October 21, 2014
I have to apologize. This post should have come out last night, but I discovered another risk of “reviewing” TV. I wanted to pop over to one of the hunting channels and get a little more to write about, but it was all repeats. I started flipping aimlessly through channels.
And then I saw it.
I’m not making this up. Robert Englund. Jenna Jameson. And this fight scene… omigawd the fight scene…
And so, I didn’t watch any hunting shows last night. I didn’t finish this post. Until now.
Well, since I made the decision last week to actively (and on purpose) start doing reviews of outdoors television programs, I’ve spent more time than usual with the idiot box tuned to either Sportsman Channel, Outdoor Channel, or Pursuit Channel. I know that there are some other hunting and outdoors-related programs out there, but honestly, at this point I have no interest, whatsoever, in spending time with “reality” TV programs that may or may not actually include reality (or, for that matter, may or may not include any actual hunting).
I said before that I didn’t want this whole project (outdoor TV critic thingie) to be a litany of negative commentary, and that’s still true. But I thought tonight, maybe now’s as good a time as ever to get a couple of things out there… consider it an add-on to my platform.
As I watched some of these programs over the past several days, I realized that, up until now, I haven’t really been watching very closely (maybe that’s a good thing). I found that, in a lot of cases, it’s sort of a struggle to focus on some of these shows for more than a few minutes at a time. They’re paced differently, I suppose… with more of an aim to satisfying the short-attention span demographic. If you try to pay close attention to what they’re saying, it gets a little… well, “inane” is the word that comes first to mind.
“It don’t get no better than this!”
We’ve all heard it. Some of us have probably said it. But what, really, has it come to mean?
No, I’m not cracking on the grammar. I grew up in the South, and like it or not, that’s how some people talk. Just because folks talk slow, it doesn’t mean they are slow. Let’s keep that in mind.
What I’m cracking on is the cliché. I mean, seriously, it was the tagline for a crappy beer commercial in the ’80s.
Not to be misunderstood, of course. I understand how incredibly good it can feel to succeed on a tough hunt. I know what it feels like when everything just comes together for one of those magical moments in time. And in that moment, when I’m just overwhelmed with the awesomeness of it all… I’ve briefly thought that it might not get much better than this. But seriously, when it comes time to communicate that sensation to the world at large, I’m thinking an exhausted cliché is really not how I want to do it. It’s like cussing. There’s a point where it stops meaning anything, as Robert Ruark’s “Old Man” pointed out.
Cussing is for emphasis. When every other word is a swear word it just gets to be dull and don’t mean anything anymore.
Robert Ruark, The Old Man and the Boy
It’s time to say something new, guys. Really.
“It don’t get no better than this,” is both dull and meaningless. Maybe you don’t have to get quite as carried away as Jim Shockey on his Uncharted series (which is actually kinda cool and different, but they really do get a little caught up in the theatric), and maybe you don’t need to simplify quite to the point of Pigman, Brian Quaca (“whayuumm!”). But really, if you live right, and long enough, it will almost certainly get better than “this”.
I think laser rangefinders are one of the best tools ever developed for the hunter… particularly, for the bowhunter. The difference, for an archer, of three or four yards can be the difference between a clean kill and a clean miss. What’s worse, that difference can result in a wounded animal that may not be recovered. As untraditional is it may seem, I think rangefinders should be part of every bowhunter’s gear.
When it comes to rifle hunting, well, I have a strong personal preference. I feel like, if you’re hunting with a modern, scoped, centerfire rifle, and an animal is so far away that you feel like you need to range it with a laser device… well, there’s nothing wrong with either trying to get closer, or just watching the animal as he goes about his business.
But the developments in rangefinders, combined with the newest scopes and compensating reticules have turned the rifle hunter into a long-range sniper. Or, at least that’s what the advertisers would have us believe. And boy howdy, isn’t that all over the TV programs.
By the way, I’ve used some of these systems and I have to say, they really do work. It is impressive to be able to step up to a strange rifle, having never fired it, and ring a 12″ gong at 800 yards on my second shot. With a little range time, there’s no doubt that a dedicated hunter could learn to use these systems effectively and ethically at ridiculously long ranges.
I’m not going to launch into another diatribe about long range hunting, though. Rather, I’m going to point something out that should probably not need pointing out.
When you’re lined up on a buck, and your spotter calls out a range inside of 200 yards, there’s really no good reason to start cranking away at your ballistic drop compensator turrets. At that distance, you ought to know where that bullet is going to strike, or pretty danged close. You just aim the rifle and pull the trigger. I know that. You readers probably know that. And the guys on TV should know it too.
But there they are, twisting that poor little knob like their lives depend on it. And either the hunter or the voiceover will be sure and tell you what kind of scope or “shooting system” is being used. You’ll hear it again before and after the commercial break. Of course, most of us recognize that all that scope adjusting and flipping of the safety on and off takes place after the actual game is shot.
You hear so much from these programs that they just want to “keep it real.” I’m all for that. It would be nice to see.
And a note to the “talent.”
When you’re re-enacting the shot, it behooves you to remember what you were wearing when you pulled the trigger. That coat you slipped on to go recover the animal and take your hero shots… you weren’t wearing it when you killed that deer. Or that hat, tipped around to “rally” position… you forgot to readjust it before you acted out the shot sequence. And in one program that will remain nameless (because I can’t remember which one it was), the hunter actually used a different rifle to stage the shot than he used to shoot the deer (and I’m not talking the difference between a Browning vs. a Winchester, but a bolt gun vs. a single shot).
What I’m getting at is that when I hear someone say, “I can’t stand hunting shows,” I think I know where it’s coming from. It’s hard to overlook the inanity. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that half (or more) of the stuff on outdoor television is unoriginal, formulaic, and often just poorly thought out. It does seem to be getting a little better, but the programming is still full of silly stereotypes, overt shilling for corporate sponsors, and a near-total lack of self-awareness. There are gems in the mix, of course, but you have to be willing to look for them.
In an upcoming post, I’ll talk about a couple of those gems and why I think they’re quality examples of the genre.
October 14, 2014
A couple of Fridays ago, I posted about Kat’s big adventure in North Carolina and how empty Hillside Manor feels without her here. It was a sort of melancholy screed, and, well, honestly… the place still feels empty and if I had it to write all over again, it wouldn’t change. It’s a drag. It sucks.
Whining about it certainly isn’t going to change it though. The truth is that, given some of the things going on in the world, a lot of people out there would happily trade their troubles for mine. No matter how big a deal this may be to me, to the rest of the world it’s pretty picayune. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that (probably).
So, what then?
Well, one thing that occurred to me Sunday evening, as I sat in front of the TV, recovering from the 25 hour drive back from Raleigh, was that I could sit around in front of the TV as much as I wanted. But, truth be told, I already did that before… probably much more than I should have. The only difference is that now I can spend more time watching hunting shows. It’s not that I didn’t watch them when Kat was here, but she never cared for them (often ridiculed them) and I’d usually find something that we could both enjoy together. I didn’t mind changing the channel, because for the most part, I don’t really like most hunting programs. To be more precise, I intensely dislike several of them, barely tolerate a few others for the horn porn value, and actually enjoy one or two of them. But I watched them because, well, they were hunting and I wasn’t.
So I’ve got hunting shows. And as I sat there on Sunday, making snide and condescending remarks about yet another gut shot animal or something, it occurred to me that I should do more than just watch these shows and talk to myself. I should watch these shows and talk to you folks… the Hog Blog readers (all two and a half of you…on a good day, not counting bots).
It’s hardly a novel idea. I’ve done several critiques and reviews of hunting television over the years, and even briefly made it a regular thing (over on my original site). Since then I let it sit, either uninspired or unmotivated, until Michelle Scheuermann at the Bulletproof Media blog sounded a general call to quarters for outdoor TV reviewers. That got me thinking about it again, but since I wasn’t watching the shows regularly, I didn’t pursue the idea. But now…
I still haven’t worked out the whole campaign, but I’ve got some thoughts. To begin with, the Hog Blog is not going to become all TV reviews, all the time. If that looks to be the direction, I may create a new blog just for the reviews, because the Hog Blog has its own raison d’etre. But really, it will provide some new content and keep things moving around here… or so I hope. I mean, you can only read so many stories about my unsuccessful hunting trips, and the broken record about the Lead Ammo Ban, while it will continue to play, has just really been beaten to death. So why not spice it up with something new?
I’ll also offer this bit of foreshadowing…
Reviewing TV or video is all about opinion, and I have plenty of that when it comes to the topic of hunting. I’m a pretty harsh critic, and most hunting programs offer an awful lot to criticize. I call it like I see it, and since I’m not receiving any compensation from the networks or programs, I have no reason to hold back. The flip side of that coin is that any praise I offer will be well-deserved. You don’t have to agree with me, and I encourage open discussion and debate (as always on this blog). I know that I will probably tip some sacred cows (I’ve done that before), and that will draw the ire of lockstep fans. I will police the comments as carefully as ever in an effort to keep it to a reasonable level of civility.
I believe that televised hunting should portray the hunt at an elevated level of behavior. This means that while there may be an effort to, “keep it real,” the producers must adhere to a higher-than-average ethical standard. There may be any number of mitigating factors in the field, but the viewers only get to see the final output… and that’s how the show will be judged. And that’s how I’ll critique it. I’ve had producers in the past contact me to tell me that my comments were “wrong”, and that I just didn’t see what really went into a certain shot or situation. My response was, and will be, that I saw what every other viewer saw. Behind the scenes is irrelevant if it stays behind the scenes. How are the viewers supposed to know if you don’t show them?
I recognize that many of the individuals involved in hunting television are really amateurs in the field of TV production. Most of them are serious hunters who have found a way to get paid for what they love to do. I’m not ever going to knock that. I’ll admit that there have been times when I wished it was me. And even while they’re amateurs, several of them have really advanced by leaps and bounds in the production quality and technical skills (or they’ve hired quality staff). But while the technical abilities have advanced, too many of these folks still don’t seem to understand (or believe) that the viewers only get part of the story. It really is about what-you-see-is-what-you-get. You seldom get the opportunity to explain what someone saw. Well, the Hog Blog will give them that opportunity.
We’ll see how all this goes. I think I’ll start with one post per week, and let’s arbitrarily say that will happen on Wednesdays. I haven’t decided if each week will focus on a single show, or if it will be some sort of smorgasbord of the previous week’s viewing.
So, if anyone is actually reading this, what do you think? I mean, I’m gonna do it anyway, but I’m always curious for feedback.
Oh, and don’t get me wrong. This is hardly consolation for Kat’s absence, and I’d trade it all, including the TV itself, to have her back here.
August 6, 2014
Now I know why there are no hogs around here right now. They’re all on vacation!
April 14, 2014
Big hat tip to my friend, Sten, at Suburban Bushwacker for turning me on to this video. It’s the first part of a six part series, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the additional installments.
Note that there’s not a lot of hype. There are no high fives or ridiculous, “now that’s what it’s all about,” after-the-shot posturing. There’s no blatant product placement. No politics. Just a quiet, but beautiful setting with a guy for whom the hunt is not just an opportunity for self-promotion.
So enjoy, please.
March 28, 2014
It’s one of those days where I really can’t decide what I’d rather write about.
First of all, it’s hardly news now that the Pig Man, Brian Quaca, has apparently hit the big time with a new show on the Discovery Channel, Boss Hog.
Here’s the story, according to the press release that I (and pretty much anyone who’s ever written about hunting or shooting) received yesterday.
BOSS HOG, premiering on Discovery Friday April 11 at 10PM ET/PT, follows Brian “Pigman” Quaca and his crew as they take on Texas’ wild hog problem, building his own “pig empire.”
In recent years, wild hogs have ravaged Texas, causing an estimated 1.5 billion dollars in agricultural damage annually. Where most see this as a nuisance, Pigman sees it as an opportunity, making money off every aspect of the pig – from booking clients on high-end hog hunts and customizing hog hunting bows, to stuffing and mounting trophy boars.
Expanding Pigtime Enterprises’ hunting empire, Pigman has also partnered with local barbeque joint, Wright’s BBQ. At the helm of the BBQ business is Quita, helping Wright’s serve up delicious BBQ to Texas for the past 50 years. Whether she’s trying to curb Pigman’s big business ideas for Wright’s or just keep tabs on Pigman’s wacky dad, Dap, Quita’s partnership with Pigtime has become a lot more than she bargained for.
Although Pigman’s hands are full building a successful business, it seems like most days are spent managing his hair-brained staff. No one tests Pigman’s patience more than his dad, Dap, who runs the Pigtime hunting ranch.
“With Dap, if it’s not one thing it’s another, but somehow he always gets the job done – he just has a unique way of solving problems.”
Above everything else, Pigman has one main goal in life: to provide for his thirteen year old son, J.D. Pigman’s every ambition stems from the idea that he’ll one day pass on his pig business and pig legacy to his son. Right now, Pigman’s doing everything in his power to build on that legacy and take his pig empire to the masses.
So, imagine Duck Dynasty with hog hunters.
Look, while I may not have enjoyed every episode, I’m generally a fan of Brian Quaca’s, Pig Man, The Series program on Sportsman Channel. When he’s doing what he does best, hunting and eradicating hogs, he’s entertaining and often educational. He makes no bones that killing hogs isn’t just about sport hunting, but he also doesn’t pretend he isn’t having a great time. I respect that.
But I’m not nuts about anything that Discovery has applied their sensationalistic, lowest-common-denominator approach to “reality”, spin on. I hope Quaca and his team will rise above that, and I might even break my personal boycott of Discovery to catch an episode or two… with the clear-eyed realization that this is supposed to be entertainment, not reality.
The bright side is, Pig Man will continue to appear on Sportsman for the time being.
Now, to an entirely different topic…
A few folks on my Facebook feed have shared this “investigative series” on deer farming and high fence hunting from the Indy Star. The piece purports to “expose” the harmful and unethical practices behind this industry, and while I think it gets off to a reasonably good start, by the end of the last segment (there are four “chapters”), it’s easy to see that the mantle of subjectivity has slipped a bit and the agenda starts to drive the content.
Nevertheless, I strongly recommend giving it a read if you’re at all interested in the topic. The first chapter does present some interesting history about the deer farming and trophy deer breeding industry, and the next three chapters offer some food for thought. But I also advise reading it critically, because there’s a good bit of speculation mixed with the facts.
And, in the spirit of full disclosure for anyone reading this blog who doesn’t already know this about me, I am not opposed to high fence hunting, or game farming. While my preference will always be a rugged hunt in the backcountry, I do enjoy many kinds of hunting experiences, including high fences and planted bird preserves. But probably the most important thing to know about my position on this topic, is that I absolutely believe that none of us has the right to define the experience of the hunt for anyone else… as long as it is reasonably safe, legal, and does not threaten the natural resources.
January 31, 2014
I’m not gonna whine more right now about how much I miss hunting Tejon Ranch. And I’m not gonna spend a lot of time bemoaning some of the changes that appear to be going on there in regards to the hunting program… mostly because I don’t know enough on a first hand basis. It doesn’t sound promising, at least not for the level of general access they once offered. But those of you still in CA should keep an eye on it, and seriously, if you get a chance to hunt that place, you should. A self-guided hog hunt there can be done for a lot less money than some folks think, and it’s about the best opportunity to kill a hog that most people will ever get without hiring a guide.
Anyway, before I moved away I heard a lot about some of the CA hard-core hunters working to put out a new magazine called Relentless 365. They’d focus on CA hunting and hunters, and knowing some of the guys involved in the project, I knew they would have some quality product from and about serious CA hunters. And I was right. It’s worth checking out for anyone, but if you live and hunt in CA, I’d say this is a magazine you should be reading.
In addition to the magazine and website, they started doing some video work as well. This isn’t that coarse, amateur video like I was doing for a while, but some really solid, well-produced and edited material. I’d put this stuff up against anything the Outdoor Channel or Sportsman’s Channel have to offer. Here’s their second “webisode”, released last spring. It covers several hunts on the Tejon Ranch, and some really nice hogs. I like the hunting action anyway, but I like it even more when I recognize most of the spots these guys are hunting. It’s long, almost 22 minutes, but worth the time (and no commercials). So please, enjoy!
August 13, 2013
At some point in the last few years, I’ve talked about field-dressing game using the “gutless method.” It’s a great technique when you’re way back in the backcountry, especially when you have to pack out a large animal solo. Best of all, you can do it all with a good knife. No saw. No axe. No pulleys or winches.
In this video, Randy Newberg (On Your Own Adventures and Fresh Tracks) shows how he does it, step-by-step with great video work.
July 29, 2013
OK, so not that long in real world terms, but a week on the Interwebz… ain’t it funny, how time slips away!
Not an awful lot going on here anyway. It’s too hot here in TX to get out and do much… or to even think about hunting. Hell, by the time I climb up the hill to retrieve my arrows from the target out back, I need a shower. I spent last week in Spokane, and even way up there the heat was oppressive (although at least it was a dry heat).
It’s been a good time for watching TV, and I had a chance to catch up a little on hunting shows over the weekend. There are a couple of things that stood out to me from the brief sample:
- The imaginations of outdoor gear manufacturers are still running wide open, and it’s a guarantee that the 2013-2014 season will bring a glut of new stuff for hunters to purchase and haul into the field. This includes things like the Firefly, wind direction detector. Even Kat picked up on this one and questioned, “what’s wrong, hunters don’t know how to wet their finger to see which way the wind blows?” Another product is an elasticized netting to put over the top of your ground blind, advertised as “the only way to add natural foliage to your blind!”
- I’m sick of hearing about how you need a rifle (or in this case, a muzzleloader) that can reach into the next zip code to kill a deer. Folks, look… if other people regularly, and successfully bowhunt for the same species in the same area (e.g. Colorado elk or Kansas whitetails), then the argument that “sometimes all you get is a long shot” is pretty much moot. This is amplified on the TV networks, because you’ll have back-to-back episodes in which one hunter kills a bruiser whitetail at 18 yards with a bow, while the next hunter is plugging away at over 250 yards with a “muzzleloader”. I’ve got no problem with using a rifle to shoot animals outside of archery range, but let’s be honest about it… it’s certainly not “the only shot you’re going to get,” especially on these carefully managed hunting properties on which many of these shows are filmed.
- I was happy to see at least a couple of programs with a focus on conservation, including one from the Boone and Crockett organization. I’ll always have a tough time assigning credibility to any organization that publishes a trophy record book, I’ve got to say the message was reasonably good. The hunter/personality, Shane Mahoney, kept talking about how he “hunts the experience, not the animals”, and in the epsiode appeared to go out of his way to shoot a young, small buck, despite the fact that a “trophy” animal was available. I couldn’t help thinking how stilted the whole thing came off, but still… it’s TV. You can only expect so much.
There was more, both good and bad, but I didn’t set out to write a review when I put the TV on, so I didn’t really take notes or pay close attention.
So anyway, I’ll try get things flowing again this week. I’m heading back to Spokane at the end of the week… maybe I’ll take a run at the Post Falls, Idaho Cabela’s while I’m up there. That’s always good for some inspiration.
July 18, 2013
I shared this back on my old site when it was fresh, but since I’m digging through the archives and sort of getting a CA deer hunting jones, I figure it’s worth pulling it out and blowing off the dust. The coolest thing about this hunt was, as the video says, it was a last minute trip… not to mention it was really my only opportunity to get out during the B-zone season. Oh… and it was public land.
Something a lot of folks don’t realize about CA is the quality of public hunting available in the Golden State. Sure, gun laws are beyond ridiculous, and the hunting regulations are being more and more dictated by animal rights groups who have attached themselves like leeches to the political animal, but if you can turn your back on that and just get out into the backcountry, you can still have a really sensational experience. True, if you want to find the best hunting you have to put in some effort, but that’s what western hunting is all about… working for it.
And while the payoff is far from guaranteed, sometimes it all comes together. Like this…
July 17, 2013
Well, after last week, I thought I had momentum going here again. Guess I was wrong. There’s just not a lot going on for me on the outdoors and hunting front right now.
But that’s not true for my friends back in CA, as the A-zone archery season is now underway… and yeah, I miss it! So I thought I’d pull a video out of the archives. It’s not the same as being there… but if I close my eyes and think real hard, I can almost smell that yellow grass and hear the corn flake crackle of the dried leaves underfoot. Ahhh… deer hunting in July!