Drew Palmer studied the watershed in western Arkansas, about 20 acres of water in the woods near Fort Smith. He needed one day of fishing to figure out his plan for the next day’s duck hunt.
“He sees this piece of land one time,” said Brad Lovell, who owns the land and hadn’t hunted for waterfowl on the property. “We go back to our house and put a game plan together and he said ‘This is what I think will happen. This is where we need to set up and this is what we need to do.’ ”
The next day, three hunters bagged their limit in 90 minutes.
“Drew has that innate ability to get in the mind of wild game,” Lovell said. “These animals are doing exactly what he said they would do.”
That is a helpful talent when hunting — and when planning a lifetime of outdoor video and photography. Palmer, a senior pitcher at Wichita State, runs Mile North Films, an outdoor video and photography business, with several friends including teammate Cale Elam. When Palmer’s baseball career ends, he wants to make marketing the outdoors his life.
“I knew real quick that I didn’t want to work for somebody,” he said. “I get kind of stale being stuck in the same place for too long. This is something I can jump into and grow and make my own way through it.”
Palmer is wrapping up his Shocker career and he wants to keep playing. He is preparing Mile North for his next step. It’s made a modest amount of money. His focus, while completing college, is to build a reputation and a portfolio for the future.
“It started out as a hobby,” he said. “Baseball’s going to end at some point.”
Palmer and childhood friend Devin Avery, both from Arkansas City, started filming their hunts with a camcorder in grade school. Palmer loves hunting waterfowl; Avery specializes in deer. They started trying to preserve memories, then using the video as a learning tool to plan their hunts. In high school, the possibilities seemed bigger and they grew more serious about their work each year. They watched outdoor shows on TV for ideas, always with the plan to make their productions appealing to hunters and people who don’t know a mallard from a teal.
“(Drew) is the the creative mind behind all of it,” Avery said. “He’s always looking for new ways to get things from a different angle.”
Elam, a senior pitcher, stars in a sample of Mile North’s work, a 4-minute, 35-second video titled “The Reasons Why.” Elam explains his love for bow-hunting, a passion that started in his hometown of Oktaha, Okla.
“Growing up in Eastern Oklahoma, where it’s predominately Indian Country, there’s a lot of heritage, there’s a lot of bow-hunting culture,” he says in the video. “Then I met the man who’s now my father-in-law, who really challenged me to take an animal with my bow and really challenged me to get out there and make my own adventures.”
Elam and Palmer met last summer, when Palmer transferred to WSU from Cowley College. Their shared passion for hunting took them afield together. Palmer films Elam during bow-hunting season. When the weather grows colder, Elam records Palmer hunting ducks and geese.
“Whenever I think of Drew, I think of a simple, hard-working guy,” Elam said. “But he’s got a real knack for putting that stuff together. As a hunter you see a lot of scenes in your head, but it’s hard to put it in a camera.”
Palmer envisions using those kind of stories as a way to promote outdoor products, or to tell stories that will lure others into trying hunting and fishing. He is already on advisory staffs for outdoor companies, relationships he cultivated from years of attending outdoor shows. Mile North’s resume includes a 15-second promotional video for GK World Championship Calls, a Michigan company that makes waterfowl calls. He also works for Natural Gear, an apparel company in Arkansas.
His 2-minute, 15-second video on working a deer farm near Pretty Prairie starts with coffee brewing on a rainy morning. Elam lugs 50-pound bags of feed through the snow and, as the seasons change, through mud and water. Pictures from the trail camera proves the bucks survived the winter.
“My goal is always to make it entertaining enough for people that don’t share the same interests to enjoy watching it,” Palmer said. “It’s very fulfilling to put something like that together. You get the same feeling when you go out there for nine innings and shut somebody down and you look at your piece of work when you’re done.”
One of his recent ideas is to produce an Internet-based series of outdoor stories. Lovell, an older friend with business experience, serves as a mentor. Palmer initially wanted to charge for the series. Lovell suggested using the series as a way to build the company’s reputation.
“He's got that young mind, young, fresh ideas in his head,” Lovell said. “He got into (the filming) and really fought hard from a young age to make it happen.”
Palmer’s love for the outdoors started early on his family farm near Ark City. He chased rabbits in the backyard with brothers Devin and Derek Avery and now both help with Mile North. Devin Avery graduates this weekend from Oklahoma State. Derek Avery graduated from WSU. The Averys pick up a large share of the work when baseball dominates Palmer’s time.
“I grew up outside,” Palmer said. “It’s hard living in the city. Growing up, I could just run in my backyard and be free from everything.”