Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thoughts From The Outhouse: Real Hunting?

There have been several occasions when I have heard someone remark, "Man, I wish somebody would make a real hunting show." A real hunting show? I wonder what a real hunting show would look like?

It's not a big secret that hunters have complaints with many of the current hunting programs. That's not to say that all shows are bad or aren't real, but people have legitimate gripes. I'm one of them. I'm not going to name specific programs, good or bad. That is not the purpose of my post. I will share some of my complaints, though.

Too Expensive
Many of the hunts on TV are priced far above what the average hunter can afford. It doesn't even have to be an expensive safari in Africa. There are many hunts right here in the U.S. that can only be afforded by the wealthy. And I'm not knocking the wealthy. If you can afford to hunt anywhere you like, more power to you. However, for many people these expensive hunts are not realistic because folks know they will never be able to participate. It makes for entertaining television, but may not connect with the majority of hunters.

Box Blinds Over Food Plots
This is an annoyance for me when it comes to hunting shows. There's nothing wrong with hunting this way if that's how you want to do it, although I suspect some might have a different view. I just don't need to spend a half hour watching someone sit in a box over a food plot so they can kill a deer. Anybody who can hit what they aim at can take game this way. To me, this is the least interesting method of hunting to watch. It's great to see kids take their first deer, etc., but I don't learn anything from it.

Whisper Mode
Maybe I'm the only one who is annoyed by this, but I can't stand it when a host whispers non-stop at the camera. I know when they're on stand they don't want to spook game. And I have no issue with whispering brief statements, but to whisper for three or four minutes straight is just irritating! If it's that important maybe they should have said it before getting on stand. Or go back later and narrate that portion during editing. Something. People can't understand half of what they're saying when they whisper. It's really not necessary to talk, anyway. I suspect most viewers don't care. Just sit there and hunt.

Some shows are worse than others with the tracking phase. Many folks may like this part of a show, but I could do without it. I don't need to watch a host follow the blood trail to his or her game. The scenes are all the same for the most part and some just come off as staged even if they aren't. The host follows a blood trail, finally spots the game, and throws their hands up in celebration. I'm not belittling the importance of tracking, but in the context of TV shows it's really just filler. Show the shot and just jump to the recovered animal. I realize it's part of the whole process and may be important for image, but there's very little for even a novice to learn by watching tracking on TV. It has to be learned in the field.

A lot of hunts on TV take place in target rich environments. I've seen more than one show where the host will have a dozen or more bucks in view at the same time. And they're usually not small bucks, either. This isn't a realistic scenario for most hunters. Many hunters don't even have access to private land. From talking with other hunters, last season was awful for many of them. A lot of hunters were fortunate to see does, much less shooter bucks. When the TV shows continually have the hosts in locations with many targets to choose from, it simply doesn't represent what the average hunter experiences. I've heard people say, "I'd like to see so and so come hunt where I do and see how well he does then."

In many ways, hunting shows are just big infomercials for the sponsors. Does it get annoying at times? Sure. I also understand there's a business side to things and sponsors pay the bills. More often, it's not the fact that products are mentioned, but the manner in which they're mentioned. It's as if the hunter wouldn't have been successful if it wasn't for a certain product. Or you have to have the latest and greatest to be successful which is simply not true. Hunting show hosts have nothing on NASCAR drivers when it comes to pimpin' sponsors, though! You NASCAR fans know what I mean. A driver being interviewed after a race can rattle off six sponsors at the beginning of the sentence and still answer the question all while holding a bottle of Coke or Pepsi. And I don't necessarily blame the hosts (or drivers). It's part of the business and sponsors expect a certain amount of exposure for their money. I just don't like it when it's "over-the-top, in-your-face" silly.

So would changes to anything I've mentioned make hunting shows any more real? I've spent many long, boring hours in the stand. How many of us would spend thirty minutes just watching a host sit and never see anything? It might be more in line with what many of us experience, but it probably wouldn't make for good television. Shows need viewers to attract sponsors who supply funding. A boring show won't hold viewers.

I suspect if hunting shows more accurately depicted what most hunters experience, many of them wouldn't last long. You will see shows where tags go unfilled and things go wrong, but those are in the minority. I've stopped expecting to learn much from shows nowadays. To me they're purely for entertainment. I enjoy watching many of them, but I don't get much from them. Some I don't like at all. I suppose you have to decide what your expectations are and then determine what's real for you. This is not meant to bash hunting shows or the people involved in them. I think it's great that people can make a living doing what they love! In terms of hunting in general, many of these folks are good ambassadors. It's a matter of perception and expectations.

Does real hunting take place on these shows? Yes, of course. Does the hunting on most of these shows realistically represent what the majority of hunters experience? My personal opinion is no.

Oh. In case you were wondering, no, I didn't write this while in the outhouse - though some might say it's a bunch of crap. I'm not sleeping in the outhouse, either. That would be the doghouse. I'm just throwing out some thoughts on a topic that gets a lot of discussion in hunting camp.


Joe said...

Brian, I'm with you 100% on this and you've nailed most of my issues with these shows.
P.S. The "whispering" thing drives my wife crazy. She normally doesn't sit down and watch one but if she comes in the room and someone is in whisper mode and she just rolls her eyes and laughs.

Emily said...

Since I have "free" tv (no cable, dish, etc.), I honestly don't get to watch many of the hunting shows. We only catch them while at friends or jogging on the treadmill at the gym. However, my husband does have quite the collection of hunting DVDs. So I'm well aware of what you are talking about.

The whispering thing made me laugh. While it is irritating if you are actually trying to watch the hunt, it is a good thing if you are trying to fall asleep while your significant other is staying up watching hunting videos.

One of my main irritations is the staged shot. You can totally tell when the camera is on close up capturing the "full draw moment." Yah, right. Give me a break. You shot that AFTER the hunt.

texwisgirl said...

I think you were a diplomat in another life. You wind thru the maze varying with critique and compliment all in the same breath. That's what I like about you. You can present both sides without really offending anyone's opinion or "over-selling" your own... At least you do that in your writing - now in person, you're probably an overbearing pr..k because you're obviously in the doghouse for a reason... Ha!

Anyway, I can honestly say I've never sat thru a full hunting show. I've caught a few minutes of them - mostly duck blind and hunting dog varieties. The whispering thing cracked me up. I think you hit the nail on the head that hunting/fishing shows are just like all the other 'reality' tv series in that they have to make it entertaining. And if that means editing in more exciting action clips or staging things, they'll do it just to keep folks engaged. And buying their wares.

Justin said...

You have hit many of the main points of why some, if not most, hunting shows annoy "real" hunters and even myself to some extint.. And I use the term real hunters loosely, not that the fact that I think these TV personalities are or aren't. I believe it is more the fact that everyone hunts differently and have different views on how they rate their level of enjoyment while on stand or hunting period. To each their own, but I agree with the statement that I don't get to see seven to twelve 10-points standing in front of me every time I raise my bow or rifle.

I'd say there a some shows out there that do provide good knowledge from time to time, but really I just watch them because it's better than watching The Real Housewives and Teen Mom with my girlfriend.. Haha.. But hey, good thing is, she can even pick out the good from the bad hunting shows and even watches with me occassionally..

Great Post! I'm interested to see others response to this topic.. It's always a hot topic around my group of friends..

Nancy said...

Oh boy, does this strike a nerve with me, Brian. I will occasionally watch these hunting shows with my husband and I always have an opinion about how good or bad they are.

1. Don't play heavy metal music over the video. It doesn't make you cool -- it's annoying.
2. Don't stage a hunt on a deer farm and expect us to believe it was out in the wild.
3. Hunting deer on a feed plot is not only cheating, it's illegal (in Nebraska.)
4. Lastly, tracking a blood trail doesn't usually take 15 seconds as you would infer from your show. Sometimes, it takes two hours or more. Would the host have what it takes to stick with it? We'll never know, will we?

Great post, Bri. I got a kick out of it. :)

PS - I'm always up at 4 am.

kmurray said...

I really don't watch huntin' shows, only one I can think of and they really don't do much of what you brought up. Probably why I watch that one huh!?!

Great post Brian!

Matt Elder said...

Brian, Great post. It's interesting to see how people feel about this subject. I used to watch hunting shows all the time but have not watched that many lately. There is really only two shows that I really care to watch. I can understand why you don't like most shows. However, I can also understand just how hard it is to make a hunting show and actually make it entertaining. There are a lot of shows out there that aren't that entertaining, but I give them credit for trying. A lot of people hate on the hosts of shows because of jealousy, when in reality they would love to have their job. As for the sponsor plugs, I'm sure those guys wouldn't put those in their shows if they didn't have to. We all know they get annoying, but those companies are the ones paying the bills. Gotta keep em happy. Anyways, great post.

Ian Nance said...

I watched this morning where one guy in Africa was breeding white springbok...hmmmm....

Make it a season-long thing. Scout during the pre season, identify the things one would look for whether you duck, deer, or duck hunt....

The trouble is filling a whole season like this. Thus the ranches and box blinds.

LB @ BulletsandBiscuits said...

You're killing me! What?...I thought all hunters had matching camo, bleached teeth and see 194.65bucks a day within 18 minutes of getting into their blinds. No?

So, I guess now you're gonna tell me that WWF wrestling isn't real either?

;) LB

Casey said...

Excellent post Brian. I don't watch hunting shows anymore because of some of this.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


The genre is long over due an update, particularly the whispering.


Dawn said...

hahhaaa....my boys are hooked on these shows.
Me? The whisper-thing makes me run from the room. Completely agree with ya here!

Dennis said...

The same could be said for fishing shows...one guy, who I have nothing against in the 'reel' world has made a long career and good living out of bringing bass to the side of the boat and then skim'n em around until they jump a few times.

Some people must be watching this stuff (in between keeping up the tabloids)...I gotta stop there, it's Saturday, and Saturday is spose to be a rant free day at fort Dad.

Bill said...

I agree with you on pretty much everything. I don't even watch any hunting shows anymore. Just not what it's about for me.

Jimmy said...

I'm with you in that it is all about entertainment and pleasing the sponsors more so than actually teaching anything.

Yes Sir it is so funny how many sponsors your favorite Nascar driver can rattle off while drinking the proper soft drink and still keep up with the question at hand.

heyBJK said...

Joe - I'm glad to know I'm not the only one bothered by the whispering. LOL

Emily - I've noticed sequences that didn't look quite right myself. Sometimes the bad editing gives it away.

texwisgirl - I appreciate the kind words, but I'm not sure I'd qualify as a diplomat...even in a former life. haha!

Justin - People do have different reasons for hunting and different expectations for sure. I don't expect much from most shows so I'm normally not disappointed.

Nancy - I'm with ya on the heavy metal music. I actually enjoy metal and hard rock, but not as the background for hunting shows. It's annoying.

Kari - I watch them in cycles. I actually quit watching them completely for about 3 years. There are new shows now, but the theme is the same.

Matt - I like more shows than not, but I just don't hold them to high expectations. I'm happy those folks can make a living that way. It sure beats other jobs.

Ian - I'm sure it's not always easy coming up with good material for a whole season. I don't doubt there's a lot of work that goes into producing a show.

LB - Wait. Wrestling ISN'T real?

Casey - Thanks! I appreciate it.

SBW - I agree!

Dawn - The whispering makes me want to shoot the TV.

Dennis - I decided not to even touch on the fishing shows...that's a whole other post! LOL

Bill - Yeah, I think experienced hunters eventually realize the shows don't represent what's real for most folks.

Jimmy - I shake my head when I hear the drivers rattle off all those sponors! I give 'em credit, they're good at it.

I appreciate all the comments and opinions! Thanks for sharing!

Fin Follower said...

I am not a hunter, but I do fly fish. There was a show on Versus a couple of years ago called Dollarwise Fly. It basically showed you how to take a fly fishing trip on a budget.

You may want to consider the same.