Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Sad State of Outdoor Television

I’m a sportsman. More specifically, I’m a bow hunter, a fly fisherman, and a guy who spent 15 years in the musky fishing industry. If you know me at all, you understand it’s a very big part of my everyday life… and a huge influence on my art. I rarely musky fish anymore, but that experience as a guide, writer, and pro staff member put my face on TV more than once. I’ve got a little background. As much as I hate worrying about things I have no control over, I do worry about how the non-hunting/fishing public feel about sportsmen. It’s a factor in how people feel about me, my art, and how willing they are to part with their hard-earned dollars to own it. So when I see the current state of outdoor entertainment on the television… it bugs the hell outta me!

It seems every knucklehead with a video camera has a TV show these days. Some are pretty decent. Most are downright embarrassing. Just because you can be on TV doesn’t mean you should be on TV!

Being an athlete, or a NASCAR driver, or a country music star who likes to hunt does not make you an outdoorsman. It does provide the financial means to hire someone to take you to the right place and put a critter or two in front of you. Okay, fine… but that’s not hunting. A good hunter is also a good woodsman. Most of these “personalities” don’t even know what that means. I understand that not everyone has the time it takes to do all the legwork and research for themselves, but don’t act like you’re something you’re not. And don’t stand there over your dead animal and tell me how hard you hunted that week. The toughest thing you did was climb your fat ass into a 15’ high tree stand or a shooting house (also known as an aerial shithouse) that someone else scouted, hung, and prepped. So you sat there for 10 hours a day… so what! That’s sitting, not hard hunting. I’ve got nothing against hunting from a tree stand. I do it a lot. What I never do is hunt from one that someone else has hung. Tell me about how hard you hunt when you do all that grunt work for yourself. There’s a big difference.

So when was the last time you saw a segment on reading and interpreting deer sign? Today’s television sportsmen (and women) are focused on food plots and management. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with feeding and managing a healthy deer herd, it’s irrelevant to 98% of hunters. Most don’t own 2700 acres of posted farmland to manipulate and manicure into a killing field, but that’s what we’ve been lead to believe is necessary to harvest a decent whitetail. It’s got nothing to do with woodsmanship and hunting as I know it.

There seems to be a rash of unethical quartering-to and straight-on bow shots. I’m pretty sure the anatomy of most big game animals has not changed since I started hunting, so why is this practice now acceptable? I can’t wrap my mind around anyone taking shots at this angle with archery equipment. PERIOD. I understand the desire to get arrow impact on camera and just how difficult it is, but it’s lead to a lot of downright rotten shot selection by on-camera hunters. Several years ago, arrow impact on film was a big deal. Not so much anymore. I’ve seen enough of it and now I’d rather know the animal was killed with a well-placed arrow at close range. Anything else sets a bad precedent and needs to stop… whether it’s being filmed or not. The people on these TV shows have a responsibility to be ethical and many are not living up to that.

There’s nothing special about blasting a 6x6 elk at 400 yards with a 50mm anti-aircraft cannon. It does not make you a good hunter. I’m not sure there are many people out there that can’t get within a quarter-mile of an elk… without even trying. So you made a 400 yard shot. Pump your fist and hug your guide all you want… I’m not impressed. Call that bull in to less than 50 yards and execute a clean kill with a bow or muzzleloader… then I’ll be impressed. There’s admirable skill involved in pulling off a long and difficult shot, but again… that’s not hunting. It’s shooting.

I remember quite a few years ago when Mike Iaconelli came onto the scene of tournament bass fishing. ESPN promoted these tournaments like they were NASCAR events and for the first time, a cameraman was in every boat. This all-access look at the sport was unprecedented, but also brought to the forefront the need for camera presence by the fishermen. Suddenly, sponsor dollars were being doled out less on the ability to fish and more by behavior in front of the camera. Iaconelli was the first to recognize and take advantage of this by screaming and yelling and fist pumping and generally acting like an idiot every time he caught a fish. I remember thinking “This guy’s an asshole. I hope that stuff doesn’t catch on.” Sadly, sponsors flocked to this flamboyant douche-bag and others followed suit. The fact that the guy could fish was completely overshadowed by his knuckleheaded antics. Now everybody seems to be putting on that face of outrageousness for the camera and it repulses me. For years I’ve called this “doing an Iaconelli.” Someone will kill and animal in front of a camera and the fist-pumping and jumping around begins. Some look like they may be having a seizure while others cackle like Roscoe from the Dukes of Hazard. This level of buffoonery has saturated the outdoor industry with morons and at times, I’m ashamed to be associated with it. There’s no respect for the animal or value in the hunting experience. It’s all about getting it done for the camera and attracting money from sponsors. Subtlety and humility are not a consideration.

Yes… I’ve only scratched the surface. I could go on for pages about the jackasses that hunt in fenced off enclosures the size of a dog kennel, or carnage-fest-it’s-fun-to-kill-stuff shows, or the idiot that catches a 12” trout and has to hold it up for the camera 3 times before unhooking it and letting it go, but I’ve managed to get some of this off my chest. Now put the damned fish back in the water and get on with it!

I’m pretty sure my Cynical Asshole Syndrome just kicked in again, or maybe it’s just the heat. Mr. Jose Wejebe, you’ll be sorely missed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I cannot even say how glad I am that someone else noticed this about outdoor tv. As a kid I watched every single tape of the realtree monster bucks series. 10 years later I got the outdoor and sportsman channels. The first thought in my mind after watching just a few of these programs was " my f*#=& 8+ God" what the hell happened to outdoor shows. They care more about making sure that every single one of their high dollar sponsors is mentioned somewhere in the half hour segment. Nobody cares about the hunt anymore. It's all about the brand names of gear, which all does the same thing anyway, and about the kill shot. You've got a bunch of rich arrogant pricks running around like they're an average Joe hunting the family farm. its not even fun to watch. 100% agree with this article. id love to see the guys on these shows go to a 200 acre track of land, Scout it, and make a kill. Just wouldn't happen.