So, Hank and I were up early this morning (our usual saturday morning outside of waterfowl season - so Ms. Swamp Thing can get some sleep) and as a matter of ritual, I turned on Vs. Outdoor Channel to watch whatever hunting and fishing shows they decided to put on, before we turn it over to ESPN for College GameDay around 11am. I enjoyed, for the second time, watching Sean Mann and friend hunt redheads and pintails at Laguna Madre's Pintail Lodge, as featured on Sean's show The Waterfowler's Edge. Laguna Madre is a dream hunting and fishing trip for me. It was great watching the guys talk about hunting, conservation, just letting birds land (don't worry, they killed plenty), and even discuss the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (and N.A. Migratory Bird Treaty Act!).
So contrast that to the following show, the Bucks of Tecomate. I have never really watched the Bucks of Tecomate, because honestly, I'm not interested in watching a show about casually shooting well-fed deer, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy....just....not my speed. I say that with total acceptance of what Tecomate does in the field - from innovating new deer management techniques and technology, to providing the opportunity to shoot gigantic trophy animals. And I, myself, enjoy shooting domestically raised critters - here's the evidence. Guess I feel like it's food, even if it's shooting less than wild critters.
Let's note that in the above paragraph, I used the word "shoot" 4 times, and the word "hunt" zero times. I've watched some great hunting shows over the years that show the trials and tribulations of getting a classic hunt in during the 4 or 5 day window that TV hosts have to film. I think it's great for the new hunter, or any hunter, to watch an accomplished guide say, "Alright, this is my 3rd day here and we haven't shot yet. Let's see if today is our day." Wow, real hunting!
Compare that to the episode of Bucks of Tecomate I saw today. First, I watched host David Morris hide - standing - behind a single, scrawny bush, about 15 yards downwind of two 10 point bucks who were out in a mowed clearing. His guest shooter was behind another bush that did not conceal him (or his shiny, polished-nickle barrel rifle-on camo stock of course) either. When the guest decided that those animals were too small (his right, as a customer), the two men stepped out into the clearing, in broad daylight, and walked away from the bucks, who motioned like they would run, but didn't. All of their actions are totally legitimate (for a deer shoot), but why would you televise that kind of behavior that just shows how "not quite wild" the animals are, and notably, would you dare to continue to call it a "hunt" after a display like that? David Morris does.
A few minutes later on the show, the men decided to get a better view from two box stands. I thought this was hilarious because I could already tell that there was no chance they would shoot a deer in the brush, but I guess it made for good TV. Imagine my amusement when I watched the guest climb into the box stand with one hand, while holding his rifle in the other - a breach of basic stand-hunting safety. Yeah, let's get that on tape!
The film cuts to the men set up in the box stand, but then cuts out to a nice 12-pointer in the middle of a field. So the deer is in a clearing, the box stands are in a clearing, and the men walked through a cleared road to get from the last clearing. I was baffled, then, to see footage of the two men...I don't know what they were doing...."scrambling through the brush" is too generous....pretending to comb through the bushes, and even some closeups of their boots. Of course, the closeups showed low-mowed grass.
Miraculously (ha ha), they suddenly appear in the same clearing as the giant buck (you see, it was much quieter to climb through 7 foot tall brush, than it would have been to creep up the mowed path). That's when I got furious. The men set up on the edge of the field, in what I would consider plain view of the buck (turned out to be an 11-point atypical, I believe), and of course, the deer did not move. The guest took what should have been a textbook front quartering shot (deer standing still, looking at the shooter) from the knee (on shooting sticks, no less) and BLEW OFF THE DEER'S KNEECAP. The kind film editors even showed it again in slow motion.
The deer, apparently suffering no other injury than a blown off front leg, ran the hell off into the brush to suffer a slow, painful death - probably through infection or blood loss. Admittedly, David Morris looked a little displeased by this turn of events, and they use the opportunity to talk about shot placement....oh wait, no they don't. Unbelievable. What a waste of 100lbs of meat. A leg shot? Who does that? And who films it?!
It's often said that the folks responsible for the end of hunting in this country will be hunters. And for fun, I'll name you a few other people that would enjoy televising footage of a hunter blowing off a deer's leg at 60 yards: PETA, H$U$, ALF, IDA, FfA and so many more (sorry, I won't give them the courtesy of a direct link). Wow, televising that knee shot suddenly seems like a bad idea, huh?
If you enjoy watching TV shows that feature the harvest of trophy bucks on managed preserves, I urge you to contact Versus and Bucks of Tecomate and ask them to consider filming only deer shoots and shooters that display basic (or better) ethics, safety skills, and shooting skills.
There's not much they'll care to do for me. I remain convinced that Bucks of Tecomate is garbage TV for my family and I - our personal choice, as it is yours.
Postscript: Maybe, as one commenter has already noted, the show doesn't even accurately reflect how guided deer "hunts" go at the Tecomate properties. Maybe their film editor is 65 years old and believes that "this is what hunters really want to see...how EASY it is!" And I am sure there are still some hunters out there that just want to harvest one giant buck in their lifetime. Their dream. If it's not totally wild....so be it. I refuse to judge that person (when it comes to deer and birds). Tecomate might be a great option for them. Hopefully they don't film it, and if they do, they don't distribute it.
Me? As long as we have an unlimited harvest antlerless archery season that extends from September to February, and 10 and 12 point bucks walking through peoples' lawns up and down the east coast, I think I'll keep my captive-reared shooting limited to upland birds. Between my language and my shooting, trust me, no one will want to televise it.