Field & Stream Online Editors
Field & Stream Online Editors

I rarely watch deer hunting shows on television, but with our season long closed and too much snow for grouse hunting, I needed some kind of fix. So I turned on the tube, caught a few episodes–and remembered why I rarely watch them: They’re too hard on my self-esteem.

Watching these programs, I feel as if I’m out of touch with my fellow deer hunters and their style of hunting. I mean, I’m a deer hunter, and so are the guys on the TV screen. You’d think there’d be plenty of common ground. Yet for the life of me I can’t seem to find much of a connection between their experiences and my own. I don’t recall ever sitting comfortably on a padded folding chair inside an elevated box stand while a string of 8- and 10-pointers paraded by–thinking all the while, Those are nice bucks, but not what I’m looking for.

In fact, my typical hunt is nothing like that. Mine usually involves hours of mostly uneventful walking or waiting. On a good day, I might get a glimpse of antlers or enjoy the brief company of a doe and fawn. But more often, the day’s highlight is no less subtle than the sound of the woods waking up at dawn.

Apparently, I’m a lousy deer hunter. I must be. Because I actually find that killing a decent buck–let alone a trophy–is pretty tough. In fact, I’ve long been under the impression that part of why I enjoy deer hunting so much, believe it or not, is because it is difficult. But these shows seem to demonstrate time after time that killing a big buck is not only easy but routine: Just get in your stand, wait a few minutes, pass up a couple “small bucks,” shoot a big one, pump your fist, then shake the guide’s hand. What could be easier? But for me, it never unfolds like that.

What’s most unsettling, though, is that I don’t seem to understand the deer hunting experience. Very often, after downing a big buck, the hunters on these shows–who have been told where to sit, where to look, and when to shoot by the guide–say, “That’s what it’s all about.” For some reason, I’ve always thought it was about something more.

I suppose there’s the small chance that it’s not so much me as it is the places where I hunt. I’ve noticed that on the shows, folks are usually at some exclusive private ranch that’s intensively managed for quality deer. I guess there’s the slim possibility that this fact has something to do with their experiences being vastly different from my own. Then again, it’s probably me.

I’d like to know what you think. 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? You can e-mail me at