5 Bad Habits I Picked Up From Hunting Shows
The popular thing in the hunting industry these days is poking fun at hunting shows. Everyone is doing it – but only because it is so easy. I promise, because it is easy, that makes it okay. I know this is true because I heard a bully in middle school say it once. I had an experience this past hunting season that made me think it might be time for me to examine some less than ideal things I’ve learned from watching hunting shows. What follows is my list of 5 of the worst habits I’ve picked up from hunting shows.
Any Hit is a Good Hit
I know I’ve watched many a show where the shot taken was questionable, but I’m always leary in judging those because camera angles can be deceiving. But, one thing that always gets me is watching a hunting show where an arrow sink into the paunch area while the hunter turns to the camera and fist pumps or otherwise celebrates. I know the feeling I have when I hit an animal poorly, because, unfortunately, I have experience with that – and my response is not one of excitement. But the knowledge that every time I see a hunter on TV hit an animal in a bad spot, and I see them recover the animal – I have to admit that it’s caused me to take a few shots that I shouldn’t take. The justification being: if I can get an arrow in him, I’ll find him. This isn’t always the case.
Point to Take Away: Any hit is NOT always a good hit. Don’t shoot at an animal hoping to hit it – there is a reason bowhunters – yes, even the ones on hunting shows – hammer this saying home: “Pick a spot.”
It is vital to remember to pick a spot and give myself every opportunity to make a quality shot.
Hunting shows can’t show the hours of non-action in their hunt. If they did, I’m pretty sure none of us would watch any hunting show. So, when you cram a five day hunt into a 30 minute hunting show and add in 15 minutes of advertising, even my math says you’re left with 15 minutes of video for a five day hunt. Of course it will look like they went out, saw a jazillion animals and shot the biggest one they found. Unfortunately, this aides to quickly becoming discouraged when I go hunting and struggle to find the animals. After one day of pounding the mountain and not seeing any elk, I can be the first guy to spin in a downward spiral of pessimism. The problem is in setting my expectations too high.
Point to Take Away: I’m starting to re-learn that elk are incredibly adept at sticking in the thick brush and not moving if they don’t want to. They can also cover a lot of ground in one day if they need to. I can walk through an area one day and it doesn’t seem like there are any elk – and someone else could walk through the same area the next day and there could be elk everywhere. A hunt isn’t likely to end up with me being in the animals all day, every day. There are going to be lulls – don’t let those lulls discourage me. Hunting gets exciting in a hurry.
Over Jubilant Celebrations
I’m a pretty reserved guy. I remember shooting my first deer with my grandpa and feeling the rush of emotion, but the only celebration I remember was a smile and a high five shared with my grandpa. Some people are celebrators, and that’s fine. My cousin is a big celebrator, and I love to hunt with him because of that. He doesn’t hide his emotions. But I noticed that when I started hunting with a video camera on me, I acted different. I showed more emotion – I did more celebrating. While these things aren’t necessarily bad, they aren’t my nature, either. I know exactly where this change stems from: ever watch a hunting show where the hunter didn’t have some weird over the top celebration? There are a few, but certainly, the majority of the hunting shows feature hunters that seem to be trying to make a name for themselves by their antics after the shot. I often wonder how many of those people have changed the way they act upon pulling the trigger since they started hunting with a camera on them all the time?
Point to Take Away: I’m getting back to my roots. Recently, I’ve been more reserved, and while I’m not exactly the picture of stoicism, I’m sticking more to the fist pump or some smaller gesture that allows me to release some of the adrenaline, while remaining true to my natural identity.
Corny and Plain Stupid Phrases
I’m not sure I even need to expound on this. You’re head probably filled with millions of these phrases just as soon as you read the title of this section. This is probably the most picked on part of hunting shows, and one that I never thought I’d stoop to. The other day, though, as I watched footage of my spring bear hunt, I noticed I used this phrase: “Let’s see if we can put the hammer down on one.”
I immediately thought, “That guy is such an idiot.” Then I remembered “that guy” was me. Not that it changed my opinion of him, but it hurt a little more to know that it was me that was the idiot. This is another thing that seems to only come out of me when I’m allowing my hunts to be filmed. I’m starting to wonder if there is something about having a camera pointed at a person that makes their brain spout nothing but hyperbole and clichés.
Point to Take Away: I don’t film many of my hunts anymore. This is helping a lot.
Leaving an Animal Overnight
I think I need to expound on this as a separate post, but it fits here, too. I can’t say how many hunting shows I’ve watched where an animal is arrowed in the evening hours. The host usually says, “Well, we aren’t sure of the hit, so we’re going to back out of here and come back in the morning and pick up the blood trail.”
I have seen and heard it so many times, I just thought that was what you were supposed to do. My experience this year makes me wonder. I arrowed my bull at about 5:15 PM, saw him again (still on his feet) at 6:15 PM, and thought I’d better back out and pick up the trail in the morning. By the time I found the bull, it was 9:15 AM the next day – 16 hours after I’d shot him. I got him skinned and everything looked and smelled fine. The meat was off the hill at 6:00 PM – 25 hours after I’d shot him – and was at my house by 10:30 PM. The meat at this point still smelled fine. I hung it and set my alarm for 7:00 AM to begin cutting and processing. When I went to get the meat the following morning, I noticed a slight smell. I was heartbroken – strong language, but if you’ve ever experienced meat loss, you understand. I frantically began cutting the meat off the bone – by noon, the meat was all off the bone, but most of it was smelling pretty strong. I cut the meat into chunks and soaked it in a salt water mixture in the refrigerator for 72 hours. I’m convinced that this is the only reason I was able to save about 60-65% of the meat.
Point to Take Away: If I arrow a bull in the evening and I’m not sure about the shot, I will assess the situation. There are probably times when going back in the morning is the best option, but I will never again assume that it is my only option. If I’m fairly certain the animal will die within a few hours, I will get on the trail after I’ve waited a few hours and track in the dark. If I have to wait overnight, I will make sure and bone the meat out as soon as I find the animal.
Hunting shows have been around for many years, but their recent explosion has been both a boon to the hunting community and a scourge on it as well. I thought I was immune to their sometimes misleading information having grown up among hunters, but looking at some of these things, I notice that even I have fallen into the trap.