The outdoors has always been important for Mark Ward. From a very young age, he fished and hunted with his Dad and his brothers as he grew up in Bryant, South Dakota. He quickly learned the tricks of the trade, and nurtured a love of fishing and hunting that would become a life-long passion.
When Mark graduated from high school, his Mom and Dad expected that he would continue on to college, as all of his six brothers and sisters would. But by this time, Mark had developed another new passion — radio!
He decided that his “college fund” would put him through the Brown Institute of Broadcasting, so he loaded up his ’68 Chevelle and headed for the big city of Minneapolis. It was a fateful decision that worked out perfectly for Mark, though he still jokes that he has a face for radio and a voice for TV.
After graduating from the Brown Institute, Mark moved to “Big Sky Country,” where he currently raises his family and has combined his passions for radio and the outdoors in creating “The Montana Outdoor Radio Show.”
The statewide radio shows roots are in two local shows that Mark has done over KGVO Radio in Missoula for the past 16 years — “Catchin’ the Big Ones” and “Hunter’s Breakfast” where he made his debut as Captain Catchin. Those shows continue with Captain at the helm today.
Those local shows, and The Montana Outdoor Radio Show, are grounded solidly in providing useful and current outdoor information for sportsmen and women and lending support to conservation causes by organizations including Trout Unlimited, Walleyes Unlimited of Montana, Ducks Unlimited, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Pheasants Forever, and the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks. That’s one of the reasons that the show is a huge and still growing success in Montana. But its also a measure of the fact that Mark loves what he does and it shows.
Downrigger Dale is the resident trivia and weather expert and also brings the humorous side of outdoor life to the show. Downrigger was born in Missoula, MT and grew up on a ranch up in the Nine Mile area west of Frenchtown, MT where he enjoyed hunting and fishing and was involved in 4H and FFA. After Downrigger graduated from Eastern Washington University he worked with the Captain in radio for many years and later moved to Nashville, TN where he worked in the recording industry and worked with many of the top recording artists of thee day including Whitney Huston, Reba McEntire, George Strait, Nsync and many others. Now days Downrigger enjoys fishing with the Captain, playing with his Grandkids and doing some limited business consulting and public speaking.
“Deadeye” Denny Bedard was born and raised in Missoula and is a 30+ year radio broadcast veteran. He and The Captain have been friends and associates for 25 of those years. When The Captain decided to venture into the world of a statewide hunting and fishing program back in the late 90s, Denny was honored to be asked to produce and direct the show, as he saw it as an opportunity to communicate in a small-town, one on one atmosphere with people all over the state about subjects which Montanans are so passionate.
A graduate of the University of Montana, Denny’s “other” job is in advertising sales and announcing for a radio broadcast company in Missoula. He is on the air on Real Country 94.9 KYSS FM from 3-7pm Monday-Friday (kyssfm.com, click “Listen Live”). Besides enjoying the Montana outdoors, Denny is a college basketball fanatic. His “other other” job is courtside (PA) announcer at both University of Montana Griz and Lady Griz basketball games. A busy guy who is never bored. And while maybe he works too many hours, when it’s this kind of “work” you’ll hear no complaints.
Steve Sautter is a native Montanan, born in Townsend, lived in Missoula for 45 years, and has now returned to live in Broadwater County. Steve has been hunting, fishing, and shooting for decades, and this enjoyment of the outdoors has led him to the competitive shotgun and pistol sports. He has won Montana state class championships in both trap & skeet. He has been instructing firearms classes for 8 years and is now expanding the courses available for those who wish to enjoy the shooting sports. Steve holds the following certifications:
- NRA Pistol Instructor
- NRA Personal Protection In The Home Instructor
- NRA Personal Protection Outside The Home Instructor
- NRA Shotgun Instructor
- NRA Metallic Cartridge Reloading Instructor
- NRA Shotgun Shell Reloading Instructor
- NRA Refuse To Be A Victim Instructor
- NRA Chief Range Safety Officer
- NRA Level II Shotgun Coach
In addition, Steve holds Distinguished Expert Qualifications in Shotgun, Pistol, and Rifle and is only the 143rd marksman nationwide to achieve NRA’S Triple Distinguished Expert Qualification.
The Smoothbore Shooting School name comes from Steve’s Montana Outdoor Radio Show personality, Colonel Smoothbore. Steve also writes a weekly blog on montanaoutdoor.com.
Classes are NRA approved, very comprehensive, and will provide students with a strong foundation to enjoy firearms and the shooting sports.
I am an archery and rifle hunter, a trapper and I love to fish (bowfishing and steelhead fishing are my two favorites). My passion for hunting, trapping and fishing was born later than most Montanans, as I didn’t grow up in a family of hunters, anglers or trappers (crazy, I know!). I was fortunate enough to be given a bow in my early 20s, and it was over not too long after that. I was in love. After an entire spring of shooting hay bales and soda cans (preparing for bowfishing), I was hooked. Twelve years later, I am still learning even more with every hunting, trapping and fishing adventure I take. I can’t get enough of my addiction to the outdoors. I also love riding my dirtbike, camping, taking pictures of random things, boating, hiking and pretty much anything that takes place outdoors. I am so blessed to be able to call this beautiful state my home and absolutely love sharing other Montana-lovers’ experiences as a part of the Montana Outdoor Radio Show crew.
Toby Walrath is a full Time Outdoor Writer and Photographer in Montana. His passion for the outdoors includes hiking, backcountry fishing, hunting, bow hunting, camping, trapping, trail running, mountain climbing, canoeing and pretty much everything else! Toby has written articles for magazines all across the United States and Alberta, Canada. He is the author of the book; “Wild Pride Montana A Trappers Journey” and is currently working on two books – one about about Montana Trappers stories and a guidebook for fishing the backcountry!
Toby is an active board member of the Montana Trappers Association, Field Director for the United States Sportsman’s Alliance and speaks on behalf of hunters, trappers and anglers at Montana FWP commissioners meetings, select working groups, radio shows and numerous outdoor events.
Toby is an active instructor who teaches Bow hunter Education Classes for MTFWP, and Trappers Education for the Montana Trappers Association.
Outdoor Editor Billings Gazette
Brett French was born and raised in Bozeman and developed a love of the outdoors by fishing nearby Sourdough Creek and hiking the hills and wooded creek bottoms of the then-small town. His father, Jack, fostered a love of other outdoor activities, including snowmobiling, camping, hunting and boating in the surrounding mountains and lakes of the Gallatin Valley.
After attending Montana State University for one year, Brett transferred to longtime rival the University of Montana to attend the School of Journalism, from which he graduated in 1985. At first it was difficult for him to cheer for the Grizzlies, but now he cheers for both teams, even when they play each other.
A journalism degree led Brett on an odyssey across the West, working at newspapers and magazines in Missoula, Hamilton, Sun Valley, Idaho, and Seattle before he returned to Montana, the state he truly loves. Along the way he pursued his passion of writing about outdoor activities and the people who take part in them. Upon returning to Montana Brett became Outdoors editor at the Helena Independent Record where he worked for eight years before moving to The Billings Gazette where he has worked for 12 years, first as a page designer/copy editor/reporter and now as Outdoors editor after the passing of his mentor Mark Henckel.
A longtime hunter, fisherman, skier, motorcyclist, bicyclist, backpacker and now a bowhunter, Brett added radio personality to his outdoor repertoire in June when he started providing a report for the Montana Outdoor Radio Show at 7:35 a.m.
Gary “The Perchman” Pearson
The Radio Show Report Manager/Phone Guy
The Radio Show Computer Guy
“CO-HOST Retired since 2009” Now on Special Assignment
Wayne Knudson was born and raised in the lake country of Northern Minnesota. The family lived on Middle Leaf Lake in Otter Tail county. Hunting and fishing, with his folks and grandpa, was much more than a hobby. It was a necessary way of life in Northern Minnesota in the 40’s and 50’s.
The family moved to suburban Minneapolis but maintained a summer home on Otter tail Lake. Walleye’s hunting and fishing territory expanded to include Iowa, South Dakota, and Ontario Province.
Walleye’s heroes were the guys who wrote the great outdoor stories found in Sports Afield, Field & Stream, and particularly Jack O’Connor, the shooting editor of Outdoor Life magazine. O’Connor wrote his stories of the great western outdoors from his home in Lewiston Idaho, and was a big influence on Walleye’s decision to move west.
In 1976 Walleye moved his wife Jackie, son Steve, and daughter Sandy to Missoula Montana. This area has a reputation for the finest hunting and fishing in the lower 48. Walleye and Captin Catchin’ started hunting and fishing together in 1987 and have done so across Montana and into Idaho, Washington, South Dakota, Oregon and the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Walleye and Jackie along with Bull and Maggi, their Labrador retrievers, make their winter home at Florence Montana, in the Bitterroot Valley. As soon as the ice goes off Seeley Lake, at the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, they can be found at their log cabin, summer home, making things ready for the coming fishing and hunting seasons.
Walleye Wayne retired from the Montana Outdoor Radio Show in 2009, but still goes fishing with the Captain when he can fit into his busy retirement schedule.
Mark Henckel was one of the original crew members of the Montana Outdoor Radio Show. He was instrumental in launching both the radio show and the website.
Here is an article that the Captain wrote in the Missoulian right after Mark passed away:
Last Friday was like most Fridays for me before a long holiday weekend. In the afternoon I exchanged e-mails with Mark Henckel regarding his schedule for the weekend. Every week we communicated our weekend plans to each other, just as most friends do, but my relationship with Mark went beyond close friendship.
We first met 12 years ago. I had just started broadcasting my statewide hunting and fishing show, the Montana Outdoor Radio Show, and Mark of course was the legendary outdoor editor of the Billings Gazette. Mark called me and asked me a few questions about the show after hearing it for the first time one Saturday morning. We decided through that initial conversation that we had a common interest—Montana’s outdoors—and that we might be able to help each other, me providing information for his readers and him providing information for my listeners.
Mark volunteered to call in every Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. to report on fishing and hunting news for the Billings area. Soon after that I started to write this column for the Missoulian. Up to that point I had no experience writing a newspaper column. But Mark assured me. “Not to worry,” he said. “I will edit your column to get you started.” He did more than get me started; every week for 12 years Mark has made it a point to help make my “rough draft” more enjoyable for you to read.
Last Friday was business as usual with Mark. He planned to go fishing on Canyon Ferry Reservoir over the weekend, leaving Saturday morning and returning early Monday evening. The deadline for this week’s column was Tuesday, so that schedule worked out great. I could make calls on Monday and find out where the fish were biting and get my rough draft e-mailed to him to look over, edit, and back so I could submit it Tuesday morning.
It was the perfect plan and it would work out just like it has for the last dozen years. Except Mark never left his home Saturday morning. While preparing for his weekend fishing trip and his weekly Saturday morning call-in to the radio show Mark collapsed and died unexpectedly. He was 59 years old.
If you have every harvested a wild game animal, cast a fly into a Montana blue ribbon trout stream, or just enjoyed the great Montana outdoors, last Saturday morning you lost a friend. Mark Henckel worked hard as self-described “wordsmith” and he loved what he did. He wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion, which he did many times on hunting and fishing issues, though his weekly newspaper column. Whether you agreed with him or disagreed, one thing was for certain, Mark’s love for Montana and keeping alive its hunting and fishing heritage was what shone through.
Mark could have been my father, uncle, or brother. But he wasn’t. He was my friend, a very good one at that, and I will miss him.