The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that more than 13.7m people hunted in 2011, spending billions of dollars. Yes, but — real people can’t afford to hunt every day. Not every hunt results in a trophy. Enter reality TV: “real people” leading imaginary lives. In this case, killing animals.

Blame/credit Duck Dynasty. The wildly successful TV series represented a significant break from the pastoral shows of the past. While hunting TV has always had “personalities,” the emphasis was on the environment, the chase and the animals. There was a hushed reverence for both.

Entire episodes of Duck Dynasty have no hunting whatsoever. It’s all about the daily lives of an eccentric Christian family who once depended on manufacturing calls for their living. And now depend on their celebrity. Surprise! Duck Dynasty’s scripted. foxnews.com:

In a “Dancing With the Stars” web exclusive interview with “Duck Dynasty’s” Sadie Robertson, the 17-year-old reveals the scariest part of the competition show is performing live.

“That freaks me out because I’m on ‘Duck Dynasty,’ it’s like recorded way, like 3 months before it shows,” Robertson said of performing live versus her family’s prerecorded reality show.

She then went on to admit that they often have multiple takes on “Duck Dynasty” if someone slips up or doesn’t like the way the shot comes out.

“We get to record it like 10 different times if we mess up,” she said in the YouTube video alongside her “DWTS” competitor Bethany Mota. “This is like, you get one shot. If you mess up, 15 million people see it.”

All hunting shows are edited, of course. But Duck Dynasty’s hugely profitable departure from the genre’s emphasis on hunting, to focus on “personalities,” has inspired other producers and networks to try to recreate the DD reality TV hunting show money machine.

The Outdoor ChannelSportsman Channel, the History Channel and A&E have taken to reality hunting TV like a duck to water. Even hunting shows supposedly about hunting are less about hunting and more about the hunters. Complete with big sponsors bankrolling big budgets to match the outsized personalities. For example . . .

Bowhunter Cameron Hanes, the hunky super hunting hero. From demonstrations of his extreme athleticism — running, weight lifting, training — to his over-the-top extreme hunts, Mr. Hanes is the center or attention. Also . . .

Swamp People is about . . . swamp people. While alligator hunting provides drama, the process isn’t the point. Since 2010, the show has been a parade of cajun personalities. Swamp People broke the History Channel’s audience records; season two’s final episode pulled-in 5.5m viewers, making it the second most watched TV program for the night.

I’m not saying that hunting reality TV shows are bad for the industry or the cause of conservation. Quite the opposite. By breaking out of the electronic hunting TV ghetto these scripted, personality-driven shows have “normalized” hunting. Helping to preserve, protect and promote America’s hunting heritage.

[Fair disclosure: Liberte Austin is appearing in an Outdoor Channel hunting reality TV series/competition called Miss Wildgame airing in May 2017.]

But there is a dark side . . .

With the rise of “no barrier to entry” YouTube and inexpensive video and editing equipment, we’re being inundated with a barrage of hunting wannabe’s stepping in front of the camera to get their shot at fame.

With so much competition to produce fresh hunting content, with so much money on the line, there’s a lot of temptation to cut corners, to make sure that the TV hunters don’t end-up empty handed. krtv.com reports:

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently closed a poaching case after the kills were shown on television. On March 13, 2017, Ricky J. Mills, 37, and Jimmy G. Duncan, 25, pleaded no contest to numerous wildlife violations totaling over $30,000 in fines. Mills and Duncan are from Bedford, Kentucky, reports COUNTY 17.

Mike Ehlebracht, investigative supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department stated “I believe the two defendants were driven to get kill shot footage for the television show and that resulted in their making bad decisions”.

What’s next for the hunting industry and television? More of the same, much of it focused on women hunters (for obvious reasons).

Again, no complaints. The free market has spoken, and spoken loudly. But am I the only one who still prefers the quiet simplicity of the old-style hunting shows?

One question: why no kill shots? That’s a topic for next time . . .

Recommended For You

33 Responses to The Truth About Hunting TV Reality Shows

  1. If Duck Dynasty was about duck hunting instead of goofing off at work, I would watch it. As it is, I don’t give a rats behind about these people and their silly lives. I quit watching a long time ago.

    • Admittedly, Duck Dynasty wouldn’t have much entertainment value without Uncle Si. But a popular show about a stable, Christian family does a lot to balance out the Kardashians and the Housewives.

      • Or, you know, you could read a book. Vapid, fake, white trash schlock does not cancel out vapid, fake, Hollywood trash schlock.

  2. Okay I’m going to play The Devil’s Advocate on this one so don’t bash me too hard LOL. These people are not professional actors so of course they’re going to make mistakes it’s up to the Film Production crew Tim take multiple shots and then doing the editing process pick out what’s going to flow together the best to give the best entertainment value. If you notice on some of the episodes when they’re hunting they hardly ever get all the birds that they’re shooting at it’s not like it’s pre-arranged you can tell which family members are better shots Willy seems to be the worst but I think you know what I’m getting at. It’s remember entertainment so you got a kind of bear that in mind it’s not the same thing as watching the Sportsman Channel and watching Jim Shockey hunt in Indonesia some crazy animal LOL. And God bless someone making money off of their name and making their business Gray. I wish I had an opportunity to do the same thing I think we would all take that kind of income and welcome it. They seem like a decent country family to me I mean I have family from the backwoods and they seemed very much the same way except the TV cameras a course. That’s just my $0.10 worth though.

    • Since they get paid for acting, they are professional actors.
      But, even the top actors make mistakes. Blooper reels only show a tiny fraction of them. And multiple takes are the norm; rarely is a scene we see only shot once.
      I watch few such shows, Pigman being one of the few. Every once in a while, we get to see some of the screw-ups. He’s constantly complaining about the ‘production team’ taking too long, or not responding “ready” in time, or at all.
      Unscripted? How many of us read our responses before clicking “Post Comment,” and editing what we wrote? (Unfortunately, the obvious answer is, not all.) (It’s really hard to do so when responding on a phone.)

      “Reality shows” seldom are real. That’s a reality. 🙂

  3. I’m waiting for the show where all the YouTube gun gurus compete with their various techniques.

    Too bad Jeff Cooper is dead

  4. Cam Hanes is promoting a lifestyle of fitness and hunting, and shares his pursuits on social media. That’s a far cry from the scripted television of Duck Dynasty and Swamp People. I’ll admit I’ve never watched either show, so I can’t comment on their value. Supposedly, I’ll assume, shows like Duck Dynasty and Swamp People were never about hunting to begin with.

  5. “It’s all about the daily lives of an “unorthodox” family.”

    It’s a family that loves God and loves each other, husbands and wives who love each other and raise their children together.

    God help us if we consider that “unorthodox.”

    The scripted nature of the show is pretty obvious, but their faith is real. It was never a hunting show, it was a “reality” show about a family that happened to be in the duck call business and liked to hunt.

  6. Well, Liberte, if “hunting shows” weren’t scripted and edited they’d be boring as hell… real hunting is slow, silent and a bunch of glassing, watching and listening. Definitely not a spectator sport – rewarding only for the hunter.
    As for the Robison family, a nicer bunch of people I’ve rarely met. Scripted show or not, they are who they are and make no apologies for it.

  7. Duck Dynasty, Swamp People, and other “country folk exploitation” shows are awful for hunting if you ask me. They don’t do much to encourage new hunters, and it certainly do a great job at making hunters look like a bunch of ignorant hillbillies to those that are on the fence about hunting, non-hunters, or those looking for ammunition to use against hunters.

  8. WHAT?!! Reality shows aren’t really real?!!

    My innocence is lost. Next thing you’ll tell me is that professional wrestling has always been choreographed and rigged.

  9. Lighten up Liberty er Liberte. I’m fine with the Robertson’s et all making a buck. Yeah it still beats the hell out of most “reality” fare. No I don’t hunt or plan to…or watch ’em.

  10. I watched Duck Dynasty a couple of times. I thought it was like “I Love Lucy,” with everyone with a beard being Lucy and there was no Desi.

  11. SHOOTING GALLERY does 1 hunting episode a season…we always show the kill shot, as policy.

    Best of luck with your new show!!! Hard work, but big fun!

    Congrats!

    Michael B

    • Pretty much EVERY hunting show on Pursuit channel, to name one, shows the kill shot. It’s the norm. Swamp people shows them shooting the gators all the time. Duck Dynasty was going for mainstream appeal, and little kids watched it, so it’s understandable that they wouldn’t show kill shots (if indeed they didn’t; never watched it. The old “Duck Men” videos Robertson did showed endless ducks being blasted).
      If kill shots are what you want (and, really, don’t we know what happens?), then they are plentiful.

  12. So wait , reality shows are really just tv shows ? Who could have ever thought that ???

    Pawn Stars has only hand picked items brought in , by actors and tourists given a script.

    Storage Wars salts the lockers and on and on .

    Thanks for the ” news” .

    Pro wrestling is of course real. It’s a performance , like a play.
    I know how Romeo and Juilet will end too, it’s the performance one goes to watch .

  13. Steve Rinella the “MeatEater” and Jim Shockey, “Hunting Adventures” and “the Professionals”, are the only two programs that will show just how difficult it is to hunt. And they have been the only shows to end with a “no kill” for the hunter. They seem more honest to me. MeatEater was the first to show the skinning and gutting of a deer and a bear as far as I know. And I like how Jim Shockey gets into the hunting culture of other nations he hunts in.

  14. Sigh. Liberte, darlin’. I understand your point and think it’s well taken and all, but I still sense a teeny little bit of the disappointment one’s gets from upon discovering that the Tooth Fairy really doesn’t leave money under your pillow. Maybe the problem is me being a grizzled old geezer who’s cynicism outweighs his wonderment (entirely likely) but everything about tv is a “show” — it’s all produced, scripted, and rehearsed. There’s just too much money involved for it not to be. The people on the various shows are called “talent”. They’re hired to play a role and, while many are very good at what they do and often very entertaining and/or informative, when the lights come down they’re all just “talent” . . . actors hired to do a job.

  15. I DON’T HUNT FOR TROPHY , I HUNT FOR FOOD . SO IT’S NOT ABOUT HANGING SOMETHING ON THE WALL . SO TO THOSE TREE HUGGERS ,GET A LIFE .

  16. If you don’t like the show, don’t watch it.

    I always get a kick out of writers/critics who bash shows but have apparently seen every episode. And if hunting and shows about hunters are bad for conservation, then why is it that the sale of hunting licenses and associated fees are one of the biggest sources of funding for wildlife management. I doubt many of the snowflakes hanging out at Starbucks and bragging about how they care about the environment ever contributed much to wildlife management or programs.

  17. I used to enjoy watching Duck Dynasty not because it was “reality” but because it was entertaining, at first. In the beginning they seemed to let the guys be themselves and it was entertaining. Unfortunately that didn’t last long and with each new season it became more and more obviously scripted. Of course the early ones were scripted but they didn’t “seem” scripted which is what made it fun to watch. The last couple seasons and especially this last season showing now, is absolutely horrible. It’s difficult to even watch, I’m so glad it’s ending. Cancelling it is like putting down a suffering animal.

    I think by now everybody but the “professional wrestling is real!!” crowd knows that reality TV is anything but reality. I used to really enjoy watching hunting shows when I was younger, back then there weren’t very many and they were actually pretty good. Now there are more different hunting shows than I can count and I can’t stand watching any of them. It’s no longer about a few guys or gals hunting and their success or failure, it’s about who can kill the biggest, most impressive trophy animal. It’s also affected the way the public hunts negatively in my opinion. There is no doubt that some, perhaps even many, new hunters who grow up watching these shows are going into it for a trophy and nothing else. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a big racked buck but that shouldn’t be the most important reason you are hunting.

    I’ve also noticed that a whole lot of private land that used to be available to hunters by landowner permission is being gobbled up in huge swathes by “companies” who lease the land from the owner for the sole purpose of running their own pay to hunt operations. It started out when they realized that they could make money from the people who wanted hunt hogs. It’s often folks who already own large ranches who are leasing all the privately owned land in the states surround their ranch but also companies are formed to do the same thing.

    So “Joe the hunter” see’s all the shows on TV and reads all the articles about the feral hog infestation and how we need to be hunting these pigs and cooking them on the BBQ. If you believe what you see and read, you can go just about anywhere and the landowners are tickled to let you in to kill those crop destroying pigs for them. Unfortunately, it’s just not true. Sure some places have access to great public land opportunities where Joe the hunter can hunt pigs to his/her hearts content but if you live somewhere, like me, where there is little to no public land but tons of hogs you are screwed. The private land is being quickly leased and turned into “paid hunt” businesses. Around here we have a lot of feral hogs, no public land and no access to private land. What we do have are a whole lot of “businesses” offering hog hunts for money. It’s happening all over the country anywhere that there are hogs. From there they start managing the deer on those properties and charging big bucks for big bucks.

    It doesn’t help the hog problem because these folks are making huge profits by keeping the feral hog population as big as possible. They buy wild pigs caught by trappers just to let them loose on their leased land so the folks paying big bucks for big pigs always go home with something. The worst thing that ever happened for controlling feral hogs was allowing it to be turned into a business. Many of these new hunters who grew up watching these shows feel like they have to have the giants like their TV hero’s do. It’s an unrealistic goal and it’s damaging the future of hunting. Everyone wants the trophy and in real life you may only see the caliber of deer shown on TV once in your life, let alone get a shot at one and put it on your wall. That’s where these businesses step in, for a large fee, you can come onto their leased lands and get a shot at one of the many trophy animals cultivated inside the fence.

    There are some legitimate paid hunting operations but there are now a whole lot more playing dirty. Why would a landowner let some strangers hunt his property each year, risking them shooting a cow or damaging something when they can make a tidy stack of cash by leasing that same land to a company that will watch over it all for him. It all sounds great for the landowner, and who can blame them but it’s hurting the future of hunting in America. I read recently that the most common reason given for hunters not hunting that particular season was they had nowhere to go. Public lands are being closed more and more often and private lands that used to be available to hunters are now being leased by corporations who turn around and charge anyone who wants to hunt there. Suddenly you have nowhere else to hunt and if you want to hunt you now have to pay someone to do it. It’s all related and it’s all linked and it’s all hurting the hunting future of America. When people have nowhere to hunt they don’t own as many or any guns. When the number of gun owners falls we reduce the number of people invested in fighting for gun rights and when that happens we risk losing those gun rights. It’s all related.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *