by | Nov 23, 2020

Podcasting duo voices passion for the outdoors

If you know Brandon Butler and Nathan “Shags” McLeod, you know their love for the outdoors. Chances are if you’ve only ever heard their award-winning, weekly podcast, “Driftwood Outdoors,” then you know all about the hosts, and that love, already.

For the uninitiated, a podcast is an audio production that can be listened to or downloaded via the internet. Most follow the format of an ongoing series with a new installment appearing each week or month. Regular listeners often subscribe on their smartphones so they never miss an episode. According to a 2020 study by Edison Research and Triton Digital, more than 155 million Americans age 12 and older have tuned into the rapidly growing medium.

While the name “Driftwood Outdoors” reflects Brandon’s long-running newspaper column of the same name, its spirit traces back to the duo’s initial meeting. In 2015, Shags and Trevor Morgan, co-hosts of Columbia-based 96.7 KCMQ’s popular morning show, and Brandon, then-director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, teamed up to kickstart Conservation Day at the Capitol. The annual event brings together groups from across Missouri to advocate for the outdoors.

“What I love about it is you’ve got these diverse organizations that may not see eye to eye on all issues, but they come together annually to show support for the big picture,” Brandon, a Howard and Howell-Oregon electric cooperative member, says. “That’s when our talents kind of merged, and we realized we could have a platform.”

Shags, an Oregon-transplant who fell in love with Show-Me State trout fishing and deer hunting, describes his role as that of the Everyman, unafraid to ask questions and learn from his co-host and guests. Brandon, director of communications for Roeslein Alternative Energy, brings a decade’s worth of experience with and knowledge about conservation and related industries and issues. As a result of the two different perspectives, the show offers something of value for hardcore outdoor enthusiasts as well as those with casual armchair interest.

“It’s really opened up opportunities for us to keep spreading the good word about conservation, and more importantly how blessed we are in the state of Missouri,” Shags says. “It’s called ‘The Missouri Model’ for a reason: It’s the best around. That why I appreciate our podcast focusing here and branching out, because people look to Missouri to set the example for conservation and outdoor activities.”

More than a year and 60 episodes into the endeavor, the “Driftwood Outdoors” team has built an impressive library of interviews totaling more than 100 hours of content. Guests so far have included conservation luminaries, biologists, writers, guides and even a ghost — the latter thanks to a rousing Halloween special performance by David “Doc” Nappier. Listeners might learn about the reintroduction of Missouri’s elk or what flies to try when fishing the Current River. By episode’s end, they’re also likely to feel they’ve made new friends.

“They’re educational without being forceful,” Shags says. “There are some fun nuggets of information, but it’s really about the people and the stories they have to tell.”

Listeners can expect to hear the co-hosts and guests weigh in on current events from outdoor-related legislation to humorous news stories. They also provide gear reviews and answer the much-anticipated Mystery Bait Bucket question of the week submitted by faithful listeners, but the core of this show is the feeling of camaraderie. Rather than a fly on the wall, listeners feel like they’re sitting around a campfire getting to know new — or old — friends who don’t shy away from some good-natured ribbing when the situation calls for it. The hosts don’t hesitate to add with a grin that the dynamic works because they don’t take themselves too seriously and aren’t afraid to follow the interesting rabbit holes that pop up in a free-flowing conversation.

“We’re at a point now where this isn’t about killing big bucks or catching giant fish,” Brandon says. “We just love everything you can do in the outdoors, and we genuinely want other people to experience the outdoors, too. The only way to protect nature in perpetuity is for others to value it.”

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