Kristy Lee Cook is on the hunt
As a 2008 contestant on "American Idol," country singer Kristy Lee Cook hoped to make a name and a few bucks for herself with her potent pipes.
Little did she know that a lid she wore once on camera would catapult her into a whole new role as a backwoods diva stalking other bucks in the Sunday-morning world of cable television.
Cook, 26, of Eagle Point, is in the midst of her inaugural year of hosting a new hunting show, called "Goin' Country," which airs at 9 a.m. Sundays on Versus.
The show is sponsored by Browning, the firearms and outdoor-equipment giant whose name graced one of Cook's favorite hats, which she wore during one of the Idol segments — despite rules banning contestants from wearing logos.
That moment, Cook says, initiated an arrangement between the singer and the company that eventually led to "Goin' Country."
"I never planned it," Cook says. "I never in a million years thought I'd have a hunting show from that."
"Goin' Country" is only four episodes old, with the fifth of eight episodes shot last winter set to air Sunday.
And thanks in part to a pot-shot from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the show has generated enough viewers and publicity that preparations are already under way to begin filming a second season this fall — including deer and elk hunts planned in some of Cook's old hunting haunts in Southern Oregon.
"We've gotten great response about her from viewers," says Leslie Byxbee, public relations coordinator at New York-based Versus.
Cook has been building on her original 15 minutes of fame since she appeared as a finalist during American Idol's seventh season. A string of country recordings and concerts followed, and now she splits time between Nashville, where she recently signed a new recording deal, and her rural horse ranch here.
But it was that Browning hat with the company's tell-tale deer silhouette — worn during a 30-second interview clip — that replaced her microphone with a rifle.
It's a simple formula — put a country singer in the field with a celebrity and stalk something sexy, whether it's a black buck in Texas, a white-tailed deer in Nebraska or pheasants outside of Chicago.
"You get to go hunt all over the place, stay in great lodges or podunk places, roughing it out," Cook says. "I love seeing the world, and this is a great way to do it."
The show received a public-relations coup when PETA lambasted Cook for her attempt at grabbing "15 minutes of shame," a play on the title of her 2008 hit single "15 Minutes of Shame."
Cook fired back with a defense of hunters. The verbal jousting made headlines from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times, and the show took off.
"I am who I am," Cook says. "If they don't like it, it's not my fault. I don't tell them how to live.
"Besides," she says, "hunting is part of our heritage."
But it's been a relatively short part of Cook's heritage.
She says she first dabbled in hunting six years ago, strictly as a pedestrian accompanying others in the field.
It wasn't until 2007 that a deal with then-boyfriend Andy Dobner put a gun in her hand.
"He was a big hunter," Cook says of Dobner, now her husband. "He convinced me to hunt. I convinced him to ride horses."
She bought her first hunting license and tags that year, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife records show.
That fall she shot a black bear and a four-point black-tailed buck near her then-home outside Selma, and later added another buck.
"Nobody thought I could do it," she says. "When people think I can't do something, I try to prove them wrong."
ODFW records show she's purchased hunting licenses and various tags ever since, including a tag to bowhunt elk in 2008.
"I was hunting by myself, and the elk weren't there," she says.
This fall, she plans on filming an elk hunt on a ranch near Lake Creek and a blacktail hunt on the same Selma-area ranch where she fired her first shot at a buck.
"There's a lot of deer there, and I know where they're at," Cook says.
And somewhere on her apparel that day will be the silhouetted deer like the one she wore onto the Idol stage three years ago.
"You never know what's going to open up," Cook says. "Put a logo on your shirt, and you're good."
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.