November 20, 2014
The Outdoor Channel’s Golden Moose Awards is the first outdoors TV award show I ever attended, many years ago at SHOT (I believe we were in Orlando). At the time, RMEF and Budweiser were key sponsors and there was free Bud for everyone in attendance. There was a small, country band (I think they may have been locals) that took the stage after a little bit of speechifying and a small selection of awards were handed out. The doors were open to all SHOT Show participants, and Outdoor Channel reps were on the Show floor, eager to pass out the invitations. I don’t recall which venue the event was held at, but it wasn’t all that big. There was a good crowd, though, because anytime you say, “free beer,” at an event full of hunters and gun nuts, well, you can imagine what’s going to happen. All in all, as small as it was, it had the feeling of something on the verge of building some serious momentum.
Compare that scene, to the selective, invitation-only, packed house of the last couple of years. Attendees have recently been treated to performances by major artists like Ted Nugent, Aaron Tippen, and Blake Shelton. The list of awards has grown so large that they barely have time to get them all through. The last couple of times I was able to eke out a ticket (no small feat for a small-timer like me), I found myself at the Hard Rock Café where the network had taken over a major portion of the bar and performance stages. There was a full bar, hot food, and shoulder-to-shoulder outdoor celebrities, PR staff, producers, and sponsors. I’ve never been to the Emmy Awards, and of course the Golden Moose awards is only a single network with nowhere near the cachet of Hollywood, but this scene was pretty damned impressive. We’ve come a long way, baby.
For what it’s worth, the Sportsman Channel awards event has become a bit of a juggernaut too. There’s no question that some significant money is starting to trickle through the outdoor TV business.
Anyway, if you’re inclined, go vote for your favorite shows and hosts. And then stay tuned in January, as the winners are announced. If I’m lucky, maybe this year I can weasel my way in and provide some first hand accounting of the doings.
November 17, 2014
I just realized I went through last week without a TV review post. Mea culpa.
OK, I’m over it.
So here, to start your week, is a quick one.
First of all, for viewers of the Sportsman Channel, it’s time to vote for your favorite shows, hosts, and a handful of other awards. The winners will be announced at the 2015 SHOT Show in January. Click the image below to go vote, or you can paste in this URL: http://www.thesportsmanchannel.com/vote/
On a related note, I’ve recently become a reluctant “fan” of one of the Sportsman Channel programs, Gun It, with Benny Spies.
When I first saw this program, I have to say I didn’t care much for it. The host, Benny Spies, came across as sort of a smart jerk, pretending to be a redneck clown. I didn’t (and still don’t) know much about this guy, but I get the feeling he’s a lot smarter than he lets on. According to his bio, he’s carrying around a couple of college degrees and some significant experience in the TV industry. So when he’s acting the clown, I get the feeling he’s laughing in his sleeve… sort of like Larry the Cable Guy, milking the stereotype dry with his fake southern accent and redneck act.
Honestly (if you couldn’t tell), I’ve got sort of a problem with the perpetuation of the dumbass hick stereotype. “Redneck,” has always been an insult in my mind, and a fairly harsh one. I know a lot of folks who are country as the day is long, and I hate that a large segment of the U.S. thinks they’re all ignorant, hyper-religious rednecks. From time to time, I get a little country too. Here’s a tip, folks. Just because we talk slow, it doesn’t mean we are slow… well, not all of us anyway.
But this is TV. It’s entertainment, targeted to the lowest common denominator. If, as a viewer, you manage your expectations with this in mind, some TV makes a lot better sense and can even be a little bit of fun. And that’s the case with Gun It with Benny Spies.
So I watched a few episodes, and it sort of started to grow on me. First of all, his hick shtick is not the only game he has. I actually like that many of the episodes are about Spies going outside his comfort level to try some hunting or fishing experience he’s never had. He’s game, and he doesn’t always come out with limits or trophies. On an episode down in Texas, he goes on his first hog hunt. I’m not sure how he got set up with the “guide” who took him out, but things were looking pretty desperate. In the end, after enlisting a little guiding help, he finally manages a small, meat hog for his troubles. I can’t imagine the lengths they went to in order to get the payoff for that episode, but it came across as real.
The episode that finally sold me, though, was a recent one called Benny, Bullwinkle, and a Guide Named Steve. I don’t know how, outside of phenomenal luck, but Spies drew a Shiras moose tag in Wyoming. Throughout the episode, I was fairly impressed by how “real” everything was. The guide was a character, as was the outfitter. The hunt was about what I’d expect, right down to leveraging intelligence from the Spanish sheepherders to locate Benny’s bull. What showed through, though; for all of his usual façade of “hickness”, Spies took the whole thing pretty seriously… even with a level of humility. You could tell that he recognized what a big deal it was to get a once-in-a-lifetime draw like that.
I’m sure that Benny Spies will annoy me again before long. Even my favorite show hosts occasionally do something that gets on my nerves. But I generally come back for more.
Check it out for yourself sometime. I can’t promise you’ll like it too, but I think there’s some quality there.
November 7, 2014
First of all, you guys fail.
I don’t expect a ton of participation from the bots and crawlers that make up the bulk of my site traffic, but I sort of figured some human out there must read, and care enough to think we could come up with a better title for the TV review posts. But what did I get? Nada. So I came up with something myself.
See what you get? That’ll teach you… or not.
This week, it’s all about self-awareness. Well, self-awareness, and a few other things. But we’ll start with the easy one.
Mossy Oak produces and sponsors a bunch of TV shows. That’s no surprise, since the company has become one of the monsters of the industry. Like their chief competitor, RealTree, these former camo companies have blown up to dominate everything from product branding to outdoor-oriented real estate. Just the other day, I got a press release about a new set of ear buds, branded by Mossy Oak and JBL. No, really. Ear buds. For your portable music player or game machine, or whatever.
It’s also no surprise that, on their programs, folks wear a lot of camo. That’s just what you do when a camo company is footing the tab for your hunt, your gear, and in some cases, signing your paycheck. So, for example, the other day on Mossy Oak’s Hunting the Country program, they had a bunch of folks hunting whitetails down in Texas. It was chilly (for Texas), and every hunter was garbed, head-to-toe, in Mossy Oak camo. I don’t recall the pattern. There are so many now, who can keep up? The point is, everyone was pretty well outfitted with some great camo.
And then they loaded up and drove out to their box blinds.
So, generally, this is a small thing. Of course, we all know that you don’t need camo if you’re hunting from a shooting house. (Personally, I don’t think you need camo at all to hunt big game with a rifle, but that’s neither here nor there.) But I don’t really care if you choose to wear it anyway. Still, there’s a sort of irony in the voiceover pointing out that the hunters are geared up in their Mossy Oak camo, and the implication that this will somehow help them to be successful on this hunt. Because it won’t. As a viewer, I couldn’t help thinking that these guys could be wearing Speedos and Hawaiian shirts for all the difference it would make.
The only reason I picked this particular episode of this particular program, by the way, is because it’s the one I was watching when it struck me to pick up my notepad and jot it down. The phenomenon itself is endemic across the genre. Whether it’s Mossy Oak hunting in Texas, Real Tree in Missouri, or the Under Armor guys in Alabama, you watch them promote the camo clothing and then climb into an enclosed stand to shoot deer at 100 yards or more. It’s mildly off-putting because these guys, as professional hunters, have to know that the camo makes no difference in that situation. At the very least, they could drop a comment now and then to let us know they recognize what we’re all saying. Where’s the self-awareness?
What would be cool, by the way, is if one of these companies would produce and promote a new pattern just for the shooting house hunter… sort of like the guys hunting from ground blinds who have adopted black hoodies to blend into the black interior of the blind. Now that makes sense. Not sure what this shooting house pattern would look like, although I’d imagine something like rough grains of CDX plywood. You can get Plain-ol-Pine®, or you can go for the gusto and get the Marine Grade Green® pattern. For the upscale hunter, maybe something like Beaded Birch Paneling®, or Fiberglass Grey®.
I had another topic, but this literally just came up…
I follow the hunting channels (Sportsman Channel, Outdoor Channel, and Pursuit) on Facebook. In addition to getting previews and notices about upcoming new shows and episodes, they also share clips, photos and tidbits from the various programs and celebrity hunters. And, of course, they do contests. It’s usually a reasonably good balance of promotion and entertainment. But this morning, as I popped over to say good morning to Kat (she’s in Raleigh, I’m in Texas), I caught a new post from The Outdoor Channel. It was a full-length ad for a product that has nothing to do with the Outdoor Channel or any of the programs that air there. There wasn’t even any context to link back to the programming or the network itself. Just an ad.
To say the least, I was taken aback.
Isn’t this a little much? Logically, of course, I recognized the utility of what they were doing. I expect there’s good money to be made by extending your advertisers’ exposure from the TV network to social media. It seems pretty efficient, in a business sense, I think. Of course, I’m definitely no businessman.
No, what I see here is overreach.
I understand that the whole reason a corporation establishes a social media presence is for self-promotion. The hunting channels advertise themselves and their programming via these channels, and it’s pretty successful. In addition to exposure, it provides a certain amount of interactivity for the viewers and that establishes a deeper, personal investment. It creates a sense of ownership and connection. You know, the psychology of marketing and all that.
And maybe that’s why this advertisement thing shook me a little. To me (and maybe I’m just weird), it felt a little too exploitative. It was a violation of my trust because, well, social media is personal. This is the same platform I use to communicate with my circle of friends and my loved ones. I let the Outdoor Channel into that circle, and here they’re going to pollute this place by running ads? At the very least, it’s disappointing.
I’m hoping this was just an experiment on the part of the Outdoor Channel’s social networking team, and that they will reconsider the practice. Like most viewers of the hunting channels, I already feel a little over-saturated with advertising and product placement during the course of regular programming. I generally watch it anyway. But if the ads start to extend to the social network sites as well, then that’s going to be too bad. Personally, I know I’ll stop following the feeds and I expect a fair number of other folks will do the same.
As I said before, I’m no businessman. But it seems to me that there’s a cost-benefit consideration here. I would think that the Outdoor Channel brings in enough advertising revenue through its regular channels that it would be able to justify running social media campaigns as overhead… a marketing expense. If so, then alienating viewers by pushing ads to social media would be somewhat counterproductive.
But maybe that’s just me.
October 27, 2014
OK, first things first… I need a better heading for these reviews. This one is boring.
So here’s a thought… I have a handful of copies of The Complete Guide to Wild Hog Field Care from my friend, Ron Gayer’s, The Guide’s Guide to Hunting series. If someone recommends a new heading for the TV reviews, and I like it enough to use it, I’ll send you out a copy. Or, if you prefer, I also have a copy of another one from Ron’s series: From the Bench to the Field: Guns and Optics.
Hell. Give me a real winner, and I’ll send you both.
That’s done… other topics.
I’ve been sort of blessed in my life with the ability to, usually, take almost any topic and write about it. Sometimes it comes out better than others, but I seldom find myself completely stumped. I mean, really, it’s pretty much how I’ve made my living for the past 22 years. But since I decided to start writing about hunting TV shows, I suddenly find myself really challenged.
It’s not that there’s nothing to say, of course. When Kat was here, we’d often get a running commentary about the programming or the commercials… and oftentimes, we go on about both (of course, we did that with most programs, not just hunting shows). It’s also easy to sit down and be really critical, in a negative way. But as I mentioned in the first place, I don’t want this to just be a litany of negativity. Not that I want to hold back all the time, because I’ve got some choice things to say that I believe really need to be said. But to sit down and pick out a topic for a weekly post… well, it’s got to be more than nitpicking about long distance shooting, unsafe firearm handling, or shilling products at the expense of programming content. There should be some substance, and some sort of theme. I mean, as readers of this site, what would you like to see?
Also, I’m relatively low-tech, right now. Otherwise, I’d love to pull snippets and do voice-over commentary, or show you a piece of an episode in context. That should be manageable in this medium, but I’m just getting my feet wet and not sure I want to jump all the way in. As this thing goes, I hope to at least start providing links to episodes online (when they’re available), so if I spike your interest you can go see what I’m on about. But for now… well, it’s mostly just going to be words. And just this minute, I’m struggling to come up with those.
But the only way to it is to do it.
As a consumer of hunting and outdoors TV, there are some things you sort of have to make your peace with.
First, the hunt is almost always going to end in success.
I have actually heard people complain about this. “It’s not like real hunting. They’re always successful. And it’s always a trophy-quality animal.”
Yeah. It’s true. But here’s the thing.
Nobody wants to watch a hunting show where nothing gets shot. You can have all the bigger-than-life personalities in the world, but folks tune into these shows for a specific outcome. To poorly paraphrase Jose Ortega y Gassset, “one does not watch hunting TV in order to see a kill. One sees a kill, in order to know he has watched hunting TV.”
OK, that’s really, poorly paraphrased, and, well, sort of meaningless.
But it is true, people want to see hunters shoot animals on the hunting programs. Good scenery is a huge bonus. Production quality and witty banter from the hosts/celebrities is always good. Solid hunting tips and education are valuable. Lots of footage of game can build suspense and interest. But by the end of the show, something better be on the ground. Or, if not, Part II better promise redemption… and it better be sensational.
On the same note, when you’re trying to appeal to the least common denominator, it’s not generally enough for the television hunter to walk away with a little forked horn buck, or a cow elk. Personally, I’ve always felt like a trophy is in the mind of the beholder. It’s about the experience that goes along with the animal. But that sort of esoterica is pretty tough to mass produce. On TV, unless you’re extremely careful, if the hunters just start killing game indiscriminately, it’s likely to come across looking a little bloodthirsty. What’s just as important is that there’s a large segment of the audience that is hoping to see those prime specimens. Why bother to put it on TV if you’re just doing what the average guy is doing?
There is, of course, the obvious irony of the guys on the shows who continuously give lip service to, “keeping it real.”
But that’s for another time.
The second thing is that there’s going to be product placement… blatantly. Most of these programs are built on the backs of their sponsors. The only way to make that pay is to sell product. So, along with the hunting, the hosts (and often their guests) are hawking product. Of course, it can be taken to extremes, as it is in the Cabelas American Archer series. I swear, by the end of that 30 minutes I got pitched more products than I get in my entire Cabelas Christmas catalog. Seems to me Tom Nelson spends more time just pulling stuff out of his pack to show the camera than he does actually hunting.
Still, when it comes to hawking product, the industry has evolved to some extent. The bigger programs are usually able to get through an episode without having to take a break to go over their gear list. Of course, this is partially because there is real advertising money coming to the channels now. I think automakers (pickup trucks and SUVs) were among the first to recognize the potential market in the outdoors programming niche, but now I’m seeing more and more mainstream ads show up. As a result, I’m starting to see more of the programs moving away from shilling for sponsors, and instead they can focus on producing some quality television.
And that brings me back to the promise I made in the first installment of this series… to talk a little about some of the “gems” that are out there, mingled with the rough stones. There are some quality programs out there, and if you can accept these two core premises… successful hunts are a given, and you’re going to get a sales pitch… they’re worth looking for. But, I’m already over 1000 words, I’m getting hungry, and my glass of tequila appears to have evaporated. So I’m gonna make this quick, and promise (again) to get down to it soon.
What I believe is one of the best programs out there right now is Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg. I don’t think I’m alone in this opinion. As outdoors programs go, Newberg appears to be listening to the viewers and doing his best to give them realistic hunting programming without too much reliance on product placement. What makes his show really different from most in the genre is that he specializes in do-it-yourself hunts on public land… stuff that any dedicated, able-bodied hunter could feasibly do. And that’s huge!
Consider the costs of some of the hunts you see on the other programs, where a whitetail deer hunt might run in excess of $3000, or a guided elk trip will push the $5000 mark easily. Newberg takes the viewers to public land, accessible to anyone, and then shows them how to make a successful trip out of it. What he does isn’t so much a secret, but a lot of hunters in the US don’t realize what kinds of opportunities are available on lands that they, as citizens, own.
Randy also comes across as pretty personable. I’ve only met him once, briefly, and he was awful gracious (considering it was at SHOT and 10 million sponsors, producers, and other industry types were breathing down his neck). You kind of want him to succeed in the industry. He seems like the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind spending a week afield with, even in tough conditions. What’s more, his show sometimes features his friends and relatives on the hunts, and he often ensures that they have success, even if he goes home with tag soup. That kind of thing just makes me want to hunt with him even more.
And I think that’s one of the key tricks to success in this industry. You have to be someone the viewers would like to hunt with. Whether it’s Randy Newberg, Michael Waddell, Brian “Pigman” Quaca, or Larry Weishuhn, I have noticed that the personalities that attract me, and seem to get the longest shelf lives in the outdoors TV business, have a charismatic allure. You just kind of want to spend some time in the field with them.
It takes more than just charisma to make good outdoors TV, though, and Randy Newberg has it going on. You can see him for yourself on The Sportsmen’s Channel, or check him out on the forums at Hunttalk.com.
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!