Worthington, Ohio — After nearly three decades on the radio airwaves entertaining Ohio’s cadre of outdoorsmen and women, Dan Armitage is calling it quits.
With the last Buckeye Sportsman radio show airing on New Year’s Eve, Armitage, 68, is turning off the mic after an incredible 26-year run.
Buckeye Sportsman has regaled its listeners with its unique blend of hunting, fishing, and trapping content since it first went on the air in 1996.
“Growing up in Ohio, on Sunday afternoons in the winter I would go into our basement in suburban Columbus and hope to catch ‘American Sportsman” with Curt Gowdy,’ ” Armitage said during a wide-ranging interview with Ohio Outdoor News in December. “That was the only outdoor (television) show on the three big networks back in those days. And, I always wished he would come to Ohio to fish Hoover Reservoir or the Ohio River or go squirrel hunting in Ohio. It got really frustrating because he never did. So, I vowed then and there that if I ever had my own outdoor show I’d make it all Ohio, and all hook and bullet, or hunting and fishing.”
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Many years later, in 1995, Armitage found himself helping The Columbus Dispatch with The Columbus Dispatch Charities Sport, Vacation, and Boat Show at the state fairgrounds. Armitage had gone to the brass, offering to help selecting the hunting and fishing speakers for the show. He had a booth at the show as editor of Ohio Fisherman magazine.
“So, they hired me as a consultant and I had to do some radio interviews with some local stations,” he said. “Afterward, one of the local stations came up to me and offered for me to come on their Saturday morning show and stand in as their host. So, I said, ‘Heck, yeah,’ and so it went.”
At that same time, Armitage mentioned to the Wolfe family, owners of The Columbus Dispatch, that he would be going on a local radio station.
“And they said ‘Whoa, if you’re going to do a show, we’d rather have you on one of our stations. Why don’t you go and talk to WBNS,’ ” Armitage remembered. “So, I went downtown and talked to them and they said ‘yes.’ ”
And, so, Buckeye Sportsman was born, airing for 30 minutes on WBNS every Thursday.
“I remember going into the studio and the guy who would surrender the mic to me was a guy named Kirk Herbstreit,” Armitage said. “I knew him just because he quarterbacked for the (Ohio State) Buckeyes … I don’t think Kirk is in radio anymore. I hope he’s doing OK.”
Herbstreit, of course, is one of the faces of ESPN’s college football coverage and one of the main players on the network’s popular College Gameday program.
Armitage’s fledgling Buckeye Sportsman, 30-minute call-in show went well, eventually expanding into an hour-long program.
Buckeye Sportsman eventually switched its format to tape as live and was picked up by the Ohio News Network (ONN).
“So, suddenly I was on something like 20 (radio) stations across Ohio,” Armitage said. “Since then, I’ve taped it at a half dozen different studios, including Mike Holman’s living room in Upper Arlington for a year and a half.”
Twelve years ago, the producer Holman turned the show over to Autosmarts Radio, which has a state-of-the art studio above Germain Honda in Dublin. That’s where Buckeye Sportsman has been taped as live for the past dozen years.
At its height, Buckeye Sportsman was carried on 28 radio stations around Ohio. At its closing, 24 stations were carrying Buckeye Sportsman.
“What really means the most to me is that I’ve never paid a dime for studio time,” Armitage said. “Most people buy their air time. They pay to be there. My feeling is that if a show is worthy of airing, you shouldn’t have to pay a station to do it.”
Format of the program
“I tried to do it like the magazines I wrote for and still am writing for,” Armitage said. “The magazines open up with some outdoor news and there’s a mix of hunting and fishing information. During this time of year, there were always more stories about hunting than fishing and vice versa in the summer.
So, that’s the way I patterned Buckeye Sportsman.”
The show opened with some Ohio outdoor news, which was supplemented by a weekly appearence by this reporter (Mike Moore) for the past 15-plus years or so.
“And, then, I have four interview segments, so I would always do hunting and some fishing,” Armitage said. “The thing that made the show harder to do at times was lining up a good angler and a good hunter for every show.”
“Early on in my career, I learned never to let Ted Nugent have the microphone,” Armitage said with a laugh.
Nugent, the rocker and Second Amendment and hunting supporter, was one of Armitage’s first guests at the old WBNS studios in Columbus.
“We were talking and he kind of reached over for the mic,” Armitage remembers. “So, he gets the mic and I look over through the glass at the producer and he’s just rolling his eyes. So, (Nugent) took over the show and he didn’t say anything bad but he was just doing what Ted does. Everyone loved it, including the listeners, but my producer pulled me aside after the show and told me to never give up the mic because whoever is holding the mic controls the show.”
Jeff Foxworthy, the “You might be a redneck” comedian, was also a guest on Buckeye Sportsman on multiple occasions. Foxworthy, says Armitage, is a big-time angler.
There was also an appearance by a ventriloquist, which as might be imagined doesn’t pair up very well with radio.
“What he would do was hunter safety talks at the sport shows in the winter,” Armitage said. “He would dress up as a turkey hunter and the dummy was also dressed as a hunter. He would sit and do kids hunter safety shows with the dummy doing all the talking.”
There are lots of folks within the ODNR Division of Wildlife who have also helped make Buckeye Sportsman what it became, Armitage said. Deer biologist Mike Tonkovich, upland biologists Mark Wiley and Nathan Stricker were among the names mentioned.
“It is bittersweet but it’s time,” Armitage said. “One of the things that I’ve been noticing this year is my ability to think of the right word. You know how important it is to nail just the right word … when you’re doing radio, you can’t have those pregnant pauses. They add up.”
Going out when he is near the top of his game has always been a goal, Armitage said.
“I’ve always felt that way about athletes and politicians and actors,” he said. “A lot of them just stick around a bit too long. I think our affiliates deserve the best show that can be put out there.”