Rugged Dude Bio

Rugged Dude Bio

The Short Version

The “Rugged Dude” is a Canadian television personality and award winning writer who lives in rural Nova Scotia, off the grid and “way back in the bush.”  Born and raised in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, “RD” has been living in the bush for much of his adult life.

RD lives a very self sufficient lifestyle and spends his spare time fishing, hunting and cooking.  For eight seasons, RD wrote, directed and hosted the award-winning “Officially Rugged with RD,” a popular comedy-based fishing and hunting series that was distributed to 60 million homes and is currently seen in some markets in syndication.

In 2010, The Rugged Dude appeared on the Food Network, grilling wild fish and game with Bobby Flay on the series, “Grill It!” with Bobby Flay.   He is currently pitching two TV concepts.  One, a wild fish and game cooking series and the other is a scripted comedy that is basically a fictionalized account of his life over the last 15 years or so.

His legal name is “Rugged Dude Carson.”

 

The VERY Long Version – Before you start, go get a package of red Twizzlers and a big-ass bag of Orville Rugged-butter popcorn.

Rugged Dude BioRD, “The Rugged Dude” spent most of his young years either fishing or hunting with his grandfather, the late, great Ewart (pronounced Yoo-ert) Carson.  Ewart was a lot like Archie Bunker and he was also very rugged!  He was so rugged in fact, that he used to clip his finger nails at the kitchen table using a pair of electrician’s side cutters while ashes from his cigarette were falling into his egg yolk!  (Almost a littletoo rugged?)

All of RD’s summers were spent on Limerick Lake, in Hastings County, Ontario.  Ever since RD was old enough to stand and pee without falling in it, he was fishing every chance he could get.

RD’s parents were divorced when he was just three and his father soon made a fast exit from the scene.  So when it came to the outdoors, “Grampa” was the main influence in the young RD.  Many summers were spent eagerly learning about rods, reels, boats, motors and of course – guns.  RD remembers how cool it was to sit and watch his Grampa cleaning his guns, which were usually spread out all over the kitchen table.  When it was RD’s turn to get in there and handle the guns, he was in heaven.  Even RD’s grandmother, the late Lorna Carson was quite a shot with the ol’ Cooey single shot .22, which was used to teach RD the basic safe gun handling and shooting skills that are the foundation for all gun handling and hunting knowledge that falls into place later on in life.
Rugged Dude Bio

Around the age of 12, RD discovered the album Machine Head by Deep Purple.  He then drove his mother half nuts while beating the daylights out of the chesterfield with a pair of wooden spoons.  Then, (after plenty of begging) for his thirteenth birthday, a five piece, Westbury drum set was purchased, along with some drum lessons at the Canadian Conservatory of Music in Ottawa.

Before long, RD began jamming in people’s basements and playing in local bands.  His favourite drummer by this time was Rob Bachman from Bachman Turner Overdrive.  After a few months, his mother finally agreed (after more begging) to allow him to play in bars and clubs around eastern Ontario and Quebec.  One problem was the other guys in the bands were always older and RD was under age. Therefore, a special permit was required from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.  Further, RD’s mother had to drive him to most of the gigs.  But, hey, $35 a night is pretty cool when you’re only fourteen!  His first job ever, was playing a gig with “The Moe Kelly Trio” in Mount. Ste. Marie, Quebec, in a greasy little, smoke-filled bar of which RD cannot recall the name.  In attendance?  RD’s mother and oh, about six or seven drunken hosers yelling out, “play sumpin’ good, eh!”
Rugged Dude BioBy this time, RD was a big-time fan of Canadian rock band Rush and he could really lay a beatin’ on the skins.  He was also listening and playing along to progressive rock bands such as Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Max Webster and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.  During his high school years, he played competitive hockey and also spent some time in amateur boxing, at Ottawa’s Beaver Boxing Club.

After high school RD moved to Toronto (after a short stint in Savannah, Georgia) and ended up playing in various bands for a couple of years but “was getting nowhere fast.”  RD ended up doing several day jobs including short order cook, pizza cook, grease monkey, truck driver, small engine repairman, car salesman… and then came a wife and kids.  That pretty much marked the end of any hopes for having a career in the music business.

A little later on, RD spent nearly ten years in the driver training business and went on to own three Young Drivers of Canada franchises in Collingwood, Orangeville and Sault Ste. Marie, all in Ontario.  He also spent time training police officers, ambulance drivers and firefighters how to drive through traffic as fast as possible without wiping out.

Eventually, he ended up working for Young Drivers of Canada in Thunder Bay, Ontario.  But, within a year, RD knew he had to get out of “that crazy business” once and for all, so he resigned.  If you ever meet RD in person and want to see him start shaking, just ask him about his days in the driver training business!
Rugged Dude Bio

RD just couldn’t stop himself from taking another shot at the music business in 1992 – 1993, but that didn’t go too far.  After one album and a handful of gigs, that was the end of the rock star dream.  Successful ventures included a bus line (North Country Travel Lines) which was established in 1993 and sold in 1999 and a family restaurant (Alf’s Country Kitchen) in 1999 – 2000. That business was closed after it was discovered that the building RD was renting had severe structural problems and had to be demolished.

RD was getting restless once again and really wanted to get back to his roots.  The time was soon coming to realize his life-long dream of actually getting paid to go hunting and fishing!

Sitting at a friend’s house one day, watching a duck hunting video, RD thought it was pretty poor quality.  As a joke he stated, “Hey, I could make a way better video than that guy!”  His friend agreed.  So, there was the spark.  The original idea was to simply produce some videos and sell them.  RD being the perpetual optimist, he figured, “How hard could that be?”
Rugged Dude Bio

After buying a second-hand video camera and a set of beat up wireless mics that worked “some of the time,” some pretty good goose hunting footage was captured around RD’s home hunting grounds.  Eventually, the video called “Grey Thunder” was released on December 15, 1999, without any sponsors and very little money.  RD didn’t even have a professional cameraman.  Between himself and a few of his buddies, they somehow managed to pull it off all on their own.  It was quite a job editing all that mess!  It actually turned out fairly well, but if you ask RD about it today, he’ll give you an “ewwwwwww” type response while shaking his head.

The VHS video was sold in relatively small quantities by Cabelas, Bass Pro Shop, Scheels All Sports, along with a few smaller retailers in both the US and Canada.  Less than 1000 copies were ever made and the master is currently locked away.  RD himself doesn’t even have a brand new copy of it any more. “I think I have one at home with masking tape on the label section with ‘Goose Hunting’ written on it in black marker,” he said.  “But I think I saw a few copies at my mom’s place a few years ago.”
Rugged Dude Bio

Now, here’s where things started to get interesting for the Rugged Dude.  In February of 2000, the video was sent out to a half dozen industry-related companies in search of product sponsorship for the following season.  Outlaw Decoys, Mossy Oak, Tim Grounds Championship Calls and Final Approach all provided product for RD’s next video.  However, Outlaw Decoys, from Spokane, Washington showed the most interest.  Then President, Jim Cripe, really liked RD’s style of mixing comedy with great hunting action.  He saw potential in RD and after many very long phone calls, a trip was planned for the following goose hunting season for Jim to hunt with RD in Ontario and participate in the second video.  So Jim, along with Vice-President of Marketing, Tim Cripe, made the trip.  During that week-long hunt, discussions began and RD was eventually offered a contract to produce a series of videos for Outlaw Decoys.

Not long after, RD was guiding some people from Wisconsin on a local goose hunt.  After the usual chit chat, RD quickly found out that he was hunting with some heavy hitters.  In the foursome were two television producers, an entertainment attorney (who later became one of RD’s lawyers) and a venture capitalist who works mainly in the TV business.  “So I casually mentioned the Grey Thunder video to the guys.  They asked for a copy and on the next day, I brought one along, not thinking anything of it really.”

A few weeks later, there was a very long message on RD’s answering machine.  It was the attorney from Wisconsin and he wanted RD to go down to Milwaukee for a meeting.  Before he knew what was going on, RD found himself on the 21st floor of a “very fancy” office building.  Then, it was on to a board room with about six businessmen, one lawyer and two accountants.  RD was wearing jeans, plaid shirt, suspenders and a camo hat and all the other men were wearing $1,000 suits!  When asked about this, he said, “It was sort of like when the Beverly Hillbillies first arrived in Beverly Hills!”  To make a long story short, these people offered RD a job of hosting a new show called “Gotta Go To Canada.”  It was a pilot project that would feature the great hunting and fishing of Canada.
Rugged Dude Bio

There was a problem however.  RD had just signed a contract with Outlaw Decoys and in it, was an exclusivity clause.  RD’s hands were tied.  But after some negotiations between the Milwaukee group (who really wanted RD and Outlaw knew it) and Outlaw Decoys, it was agreed that Outlaw Decoys would jump on board and help fund the show.  Unfortunately, after about six months, due to a lack of investment capital, the plans fizzled out.  But, by this time, Outlaw Decoys really wanted a show of their own, so they put up the original $100,000, USD they were offering to the Milwaukee group of investors. The show name, “Gotta Go To Canada” was released to Outlaw Decoys and RD’s new task was to host and produce 26 television episodes about hunting and fishing in Canada.

So after five months of having a phone growing out of RD’s ear, enough money was raised from new sponsors to get the show off the ground.  The first show RD taped was at Ogoki Frontier in Ontario, which is a top-notch walleye and northern pike outpost operation owned and operated by Paul and Judy Boucher of Thunder Bay.  Ogoki Frontier is still one of RD’s all-time favourite and most highly recommended fly-in fishing destinations in all of Canada – and he’s been back five more times!

After about two years of non-stop travel and very hard work, and just before the debut of the first show on The Sportsman Channel, USA, RD was shocked by Outlaw Decoys who notified him that a bankruptcy was on the horizon.  Tim Cripe, who was then the President of Outlaw Decoys did what he could to save the show and RD’s budding career.  So, a deal was made and RD was now running solo.  The first thing he did was change the name of the show to Officially Rugged.

RD was completely broke at this point, since Outlaw was no longer there to fund the show or provide him with a weekly pay cheque.  Somehow, he managed to squeak by.  These days, when RD is speaking at colleges or high schools, he often tells the young people the story of how, in the year of 2002, his home mortgage of only $383 was late five times in that one year!  But, somehow, he managed to keep the show on the air.
Rugged Dude Bio

The show’s distribution quickly grew to a staggering 60 million households all across Canada, the United States, seven European countries, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia.  National channels included The Sportsman Channel, The Men’s Channel, The Pursuit Channel, NTV and Wild TV.  The show was also broadcast on dozens of other regional networks across Canada and the US.

RD’s unique style of mixing comedy with great action quickly made Officially Rugged a very popular hunting and fishing program.  Back Channel Media Research from Boston, MA, consistently ranked Officially Rugged with RD in the top twenty out of more than 2000 hunting and fishing shows being aired in the United States.

On January 7, 2007, Officially Rugged with RD was the third most watched program of any of the shows being distributed by The Turner Media Group on Dish Network, DirecTV and cable in the US.  The show has now been seen by millions of people from all around the globe and the show’s website would consistently receive one million hits per month.  RD has received thousands of emails from fans from all across North America and surprisingly, from other continents of the world as well.

Where it started
The emails are not always friendly, however.  ”Every once in a while I get an email from someone who hates the show and hates me even more!  I don’t get why people have to call me names, though.  That’s not very nice,” he says with a grin.  ”Once, I got a death threat from an anti-hunter in California who said he’d come up to Canada and kill me if I didn’t stop killing animals on my show.  So, I emailed him back and told him to go fuck himself!  That was the last time I heard from that stupid prick!”

In 2005, RD placed 2rd overall out of 112 shows, as “Favourite TV Show Host” as voted by the viewers of The Sportsman Channel, USA.  That year he also won an award for “Best Magazine Contribution” from The Sportsman Channel Magazine.  He said after being notified of his achievements, “I didn’t even know there was a competition going on or anything.  I found out when I got my awards in the mail.”  He has taken several trophy record book animals with his bow, but refuses to enter them into the books.  ”I’m really not interested in the whole trophy thing.  I just like a good, fun hunt.  I’ll shoot a whitetail doe any day.  They taste a whole lot better than a big old buck!”  RD does not fish tournaments either.  ”That would be way too intense for me.  My partner would throw me out of the boat for goofing around too much!”

In the fall of 2007, RD was working on some renovations to his home when he fell twenty feet off a ladder.  He broke his left hip, ribs and collar bone.  He spent eight months in a wheelchair and another six months in physiotherapy.   And, around the same time, without warning, the Men’s Channel in the USA went bankrupt.  The channel actually went broke so RD’s show was no longer on the air in the US, at least on a channel that was big enough to make a living on.  He was also getting tremendous pressure from sponsors to “plug more” during the shows and RD refused to turn the show into an infomercial.  Another huge problem was about money.  A Thunder Bay based PR and management firm was hired to run the business and made an awful mess of things.  So, with all factors combined, it was the end of Officially Rugged with RD.

RD soon began to get restless and thought about maybe having his own cooking show one day.  “I can cook, so why not?”  Before you could say it… RD was producing short demo videos and sending them to the Food Network in New York City.
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In 2009, RD was invited down to Hollywood, California, to co-host an episode of “Grill It, with Bobby Flay” on the Food Network.  On this episode, RD grilled some seriously rugged Canadian venison, Chinook salmon and some blueberry bannock, a staple of northern Canadian camp cooking.  The directors and producers were impressed with this “rugged guy from Canada” and mentioned that he should consider doing a pilot of his own.  When RD returned to Canada he began working on plans to shoot a cooking show pilot where he’d cook all wild fish and game.

In front a live studio audience of over 100 people, “RD’s Cabin” was taped in Thunder Bay.  The final cut didn’t turn out the way RD wanted, so few people have even seen it.  So another pilot was produced in RD’s kitchen, but that one got turned down by the Food Network, Canada.   They were manly interested in reality based cooking shows and RD wanted nothing to do with it.
Rugged Dude Bio

RD wrote a scripted comedy called Rugged Certified that he is pitching at this time.

In October, 2014, RD moved to rural Nova Scotia where he lives in a remote area, off the grid.  He has a tree stand on his property that takes less than three minutes to walk to and he also has a couple of beaver ponds on his property that are “just full of mallards.”  Surprisingly, he is a very private guy when he is off camera and his phone number is practically unobtainable.  He often jokes, “My phone never rings because no-one has the number.”

Divorced since 1990, the Rugged Dude has two grown daughters who he is very close to and even more proud of.  “The rugged mom” is retired and lives in southern Ontario.  RD has one brother who is a very successful commercial airline pilot (captain) working and living in Toronto.
Wading StaffThe Rugged Dude spends whatever spare time he gets fishing, hunting, cooking, gardening, raising chickens, and in general, “doin’ rugged stuff!”  He hates smoking, drunken slobs, people who are glued to their I Phones, rap music, (“rap crap”), materialistic people, racist people, big cities, shopping malls, heavy traffic and ironically – computers.

RD is not known to be politically correct and “couldn’t give a sweet shit” what people think of him.  He likes living in the bush the old way with his woodstoves, taxidermy mounts, furs, handmade log furniture and coal oil lamps.  He rarely buys meat from the store and he doesn’t have a modern-day electric coffee maker.  He uses an old aluminum “cowboy coffee pot” that he puts on the woodstove!  Why?  ’Cause he’s RUGGED!

 

Rugged Dude Fast Facts

Born:  1962, Ottawa, Ontario.

Given name at birth:  Sorry, that’s a secret!  On the advice of a marketing agency in Minneapolis, his legal name was changed in 2002 to Rugged Dude Carson.  (Carson is his mother’s maiden name.)

Education:  Nepean High School and Woodroffe High School, Ottawa, Ontario. 1980.

RD’s Heroes:  Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Christopher Hitchens, Wendel Clark, Bubbles, Neil Peart, David Suzuki, Don Cherry, Richard Dawkins, anyone who serves his or her country, and his mom, for being the “coolest and bestest mom ever!”

Hobbies:  Hunting, fishing, cooking, gardening, home renovations, drums/music, letting silent farts in crowded elevators, telling anti-hunters to go screw themselves and mind their own business, while at the same time – giving them the middle digit.

Favourite Food:  Tie between venison prime rib and fresh fish (especially walleye) cooked over an open fire.

Favorite Bands:  Rush, Max Webster, Dream Theater, Yes, Genesis, ELP, The Beatles, The Tragically Hip, The Guess Who, Led Zeppelin, April Wine, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Blue Rodeo.

Smoking:  Never!  ”If you smoke in my house, I will pee in your pool and take a shit on the seat of your car!”

Drinking:  This guy is smoke, booze and dope-free… he’s already nuts enough.