Bitsy Kelleys love of the wild shines in TVs spotlight
- Jason Vondersmith
- Portland Tribune - Features
'Outdoor GPS' host from Hawaii finds a new home in Oregon
It's all about the hunt, Bitsy Kelley says.
Nothing feeds her hunger more than hunting for big game, whether it be deer in Oregon, tahr mountain goat in New Zealand or wild boar in her native Hawaii.
'I love bird hunting, it's a nice social sport, you get to walk with other people and your dogs,' says Kelley, a local outdoors talk-show host on Comcast SportsNet and a member of one of Hawaii's most influential families. 'But with big game, to spend a week or two scouting, selecting what to go after, trying to outwit that animal, stalking it … even if you don't get something, I love the whole strategy, the war games. It's an adrenaline rush.'
Not too many women would list 'big game hunting' atop their list of things they enjoy doing the most, but Kelley has been hunting almost all of her life. She grew up in Hawaii, as part of the family that runs Outrigger Enterprises Group, which pretty much dominates the hotel industry in the 50th state. Her father, Richard, introduced her to camping, fishing and hunting at an early age; her late mother, Jane, used to be a pilot and she flew the whole entourage to neighboring islands.
Of course, she also surfed and enjoyed water activities, but once Kelley got a taste of hunting, her passion had been unleashed.
'Paint the picture: Beautiful Hawaii, camping, hunting for deer in the morning, fishing in the afternoon, diving for lobsters, an evening barbecue on the beach and sleeping under the stars,' Kelley says. 'And, it was every weekend.'
Kelley, who's in her mid-40s, moved to Oregon seven years ago, because she wanted to live (and hunt) on the mainland and 'create my own identity.' She lives in Portland, and maintains a ranch near Wallowa Lake in Eastern Oregon. She met her husband, Greg Shaw, during the taping of an 'America's Outdoor Journal' show in Hawaii - he was the guide, she was the show host, of which has she done several times. The two married last summer, and Greg lives in Colorado, another place that Kelley visits often.
Down and dirty
So, Kelley finds herself traveling quite a bit - to hunting trips, for Outrigger business, to Colorado, to Eastern Oregon where her ranch doesn't have Internet, TV or phone service. While in Portland, she stays plenty busy with her Comcast show, 'Outdoor GPS,' which airs for an hour starting at 8 a.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
She and Owin Hays, the host when Kelley's not available and vice versa, started the show in July 2008, and it has gone well.
Upon arriving in Oregon, Kelley got involved with KUIK (1360 AM) on a radio hunting program. It was a tough adjustment, because Kelley came from Hawaii, where the hunting regulations are not very restrictive; for example, if you see a wild animal on your property, you can shoot it.
The state controls game hunting in Oregon, and regulations are quite extensive. Before she felt comfortable being in front of the microphone, Kelley had to study everything.
She also had to earn friendships and trust. Initially, the men of the hunting/fishing/outdoors scene approached her with skepticism, believing that she would dog the activities. Kelley had to prove that she was one of the boys.
'I had two things going against me: I was female and with the media,' she says. 'Typically, (outdoorsmen) thought they'd get stung, make them look bad. I'm a girl, and typically females are not in the outdoors.
'Once they learned they could trust me, it was 'Bitsy's here to help us get the word out, she does it herself.' All the doors opened.'
'She does a lot of hunting in very nice places - Hawaii, Colorado,' Hays says. 'Very knowledgeable.'
'I've been on several hunts with her,' Shaw adds. 'Most outdoorsmen just love being in the outdoors, with the environment, scenery, wildlife, being with nature.
'(Enthusiasm) separates her from other female hunters. In the field, you get kind of down and dirty; hunting a lot of times is not in ideal conditions, sometimes you camp for three or four nights. Bitsy could care less.'
More survival classes
That enthusiasm and knowledge helps her relate to other hunters. Comcast SportsNet reaches 264 communities and 1.2 million homes in Oregon and Washington, and Kelley prepares for the interactive 'Outdoor GPS' with vigor.
For the show, Kelley and Hays complement each other - Kelley likes big game, shoots with a rifle; Hays likes fishing and duck hunting, and shoots game with a bow-and-arrow.
'She's a trailblazer, that's for sure,' Hays says. 'She's been around quite awhile.'
Kelly has hunted most everything, in many different countries, except moose and caribou - which are on her to-do list. On the show, she (and Hays, during his weekends) tackle various issues. The talking points lately, Kelley says:
• Wolves migrating from Idaho are messing with domestic animals, such as cattle and sheep, in Eastern Oregon. 'You're not allowed to shoot them in Oregon,' she says.
• Sea lions continue to munch on salmon in the Columbia River.
• Deer and elk numbers are purportedly down, because they encounter 'significant' predation by cougars and bears. Kelley wants to see the Oregon law that prohibits hunting cougars with dogs reversed. 'And now we're adding wolves on top of that (predator list),' she says.
• Hunter safety has been emphasized, because the state doesn't license young people until they've taken a course.
• And, 'I wish people would take more survival classes, basic outdoor classes,' she says. 'And, swimming classes - I can't believe how many people drown in this state every year.' She wonders why anyone who climbs Mount Hood would not take an emergency beacon, or know how to build a snow cave or camp fire.
Growing up in Hawaii, she and her father would hunt axis deer, wild boar, Spanish goats, Argentinean sheep and turkey, as well as chukar, quail, grouse and doves. She has her deer and elk tags for Oregon.
She also grew up working in the family business. Outrigger was started by her grandfather in the 1920s, and flourished after World War II. They do huge business, Hilton-esque, in the islands, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Indonesia and, maybe soon, Vietnam. She's still very active in the business, along with some of her six siblings, and her father's still active as well, although he lives part of the time in Colorado.
Moving to Oregon was about doing something different. 'I love the family, business and last name … sometimes you have to branch out on your own to create your own identity,' she says.
Kelley reveres her father, a physician who was handed the reins of Outrigger by his father.
Says Shaw: 'Her father is amazing - late 70s, has Parkinson's, flies to Hawaii twice a month, goes to Europe two or three times a year, he's on Facebook, tweets, has an iPhone, drives. He's a medical doctor who sits on several boards. You look at him, and you say, 'How does one person acquire such knowledge and energy?' You can't stop him. Now I know where Betsy gets it.'
Kelley has two children from a previous marriage, daughters Nani, 27, and Pualani, 17, who attends Valley Catholic High School in Beaverton. She got her undergraduate degree and masters in business administration from Chaminade University in Hawaii.
Interestingly, Kelley got her name from her little sister, who had trouble calling her 'Elizabeth.' It sounded like 'Little Bits.'
She is truly grateful that her father took her camping, hunting and fishing as a youngster, which fueled her passion for the outdoors. Kelley encourages women to get out in the field; if anything, go to the shooting range and shoot at clay pigeons, she says.
'I'd tell them it's a great stress relief,' she says, 'and a great way to meet guys.'
Shaw challenged her to a shooting contest for their first date and, 'she let me win,' he says.
The two fell in love, with Shaw saying he has never met a woman like his wife.