TV hunting shows fail to convey the real experience

Ah, winter, how I hate thee. Let me count the ways.

I hate the cold days and bitter winds. I hate the snow and ice that I must sweep, scrape and shovel from my car and sidewalk. I hate the endless boredom of being held hostage indoors for weeks on end, away from the things I like to do in the woods or on the water.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have been logging way too much couch time lately watching TV, and because I don’t enjoy sitcoms about creepy, unlikeable people who live in New York City or California much less the parade of phony reality shows, my viewing options are sometimes limited, so limited at times that I even turn to some of the hunting and fishing shows. With a few exceptions, I really, really hate the hunting TV shows. And one of them last week did nothing but reconfirm that disdain.

The star (and I use that term quite loosely here) of this particular show happens to be a relative of the founder of one of the oldest suppliers of outdoor clothing and gear in the country, which also happens to be the sponsor of the show. His overall persona and manner on camera and the grotesque tattoos covering each arm lead me to believe that he is not all that smart and probably has never really worked a day in his pampered life. But he sure likes to take far-flung trips to some expensive, exclusive destination to whack another trophy animal on the company dime.

This currentforay was to some huge ranch in the western United States for antelope. The hero hunter began the show by giving a glowing review to the place, saying what a grand location it was and how many trophy pronghorns it offered.

Imagine that. This ranch comprised more than 7,000 acres and hosted a handful of hunters each year who could or would pay the several thousand dollars for the privilege and the place was crawling with buck antelopes sporting impressive horns.

Next, he explained that because of the massive size of the property, he and his guide would be compelled to drive around a network of roads and scope herds of antelopes for an animal that was worthy enough to shoot.

Simply put, he would be road hunting from some big, comfortable truck or SUV. Even worse, when they spotted a nice antelope, they radioed back to headquarters to see if it was the one the “really” wanted to shoot. Whoever answered the call knew the animal they were glassing down to the last detail. He advised them to pass on it and head down the road a mile or so for a better one. Give me a break. Sounds about as disgusting as hunting pet animals to me.

I pretty much lost interest after that, but the hero hunter finally ran into an antelope that the voice back at headquarters approved of, so he waddled out of the vehicle and shot the thing. After the obligatory high-fives and other mock celebrations, the hero gave glowing testimonials for the experience of such a fine hunt and vowed to come back again real soon. Nothing like another freebee, I guess.

That show was fairly typical of the contrived experience most hunting TV shows present. But some are even worse. One I watched a year or so ago still infuriates me. Another hero hunter was in South Dakota for a late-season whitetail hunt with a muzzleloader.

He was set up in a spacious box blind overlooking a three- or four-acre open field. Several inches of fresh snow were on the ground, and as I recall the temperature was around zero or slightly below this day. I’m sure the hero had plenty of heaters in his comfy blind to keep his toes and cameras warm.

As is standard for these TV hunting farces, this was a large private property for high-dollar pay-to-play clientele. The hero was out there in the brutal cold in hopes of shooting a certain buck that had been seen numerous times on trail cameras during the season. And of course, they even had a name, which I don’t recall, for that buck, further reinforcing the concept of raising pet deer to shoot. Late in the afternoon, “Old What’s-His-Name” finally jumped over the fence at the far edge of the field 150 to 180 yards away and began walking toward the blind. The big buck came within 45 to 65 yards of the blind and turned broadside, and our hero made a good shot on the deer right behind the shoulder.

The bullet’s point of impact was easily visible in the real-time video at that range, and the buck also flinched noticeably, indicating a solid hit before it turned and ran back into the woods where it came from.

Next, I figured they would cut to the hero finding the buck lying dead a few yards into the woods (surprise, surprise) along with the obligatory celebration scenes posing with the deer. Wow, was I wrong. This clown just gathers up his several video cameras that were set up in the blind and heads back to the lodge to check out the footage to see what happened.

I was incredulous. Did he not know that shot was “game over”? At the very least, he should have been able to see the blood trail with the scope on his rifle right from the blind. And if he even went to the spot of the shot to check for sign, they never showed it.

The next morning, he and the film crew trudged out just beyond the fence to find the buck that was already dead before the hero even left the blind the day before. Undoubtedly, the deer was frozen stiff in the subzero temperatures of the previous night. But no worries. The hero wasn’t going to gut, skin or probably even use any of the meat. It’s all about the antlers, right?

Yes, I really hate TV hunting shows for more reasons than I have space to describe here. With few exceptions they are phony depictions of what sport hunting truly is or should be in the 21st century. And that’s truly a shame. Spring can’t get here soon enough to suit me.

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