Dave Answers His Mail: Keeping It Real

Deer hunting on TV isn't reality, but a little escapism has its charms for some.

Field & Stream Online Editors

LAST WEEK I ASKED, "Is the type of hunting commonly portrayed on TV shows anything like your own? If not, would a guided hunt on a private ranch be more satisfying than your typical hunting experience, or less so?" Well, this seemed to touch a nerve, judging by the number of e-mail responses you've sent. So let's get right to your letters. Here's what some of you had to say:

* Like you, I hunt areas where the deer are far more scarce and spooky than those in TV's fantasy world. I'll admit I do at times envy the amount of deer activity that's often portrayed on these programs, but I'm also aware that this type of hunting experience is not realistic for most hunters. Worse, I'm afraid it reinforces the instant-gratification mentality that is all too common today in our TV/Internet-saturated culture. Still worse is that it can leave both young hunters and nonhunters with the illusion that hunting is mainly about shooting animals, without much challenge. This is not the way I want our sport portrayed. But truthfully, real-world hunting is hard to accurately portray in a TV format, and if you tried to make it more realistic, it would be far too boring to watch. Not because hunting is boring, per se, but because it's many subtle joys simply cannot be fully captured on a screen. That's fine with me. It simply means I'll always have a reason to get off my butt and get out there, rather than settle for something that amounts to bubble gum for the mind. --John, Gladstone, Michigan

* The folks on the TV shows hunt in a different world. I may not be the most experienced hunter, but I believe that one of the joys of hunting is not only taking an animal but also the satisfaction that is gained by outsmarting a deer that's difficult to outsmart. Watching these shows, you have to wonder if the hunters might prefer that the deer were brought to them on a platter. --Peter, Chicago, Illinois

* Comparing a TV hunt with your own style of hunting is like watching a James Bond movie and comparing his love life with your own ... but then, I don't really know you that well. Anyway, to answer your question, I prefer to do it myself [BRACKET "rather than on a ranch"], then success is measured on my terms. --Joseph

[BRACKET "Actually, Joseph, my swinging-single love life is quite a lot like James Bond's (but only in that they are both fictional). --D.H."]

* My experience is nothing like what's portrayed on videos and TV shows. However, would many consumers want to buy a videotape of a "normal" hunt? It is that final tagging of a trophy that most of us won't get to do that is somewhat satisfied by these shows. Look at car racing: NASCAR is nothing like my daily commute, but I love the idea of driving 160 mph. --Doug, Clinton, Utah

* I don't find much enjoyment in these shows. I hunt in the mountains of Maryland, and very rarely do I see anything larger than an 8-point. I'd like to see some of these guys hunt in the areas I hunt. Then again, maybe I'm just jealous that they can afford to go to these places and I can't. --Skip, Hagerstown, Maryland

* I've got to agree with you: These shows just kill me. I hunt blacktails in California. I spend hundreds of hours behind the binocs looking for these elusive animals, and never, ever, have I seen the herds of monster deer strolling by that you see on TV. More often than not, the first legal buck I see is the one I shoot at. Of course, I don't always see one. After all, if I killed a buck every time out, it'd be called killing, not hunting. And hunting, my friend, "is what it's all about." --Dan

* I have to say that my deer hunting experience is nothing like the hunting shows on TV. This past year I hunted every day of the two-week muzzleloader season in Maryland, and I saw one buck. During a typical day in the field, I hike several miles. When I sit, it's usually on a rock, against a tree. By the end of the day, I'm tired, sore, and cold, but I love every minute of it. A guided hunt on a private ranch just wouldn't be the same. Sitting in a box overlooking a food plot with a window to rest your rifle on is hardly what I call hunting. There's no challenge in it. If I wanted to hunt like that I'd go pay my neighbor to let me sit in his barn and shoot one of his cows. What's the fun in that? --Greg

* I don't mind watching hunting shows. Just the other day I needed a deer hunting fix, so I went out and bought a video. I did enjoy it. But I must agree with you: It was nothing like my own hunts. I don't, for example, pass up 6-pointers to see if a monster 10-pointer will walk by. I do enjoy the shows, but I also think it's important that we keep it real. --Anonymous

* The deer hunting on TV is nothing like it is where I hunt. Here in upstate New York, good bucks are hard to come by. I think a guided hunt on a private ranch would be satisfying in the way of shooting a big buck, but there's a larger satisfaction that comes from working hard to get a deer on your own, even if it's what the people on the shows would call a "small" buck. I know that if I went to a guided hunt on a ranch, some of that challenge--and satisfaction--would be missing. --Ian