Me, age 25
The show - its name is irrelevant because it's one of many like this - had this incredibly artificial sense of drama. Every time the host opened his mouth, he sounded like he was in a life-or-death situation. This is ridiculous, because, let's face it: Hunting is life-or-death far more for the animals we hunt than it is for ourselves.
So, I grabbed the remote and started shopping around, and I soon found that the final installment of the Discovery Channel's "I, Caveman" was on. I'd never watched the show, but the promo said it involved the final hunt of a group of modern people living the Paleolithic life for 10 days, so I was on it.
My timing was impeccable - I got there just in time for the disclaimer: "This program contains scenes that may be disturbing to some people."
Phhddt. Grow up, people, I thought.
The group of made-for-TV cavepeople was hunting elk with atlatls - spear throwers - and they had just gotten close to the herd. The first one hurled his weapon and missed. Same for the second. The elk looked perplexed.
Then the third guy - an actual bowhunter back in real life - hurled his weapon and tagged a big bull in the neck.
And this is where the show won my respect.
I don't know how much time had elapsed, but the group of hunters approached the elk, which was on the ground, still alive, breathing with great labor. The hunters stood a few feet away and hurled their atlatls into his chest to finish him off. One of the hunters - a woman - sobbed as she did this. That, of course, brought me to tears. What an intense and terrible moment.
That's when it struck me: The hunting show I'd been watching had manufactured drama where there was little or none. But this non-hunting reality TV show had captured some of the most intense drama we encounter in hunting: that horrible moment where you come face-to-face with your prey before it's dead. It was deeply honest.
What's wrong with this picture?
Now, I can already anticipate the objection: We're all told to just let the animal die, to avoid approaching it while it's still alive. What these nouveau-paleos were doing broke that rule in a big way, and had that bull jumped up, they could've been killed. I'm hoping that the bowhunter helped call the shots on that off-camera.
Even taking that rule into account, though, you and I know damn well that the hunt-o-vision cameras capture some of these moments too. And just about all of them end up on the cutting room floor.
I think one reason for this is that we hunters are afraid to show the realities of hunting that cause our own hearts to skip a beat. If we say how awful these moments can be, aren't we just handing ammunition to the enemy?
The answer to that question, in my opinion, is no. The enemy already knows about these moments. Anti-hunters have already produced and distributed painful videos of not-quite-mortally-wounded animals. The fact that they will put that reality out there while we hide it actually hurts our cause. It makes us look dishonest.
Does this mean I want to turn on a hunting channel filled with these coup de grace moments? No, and frankly, I don't want my hunting to be filled with these moments either. They suck.
I just wish hunting TV would trade a little of its manufactured drama for a little of the reality we all know is out there.
© Holly A. Heyser 2011