Hog Blog Hunting TV Reviews And Criticism – Episode 1

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. 

Zombie Strippers! 

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”.

Another thing…

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.


7 Responses to “Hog Blog Hunting TV Reviews And Criticism – Episode 1”

  1. Hog Blog Hunting TV Reviews And Criticism – Episode 1 | on October 21st, 2014 06:27

    […] Hog Blog Hunting TV Reviews And Criticism – Episode 1 […]

  2. Joshua Stark on October 21st, 2014 09:16

    Not to sound like I’m supporting the genre, but your closing paragraph (before your teaser) could just as easily refer to all of television. In fact, if it has a fifty percent success rate, I’d say it is considerably better than the rest of the boob tube.

  3. Phillip on October 21st, 2014 09:58

    Josh, that 50% guesstimate was probably, obscenely generous. At the same time, I think that with the improving production values, a lot of these producers are starting to get the hang of reaching a wider audience. Also at the same time, this content is certainly tailored for a demographic that doesn’t always value innovation as much as some of us would like. So there’s an ingrained conflict there. But it’s heartening to see that some of these productions are trying to push through and create something truly viewable.

    Your observation that the bit about gems among the rocks (wheat among the chaff) could refer just as readily to the general boob tube is absolutely accurate, of course. You could also apply it to literature, for that matter. Or art. Or blogs.

  4. SBW on October 23rd, 2014 14:13

    I don’t get to watch too many of these shows, apart from watching them, or clips from them, on youtube. For me the big let-down begins with the music, probably showing my age here but, nu-metal or whatever its called is so adrenalising it seems at odds with the hunting I’ve done. We walk in the hills, we sneak in woodlands, we sit in highseats listening to birdsong, its all very chilled, which is the point surely? Your experience maybe different but here hunting is the preserve of the patient and the observant.

    I once saw a show with the chap in the black hat, [may even have been Jim Shockey], where while hunting in equatorial africa the locals who were guiding stopped play to dig a ‘kin HOOJ hole which one feisty fella climbed into, where a snake tried to eat him leg first and his pals then pulled him out with the snake, which they then barbecued! it was ace TV. After that the ‘hunting personalities’ shot something and congratulated each other, as though paying the locals to walk them into range was some kind of achievement. But i suppose the leg-as-bait dude wasn’t able to sponsor the show and the ammo maker was.

    My favourite hunting show ever is a french language series called something like ‘ seasons of the hunt’ where they show all kinds of remarkable hunting stratagies from around the country. I have the DVD somewhere, I’ll send it to you if I find it.

    If i were making a hunting show it would be about all the hilarious stuff the ghillies say, the award for ‘biggest stick’, the hilarity that ensues when a self-proclaimed expert turns out to have left the rifles bolt either in the truck or best of all, at home in london. The bit where the animal takes a round is about the least interesting thing that happens.


  5. Phillip on October 23rd, 2014 15:10

    SBW, I am generally with you on the music. Fortunately (I think), the trend lately seems to be going back to more laid back, country music. But I think the shocking, metal stuff is all about bringing the short-attention-span youngsters away from their Playstations. Or at least that’s the best guess I can muster.

    That show you saw definitely sounds like Shockey. I actually enjoy some of the stuff he’s doing right now (and will probably write about it soon) with his “Uncharted” series. He and his co-host get a little over-the-top with the solemnity and emotion sometimes, but the concept of the show is kind of cool and definitely different. But the end is almost always the same… shoot some critter with the sponsor’s equipment. That’s what pays the bills and keeps these shows on the air, though.

    I think a funny hunting show would be good, but it’s a fine line to walk. People doing stupid things with guns isn’t always very funny. There was a “bloopers” show recently, hosted by Penn Gillette, and I had high hopes. But it turned out to be a feeble copy of Tosh.0 for the outdoors crowd. If Penn Gillette can’t make it funny, it’s a dog.

    More to come, we hope.

  6. Jon F on October 24th, 2014 12:35

    I agree with you about Uncharted being just a hair over the top but it has become my favorite show. They seem to be trying to make it more about the destinations and the native people versus just the kill. The camera work is amazing and unmatched in the hunting show genre. I could see them trying to take that show to a larger network, Discovery, Nat Geo, etc.

  7. Phillip on October 24th, 2014 16:18

    Jon, thanks for dropping in, and I agree with almost everything you said except… PLEASE please please don’t let them go to one of those networks. Discovery and Nat Geo have ruined everything they’ve put their hands on, including their own credibility.

    But seriously, Uncharted is a breath of New in a genre that has become fairly rote.