May 15, 2013
While we’re on a run here, this is one of my favorite vids (and one of my prouder moments). The video tells the tale…
May 14, 2013
Wow! I’d almost forgotten about this one.
My friend, musician and hunting guide T. Michael Riddle wrote, performed, and recorded this theme music for the Hog Blog. I stuck a bunch of video highlights together to make a sort of showcase. It was fun, if a little narcissistic.
Oh well… I’ll re-share it anyway.
May 13, 2013
The original Hog Blog ran for almost five years before some changes happened. I ended up with this new site, and unfortunately had to leave an awful lot of stuff behind. Some of it wasn’t too bad, a lot of it was (I think) pretty informative… even educational. So despite some earlier personal misgivings, I’m going to occasionally take a look back at that older stuff. Part of it is simple reminiscence. And part of it is because it’s sort of a shame to just let all that work sit there. Maybe some of you folks who weren’t around then will find it interesting. Or not…
Anyway, it’s here if you’re that curious (or bored).
Something else I found myself doing this past weekend is scanning through some of my old videos. I’m no great shakes as a videographer, but some of these were a lot of fun to make. So I thought I’d re-share some of the vids that I thought were my better work. To my old friends, who’ve been here all along and have seen these before, I apologize for redundancy.
So, here’s a clip I did about one of my favorite hunts when I was guiding at Native Hunt. Hopefully, you’ll see why.
May 1, 2013
This isn’t a new video, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never put it here.
August 21, 2012
Steven Rinella has become something of a celebrity in the world of hunting television, with some crossover attention from the foodie-quadrant. In his initial television outing on The Travel Channel, he hosted The Wild Within, and then went to The Sportsman Channel with, Meat Eater. His focus in both of these programs, as well as in his books and magazine articles has largely been on the feast that’s available just outside our doors, which is a very popular topic these days.
Personally, when I first heard about Rinella’s program on The Sportsman Channel, I shuddered. Images of Bear Grylls and “Survivorman” ran through my head. I hated those shows, especially Grylls’s hyper-bravado and the stupidly unnecessary things he would do for shock effect (hey, I know some of you folks liked those shows and more power to you… I found them ridiculous, and they got worse as each episode strove to out-shock the other). I dreaded another program just like the rest.
But some folks I know spoke highly of Rinella, so I opened my mind and watched a few episodes. I was pleasantly surprised. His personality on screen doesn’t seem over-inflated, and his hunts are pretty real. He’s a meat hunter (and fisherman), and that’s the focus of each episode. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan, and I certainly haven’t watched every episode, but I found very little to quibble with on his program. If it comes on while I’m watching The Sportsman Channel, I don’t reach for the remote.
OK… three paragraphs in, and I’m yet to get to the point.
A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Rinella’s publicity folks. He’d just released his third book, titled Meat Eater, Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter, and they wondered if I’d like to give it a read and a review. It sounded like a good opportunity to get a closer look at this guy through his writing, and I’m always up for something new to read. So last week, I went to my mailbox and found the hardback waiting for me.
I wasn’t sure when I’d find time to read, with all the work I needed to do around my place, but a back injury settled me down right quick. Unable to do so much as push a broom for a few days, I kicked back in my recliner and cracked it open.
As is my usual habit, I didn’t read the background materials that the publicist sent along with the book so I really wasn’t sure what it would even be about. I figured with the same title as his program, it would be about hunting for meat. Maybe there would be some hunting stories or some cooking tips. But I didn’t really expect an autobiography (as well as some hunting stories and cooking tips).
That’s what it is, though. The book is essentially the story of Rinella’s development into the character we see on his television program today… extended backstory for the television program, as it were.
A few years back, there was a recruiting poster, I think for the Navy, that asked, “If your life were a book, would anyone want to read it?”
This poster occurred to me several times as I read through Meat Eater. I mean, honestly, Steve Rinella isn’t that big a celebrity. Outside of a relatively small circle, no one has a clue who he is. If I were browsing the bookshelves and saw this, I probably wouldn’t read past the jacket blurbs. And now that I have read the entire book, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be much the poorer for missing it.
Was the book a complete waste of time? No.
Once I relaxed my preconceptions (and got past those first few pages), I don’t begrudge the time I spent on it. At points, it did take me back to my own childhood and early teen years in the North Carolina woods… geographically distinct from his Michigan environment, but I think the way we saw it was pretty much the same. It’s an honest portrayal, warts and all, of his development as an outdoorsman, and at the end I came away with an appreciation of who Steve Rinella is and where he came from. I think this will likely color my perspective on his television program from now on, in a positive way. At no point did I just want to close the book and go find something else to read.
At the same time, though, I guess I didn’t see anything particularly novel here. If I tried, I could probably name a dozen friends who came up in the outdoors, hunting, fishing, and trapping pretty much just like he did. Most people I know who started young in the outdoors went through similar stages of moral and ethical development as they formed their own, unique relationship to the outdoors. Heck, my own story isn’t all that different… except that where he went on to turn his passion for the outdoors into a career, mine remains an expensive hobby. (And yeah, I get that this is a big difference.)
It was not unlike trying a new restaurant and finding nothing particularly new or memorable in the experience. It did not excel, nor did it suck… at least to my tastes. In a week, I doubt that I’ll remember any specific passage from Meat Eater. In a year, I doubt I’ll even remember reading it.
Would I recommend Meat Eater? If a copy falls into your hands, yes, check it out. It’s not a bad read. But would I recommend you go out to buy it? I don’t know.
As a guide for new hunters, there’s not much in the way of instruction or even solid guidance (in fact, a good part of the book reminisces about breaking wildlife laws.. and in some cases seems to attempt to justify it). I don’t think that a new hunter would find much value here… especially a new hunter who is coming to the sport late in life. Maybe a youngster, a young teen who is already crazy about the outdoors would enjoy this. But even then, I can think of better books.
As an adventure story, it lacks… well… it lacks adventure. Rinella certainly has had some cool hunting experiences, but he’s definitely no Robert Ruark. Maybe it’s his laid back writing style, but even his most harrowing experiences didn’t seem particularly exciting. A couple of them just seemed like stupid ideas… which could have made for great humor, except Rinella doesn’t seem to capitalize on those opportunities very well.
For the foodie there are far better books out there, both instructional and anecdotal, that would offer far more value. The “Tasting Tips” at the end of each chapter are the closest thing to actual food writing, and these are mostly general.
When it comes down to it, the only person I would feel like recommending this book to is to the hardcore, Steve Rinella fan. I do think you can really get a good feel for who he is, and where he comes from in this book. So to a fan, this could be really great information. But honestly, if you’re not a really big fan, I don’t think you’re going to care all that much.
Note: This is my opinion, and I have some pretty specific tastes when it comes to books. I know that several other bloggers are reading and reviewing this book right now. It may be worthwhile to take a look at some of the other reviews in addition to mine.
August 10, 2012
OK, this one isn’t going to be as easy to write as the last time I wrote about this… just a couple of days ago.
A couple of days ago, I was filled with self-righteous fury… or something akin… and I let myself perpetrate one of my own pet peeves. I jumped to conclusions. Yeah, that’s right. Me. Mr. “let’s wait and hear the whole story,” Hog Blog dude, went mildly postal with some preconceived notions about this upcoming episode of The Pig Man. Sure, I prefaced it with the disclaimer that I hadn’t actually seen the episode in question, but what does a disclaimer really mean? If you don’t know what you’re really talking about, you probably shouldn’t be talking about it. Right?
Enough with the self-flagellation. I’m human. Mistakes are part of the package.
In a nutshell, let me review what I said.
My concerns centered around two things… The first is the polarizing nature of aerial hog hunting, writ large with two bigger than life personalities, Brian “Pig Man” Quaca and Ted “Motor City Big Mouth” Nugent. The second concern had to do with the press release mention that fully automatic weapons would be used. The potential for negative PR spilled from my computer screen as I let my imagination go wild, picturing the scene of Nugent (the antithesis of restraint) roaring with glee as he sprayed lead across the Texas landscape while Quaca, always eager to goof around, joined the fray with abandon. OK, maybe that’s a little exaggeration… but to be honest, it’s not much of one. I honestly expected the worst.
On a purely serious note, my concerns aren’t all that far off base. Aerial gunning is a hot issue for a lot of reasons. As I said in the initial post, a lot of people, including hunters, really don’t understand the line between sport hunting, and depredation. They don’t get that the same ethical rules don’t apply… can’t apply… when it comes to the need to drastically reduce the population of an invasive species. Add to that a second flashpoint… fully automatic weapons. ARs are winning a grudging acceptance in much of the sporting world, although the non-hunting/non-shooting public still holds a strongly negative image of them. Televising this sort of thing is opening a can of worms. What’s worse is the potential for anti-hunting organizations to leverage these uneducated misperceptions to push their propaganda.
And Ted Nugent… well, he is a walking PR disaster all by himself. I don’t hate the man, because I don’t know him, but I hate what he has done to civil discussion of guns and hunting. The mere intimation of his presence in a conversation about firearms or hunting derails logic. I won’t go on, except to say I had real fears that he would say or do something so stupid as to demolish any credibility Brian Quaca has been able to build up. It would only take one of his infamous rants to overshadow everything that the Pig Man has worked to build… and that would be a shame.
So that’s sort of what I said in my first post, and I stood by that in the comments and replies afterward (although I started to inwardly question the vehemence of my initial post).
And I still hadn’t seen the episode in question.
Now I have.
Thanks to the Pig Man business office, I was given the opportunity to view the full episode in advance. I watched it tonight, and then I went outside and sat on the porch to think it through. Then I came back in and watched it again. I obviously owe Brian and his crew something of an apology, because they handled the whole episode extremely well… or at least as well as could be hoped. I’m not going to sit here and try to summarize the whole episode. Ya’ll can watch it yourselves when it hits the air on August 26.
But what I will say is that the worst of my fears were largely unfounded. First and foremost, as he usually does, Brian Quaca spends the time explaining the rationale behind aerial hog gunning and makes clear that it isn’t about sport hunting…it’s eradication. Throughout the episode, they make clear that these hogs are a pestilence financially and ecologically. Personally, there are a few other questions I’d like to have heard him address about safety and shooting from the helicopter, but maybe that’s a little much. I know most people just tune in to see him shoot hogs.
Nugent’s presence is kept to a dull roar. He comes on pretty strong during the introduction, including some pretty boastful (and questionable) claims about his role in the passage of the “Pork Chopper” bill (HB 716), but he never quite gets to full roar. Whether I should or not, I’m going to credit the producers and editors with managing that.
What about the full automatic weapons? Yes, there is a full-auto. Yes, there is spray and pray. And that was mildly unfortunate, because a lot of the semi-auto shooting was actually pretty good (or at least a lot of the shooting that made the editor’s cut). But the machine-gunning is kept to a bare minimum and it didn’t look very effective. I think I actually heard it more than I saw it. I didn’t really feel like it played a big enough part to make any difference in the overall program. It was certainly not a focal point.
So all that said… were all of my concerns silenced? No. This episode is still pretty loaded with potential negative PR.
Are they having fun killing things? Yes, and they make no bones about it. There’s laughter and banter (fans of Pig Man know what to expect), but overall they never get outrageously irreverent. Some people are still going to have an issue with that, but I don’t.
The footage of the kills is still pretty harsh, and I expect the episode is definitely going to draw some negative feedback on this. There is some particularly graphic action with swimming hogs that is almost certain to set off some outcry. There’s also going to be the question of humane kills. Many shots were obviously less than perfect, and people will wonder how many hogs were left to die slowly instead of being finished off with additional shots. However, I think Holly Heyser may have been right in her comments that, because people dislike (and even fear) feral hogs, the backlash may not be as bad as it would if they were shooting something more controversial, like wolves.
So yeah, the Pig Man producers and probably the Sportsman Channel will get some letters. I’m sure Quaca and Nugent will both be featured in some anti-hunting website and blog, with all the requisite rhetoric and stereotypes. But compared to some of the other aerial shooting videos that are out on YouTube, this was probably one of the least controversial aerial hog hunts I’ve seen yet. This epispode probably didn’t improve the public image of hunting, but they certainly didn’t make it any worse.
So, Pig Man. Mea culpa.
August 3, 2012
OK, so everything in me is telling me, “Shut up! Just shut up now and let it be. Nothing I can say is going to change this, and I recognize that my opinion here may not be the most popular.”
But here goes…
I got my regular email from The Sportsman Channel on Friday, with the headline, “Sportsman Channel Features Pig Man and Ted Nugent on Epic Hunt!”
So I read on, as I do, and find the following description of the program:
Pig Man and Ted Nugent hook up in Texas for some helicopter hog hunting with Heli Hunter.
Shotguns as well as semi and fully automatic rifles come out of their cases as Pig Man and Uncle Ted attempt to “cleanse our good mother earth”.
Where do I start.
First of all, as I’ve said here several times over, I sincerely enjoy the Pig Man program. Brian Quaca and his team are a lot of fun to watch. They’re as real as it gets, and in several instances, he’s taken the time to explain the difference between eradicating a pest species like feral hogs and sport hunting for native game animals. The rules are different, because the desired outcome is different. This is the same reason I’ve been largely in favor of Texas’s laws permitting aerial gunning by amateur sportsmen. To paraphrase Jager Pro’s Rod Pinkston, “you don’t question the exterminator about his tactics for killing termites. You just want them all dead.”
That said, I recognize the reality that, for a lot of people, the distinction between hunting and pest eradication isn’t a clear line. Hogs are bigger than termites or cockroaches. They have fur, and big, dark eyes, and cute little babies that nurse from their mothers. Pigs are intelligent. God knows someone will go even further to anthropomorphize these animals. To kill them with methods that don’t ensure a quick, humane death seems… well… inhumane.
At the same time, you have legions of hunters who still don’t get it, proclaiming loudly that “that’s not hunting! That’s just slaughter! No ethical hunter would do that!”
Aerial shooting isn’t “fair chase”, and it’s not egalitarian (you have to be able to afford it if you want to participate), so it’s got a pile of detractors in the hunting community… regardless of the reality that it’s not supposed to be fair or egalitarian. And these days, especially with social media, chat forums, and ”Facebook activism”, these voices can be really, really loud.
And what you end up with is a public relations nightmare for a sport that already suffers from a mediocre image in the eyes of the non-hunting populace.
Nevertheless, I can see an opportunity for an educational (and still fun) experience with Brian Quaca up in the air, killing a whole pile of hogs. It could be a good program, if it were just the Pig Man.
But two things worry me about what I read here (and I haven’t seen the episode… I don’t kn0w how it really plays out).
First is that they’ve teamed Quaca up with Ted Nugent, the Motor City Big Mouth. This guy is PR poison to folks who’d like to have a civil discussion about hunting, wildlife management, and other relevant topics. (Sorry Uncle Ted, I love your music, and I’m glad you’re pro-gun/pro-hunting, but dude… you alienate way too many people for no good reason! It’s counterproductive.) Nugent’s credibility as an “ethical hunter” has been shattered by his recent wildlife violations and subsequent behavior that shows no sign of contrition for those acts. He still draws a crowd, but he draws it for the wrong reasons. Whatever good Ted Nugent tries to do is going to be overshadowed, for many people (including a good number of hunters and gun advocates), by the wrongs he’s done so far.
The second thing is the use of fully-automatic weapons. Again, I get it. This is depredation. The gloves are off. By any means necessary. Hogs are a billion-dollar blight for farmers, and a hazard to wild ecosystems. Etc. Etc.
But this is also television. This is viewable not only by a small cadre of afficionados, but by the whole bloody world. This is also right in the wake of Aurora, Colorado… barely a month has passed. Does anyone else see the potential for negative spin here? The glorification of mass slaughter? The laughter and grins of these two guys, high-fiving as they rack up carcass after carcass… spray and pray and laugh like hell?
It all adds up to a nightmare for those of us who are working hard to help people understand hunting and firearms. We’re taking the time to address the fears, misunderstandings, and to counter the mythology that hunters are simply bloodthirsty killers. A sound argument can be made for the possession of ARs, and certainly for the eradication of non-native, invasive wildlife. But what good does it do if that argument is drowned out by the folks who will point their fingers at Quaca and Nugent as representatives of hunters and gun owners, and say, “look! Here’s what you hunters do. You just like to kill and shoot big guns. You like to watch living creatures die and laugh about it! You’re not fooling us, this isn’t about wildlife management. This isn’t about responsible gun ownership, or sporting use of assault rifles. It’s just about killing innocent animals!”
In the long run, this is probably just another small thing. But it adds to the litany of “wrongs” one could count against hunting television and video productions. What’s more, it’s avoidable and unnecessary. People will tune in to see Brian Quaca run his hounds through the mesquite, and they’ll keep watching as he and his crew sling arrows, crossbow bolts, and high-powered rifle bullets at hogs and other animals around the world. The show is popular, and there’s certainly a very loyal fan-base… for good reason. Why turn this into something else simply for the sake of driving up ratings?
It’s just my thoughts. What are yours?