Dave Answers His Mail: Just for Show

Unlike on TV, real hunting is hard and slow, and big deer are mostly a no-show.

Field & Stream Online Editors

YOUR RESPONSES KEEP POURING IN regarding televised hunts. I've received so many, in fact, that I'm going to devote the column to your letters again this week.

But first, I want to make few quick points. One, I'm not out to indict every hunting show. Even with my limited viewing, I've seen several good episodes, one of which I'll talk about in next week's column.

Two, if these shows were to air the kind of average hunt that you and I experience, viewers would likely die of boredom. Still, there is some question about whether TV is a good medium for portraying our sport--and whether the typical small-screen representation is good for hunting.

Three, I don't necessarily have a problem with guided hunts. I've only been on one (a grouse hunt on public land in which we got skunked). If cost weren't an issue, I'm sure there'd be a number of such hunts that I'd consider going on, as well as some I wouldn't. And I'd likely have fun, but none would offer the same kind of satisfaction that comes from doing it myself. More to the point, guided hunts represent only a very limited aspect of hunting in general. But if you watch the shows (especially if you're a nonhunter or a beginner), you might think it's the norm.

Anyway, enough of my two cents. Here are excerpts from more of your letters:

* Hunting is about time in the woods, creating lifelong memories, sharing the heritage of the outdoors. It is a sharpening of the senses, the practiced ability to see a movement or a shadow that was not there a moment before. It is the quickening of the pulse when you hear a twig snap. It is becoming part of nature, and part of the oldest ballet in existence, that of predator and prey. Yet, from watching these hunting shows, it would seem to be changing into a business in which only the rich or well-connected can hunt in a "Brush Country Hilton" and regularly pass on deer that would be once-in-a-lifetime trophies to the rest of us. On second thought, maybe we're the lucky ones ... I feel for those poor millionaires!

--Dave

* What I've always been amazed at is how a guide, a hunter, and a cameraman can have animated conversations about each buck as it approaches, or as they stalk, and still be successful. It seems that if I breathe through my nose funny, every deer for miles bolts. I guess it makes for better TV though. I've had squirrels fall asleep watching me sit a stand.

--Joe, Pennsylvania

* Finally, a reality article! It's incredible to sit and watch those shows and see the hunter spray some sponsor's doe pee into the air (or whatever the product is that day), then pass up bucks that are bigger than the ones on my wall at camp. I would, however, go on a guided hunt, given a change in my financial situation--although it wouldn't be as satisfying. Let's face it, the reality is that someday my luck may change, but if I hunt a ranch I wouldn't need luck, just a well-placed shot!

--Jeff

* I think these television shows can be exciting to some folks, but I also think they give people who may want to try hunting the impression that it's easy and meaningless. So when someone does try the sport and doesn't get the same results, they may quit. I also think these shows open the door for those who would say, "Look, we told you these guys are shooting innocent creatures" just because the guys on TV are shooting deer that act like cattle and stand 20 yards away. In my opinion, it's much more rewarding to take a nice 8- or 10-pointer after years of sitting through snow squalls and rainstorms hoping for him to walk by. Even if he's not a "175-class buck," he'll be in my stories and memories forever.

--Brian

* I agree. We get happy just when squirrels come running through the woods. Although, I guess if you're watching for the pure entertainment value of a big rack or trying to learn a new technique, then the hunting shows are better than wwatching HGTV, and bulking up the honey-do list.

--Chilidave, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

* I sometimes watch deer hunting shows, but to be quite frank, they do very little to portray the reality of deer hunting. To call what we see in the shows hunting is a misnomer and a slap in the face of most hunters. In fact, it is now simply deer farming. You let the animal mature, then take him as a "trophy" or take him because he is "genetically deficient." This can lead to the mistaken impression among nonhunters that we are only after the largest set of antlers. I consider each animal as a trophy, and the day I fail to do so will be the day I quit hunting. If the largest deer I ever take in my life is a young 8-point, I'd still feel much better about that accomplishment than killing a half-tame buck that would qualify for the B&C; records.

--Gale