By Ben Bradbury ’09
Joe Sir ’06 is doing what most sportsmen only dream of— hunting for a living. Sir started and stars in his own award-winning hunting television show on the Sportsman Channel.
It all started for fun. Sir and several of his friends began filming their hunts after he and his wife Lindsey (Slagter ’06), moved to his hometown of Cresco, Iowa, following graduation. He soon entertained the idea of turning his passion for the outdoors into a career.
As he began developing a business plan for a Web-based, semi-live hunting show, he needed to find sponsors to help pay for their gear and make this business work.
“We were trying to get our foot in the door with several sponsors,” he recalled. “Pounding the phones, we quickly realized there were a hundred other guys trying to do the exact same thing!”
But their hard work paid off. Sir and his friends landed a sponsorship with a decoy company willing to give them 18 dozen decoys. At about $100 per decoy, Sir was ecstatic about this opportunity.
Divine change of course
On his way home from picking up the decoys, however, Sir was hit with a profound sense that something was wrong.
“All of a sudden, it was like God just smacked me square in the chest,” he said. “It wasn’t so much that I was [starting the show] for selfish reasons. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pursuing something that you’re passionate about or trying to make that into a career.
“But it was more of, ‘Hey, can you do something more deliberate with this and can you do something bigger than just trying to go down a career path that’s going to please you?’”
Sir pulled over in a nearby parking lot and prayed about what to do next. Not long after that, the vision for Hallowed Ground Ministries emerged.
He knew that God wanted him to channel his passion for hunting into a ministry, not only a business. Sir began developing a plan for a TV series that would focus on teaching spiritual truths in an unconventional way.
“Our goal was to use the sport of hunting to make disciples for Jesus Christ,” Sir explained. “From a television standpoint, [it] was to produce the best show that we possibly could to attract as many viewers as we possibly could.
Success in season one
As Sir formulated the vision for Hallowed Ground Ministries, he began pitching the show idea to a number of networks. Eventually the Sportsman Channel expressed interest, and work began on the first season of Hallowed Ground Outdoors.
“Our first year, we got a very good time slot, so we signed our contract and were in debt $85,000 from day one,” Sir recalled. “We thought we knew what we were doing, but we really had no idea the work that was going to be involved!”
The show was well received by viewers, selected as a finalist by the network and voted on by 140,000 people to receive the 2011 Sportsman Choice Award for Best New Series.
“We were very blessed to win the award,” Sir said. “To attend the Sportsman Choice Awards and be recognized as the best new show on the network was very encouraging [and] provided a great witnessing opportunity.”
Finding an anchor point
By telling the story of a man and his hunting experience, Sir and his friends are able to share a spiritual message.
One of their first-season episodes featured a well-known big buck hunter who places a huge emphasis on faith and family.
“What we tried to do through that story was say that, ‘Yeah, I do enjoy this, I do love this, but first and foremost, my priorities are being a husband and being a father,’” Sir explained. “We tried to emphasize the opportunity to pass on your legacy and raise [children] up to know who God is.”
Joe and Lindsey Sir both graduated with degrees in kinesiology and are parents to Drake (3) and Liam (1). The second season of Hallowed Ground Outdoors will air on the Sportsman Channel in July. Visit hallowedgroundoutdoors.com or hallowedgroundministries.com