Alex Rutledge doesn't care how big the deer was that you shot back at the end of November, but if you want to talk about your passion for bagging that big buck on the first official day of hunting, he's all ears.
"We want to bring hunting back to what it used to be," said Rutledge, who will be the featured speaker at the eighth annual Alleghenies Adventure Outdoor Show next weekend (Feb. 17-18) at the Blair County Convention Center. "It's not about the biggest deer you can kill. It should be about memories being made with your grandpa on your first fishing trip, or your first time out hunting. When I was a kid, that was the stuff ... I lived for that."
Rutledge - an accomplished turkey, deer, elk and predator caller - is the star of "Bloodline" on The Pursuit Channel. Over the years, he has also appeared on "The Hunter's Specialties" on The Outdoor Channel, as well as "Whitetail Country" on ESPN. He's also behind PrimeTime Bucks' "Cutt'n & Strutt'n" DVD series.
The awareness of his accomplishments by local outdoorsmen prompted Altoona Mirror marketing manager Amy Hanna to seek out Rutledge for this year's show.
"When I began inquiring with local experts on who we should consider, hands down, Alex's name kept coming up as one of the best speakers and hunters in his field," Hanna said.
Rutledge has been in the outdoors industry for more than 26 years, and it's kind of appropriate that he is the star attraction at the Alleghenies Adventure show since his first-ever speaking engagement was at an outdoors show in Harrisburg.
"I was a nervous wreck, but me and the crowd hit it off right away. With me being from the Ozarks, I always have fun with the Pennsylvania crowds because of how fast you guys talk up there," the Birch Tree, Mo. native said.
Though he's never hunted the Keystone state, Rutledge has spent time in the woods that border Pennsylvania, namely New York and Maryland.
"I do know that Pennsylvania has one of the strongest numbers of hunters in the United States," he said.
Even over the phone, Rutledge's passion for the outdoors bleeds through.
"When it comes to talking hunting, I can talk forever," he said. "I am very passionate about it. I want to use humor, but I want to educate and recruit more hunters. In this day and time, the young hunters are not where they should be."
It's that passion that Hanna believes will attract the crowds this weekend.
"He is known not only for being exceptionally personable, down-to-earth and fun, but he loves interacting with people at the shows," she said.
Rutledge is on the road 150 to 200 days a year, which means time away from his understanding wife and daughter.
"They are great," he said. "They know this is my living and that I love to try and motivate people to get involved with hunting."
Even though he's only 46, Rutledge is proud of the fact that he has been recognized for his contributions to the outdoors through his television efforts. He is the youngest person to ever be inducted into the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame.
His belief that "Bloodline" is different from other outdoors shows has something to do with that.
"We try to be like something on The History Channel," he said. "If you watch hunting shows, they are usually just about killing, killing, killing. Our show is more of a reality show that tries to captivate. Say if I come and hunt in Pennsylvania around Hershey, we'll do something about chocolate and not just hunting. We're just guys crazy about muscle cars, jacked-up trucks, coon hunting ... our motto at "Bloodline" is 'Hillbillies Gone Wild.'"
In addition to Rutledge, other speakers highlighting the weekend include predator hunter Kirk McKendree, Peter (The Deer Doctor) and Kate Fiduccia, an author and wild-game chef who will stage live cooking demonstrations.
The Mirror's Shirley Grenoble will also be part of the program.
"Peter and Kate Fiduccia have developed such a following we really consider them part of our show family. The same true, of course, for Shirley Grenoble, who is a true legend and highly respected by the hunting/fishing world," Hanna said. "And we got such strong feedback last year on Kirk McKendree and the whole topic of predator hunting that we had to bring him back. The nice thing about this is that these aren't just professional speakers, they're real outdoors people so they're able to freshen up and add to their presentations each year based on the their own experiences and real-time trends."
The show will run from noon to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $6, and children 12 and under will be admitted free.