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.

Unreasonable Expectations

Hunting shows can give us unrealistic expectations.

Sometimes it is hard to keep our expectations realistic. This sort of success won’t happen every year.

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.”

Hunting shows can lead to the use of corny phrases.

I couldn’t believe when reviewing footage from this hunt that I’d used a phony phrase pounded into our skulls from hunting shows.

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.

Hunting shows make it seem okay to leave an animal overnight.

Leaving this bull overnight cost me about 40% of his meat. I hope my experience keeps someone else from having the same experience.

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.


24 Responses to “5 Bad Habits I Picked Up From Hunting Shows”

  1. Will Jenkins on September 17th, 2012 2:56 pm

    Boo-YAH! Now that’s a post! You SMOKED IT!

    . . . But for real, Great post!

  2. Tom Sorenson on September 17th, 2012 3:09 pm

    Ha! Good one, Will – “Smoked him” is one of the other ones I’m guilty of using on occasion that just grates my nerves. I can honestly say I’ve never been tempted to drop a Boo-YAH!

  3. Will Jenkins on September 17th, 2012 7:40 pm

    Wait for it . . . next time there’s a camera on ya you’re gonna want to let a good ol’ Boo-YAH! LOL

  4. Tom Sorenson on September 17th, 2012 9:26 pm

    If I do, I’m going to blame you! :)

  5. American Grouch on September 27th, 2012 2:59 am

    Well done and completely agree, particularly with the ‘we’ll wait till morning’. That one has bothered me in a big way since it became the norm. In 30 odd years of hunting I’ve not once done that or know someone who did. Maybe we’ve been doing it wrong, but something tells me we haven’t. It doesn’t take an overwhelming about of experience to read blood sign and understand what type of hit you have. I’ve given them time, but not over night. I live in wolf country, leave one overnight here and if you ever find it it’ll be a pile of fur and busted bone when you do.
    Good article.

  6. tsorenson on September 27th, 2012 4:04 pm

     @American Grouch Thank you – we’re in wolf and bear country here in Idaho, so I know that was also a concern. It would be an interesting study to see what the success rate is in saving meat in an overnight deal. An impossible study to conduct, but an interesting one if it could be done! :)

  7. huntinfool111 on October 9th, 2012 8:27 pm

    Once again, a great article!

  8. tsorenson on October 9th, 2012 10:13 pm

    @huntinfool111 Thank you! I appreciate the kind words.

  9. Arthur on May 7th, 2013 2:13 pm

    Unfortunately, I’m one of the celebrators. But, honestly, it’s not a conscious thing I do – and it isn’t something I do for the camera – it is just the way I naturally react to success, I guess.

    I’m thinking, it’s probably because hunting success happens to few so infrequently. :)

  10. Book Texas Hunting Trips on May 24th, 2013 7:49 pm

    Thank you for the blog Tom!

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  12. Bryan on January 26th, 2015 11:13 am

    I wish more shows would talk about loss of meat like you discussed. Sure they found the animal but the only thing they could keep we’re the antlers. Most of the time if the meat is bad the cape is no good for a mount too. At any rate I really enjoyed your article.

  13. Tom Sorenson on January 26th, 2015 12:48 pm

    Thanks, Bryan. I agree, obviously. I am thankful for the advocates in the hunting films industry, but I think there is a lot of misinformation that is presented or left out completely that does a lot of harm and should be addressed.

  14. Longhunter on January 30th, 2015 10:29 pm

    I don’t watch hunting shows any more for the reasons you listed and a few more. I can’t stand the way most of them treat the animals harvested with total disrespect. But more importantly it has gotten to be a gross example of the commercialization of wildlife in the extreme. Rarely were shows about the hunt and almost always about getting and how the hunt wouldn’t be successful without such and such a gadget. And I can’t think of any I used to watch that showed anything about woodcraft or the skills it takes to be a hunter. Yep, I know its about business and sponsors and that is why I quit watching.

  15. john Carroll on January 31st, 2015 7:42 am

    I don’t really celebrate, I give thanks for the opportunity to hunt , those shows that leave the animal overnight are hunting for the antlers not the meat. and most hunts are on private ranch’s. so they just go kill another one , the best hunt’s I have ever been on I have come home empty handed, with the best memory’s of the Bugling bull just out of reach , we didn’t take the shot, my hunting partner and I looked at each other and said the was great , lets go eat lunch , it was the last day of the hunt , later I asked him want to go for the afternoon hunt he said I think I will pass , I don’t want to ruin the morning hunt memory. good luck out there Tom and walk softly.

  16. BackCountryChronicles on February 2nd, 2015 10:45 am

    Spot on.
    This two+ year old post may be even more applicable today.

    If our TV hero can’t hit a broadside elk with the first shot, what makes him think he can hit it with a second ant third shot after it starts running.

    Over Jubilant Celebrations convey that hunting is all about the kill and not the entire journey.

  17. Erick Falls on February 3rd, 2015 5:12 pm

    It seems to me that hunting shows today are all about the TROPHY RACKS and nothing else. Most of us normal hunters don’t really care about the RACK. It should be about the experience and the heritage of what you are doing not how big the antlers are or what they score. to me antlers are a bonus and what I kill feeds my family. I have tried to eat antlers and it cant be done.

  18. Tristan on February 3rd, 2015 5:25 pm

    Great post. When the hunting shows first became popular, I was hooked. However it wasn’t long before I became tired of the repetitive, now stereotypical, hunts; usually consisting of either a hunter in a blind over a private food plot taking taking a perfect broadside shot on a 5×5 Buck named “Godzillith” or, a hunter in a stand in a private oak bluff taking a perfect broadside shot on a 5×5 Buck named “Duke”.

    The process of the hunt is lost. The connection to nature and the beauty of it , diminished. We have seemed to have conflated trophy hunting (aka horn hunting) with ethical hunting. The focus is not on providing ethically harvested meat for one’s loved ones but rather the sweet set up and big rack.

    For once I would like to see a stalk hunt for whitetails, which is very challenging, where the guy shoots an average deer and is actually happy with it, not fake happy.

    Lastly, we have seemed to have gotten away from core wilderness competentcies and into something akin to gadgetry where all the pro tips seem to focus on escalatingly expensive ways to spend one’s money. Gone is Grandpas advice of yesteryear, which primarily focused on different applications of duct tape.

    Thanks for pointing the the elephant in the room.

  19. Jeremy on February 3rd, 2015 7:06 pm

    Check out Steve Rinnella’s “Meateater” on sportsman’s channel. His show bis more about the hunt than the kill and often times ends with him not getting an animal. He even showed a bear hunt in Alaska where he had a bear in his sights and didn’t shoot for personal reasons. Best hunting show on TV.

  20. ken on February 3rd, 2015 8:28 pm

    I think the hunting shows needs to start being more truthful on what it takes to track and find that animal you want as well you do disrespect to the animal and the hunt when you act all stupied .You took the animals life to feed your family or if you donated the meat to a food shelf but a person just hunts because they like to kill things well not true hunter. Give thanks and praise to the animal you killed that is true reflection of a true hunter.

  21. Butch Thompson on February 3rd, 2015 9:22 pm

    Spot on. Great article!

  22. austin a on February 4th, 2015 11:42 am

    Great article!

  23. Janet Pasternak on February 4th, 2015 12:44 pm

    I agree about all the “macho phrasing” hyperbole. But that being said, as a beginner hunter, watching the shows really helped me get a sense of what to expect in terms of “how to”. What bugs me though is the lack of respect for the animal once down. Sure it’s a big effort to hunt the animal, taking perserverence and good technique, but once down, celebration in the face of death of a wonderful animal appears to be a little out of place. This magnificent animal is down, show more respect for his passing.

  24. Ken Anderson on February 4th, 2015 1:53 pm

    I agree with all 5 points, especially the “Leave it Overnight” one. My wife and I watch a lot of hunting shows together, and we’ve concluded that many of those TV hunters are simply afraid of the dark!

    There have been occasions where I have shot an animal late in the day and had to follow a blood trail for several hours before I finally recovered it (sometimes after midnight), but I’ve never deliberately left an animal in the woods overnight. Even if the coyotes/wolves/bears don’t get it, there’s a good chance the meat will spoil.

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