of that,” Duff said.
The name “Jak’d Up” came from Duff’s experience as a hunter, and while it may look a little wrong, Duff said this was done on purpose to catch more attention for the brand.
“Whenever you’re out there, I know in my experiences when I’m in the woods or whatever, that deer or that elk or whatever that’s coming by, your adrenaline’s pumping, your heart’s pounding, I mean, you’re sitting there and you’re tore all to pieces and you’re jacked up,” he said. “We spelled it that way, that odd way, because it stands out a little more.”
Duff said he is astonished that everything seems to have happened and grown so quickly in just a few years. Low Gap is going into its fourth season of guided tours, having increased the number of hunters served from seven in 2010 to 49 last year.
“It’s just absolutely blossomed from there,” Duff said. “I’m excited about everything; I’m really blessed.”
Duff said “Jak’d Up” viewers can expect a few changes to the show, since it will now be aired nationally, including showing hunts in other parts of the nation as well as the inclusion of a new co-host on the show, Brittany Martin from CMT’s show “Redneck Island.”
“Females in the hunting industry has really come on strong in the last few years, and it’s growing because more and more females each year seem to be interested in something different, a little hunting, a little fishing here and there,” Duff added.
And though his show will be experiencing some changes, Duff said he would not forget the area that made his dream possible.
“Our main focus is going to, of course, be Eastern Kentucky,” Duff said. “I’m also going to show people the affordable hunts that they can do. Just like the blue collar worker, that’s what we are. I just want to share that with everybody in our area and across the United States.”
Duff said one of his idols since he was a kid has been Tim Farmer, host of KET’s “Kentucky Afield,” who has inspired him to work as hard as he has for what he wants.
“If you watch his show you can actually see he has a handicap, and he found a way to make everything work,” Duff said of Farmer, who was injured in a crash several years ago. “That just inspired me to be able to say OK, I have a love and a passion and I’ve got something that I want to do, so if I can have the same determination and persistence that he does, I’m sure something’s going to come good of it.”
Now, Duff wants be sure to spread that attitude that has brought him so much success.
“If anybody has got the determination or persistence to do something, I mean, it’s possible to do it, and we’re showing that,” he said.