What a day. Today was the first day that I was able to get out for urban archery. Luckily enough, the land that DU and I hunt lays right in the newly appointed heard management program. Realizing that this was my second chance to get a deer, I finally got my Hoyt re-strung. The bow now looks how it should be manufactured, the ugly pink stings replaced with mud-colored tan and black. My bow looked sharp and I was ready to hunt. I sat out for the majority of the day, seeing at least half dozen deer, but nothing within shooting distance. Shortly before the sun set, I stood up in my stand, knowing that the deer would most likely start moving before the orange orb descended into the horizon. Just as my excitement reached its zenith, I heard the unmistakable sound of a car engine. I watched as a maroon suburban glided by the fence line. Two individuals got out of the van, walked across the fence and up onto the posted private property I am given permission to hunt.
I immediately called DU, who in turn contacted The Owner. After the call, I scanned the area for deer and the trespassers. Although I have a weapon and love hunting alone, when strangers walk onto my land, I feel vulnerable. The trio walked in an oblong circle and retreated. Just as DU pulled into the land, the trespassers left.
Hours later, following a beautiful meal of freshly harvested duck, I'm still a little shaken by the trespassers. The hunt was successful, as I saw deer and was able to ascertain where exactly they were hiding. However, it was ruined when strangers, without any sort of approval from The Owner, waltzed into the woods and destroyed any chance that I could harvest anything.
A few days before this hunt, I felt the same sort of browbeaten way while watching outdoor television. DU had been feeling under the weather so we spent Friday night in, watching The Bone Collector. I was excited, as this episode was the second part of the Alaska moose hunt that I had seen a week prior. It has been my dream for as long as I can remember to live in Alaska, so anything about the majestic state immediately draws my attention.
Before the episode started, DU reminded me, "Get ready for all the new products, because the spring brings all the new hunting shows with their new gear."
And did it ever. The entire episode was chock-full of product placement. Now, don't get me wrong- I get that these people need to make money but this show brought it to an extreme I've never seen.
Each member of The Brotherhood Of The Bone Collector (which I've always found a little off-putting; what about a Sisterhood? Girls hunt too- I'm not sure if they're aware.) would hold up his weapon after a harvest and say, "Gee Golly, without this [insert the name of the free gear he received to promote it], I never would've gotten that [moose, 18 point deer, 800 pound black bear, mastodon, etc]. Thanks, [ever generous outdoor outfitter]".
I figured that I had enough until the next episode came on. The Brotherhood, along with some rocking female Olympic shooters, ventured to Georgia to hunt some doves. I momentarily forgave the brotherhood for their product placement and figured that the girls would add some integrity to the show. Unfortunately, the mere few mentions of the girls severely out shooting the boys was the solitary high point. The nadir of the entire performance occurred when the brotherhood decided to do a shoot-out to see who would have to wear a ridiculous outfit for the rest of the day. One of the hunters was shown opening a gun case before the contest.
Looking straight at the camera, he utters, "Well, would you look at that? The Remington Versa Max will be perfect for this shoot-out."**
Is this a joke?
I can take a small hint at a great product, even 5 minutes of ongoing commercials (especially the ones that are funny, witty and true to the sport) , but this was too much to handle. I never, for as long as I have hunted or will hunt, have harvested an animal after saying, to no one in particular, "Wow, this Hoyt Vicxen will surely kill this deer dead. Good thing I was smart enough to buy it at [insert name of Hoyt supplier]".
Shortly after the shameless sales ploy, we turned the show off an opted to watch our favorite, Duck Commander. While the guys are usually outfitted in their namesake garb and have commercials about their wares, the majority of their shows are bare-bones. They document duck hunting in its most beautiful form, sans 15 minutes of self-gratuitous product placement. Early morning, low-budget hunting shows illustrate the same sense of a harvest-centered, non-trophy-hunting. The early years of Real Tree Road Trips were full of raucous deer camp conversations, beer, and good harvests. Unfortunately, its predecessor focuses more on the products to be sold rather on the hunt.
I realize that these guys have to feed their families but is it completely necessary to continually throw guns and camo I'll never be able to afford in my face every four seconds? If I'm watching a hunting show, it is because I want to see hunting, not go shopping. Commercials are made to sell things and as of late, it seems that the popular high-budget shows yearn to reach the same goal.
Just as the trespassers ruined my hunt, it seems, at least to me, that these "hunting" shows are slowly reducing this sport we love into half-hour long infomercials about the latest, greatest and most expensive gun or the most effective (and of course, expensive) camouflage. While I hope that new shows will curb this trend, it's unlikely that will occur.
As for me, I'll stick to duck hunting and those fantastic low-budget early-morning shows. They show real hunters doing what they love and to me, that's perfect. Hunting does not require any sort of product-placement. It sells itself. Those who hunt know that it isn't the camo one uses, the gun one shoots or the ammo one buys that makes a person get out of bed irrationally early to sit in a stand for twelve hours. It isn't the name of the person on the bow or the product that is endorsed by a particular show, one hunts because he or she lives, breathes, and loves it.
For the sake of the sport, I pray that hunting will not be directed by product-placement but by the natural instinct of those who love it. Just like trespassers invading on an otherwise perfect hunt, these shows mar an otherwise perfect and ancient human practice which is best left alone to its own devices.
** This is a close paraphrase to what was actually said during the show. While it isn't verbatim, it does illustrate the sales-centered nature of his statement.
*** During the creation of this post, I have kept in mind what I will do, if I ever am able to be blessed enough to hunt for a living. While future, famous me will be more than happy to promote good, affordable gear in commercials, I would refrain from making extraneous sales pitches during a hunt. As I said, I understand why televised hunters push to sell products, but the way the majority of them do it is deplorable.