Whitetail Hunting photo

I’ll go ahead and date myself: When I was a kid my dad would take me to the local movie theater to watch Fred Bear’s films. Those movies–which were of an epic quality and went far beyond the mere killing of game–fueled the dreams of a budding bowhunter. Bear was larger than life in so many ways, and his presence on the big screen played a huge role in cementing his reputation.
Donnie Vincent is no Fred Bear and doesn’t claim to be. But he is trying to offer the same sort of epic, aspirational movie-going experience with The River’s Divide, a 46-minute film now headlining the Full Draw Film Tour, a series of feature-length bowhunting films showing in theaters across the West this summer. The River’s Divide traces Vincent’s multi-year quest for a tremendous whitetail he nicknamed “Steve.” You can view the film’s trailer here.

If you’re a fan of today’s outdoor television and video–which so often plays like a highlight reel of kill shots–“The River’s Divide” will likely disappoint you. But if you appreciate a film that takes some time to tell a story, you’ll like this movie. Beautifully filmed in the Badlands of western North Dakota, Vincent’s project strikes a nice balance between his gritty, determined, pursuit of one buck, and his obvious appreciation for the striking backdrop of the Badlands and the moments of beauty and sometimes crushing disappointment known to all bowhunters. It’s a film with a soul, something largely missing from today’s TV/video/film coverage of blood sport.

No project is perfect. There are moments when I wanted the film to slow down and elaborate, and others when I wanted to fast-forward through points I felt had already been made. But these are minor beefs. As a whole, this movie is a wonderful project, and I look forward to seeing other efforts from Vincent (who’s also filmed caribou, sheep, and grizzly hunts, with more in the works). I chatted briefly with Vincent about how his film was so different from others of the genre. “Well I have to admit that when we were prepping for this project, we studied The Shawshank Redemption a whole lot more than we watched The Bone Collector,” he laughed. That much is obvious, and if other films in the Full Draw Film Tour are similarly made, I hope they make a swing through the Midwest.