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.
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.