Interview with Jon and Gina Brunson

Last month, Armadillo Safes was pleased to announce our partnership with Jon and Gina Brunson, as sponsors of their popular TV programs “Addicted to the Outdoors” and “Spear Life”. You’ve gotten to know Jon, Gina, their six kids, and even their family friends by tuning in over the years, but we thought it would be fun to get to know them a little better.

Jon and Gina were gracious enough to sit down with us for an interview to chat about how they met, family life, and more. We had a lot of laughs during this interview, and Jon and Gina’s authenticity definitely came through!


Armadillo: Thank you and welcome! We're excited to have this conversation with you today to delve a little bit more into your background and everything. Let’s explore the pre-JBO era, because I read that you guys had met when you were 17?

Gina: I was 17 and a senior in high school.

Jon: Yep, we were 17 and 19. About 32 years ago.

Armadillo: And how did you guys meet exactly?

Jon: Through a relative, I knew her aunt.

Armadillo: Back when people used to get together each other face to face?

Jon: Yeah, back before there were cellphones. I think there were beepers, maybe?

Gina: Yeah, we had beepers.

Armadillo: So, I read in an article on the Outdoor Network and that you guys said most weekends were spent on the hunt and sleeping at truck stops for your first 10 years together?

Jon: So, I grew up hunting all my life, you know… Actually, that the name “Addicted to the Outdoors” came from being addicted kind of to everything outdoors because my mom's side of the family raised English pointers bird dogs, and they were all into hunting, and then my dad's side of the family was into fishing and diving and scalloping and crabbing and all that stuff.

So, growing up there was a bunch of kids, my dad was a Southern Baptist preacher, and so we didn't have a whole lot and so pretty much every single thing we did as a family, every vacation, everything we did, was camping, fishing and hunting. And so that's what I did growing up and I was the one kind of out of the family that was just nuts for it.

So then when me and Gina got together, I worked during the week and would hunt on the weekends, and she wanted to do it with me.

Gina: Yeah, I was like, where are you going every weekend?

Jon: Yeah, so she came and she already loved to fish. She was an outdoorsy girl and she fished with her dad and stuff, but she started hunting with me. Next thing you know, she's going with me and she's holding tree stands at the bottom while I'm strapping them in, she's helping me carry corn to feeders…

Gina: And in the meantime, I'm 4’11”, so I'm trying to hold an 8 to 10 foot ladder while he straps it and he’s yelling at me because the ladder is going back and oh boy…

Jon: And she’s just yelling up at me, like “This is not fun!”

Gina: I’m like, “I’m like, I’m 4’11”, I can’t reach much further!”

Jon: I have no idea how she made it. No idea how she stuck with it. But she did, and she got hooked on it and really developed a passion for it. But in the early days, this is how we used to do it. We had hunt leases that we hunted in in north Florida and Georgia and Alabama. So, we’d work all week, leave Friday afternoon, drive, and get into camp after dark.

I mean, we were young and just starting out and so we would literally park at our campsite, which was just a dirt clearing, and then we’d sleep in the back of the truck in sleeping bags. Even though it would be like Georgia or something, it'd be cold. We’d wake up in the morning with frost on our sleeping bags. We would literally put our long johns on in the sleeping bag and then we'd get dressed, right there at the truck, and then we would go walk 2 or 3 miles to our tree stand.

And when we’d need to take a shower, about 20 or 30 minutes from camp, there was a big truck stop. So, we’d go there to take showers.

Gina: It was sketchy!

Jon: And that’s how we started out hunting. And then we got a tent with a little generator, and then a truck camper for the back of the truck, and then a pop-up camper. And then we graduated to a fifth wheel and we got 4-wheelers and…

Armadillo: Oh, Gina, you must have been encouraging that!

Gina: When we first started out and we were walking 2 or 3 miles to our stand, I mean, I had no clue how far we were walking. But he likes to be in the tree at least 45 minutes before the sun comes up and, in the beginning, he would sit at the base of the tree and wait for me to get up in the tree…

Jon: I had to make sure she was good...

Gina: So, basically, I was in the tree for two hours before the sun came up…

Jon: Oh, it wasn’t that bad…

Gina: Yeah, it was. And then he wouldn’t let me come down until he came to the base of the tree.

Jon: Well, she was learning. So, I stayed there till she was in her tree and she was strapped in and then I’d come back to pick her up. And then she would unstrap and I could watch her get down, because I mean, that's how accidents happen and she was just learning.

So that's how we started out and it just kind of evolved from there. Like I said into tents, pop-up campers and then a fifth wheel camper and then I remember when we got 4-wheelers. Oh my God!

Gina: We had one 4-wheeler forever.

Jon: But I remember when we got two and she finally got her own…

Gina: I was like “I’m sleeping in!”

Armadillo: And then how did this all segue into you creating Jon Brunson Outdoors?

Jon: So, 21 years ago when we launched the show it was John Brunson Outdoors because at the time it was a passion of mine, I always wanted to do a show. Of course, back then, there wasn't a lot of women in the outdoors or couples or anything. So, I didn't really know how much she was gonna be involved. So, it was John Brunson Outdoors for like maybe 3 years, but over the course of those 3 years she was with me all the time, and she was out there pregnant, hunting, you know?

And when she came hunting, she had babies at camp and they’d camp with us so the show really became a couples show, which is what really took off. That's what people really liked. So, I think it was our third year, we rebuilt the whole show, renamed it, and it became a couples show: “Addicted to the Outdoors with Jon and Gina Brunson”. Like I said, we started 21 years ago, so that's been about 18 years now that it's been “Addicted to the Outdoors with Jon and Gina Brunson”.

Our kids have been a part of the show their whole lives, people watch them grow up on TV, and we just wanted to kind of see how much they wanted to be involved or not be involved.

They really took to it, and really enjoyed going on one hunt a year, and then we asked them a few years ago, do you all want to get more involved, and they were like “yes”. So, I think three years ago, I think it's our third year now, we rebuilt the show open with our three youngest co-hosting with us so now it's “Addicted to the Outdoors” with Jon and Gina and Tuff and Raven and Gunner.

And now the kids are getting a lot more involved, especially our daughter. She's our little blonde-haired, green-eyed cheerleader, homecoming queen. But she’ll out-hunt her brothers any day of the week. They all enjoy it but she's the one that's kind of taken the lead on getting after it the most.

Armadillo: And what are the kids for ages now?

Jon: Our twins are 21 and they're in their third year of college. and our youngest is Gunner who's 20 and he’s in his second year. We’ve been doing TV their whole lives. So, for them, it's just totally normal.

Gina: Yeah, and then they’ll come back from college and be like “my friend’s dad has watched your show forever!”

When the kids were really little and we'd be in the airport or the grocery store and somebody would come up and say “hey, can I take a picture?”, they’d sit there and be like “What are you doing? Why are you talking to my mom?”

Armadillo: Are the kids interested in the production side of things as well?

Jon: Raven’s not, she’s going to school, she’s in her third year at USF and she's going to be a school teacher by day and a huntress by weekend. She's the most serious about sticking with the show as a personality. She wants to build an income from the show and she also wants to teach because she loves kids. Kindergarten is what she is going to be teaching.

Our two boys, they both work in our studio while they're going to college. One is going to college for production and I think we've got him settled into social media and content creation just because it's the number one sought after number one job on planet Earth, right? If you're a great editor and you understand social media, I mean, you can go work anywhere you want to work.

Then Tuff, who's our other twin, he's going to school to be a nurse and he's in his third year of college but he's been in the office 20 hours a week or so, for the last three years, editing. He started out organizing footage years ago and now he's actually roughing out shows for my main editors, starting to lay down story lines and music, and he's actually taking a national television show from scratch to about 40% right now, so he's really progressing as an editor.

And we have six kids, by the way. So, our oldest son, he's our top editor. He’s 30, he literally interned through high school and has been with all of us all the way so he's probably been doing it for 15 years now. Our second son is in the medical field and then our oldest daughter, she's up in Tallahassee. She had a full academic scholarship to FSU. She went to work for an environmental company for a while, then decided to go back and get her master's degree and she liked it up there. So, she’s still up in Tallahassee.

Armadillo: The family aspect of what you do really comes through in your shows. Both Addicted, obviously, but also Spear Life because these are your friends from childhood. It really comes through that you guys keep a really close-knit group around you and that you really value those relationships.

Jon: Yeah, our same core group of friends that we hang out with today, we've known since 8, 9, 10 years old. And it's funny because even some of my friends from childhood, Gina knew them when they were 10, 11, 12 years old, but her and I just never crossed paths for some reason, until the end of high school.

Coby, he's been my best friend since we were 8 years old. Gary is 10 years older than us and he's kind of been like an older brother, and he was a real big influence on me when we were younger in the outdoors because we – me and Gina and Coby – all met Gary when we were 21, so we’ve known him for 30 years.

Armadillo: You've taken so many cues from your close family ties and your close friendships, and really your business itself reflects that; you run it with family and as a family.

Jon: Yeah, and I think that's what's worked for us. I mean, probably one of the biggest comments we get is the family aspect, that we're down to earth. We have a lot of husbands and wives say that they relate to us because with Addicted we keep it real. If we miss something, if we miss an animal, we're gonna show it. Most guys don't.

With Addicted, I can honestly say, in 21 years we've never faked anything. We've never staged anything. We try to capture everything in real time. So, we run a lot of cameras, we run cameras on our bows, facing backwards so that when you see us draw our bow or something, you're seeing it all how it really happened. Whereas with other shows they go back and they film all that stuff afterwards. So, we try to run cameras live to really show that, you can't fake that emotion.

Gina: Well, we can’t, we’re not actors…

Jon: We're not, so that’s one of the things with Addictive, we're gonna keep it real and show things how they happen and people definitely related to that.

Armadillo:  So, did you ever think that you'd be doing the show this long?

Gina: I don't know. I never really thought about it.

Jon: I mean for me once we jumped into this and did this, I'm a competitor and we wanted to be successful. So yeah, I think mentally for me it was like this is what I want to do with my life. It's been cool because you never know how successful you're gonna be or if you're gonna make it.

Gina: We’ve seen in a lot of shows come and go.

Jon: A million shows come and go and I'd say now 21 years later to be where we're at, to have what we have, to accomplish what we've accomplished, it's definitely a little surprising, but it was definitely the goal.

What I initially envisioned we've definitely exceeded because at first, I just wanted a show and that's how JBO Production was born. Because when we launched for the show the first year, it was very different. Our industry has a really bad habit of regurgitating the same stuff, and me, not coming from the industry, I created a show in my head and just kind of figured it out and ignored the industry.

And when that happened our first year, we killed it. We were up for a million awards and it was just something very different. And so that first year we had a lot of people coming to us basically our competitors, going “Hey, would you edit for us” or “Would you build a graphics package” or “Would you film for us?”

So then JBO Production, our production company, blew up into one of the biggest production companies in outdoor television. In the last 21 years, we've produced 46 National TV shows.

About 5 years ago, because I really wanted to get Spear Life off the ground, we trimmed the production company back. We currently produce four shows: our two shows and then two shows that I've produced for friends for a long time. So that's how everything kind of spidered into Addicted and then JBO Production and then eventually Spear Life.

Armadillo: Do you think that you're going to get to the point where the kids sort of take more of the reins of the show at some point?

Jon: We're definitely putting them more upfront. I take each one of the kids on a hunt at least once sometimes two hunts a year now. I'm definitely gonna have to be the guy that's keeping things moving and together on the business side of things, but we're definitely pushing them more in the spotlight.

Gina:  Another thing that we've really wanted to do over the years is introduce kids to the outdoors. Tuff’s best friend has grown up fishing and crabbing and scalloping and doing all these things with us outdoors, but his family's not into the outdoors at all. And so, John actually took him on his first whitetail hunt, and he's introducing other kids who don't have anybody to take them hunting. So, he does a lot of that as well.

Jon: Yeah, over the years. we've introduced a ton of kids to the outdoors. Taking them fishing, taking them crabbing, taking them hunting… I don’t how many, but we have definitely introduced a ton of kids to the outdoors.

Armadillo: Let’s switch gears a bit. I don't know if you guys have eaten a lot of weird things on your travels, but since you've been so many places, I would assume you've had the opportunity to enjoy some unusual cuisine. What is the weirdest or most surprising thing that you've ever eaten?

Gina: Zebra.

Jon: I'd agree and say probably the most surprising thing we ate was zebra in Africa. And, of course, everyone's always like man, it's a horse, but it's not. It’s a totally different species and it was probably the best eating animal in Africa. It tasted like the most high-end, nicest filet you've ever had in your life. So that was probably the biggest surprise.

Gina: Yep, that was the biggest surprise. But pretty much everything we’ve killed, we’ve eaten.

Jon: Every single thing we kill we either eat ourselves or we pay to have it processed and donate it. There's a lot of times where we can't get it back home, so we'll pick a processor to do it and then donate it to local feed the hungry programs.

Armadillo: That’s awesome. Well, we’ve reached the end of the interview. Anything you want to tell our readers about what they can expect from the current and upcoming seasons of Spear Life and Addicted?

Jon: Spear Life had a lot of funny shows this year. I think that people will be very entertained and they'll have a smile on their face. I think with Addicted they're just gonna see more of the family aspect with us and the kids getting out there. Good seasons, and I think everyone will really enjoy them this year.

Armadillo: I'm sure everybody can look forward to seeing more of that family and friend action that they love from you guys. Thanks so much and appreciate your time. We're sure looking forward to working with you here at Armadillo.

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