La Bella Vita: Birdman
As I pulled into the driveway of this quaint little house in the woods to interview and take a portrait photo of Jack Hubley, I was greeted by a black and white hunting dog who ran up and cut off my car, and then as I got out walked over and sniffed and licked my hand. Immediately I felt comforted by the friendliness a well trained dog brings to a situation and a bit more a part of nature than I had felt in quite some time. That, I will say, was just the beginning of a very sincere interview with a very humble man, Jack Hubley
Jack has just retired in April from his career in television as the host of multiple television shows, one of which was nationally syndicated. He had spent the past 30 years teaching people facts about the gentle and sometimes comical side of nature and animals. Along side him during his career was his lovely wife Tina and eventually his 2 daughters. Jack said that he knew she was the one when he showed up with a 6 foot boa constrictor and she didn't react with an "Ewwww!" or by screaming, this meant she had potential. He also said that she "learned to live with the animals". Now, almost 40 years later, she's still tolerating his obsession with them.
Growing up in Lititz, PA, Jack, as an "amateur naturalist," spent time collecting small animals. "Whatever was smaller and less powerful to me was probably dragged home and stuck in a cage," he describes matter of fact. Growing up in this small town, he had a "long narrow bedroom lined with terrariums, aquariums and cages." A collection of "flying squirrels, alligators, outback was a red fox, a grey fox at different times" all of which lead to him gaining a respect for all creatures. As he continued to collect and learn he also became interested in hunting. With his dad and grandfather being hunters and fishermen, he says "I was a fisherman before a hunter".
At age five he recalls, one morning his dad standing over him at the head of his bed waking him up by saying "Wake up Skipper, we're going fishing." Soon that memory turned to habit. "The older I get the more of a religion it becomes. I like to eat things that I have been responsible for killing and taking from the forest. It's very near religion." Learning that to respect creatures meant respecting them the most if you were taking their life. You really need to understand that you are taking this animals life to replenish your life. To this day Jack continues to hunt, fish and respect the animals he kills by using them as food which his family does enjoy! He says his daughters, specifically, love a rare venison steak!
Education was always a part of his life–although his path was not traditional, Jack took a slight turn heading to college. His mother, Dorothy Hubley was a piano teacher and and passed on her musical talents to Jack. He said she was the person that instilled within him a work ethic. Due to this he decided to go to Lebanon Valley College for a music degree on a trumpet scholarship. After college he thought he would make his way onto The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as part of the band but eventually realized he didn't like the night life scene and it didn't "work with his lifestyle."
Eventually he turned to writing. Finding that writing articles for newspapers and magazines was really where he excelled and gave him a passion. Realizing that to remain relevant he needed to have a few more skills, he dabbled in photography, picking up multiple cameras, lenses and learning to develop his own film so he could write the story and photograph what he needed for his articles. While working for a publication called Lancaster Farming Newspaper, in 1982 he started a column in the Lancaster Sunday News as the Outdoors Writer. In 1987 he got a call to audition for a nature show Call of the Outdoors on WGAL since the current host, Tom Fegely, who was retiring. After what he described as an "exhaustive" lengthy interview process, he became the next host. He also learned to edit the film himself. He was shooting the stills and videos for all of these by himself while on camera and then processed all of the photos and videos while writing all of the articles and scripts. "I pretty much invented my career" Jack recalled.
While host for this show, some federal regulations changed and so did the show. One day he was doing nature and animal segments, the next he was teaching kids about animals. While this transition was unexpected, teaching kids continues to satisfy him daily. Along with his favorite animal and co-host, an English Setter named Trusty and a bleacher full of children, he spent 3 years educating youth on the show Call for Kids. He said of Trusty "every man deserves one great dog, and that was him."
In 1995 he began producing and hosting A Wild Moment. These were 1-minute nature vignettes that WGAL aired during the newscast. After Hearst-Argyle purchased WGAL, the company approached Jack about expanding them to a half an hour, renaming them 'Wild Moments' and syndicating them." This would mean airing it across the country in about 140 markets as a half hour show starting in 2000. This opportunity allowed him to travel throughout the world for this show. When the show was cancelled he decided to pursue speaking engagements and was eventually asked by Hershey Entertainment & Resorts to start a Falconry program, which he did in 2008. Meanwhile he continued to produce his 1-minute "A Wild Moment," nature vignettes which aired weekly until April of this year, when Jack finally decided that 30 years was a good benchmark for ending his on-air career. He jokes that he's only 33% retired, since he will continue his "Wild Neighbors" wildlife leactures, as well as hosting "The Falconry Experience," for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts. You can also find out what Jack is up to on his website jackhubley.com
At this point, you might be asking yourself, who is the magnificent creature in these photos, to that I say I've already talked about Jack enough... ;) Kidding!! The bird is his 15 year old Golden Eagle named Alpha. She is a magnificent animal who may love Jack more than killing small game. She was very protective of him and kept giving me the....
Wait for it....
Eagle EYE!! (I couldn't resist!)
She was actually very good, although it took a few minutes for her to get used to me. Jack says "She does not do public relations," Jack jokes. You won't see her at the Hershey Falconry Experience because she is a hunter. Jack keeps other birds of prey at Hershey for that experience, including his other eagle, Bliss, "She is on a Federal Eagle Education Permit and not allowed to hunt, which I explained to her." Alpha is on a federal hunting permit. Lots of regulations from the federal government surround owning and using these birds for various different types of work or hunting.
Jack says that "hunting is a craft that requires a lifetime of learning" and "Falconry is a very archaic craft that involves very primitive animals." While looking into the sky he gives a tip that to start identifying birds of prey "Turkey Vultures fly in a slight "V" with a wobble, like he's learning. A Hawk is flap flap glide with a steady glide. An Eagle has a very steady soaring pattern with a straight across flat wing span and steady glide."
It was an absolute pleasure to interview this kind animal lover. Jack's passion and respect for nature and wildlife is evident and it stirs a sense of excitement and wonder within you when he shares his knowledge and stories. I know I am not the first who has caught Jack's enthusiasm for nature. And just like that–the man who taught millions to appreciate nature's wild creatures has indeed become a rare, but greatly loved, breed all his own.
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