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 Channel, Sportsman 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 . . .