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Riding, shooting and singing

It’s easier to bag a coyote than a spot on country radio, or so Kristy Lee Cook has learned.

The 32-year-old American Idol finalist from Selma has taken a hiatus from recording and writing music to hunt coyotes and hogs and participate in barrel racing competitions across Texas.

“I’m just doing horses and hunting,” she said, during a telephone interview Tuesday.

And she’s got more than 150 pounds of game in her freezer to show for it.

Earlier this year, Cook bagged a bison, an elk and a mule deer while filming her reality show “The Most Wanted List,” which airs in July on the Sportsman Channel.

The show features Cook and her friends — Jessi Jo Lee Stanfill, Jess Hull-Smith and Jozey Begley — traveling cross country and crossing things off their bucket list. In Season 2, the ladies flew with the Blue Angels, endured survival training and underwent SWAT training and sniper training in Las Vegas. During Season 3, they hunted white-tailed deer with special guest, country music singer-songwriter Chase Rice in Michigan; shot two tahrs — a relative of wild goats — and a stag in New Zealand; joined Colorado Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon for a hunt in Idaho; and went on a week-long wilderness pack-in in Colorado, where Cook shot the elk that is now in her freezer.

“I went through 120 pounds of bison in about two months,” she said. “My favorite thing to prepare is pot roast. I cook it in the crock pot. I have a few different recipes for it.”

The show is mostly about hunting, with some barrel racing and other adventures thrown in, and has been nominated for two Sportsman Outdoor Channel Awards, Cook said.

In March, she’ll wrap up filming the third season and start the fourth.

“It’s a show about the things we’ve wanted to do and us going out and doing them,” she said.

“Going on Season 4 is a good indication that the show has a good fan base, following and ratings,” she added.

In the meantime, Cook has been living with a friend in Amarillo, Texas, and in a trailer on the road between barrel racing competitions.

“There’s only a couple races a month in Oregon, but here I can haul my horses (Tazer, Venom and Arrow) and race seven days a week,” she said. “Two weeks ago, I hit five races in five days.”

Cook also has taken up coyote hunting, due in part to the influence of her boyfriend Lee Orr, a “land man” who does predator control on big ranches in Texas and New Mexico.

Nonetheless, Cook said she hasn’t given up on her music.

“I got so busy with the TV show and horses that it’s been difficult to force my way into country music,” she said.

Cook started singing professionally when she was 13, and at the age of 23 she had a brush with stardom when she became a Top 10 finalist on Season 7 of “American Idol.”

Since then, she’s released one studio album, “Why Wait,” with the Arista Nashville label, and an EP, “All Kinds of Crazy,” and singles “Airborne Ranger Infantry,” “Wherever Love Goes” and “Lookin’ for a Cowgirl” with Broken Bow Records.

Cook’s Nashville-based manager of three years, Ken Madson, hopes to get her in Billy Decker’s Nashville studio later this year to record some new music.

“It kind of depends on when I get some songs written,” Cook said.

Country music is a radio-driven format and a tough market for everybody, Madson said.

“And time has really been the biggest reason why we haven’t done something yet,” he said. “She’s filming such a large part of the year, and that leaves only a small window for recording.”

Cook is considering writing a couple of Christian-country songs and pitching them to Christian labels.

“I’m still a country girl, but I’m a Christian country girl, and I would like to put that music out,” she said.

Madson said whatever Cook decides “will be good.”

“One thing I love about working with Kristy is she has so many different interests, and she excels at all of them, and she’s constantly surprising me with new talents I didn’t know she had,” he said.

— Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.

Kristy Lee Cook rides Tazer during a barrel-riding competition in December 2016 at Cowtown Palace in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo courtesy JoH Photography
In 2015, during season 2 of her reality TV show, 'The Most Wanted List,' Cook flew with the Blue Angels in Pensacola, Florida. Photo courtesy Kristy Lee Cook