We caught up recently with the founders of Formation Outdoors, Chris and Jake Smith. These two cousins from Delaware conceptualized Formation out of a desire to preserve their outdoor traditions and heritage, and to share their knowledge with others. We love the mission behind the brand, and are inspired by not only the content they're releasing, but by their drive to better themselves as outdoorsmen. Enjoy this feature, and make sure to check them out at @FormationOutdoors. We're confident you'll be inspired to go outdoors and create some memories of your own!
Tell us a little bit about yourselves as individuals and Formation Outdoors:
For as long as I (Chris) can remember I’ve always been enthralled by the outdoors, more specifically hunting and fishing. I was raised in an environment where hunting and fishing were the primary ways my family and I would spend our free time.
Whether we jammed into a duck blind, threw poppers at a jetty in hopes for early season Striper, or sat on a 5-gallon bucket in a corn field waiting for an unlucky dove to fly by - we were hunting and fishing every chance we could.
As a kid my parents would allow us to miss school (if our grades were up to par) to head up to Northwestern Pennsylvania for deer season as well as trout season in the springtime. I’ll never forget the feeling of sitting at my desk at school, waiting for that last bell to ring knowing the following morning I would be in a mountain stream with my dad and brother catching rainbow, brook and brown trout.
This is just a small example of how important life afield was growing up and has carried on to present times. Becoming educated on these pursuits early set the groundwork for certain skill sets that would benefit me down the road as well as helping me realize the actual essence of this lifestyle.
Formation Outdoors is the culmination of all of those feelings, emotions and experiences under one banner.
What led to starting Formation Outdoors?
Formation was an idea for a long time, ultimately we decided to start better documenting our experiences in the field. See, we get these insane feelings, almost like a “runners - high” when we’re in the field. It provides us with a rush of energy that fuels our spirit to be in constant pursuit of the next mission.
I know it sounds super corny but anyone who spends adequate time outside knows exactly what I’m speaking of. You think to yourself; “okay, what can we get into next?” There’s always so much to do, occasionally when we get to planning it all out it can get almost overwhelming (in a good way), kind of like when there’s waves for the first time in months and everyone is scrambling to their favorite break - especially when the seasons overlap.
Are we deer hunting or ducking? Catching schoolies? Looking for sheds? Catching blue claws?
There’s always a contribution to be made to one of our pursuits in some way. As our ideas became sharpened we wanted to share these experiences, traditions and lifestyle with others. One of our motivations behind this is to provide insight to those who are unfamiliar with these feelings and experiences to perhaps help them have a better grasp of what occurs in the field.
We also want to show the shrouded side of life afield that we feel can often be overlooked. It’s not all about trophy fish, stud birds and drop tines, there’s much more. You can’t forget about the tailgate fillet sessions or that postseason wild game dinner, it’s all part of it.
Cumulative answer: wanting to spread what we know and love to others through the great outdoors on all levels.
What keeps you chasing these experiences and your mission?
There’s multiple reasons why we continue to chase these experiences, the view, the results, sharing our experiences with others, challenging ourselves, and the sense of accomplishment when a plan comes together.
While these are all reasons we continue our chase I’d have to say the main reason is quite simple, chasing these experiences makes us feel good. At Formation we believe it’s extremely important to invest in your own happiness.
This means making our chase a top priority in our day to day life. This can lead to early mornings and long nights but those are usually the most memorable. There’s nothing better than getting in quality time to pursue your passions, this not only provides us with stress relief from a hectic work schedule but also seems to recharge the batteries in order to keep pressing through the challenges we face.
For the most part, any issues that come our way can be easily remedied by a few casts or a few arrows sent into a block target.
What makes your home such a unique area to do what you do?
Okay, so off the bat most people have no idea what Delaware has to offer in the context of the outdoors. There are prime opportunities up and down the entire state with each different area yielding their own special attraction to the avid outdoorsman.
Delaware is home to plenty of opportunities to hunt, fish and do everything in between. We have beaches, farmlands, woods, marshes, coastlines, ponds, and streams that run along the piedmont of the Allegheny Mountains of Northern Pennsylvania.
You also have access to prime deer, duck and even turkey hunting throughout the entire state. As you venture down further south to the coast you then have channels, canals, canyons, jetties, etc...which can produce phenomenal fishing at the right times.
You also have bays where you can find all different species of wreck-fish and can catch Blue Claw Crabs bigger than beer cans. Waking up in the morning to hook the boat up to the back of the truck, heading to the boat ramp when it’s darker than dark out with some of your compadres all with thoughts of what’s to come later that morning really does it for us.
Delaware’s Atlantic Coastline also presents us opportunities to venture offshore to the canyons, wrecks, lumps, structures, buoys and shoals to catch all your favorite offshore slammers. Just be prepared for an early morning, a long ride and hopefully a sore lower back courtesy of a Bluefin Tuna.
There’s without a doubt a ton of variety in both the hunting and fishing scenes in Delaware, which really aids in expanding your knowledge on various methods of your preferred craft. Trolling, throwing plastics at the inlet, the art of fishing a trout stream, bass fishing in ponds, jigging for flounder in a canal, you name it.
In conclusion, our home state itself produces multiple opportunities within itself to hunt and fish, yet the actual geographical location of Delaware gives us a huge advantage as well. Delaware basically sits in the middle of the East Coast and at the top of the Eastern Shore. This means we can easily and rapidly access our bordering states and explore what they have to offer as well.
For instance, last November the striper were going off in the Raritan Bay 3 hours north of us off Keyport, New Jersey. All it took was a trailer hitch, Toyota Tacoma, jon boat, a 3AM alarm and before you knew it we were netting a 38” striper.
This can be applied in various combinations of locations for both hunting and fishing that always leaves you beaming with confidence with the knowledge gained from venturing outside the local watering hole.
How are you overcoming the 9-5 grind and finding time to do what you love?
We can have a jon boat in the Delaware Bay fishing for triggerfish, sheepshead, taug, striper, or flounder within 1 hour, bank fishing a bay, beach, or saltwater canal within 5 minutes or drawing back on a passing deer within 25 minutes.
We’re extremely lucky to live in such a handy location, but even with that convenience, the 9-5 grind can have a huge impact on our pursuits. I work as a project manager for a landscape and irrigation company in Lewes, Delaware. Our little town sits roughly above the “cape” of Southern Delaware, which juts out into the bay.
For the most part I work a classic Monday through Friday schedule during our regular work season, and Monday through Saturday during our busy season, aka Spring. A huge advantage to my schedule is that the winter season and colder months provide me with a window where my line of work is not a factor.
This grants me the opportunity to travel outside of my home-base while giving me ample time in deer stands and duck blinds. This light work schedule is ideal in the “off season” but the regular season brings its own set of challenges.
During this time the weekends are the primary targets of opportunity for excursions as weekdays quickly become occupied. Small trips or weekend long fishing/hunting benders fill the void in order to get our fix. This means a quick gear prep Friday night after work allowing for a full weekend of chasing.
During the springtime things are a different story. By this time, Saturday is overcome by my work schedule leaving post-work strike missions as an efficient method to get to the water, marsh and woods within a limited timeframe. Luckily, as mentioned, we live in very close proximity to multiple fishing and hunting spots.
Although this brings us great convenience, these locations don’t always produce regular “success.” Sometimes it takes abstract thinking to get it in during our most hectic times. This leads to precise planning when looking to move to a divergent location in order to score. More logistical effort is required which means extensive post-work hours getting things squared away for the Sunday excursion.
Usually, if we’re planning a Sunday or weekend long mission I’ll get something ready one night at a time in order to be 100% confident when go-time arrives. Sometimes circumstances don’t allow you to simply turn around, so one forgotten critical item can have crippling effects even on the smallest trips.
What advice would you give to others trying to do the same?
Be prepared to adapt. Even if you have a strenuous work schedule you cannot let that stand in the way of your avocation.
Take the time to plan ahead, do your research whenever you have free time regardless of where you are. Instead of scrolling through social media during your downtime, dedicate that time to your craft.
I think you’ll find by simply taking things a day at a time leading up to the main event will result in a well oiled machine. In addition, always have a plan B. I cannot stress the importance of this one.
More often than not, conflicts sprout up within the original plan requiring an evasive maneuver. If you throw all of your eggs in one basket and things go south, no omelette - you’ll want a backup plan so that valuable time isn’t wasted.
Lastly, keep your go-to gear on hand! For me, I always have a versatile rod and reel in the back of the truck along with some basic tackle. This may not be my full arsenal but it usually covers all my bases for whatever situation I find myself in.
Focus on practicality and utilitarianism because speed is your friend. During hunting season I’ll leave pretty much all of my gear minus my shotgun in the back of the truck. That means blind bag, calls, ammo, waders or boots.
While prepping ahead of time is a great method, always remember you can only physically do one thing at a time and you can’t stress over the things that are out of your control. This includes weather, random gear malfunctions, etc…Taking little steps ahead of time is a great preventative for the last minute shuffle for all the items you’ve forgot to bring and wish you had.
What’s on the horizon for Formation, any big plans for the future?
We think it’s important to focus on continuously setting simple objectives and fulfilling them one step at a time. This strategy has helped us gain momentum since the start of this journey. Our primary focus is to continue to put out content, as well as expand our quality and eventually put out video edits.
We believe capturing video will be a great delivery system for our overall goal of sharing our lifestyle through the outdoors. We’re looking to showcase our favorite local pursuits as well as the lifestyle of our ambassadors and our strike missions through these edits while incorporating music and other art forms.
Additionally, we will continue to plan short distance trips to chase our ambitions afield, and expand our woods and watermen acumens. Last but not least, we are in the process of preparing a soft launch of a simple yet functional apparel and accessory line, as well as a tackle sponsor from an up and coming local tackle company @JCTackle (Instagram), which we couldn’t be more stoked about. Our good buddy and former Delaware local Joey is the mind behind JC Tackle which makes it even more of a special connection. Stay tuned!
Where can people find you and stay connected?
Best way to reach us is our Instagram page, we respond to all of our comments and messages @FormationOutdoors. Also, feel free to shoot us an email FormationOutdoors@gmail.com