It beats selling watermelons.
Pulaski Academy graduate and incoming University of Central Arkansas freshman Hunter Harris, 18, has parlayed his love of duck hunting and an entrepreneurial spirit into a fledgling film and apparel business.
As owner and CEO of Spartan Outdoors LLC, in its first year of business, Harris got onto his current track as a sophomore, when he set the goal of having a national TV show after he and his friends filmed one of their hunts “just for fun.”
“We had so much footage it was like, ‘We’ve got to do something with this,’ ” said Harris, explaining the genesis of the original, and popular, hunting DVD “Team Sparta’s Earth, Wind & Fire,” he filmed with his friends.
The DVD, released in January and stocked at Mack’s Prairie Wings, sold out quickly and now Harris and Spartan Outdoors are poised to debut the hunting show Team Sparta TV on the Sportsman Channel in January. For over a year the company has sold T-shirts, fleeces and other apparel under the brands Buck Nation and Duck Nation.
“My goal every month is to double what we did last month,” said Harris, who took the money he earned selling Cave City watermelons on Little Rock-area roadsides and invested in his business.
Currently the apparel is available at Fort Thompson and small retailers.
“We are talking to some big boys about getting it released but it’s a long, long process,” said Harris, who is planning to major in — What else? — business entrepreneurship and innovation at UCA.
While he hunts deer and all kinds of fowl — and had just returned from tuna fishing in Louisiana — Harris is first and foremost a duck hunter and claims he “came out of the womb,” ready to hunt.
“Born in Arkansas, it’s hard not to love duck hunting,” he said.
It was that love that fueled Harris’ passion for film. He said he and four of his friends were on a hunt, having a laugh, and just wanted to capture the fun and the memories.
“I just get so excited and love it so much when I’m able to sit out in the field with my buddies and kill my limit of ducks and cook it for dinner that night,” said Harris.
That is what Harris is attempting to convey in his upcoming show. The participants are high school- and college-aged kids out in the wild and the format avoids the trappings of a talk show.
Sometimes Harris takes his passion to extremes — he once stepped in a hole and sunk while putting out decoys, but he finished the hunt dressed only in his boxer shorts, in 50-degree weather, and limited out.
“It was brutal,” he said.
Harris directs his passion, and is gearing his show, toward an important demographic.
With youth participation on the decline — some studies show a 10 percent drop in youth hunting since 1996 — Harris wants to encourage a new generation of kids to take part, be active and have in interest in nurturing and protecting the outdoors.
“We feel it is our responsibility to get the next generation outdoors,” Harris said.
Harris played baseball and football at Pulaski Academy, but an injury cost him his senior year of football season.
“Everything happens for a reason … I got to focus on this,” Harris said of his young company.
It remains to be seen if Spartan’s products will continue to sell and the company will continue to grow, but Harris has every reason to be optimistic in his effort to combine pleasure with business.
“It’s a lot of hard work but it’s been worth it,” Harris said. “One day maybe I’ll get to hunt for a living.”