When Nick Hoffman settled on the name “Nick’s Wild Ride” for his globe-trotting hunting show, the 36-year-old entertainer might as well have been summing up his own life in three words. Raised in Minnesota farm country, Hoffman has followed a passion for music and the outdoors on an amazing journey that’s taken him from the quiet creeks and backwoods of his boyhood home to center stage in packed stadiums.
“I’m just a regular guy who’s gotten to live his wildest dreams,” he admits.
Hoffman’s path has taken fortuitous turns and scaled peaks even he never imagined possible. After running away to Branson to become a musician at 17, he spent more than a decade as country superstar Kenny Chesney’s ace fiddle player.
He also performed with a variety of other artists including John Mellencamp, the Steve Miller Band, Tim McGraw and Keith Urban, and helped forge a new high-octane country band The FARM, which to date has spawned a pair of top 40 hits on the country charts. In 2012, he won the Country Music Association’s coveted CMA-SRO Award for Touring Musician of the Year.
Most recently he launched the “Nick’s Wild Ride” television series. The show airs on the Outdoor Channel Friday nights at 7:30 EST beginning in July 2016, and has already taken him around the world on adventures many hunters only dream about.
Music and hunting are intertwined throughout the journey, and both trace back to Hoffman’s youth.
“I grew up in a musical family,” he begins. “My grandfather was a violin and fiddle player, and my grandma played piano. We had jam sessions at their house almost every weekend, and music was a huge part of our family’s life.” Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Hoffman began playing the fiddle around the age of four. He poured himself into the craft and studied the works of top fiddle players including the legendary Charlie Daniels, who appears on the pilot of “Nick’s Wild Ride.”
A Start In The Outdoors
While honing his musical skills, Hoffman also developed a love of the outdoors. “It started with fishing,” he recalls. “My dad is a consummate bass fisherman. When I was young we had a bass boat and fished on local lakes and in northern Minnesota. Nobody in my family hunted, but I was drawn to that sport as well—something in my brain was calling me deeper into the outdoors.”
At age 12, a neighbor nurtured Hoffman’s hunting passions by taking him firearms deer hunting in the rolling farm country near his home. “That totally sealed the deal for me,” he says. “I was hooked on hunting. Pretty soon I was hunting ducks with friends before school and chasing pheasants in the afternoon.” Today, Hoffman enjoys pursuing all types of game, but says waterfowl remain his favorite.
Along with fulfilling an innate need to more fully participate in the circle of life, hunting offered Hoffman a chance to escape the noise of everyday life. “I have a very busy brain,” he laughs. “Hunting helps me shut it down and focus on the environment around me.”
Hoffman was also attracted to the sport’s challenges. “I like hard hobbies, where you have to learn something,” he explains. “Hunting is a never-ending quest to learn about things like wildlife, conservation, gear, tactics and shooting skills.”
Hunting also offered something more, he admits. “I’ve always had the travel bug,” he says. “And hunting could take me places far from my childhood home. As I grew older I began taking trips to different places to hunt, first in northern Minnesota, then Wisconsin, Missouri, and eventually around the world.”
To this day, the lure of visiting a new destination includes experiencing everything an area has to offer. “It’s not just about going somewhere to kill something,” he says. “I enjoy learning about and embracing the local culture and cuisine.”
All of which helps explain why “Nick’s Wild Ride” offers viewers a dramatically different take on hunting expeditions than standard outdoor programming.
Federal Premium Roots
This fresh new take has already drawn a number of major sponsorships. Hoffman values them all, but counts Federal Premium as the closest to his heart.
“The show isn’t about booking a hunt and pulling the trigger, or about me being an expert offering how-to advice. It’s about a regular guy who loves to hunt, travel, eat, drink and play music, exploring intriguing places and meeting fascinating people while pursuing everything from bottomland squirrels to Cape buffalo in Africa.”
“My grandfather, Harry Hoffman, worked at Federal, and under the guidance of Federal’s founding president, Charles Horn, started Hoffman Engineering in 1945,” he explains.
The elder Hoffman was an inventor, and developed electric photocell technology that helped make workplaces like Federal a safer place for employees. “Horn was so impressed, he paid my grandfather a salary to invent things, and that turned into Hoffman Engineering, which, like Federal, became a fixture within its industry and a pillar of the community.
“Because of that, my ties to Federal run deep,” he continues. “The companies are still connected and located on the same property in Anoka. It’s a metaphor for how I feel about Federal, because my namesake and the company are linked so closely together.”
Hoffman is also no stranger to Federal ammunition, either. “My grandfather always came home with boxes and boxes of Federal ammo,” he says. “I grew up shooting it. I killed my first squirrel, duck, pheasant and deer with it, and continue to shoot it on my adventures today.”
It’s a classic example of how Hoffman’s ride has never disconnected him from his humble, down-home country underpinnings. Though he’s relocated to Nashville and made the world his stage, his inspiration, work ethic and commitment to family remain firmly rooted in his Minnesota upbringing.
Looking ahead, he’s excited to push forward filming his show’s second season and plans to visit diverse destinations including Africa, the Northwest Territories and Caribbean Islands. He’ll also continue writing music and touring as a solo artist and with The FARM, and notes that both he and the group have new records due out in fall 2016.
Hoffman admits the extensive travel is a challenge. “Being away from my wife and daughter is the hardest part of this,” he says. “It’s definitely a balancing act, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.”