Saturday, September 18, 2010

Shooting Tecomate Bucks in the Knee - TV Worth Watching?

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.

15 comments:

troutrageous1 said...

I haven't watched the episode you're talking about, but that just doesn't seem to be an episode that promotes good sportsmanship.

I don't hunt, so I don't watch that many hunting shows (the ones in Alaska, like Cszonka's show can be entertaining) so I don't have a great deal of context, but I would think it would be like a TV angler celebrating a foul-hooked or "lifted" fish, stuff like that shouldn't be on TV.

Trey said...

Great post and I totally agree!

John Cade said...

Your words are those of one who speaks without knowledge. You are completely wrong on what you said about The Bucks of Tecomate show. I have hunted both El Cazador and Tecomate ranches. Those ranches are NOT high-fenced. The deer are completely wild. The only management is selective harvest, food plots and modest supplemental feed during severe droughts. There has never been a deer stocked or touched by a human on El Cazador. The hours of walking and sitting where nothing is seen are not shown because it would not make interesting TV. They never "bragged" about a bad shot; to the contrary, they showed their extreme concern by doing everything possible to recover the deer. The buck taken on the show in question was the culmination of 12 years of hard hunting and dreaming for the young man who shot him. The Bucks of Tecomate shows what is possible through good management. The deer there are some of the wildest I've ever hunted but it is great ... because good management produces lots of big, mature bucks. Yes, it's far from normal, but The Bucks of Tecomate shows what is possible through great deer management.

Casey said...

Excellent post. Actually, I can't watch hunting shows. Too much ego-tripping going on, usually, for me. And I'm a hunter.

Loved your public land posts, by the way.

Swamp Thing said...

John, Thanks for stopping by and reading. You make some good points (I'll get to that), and as anyone who knows me will tell you, I have no problem with being proven wrong.

However, let me start with your first comment, that I speak "without knowledge", as well as a later comment, "those deer are wild," and another, "this is what is possible through great management."

OK, first, you'll find no greater disciple of habitat management than me. I put in my first game plot and killed my first deer at age 20, before I finished my BS in wildlife management at one of the top 5 traditional game management programs in the country. I have been working as a habitat restoration specialist ever since, and have restored tens of thousands of acres of habitat, installed or enhanced hundreds (at least) of acres of game plots, and written management plans for probably another hundred thousand acres of game land. I have a pretty keen sense of what is possible through habitat management, QDMA, adaptive management, and the like, and I am a disciple of the whole package. Sounds like you are, too, which somehow makes us kindred spirits.

Without bringing kill numbers into it (and you may well dwarf me here), I grew up in a rural area, and have spent a lot of time afield for work and hunting, and when it comes to whitetails, I have a pretty darn good idea what a wild animal is. The animals on that show, absolutely and positively do not act like wild whitetail deer (again, no complaint there - just making a point). There is absolutely no way that 4-7 year old bucks would act so stupid, so close to hunters, even if pressure was keenly low (as it probably is). So, I beg your pardon, but I don't speak without knowledge.

Now, to be fair (and to back you up), "wild" is a continuum unless you are talking about polar bears or narwhals. I read up on Tecomate's operation a little bit, and saw that someone who described himself as a frequent hunter of their properties defended their management by saying, "Most Deer never even know there's a fence."
That indicates to me that some of their properties are fenced (or it's an elaborate hoax by the anti's). Again, who cares about the fence, just don't use the words "wild" or "hunt."

And I concede that you are right - I jumped to a conclusion that the property in this episode of TV was fenced. I have no such knowledge, and will revise my post as such. I actually appreciate you calling me out on it.

My main point - again - is that I don't think this kind of TV is good for the sport. Have I made poor and crippling shots? God, yes. Brings back some tough memories. And if there was a videotape of it, I'd pay to have it destroyed, rather than use it as an advertisement of my property, guide service, or hunting prowess.

Swamp Thing said...

Trout - it's the equivalent of foul hooking a fish while there are 6 buckets of chum over the side of the boat, while anchored over an artificial reef. The least you can do is get a clean hookset, catch it fast, and go home.

Again - I've harvested fish in a "variety of ways" as I'm sure you have - I'm just saying that I would have the brainpower to say "OK....clearly....no pictures of THAT!"

Swamp Thing said...

Trey - thanks!

Casey - The ego trips don't bother me if the host is "keeping it real." That qualification eliminates about 50% of hunting shows and 100% of fishing shows. "Fishing University" and "Hank Parker 3D" being classic violators! BTW, I had never seen your blog before - look forward to spending some time there.

John Cade said...

Having hunted on El Cazador and with David Morris several times before, I can tell you he is the most knowledgeable and ethical manager and hunter I've ever known. He too has a master's degree in biology and has managed many properties, large and small, throughout the U.S. for 40 years. He founded and owned North American Whitetail, has hunted whitetails just about everywhere they're found, and was one of the pioneers in nutritional food plot management. I don't think he has ever shot a deer under high-fence. David has likely shot more free-range record-class bucks than anyone in America, in Georgia, Montana, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Mexico, Alabama, Nebraska, all Canadian provinces from Manitoba west, just to name a few places that I know he's shot big deer.

As for the deer on his ranch not being wild based on them appearing to let hunters get close, you are mistaken. The video that appears to show the hunters close to the deer is "compressed", making the deer appear much closer than they are. This is done by posting the cameraman well back of the hunters as they make an approach. The telephoto lens compresses the distance and makes the hunters appear much closer to the deer than they are. It is necessary to do this because it is very hard for the cameraman to make the stalk with the hunters without spooking the deer. The hunters use the thick low brush to conceal their movement until they expose themselves to the camera and the deer. Then the countdown is on. Sometimes they have a few seconds, sometimes a minute or two, and sometimes the deer blow out immediately. They seldom get closer than 75 yards to the deer. Even when the hunters "expose" themselves, they usually stay low with brush partially concealing them so the deer are uncertain what they are seeing, buying some time.

As for the mowed lanes, or senderos, if it weren't for these strips in the thick brush you would seldom see deer there. The brush is so thick it is often necessary to crawl. However, this low ground cover does allow effective stalking for those with patience and stealth.

I have personally hunted most of the great whitetail regions of the U.S. and Canada and find the deer on El Cazador and Tecomate ranches to be as hair-triggered as any I've ever hunted. When watching TV, you have to remember that empty senderos and failed stalks don't make good viewing. You only see the successful ones.

Finally, while you have every right to express you opinion, statements made as fact should be based on knowledge (and firsthand experience). What the guys at Tecomate have done is push the envelope on deer management. They will be the first to tell you that the big buck hunting they have on their Texas ranches is NOT normal, or real world. I've heard them say this over and over on the show. They even joked that their hunting to the "Playboy" of deer hunting - it's what everybody dreams about but few experience. It ain't real, except in dreams. But that is what The Bucks of Tecomate is all about - the highest aspirations of deer hunters, not what they are likely to experience next weekend on their 40-acre lease. And somebody out there must like it - The Bucks of Tecomate is the No.1 hunting show in the entire industry!

Condemning them for their success is a little like Barack Obama saying he wants to help people "realize the American dream" ... then demonizing the rich and successful when they DO realize the American dream! We hunters ought to be celebrating the successes of others, not running it down because it is beyond our experience.

John Cade said...

Having hunted on El Cazador and with David Morris several times before, I can tell you he is the most knowledgeable and ethical manager and hunter I've ever known. He too has a master's degree in biology and has managed many properties, large and small, throughout the U.S. for 40 years. He founded and owned North American Whitetail, has hunted whitetails just about everywhere they're found, and was one of the pioneers in nutritional food plot management. I don't think he has ever shot a deer under high-fence. David has likely shot more free-range record-class bucks than anyone in America, and done it all over the country.

As for the deer on his ranch not being wild based on them appearing to let hunters get close, you are mistaken. The video that appears to show the hunters close to the deer is "compressed", making the deer appear much closer than they are. This is done by posting the cameraman well back of the hunters as they make an approach. The telephoto lens compresses the distance and makes the hunters appear much closer to the deer than they are. It is necessary to do this because it is very hard for the cameraman to make the stalk with the hunters without spooking the deer. The hunters use the thick low brush to conceal their movement until they expose themselves to the camera and the deer. Then the countdown is on. They seldom get closer than 75 yards to the deer. Even when the hunters "expose" themselves, they usually stay low with brush partially concealing them so the deer are uncertain what they are seeing, buying some time.

As for the mowed lanes, or senderos, if it weren't for these strips in the thick brush you would seldom see deer there. The brush is so thick it is often necessary to crawl.

I have personally hunted most of the great whitetail regions of the U.S. and Canada and find the deer on El Cazador and Tecomate ranches to be as hair-triggered as any I've ever hunted. Remember, on TV, empty senderos and failed stalks don't make good viewing. You only see the successful ones.

Finally, while you have every right to express you opinion, statements made as fact should be based on knowledge (and firsthand experience). What the guys at Tecomate have done is push the envelope on deer management. They will be the first to tell you that the big buck hunting they have on their Texas ranches is NOT normal, or real world. I've heard them say this over and over on the show. They even joked that their hunting to the "Playboy" of deer hunting - it's what everybody dreams about but few experience. It ain't real, except in dreams. But that is what The Bucks of Tecomate is all about - the highest aspirations of deer hunters, not what they are likely to experience next weekend on their 40-acre lease. And somebody out there must like it - The Bucks of Tecomate is the No.1 hunting show in the entire industry!

Condemning them for their success is a little like Barack Obama saying he wants to help people "realize the American dream" ... then demonizing the rich and successful when they DO realize the American dream! We hunters ought to be celebrating the successes of others, not running it down because it is beyond our experience.

John Cade said...

Having hunted on El Cazador and with David Morris several times before, I can tell you he is the most knowledgeable and ethical manager and hunter I've ever known. He too has a master's degree in biology and has managed many properties, large and small, throughout the U.S. for 40 years. He founded and owned North American Whitetail, has hunted whitetails just about everywhere they're found, and was one of the pioneers in nutritional food plot management. I don't think he has ever shot a deer under high-fence.

As for the deer on his ranch not being wild based on them appearing to let hunters get close, you are mistaken. The video that appears to show the hunters close to the deer is "compressed", making the deer appear much closer than they are. This is done by posting the cameraman well back of the hunters as they make an approach. The telephoto lens compresses the distance and makes the hunters appear much closer to the deer than they are. It is necessary to do this because it is very hard for the cameraman to make the stalk with the hunters without spooking the deer. The hunters use the thick low brush to conceal their movement until they expose themselves to the camera and the deer. Then the countdown is on. They seldom get closer than 75 yards to the deer. Even when the hunters "expose" themselves, they usually stay low with brush partially concealing them so the deer are uncertain what they are seeing, buying some time.

As for the mowed lanes, or senderos, if it weren't for these strips in the thick brush you would seldom see deer there. The brush is so thick it is often necessary to crawl. I find the deer on El Cazador to be as hair-triggered as any I've ever hunted. Remember, on TV, empty senderos and failed stalks don't make good viewing. You only see the successful ones.

Finally, while you have every right to express you opinion, statements made as fact should be based on knowledge (and firsthand experience). What the guys at Tecomate have done is push the envelope on deer management. They will be the first to tell you that the big buck hunting they have on their Texas ranches is NOT normal, or real world. I've heard them say this over and over on the show. They even joked that their hunting to the "Playboy" of deer hunting - it's what everybody dreams about but few experience. It ain't real, except in dreams. But that is what The Bucks of Tecomate is all about - the highest aspirations of deer hunters, not what they are likely to experience next weekend on their 40-acre lease. And somebody out there must like it - The Bucks of Tecomate is the No.1 hunting show in the entire industry!

Condemning them for their success is a little like Barack Obama saying he wants to help people "realize the American dream" ... then demonizing the rich and successful when they DO realize the American dream! We hunters ought to be celebrating the successes of others, not running it down because it is beyond our experience.

Swamp Thing said...

I'm not condeming anybody for anything except putting it on TV, which in this particular case, was totally insane.

And there is no way you'd get me to critique David Morris' expertise (either technical or in business). He has experienced great success in both - neither of which are purely (or even mostly) luck.

I find it hard to believe that the cameramen who make waterfowl shots look far off in the distance (by being significantly behind the blind) also make the deer look close, using the same technology. But that's immaterial, really, if you accept our compromise that these deer are "somewhere" on the spectrum between wild and captive.

I also find it hard to believe that when you walk out in front of a couple of 10-point bucks IN SEASON, they hardly flinch, and go back to eating "whatever" is on the ground in the mowed senderos.

And trust me, I would mow the senderos too. Out east we call them "shooting lanes" because otherwise you'd never get a clean shot beyond 30 yards in the young woods.

Sounds like you had a much different (more challenging) type of experience with Tecomate than the guy in this episode. That's encouraging to hear.

I hope you fill a lot of tags this season, take some kids hunting, and most importantly, have a safe and memorable time.

And if you don't, just erase the video!

Swamp Thing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dmason390 said...

I think I saw that episode last Wednesday (?). I agree with most of what you say, but I'll give them credit, they called in a tracker you used a dog to track the deer about 5 miles, then shot him. I watch, but it is so far removed from the bow hunting I do on public land.......... by mid season I probably see as many dogs running deer as hunters.

Markus Katabri said...

I have seen an episode of Bucks of Tecomate with a high fence in the background. I have read references to Mr. Morris saying it is high fence on three sides but cannot confirm this. I ask the question therefore if Tecomate Ranch and El Cazador Ranch share a boundary and that is either low fence or no fence? Hence making both ranches when viewed as a whole to be 360deg high fenced. This is not an accusation but a question. Is that how it is?

Markus Katabri said...

I have seen an episode of Bucks of Tecomate with a high fence in the background. I have read references to Mr. Morris saying it is high fence on three sides but cannot confirm this. I ask the question therefore if Tecomate Ranch and El Cazador Ranch share a boundary and that is either low fence or no fence? Hence making both ranches when viewed as a whole to be 360deg high fenced. This is not an accusation but a question. Is that how it is?