By Brett Nelson
Ryan Fiveash, a lifelong resident of George County, is a man of adventure.
Like so many of the other Bottomland camouflage-clad gatherers in the Deep South, he's been one with the outdoors for a very long time, in his case since age five. Now, 32 and heavily experienced, his prowess and dedication is finally paying off, and courtesy of Wilem Group LLC we're all being granted multimedia access to his exploits.
Fiveash is now a feature figure on the show Find Your Outdoors (or FYO, for short), where cameras roll to catch him routinely reeling in and bagging wild game native to the southeastern United States landscape. And, while he's now the only notable Prostaff member on the show, he admits that FYO's superstardom is a purely collective effort.
"I would certainly never say that I'm the star, but I am a part of the show," he said. "It started a couple of years ago when I received a call in November '17 from a friend of mine, Wesley Martin. He was recently hired on the show's production. Eventually, they renamed the show from Gulf South Outdoors to Find Your Outdoors and I was added to the mix."
As he puts it, an opportunity like this could only come about through the coupling of the Law of Attraction and a love for the ritual of sport. In keeping with a principle of selflessness, Fiveash expresses the desire to share and pass on these experiences with his fellow sportsmen and sportswomen, be they green or seasoned veterans. But, show or not, he was always going to follow his heart.
"I mean, it just kind of came my way," he admits. "I was going to find my own outdoors, regardless if the cameras were rolling or not. My platform was that I'm going out there and doing what I love, and now I get to show it to other people. I love the sport, and I love to include people into it. It's a sacred thing to me. I really enjoy getting people out of the house, and I love letting them come share in my experiences. There is nothing like seeing someone new fall in love with my passions. It's just a really cool feeling. I find it very intriguing, the strategy and preparation to getting a fish to bite, for example. As with anything else, the right perspective is paramount to success. People will go out and spend hours and hours of fishing and not catch anything and then say, 'That was miserable!' Well, what happened? You see that it really wasn't the act of actually pulling a fish in, but it's the act of getting outside and ultimately falling in love with the process. Additionally, it's very much about the camaraderie, just being with your friends."
Fiveash also says that one of the best parts about being a south Mississippi outdoorsman is the fact there is always something to do at any time of the year. You simply, however, have to put forth the initiative to find out what exactly that is.
"There really aren't any significant breaks throughout the year, especially if you're a committed sportsman," he said. "I personally slow down a little during the summertime, mainly because I don't like the humidity. It kind of slows down the fishing, but that leaves the nighttime wide open for frog gigging and bow-fishing. You essentially have something all year long that you can get out there and do, so long as you keep an open mind."
Hunting and fishing has for a very long period been a key staple in the culture of the South, which lately seems to have found its place as a bit of a stronghold against a growing perspective that outright opposes all outdoor sports activities. Fiveash, with a lifetime of actual experience that is now segueing into a career, readily addresses this notion.
"It's in our roots. Whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not, it's in our roots, because at one point in time that's the way that things were primarily done. A lot of people talk about hunting for sport, and there are absolutely guys out there who hunt like that. Personally, I'm not a sport hunter. I eat everything that I harvest, or I give it to people who can't harvest it themselves."
And for the ones who may be just a little apprehensive about getting up and getting outside?
"Anybody can do it!" he exclaims. "Anybody can get out there and find their outdoors. And when I say that, it could be deer hunting, duck hunting, fishing, what have you. But get out there and find it, because there's something for everybody out there. I honestly believe that."
When asked, Fiveash spoke in detail about the origins of his becoming a sportsman, and how his determination to keep the ball rolling would never be stopped.
"For me, it all started on the Pascagoula River with my grandfather and stepfather. At one point I moved into the city for nearly a decade, and it still didn't stop me. I'd still drive as far as I needed to. The distance was never a factor. Nature calls and you simply can't help yourself. There are many people and influences who have brought me to this point, and they all know who they are. Matt Pitts, a regular guest on the show, has grown to be one of my best friends and is probably one of my biggest influences, as well as Wes, our producer. We all equally share the same love and passion for the outdoors."
Martin, who has built a career in the television industry for quite some time now, talks fondly about FYO's foundation and success.
"Find Your Outdoors is definitely our primary show," Martin says. "The hosts of the show are Frank Wilhem, a self-made entrepreneur, and his daughter Brittany. When they decided to re-brand the show, it elevated to a national market. It now airs to 35 million households two days a week on the Action Channel and in several local markets on major networks, such as Fox, NBC and CBS and from here in south Mississippi, you have Hattiesburg and Meridian. In Louisiana, you have Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Lafayette and Alexandria and also in Lubbock, Texas, Jonesboro, Ark. and Jackson, Tenn.
“Additionally, we have the Mobile and Pensacola markets. FYO is kind of the backbone of our film and production company, if you will. I came on board about two years ago with Frank and Brittany and part of our goal was to broaden our portfolio of TV shows."
Martin, a Biloxi native, also spent some of his earlier years in Alaska and says that much of the current inspiration for FYO's episodes are drawn from his experiences in The Last Frontier.
"A lot of my creative inspiration for FYO came from Alaska," he said. "I hunted and fished up there quite a bit. There is definitely a unique aspect to FYO. Before the show's name change, we featured a lot of blue water/inshore fishing. Brittany, Frank's daughter, and the co-host of the show, came up with the FYO name, and that in turn allowed us to get into all aspects of the outdoors. All things outdoors is kind of what FYO encompasses. We'll go out of state to Texas, north Alabama and so on."
Martin also says the show partially serves as a plateau for Kids Outdoors, a non-profit organization that he takes a great deal of pride in being an ally of.
"We feature a lot an organization called Kids Outdoors, which I would consider to be much like the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They take terminally ill and special needs kids on their dream outdoor hunting or fishing trip. We've filmed several shows with them, and it's a really eye-opening experience to be behind the camera for that. To see the joy on a kid's face when they've never had the opportunity to enjoy that life experience with their family before, to catch a trophy fish or bag a monster deer, it gives them that incredible moment."
As far as summarizing what FYO seeks to accomplish, Martin explains the importance of finding the right fit with local guys, as well as the luxury of getting the aforementioned Pitts on board via Fiveash, who he sees as having a bright future with FYO.
"We really try and showcase all things outdoors from experiences that other people have to experiences that our team has with FYO in offering those tips from the pros. When I came on board with Frank and Brittany, we were recruiting guys not just locally, but from across the nation. We wanted to promote our brand, and we wanted to harvest organic footage of people outside of just us.
“When I started thinking about good candidates for this, the first person that came to mind was Ryan Fiveash. Anybody that knows Ryan knows that he lives and breathes hunting and fishing. When he's not working or playing golf, he's in the woods or on the water. In my mind, he's just as good as any of the pro guys out there, especially when it comes to bass fishing. He was a great fit and he's also easily accessible.
“I also have to mention Matt Pitts [also of George County]. I didn't really know him personally until we started filming the show, and he's a great guy. He's also very knowledgeable and a lifelong hunter. You have to give the credit to Ryan for getting him on board. They go way back, and Ryan kind of brought Matt into the picture. I foresee him being on several shows in the future."
Making FYO happen is never an easy task, Martin explains, and, not surprisingly, it takes everyone being on the same page to make it work. That seems to be happening, however, as FYO has already reached a wide audience.
"The show takes a full team and a lot of effort, and we have a great one surrounding us. It takes them all to create a full show by editing the key shots, getting the interviews and building the narrative to tell the story, and that takes a lot of work behind the scenes. It definitely couldn't happen without our sponsors, as they're the financial support that drives the show. Our social media following has grown substantially.
“Here locally in Lucedale, people can watch the show every week. We air on NBC, which is WXXV if you pick up south Mississippi stations on there, at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday night and then at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday morning on Fox, which is WXXV. On the Mobile, Ala. stations, we air at 8:30 a.m. on the Gulf Coast CW, which is a WKRG affiliate. You can also tune in through our online presence at findy ouroutdoors.tv. Additionally, we have a YouTube channel where we upload all of the shows after they air, so you can always keep up with the action."
Action, indeed. Tune in and find your passion. Find your calling. Find your outdoors.