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© Garry Mason's "Legends of the Outdoors" : Hosted & Maintained by Outdoor Resources, LLC
Jerry Martin

Maybe it was growing up on a farm in the Midlands, living close to animals and people of the soil. Or maybe it was having a father and grandfather to teach him how to slip through the woods on silent boots.

Nobody can say for sure how or when the hunting spirit first took root in Jerry Martin. Just know that by age 6 -- or was it 5? -- Young Martin was running rabbits with beagles, and trying to keep up with Dad and Grandpa Bloomer Clark.

"I remember carrying a .22 single-shot, an old Springfield from the early 1900s handed down from my father," Martin says father and grandfather didn't believe in wasting shells. They expected 50 squirrels from a box of shells...and (chuckling) ... I tried not to disappoint them."

Today, the kid from Thayer, Missouri is still on target, having emerged as one of the nation's most respected woodsmen. Martin heads up the RedHead Pro Hunting Team, a position that requires him to hunt extensively throughout North America virtually year-round. Poor guy. If he's not chasing mule deer in the desert of western Mexico with a muzzleloader, he's packing for a trip to Florida with hopes of taking a 12-foot alligator with a bow.

Martin's career achievements reflect a lifetime joyously spent in the woods, but 1998 was memorable, even by his standards.

In the high country of New Mexico, Martin took a record-class 6x6 elk that scored 370 5/8 Pope & Young, No.29 among the top bulls ever bagged with a bow. His pursuit of wild turkeys was equally memorable.

Martin completed the Grand Slam with a flourish, taking all four species of U.S. wild turkeys in a single calendar year using a muzzleloader.

Starting in mid-March with an Osceola turkey in Florida with country singer John Anderson, Martin followed with a Rio Grande gobbler in late March in Texas with Bill Jordan of Realtree.

Only weeks later, Martin shot an Eastern turkey in Missouri while hunting with singer Hank Williams Jr., Richard Childress and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. Martin closed out his campaign with a Merriam's gobbler on a Montana hunt with Murphy Love and Brenda Valentine.

With his Knight 12-gauge burning 110 grains of powder and belching 2 ounces of No.6 lead shot, Martin took the birds at ranges up to 40 yards. "That's close enough," he says.

Between adventures, when co-host Martin is not taping TV shows with industry wheels and celebrities, he's promoting conservation and field testing new hunting gear. For many, this heavenly job description comes straight from Saint Peter, but Martin's current position on the Bass Pro Shops staff in Springfield, Missouri, did not surface overnight.

Martin hunts hard, he gets after it early and stays all day. He prepares himself well. When he has the opportunity, he seizes it. It's one thing to come back to camp saying, 'Man, I saw a big deer!' There's a long way between that and actually harvesting the animal. Jerry does it consistently. Clearly what got its spark in the squirrel woods caught fire when Martin got out of the Navy (1970) and took a job on a cattle ranch in Arizona.

If Martin found himself more interested in the wild game than the domestic livestock, it's understandable. His job site offered 70,000 acres of javelina, mule deer and Gamble's quail. It wasn't long before he was also calling coyotes and guiding visitors for elk in the mountains above Alpine, Arizona.

The restless feet of youth led him out of the Southwest, back to Missouri, but not for long. Within five years, Martin had moved to Alaska, on the pretense of laying bricks for a living. Actually, he lived for those awesome Alaska weekends in the fall, when he could head out in search of moose, bear and Dall sheep.

By the mid-1980s, Missouri called him home again, this time for good. Martin continued to mix cement and lay bricks, all right, but by setting up a fishing charter service, he was laying the foundation for something big.

Martin and his brother, Bob, guided for largemouth, walleye and crappie on the nine public reservoirs near Springfield, notably Stockton and Truman lakes. Along the way, he started teaching seminars on his deepest passion, calling wild turkeys in the spring.

Enter Johnny Morris, a long-time hunting and fishing friend. Morris was itching to expand the hunting side of the Bass Pro Shops' product line, and he had his eye on just the right man.

"I think he kept asking me to come to work for him because of my experience in both hunting and fishing," Martin says. "I finally came on, and started out in research and development, mainly evaluating fishing lures and hunting equipment, tree stands and other gear."

Since then, his duties have not changed dramatically, but his list of responsibilities has grown. In 1993, Morris and Martin had an idea.

"We saw how much value fishing pros had, and decided we should have a pro hunting team," Martin says. "We wanted to hand-pick people who would get along well and present hunting in a good light."

They scoured the nation and over a three-year period, selected high-profile hunters: Bob Foulkrod of Troy, Pennsylvania; Walter Parrot of Fredrickstown, Missouri; Jim Ryan of Montevallo, Alabama; Allen Treadwell of Missouri; and Brenda Valentine of Buchanan, Tennessee. These high-profile hunters, along with Martin and Morris, has lifted Bass Pro Shops' hunting presence to the next level.

"Our goals are to help Bass Pro Shops develop the very best in clothing and equipment, and to promote the outdoors." Martin says. "We hope to keep doing what we're doing, filming more shows and instructional videos, spreading the word about hunting." Count on the program hitting the bull's eye. Jerry Martin doesn't miss often.