In the last couple of seasons of BIG DEER TV, we have aired episodes from Wisconsin, New York, Montana and other places where we hunted hard, had fun and did not shoot a buck. Those “no kill” shows were some of our most popular and highly rated episodes.
One good trend in hunting TV is that more and more viewers want to see and hear the real story, whether it ends with a buck or not, and more and more producers and network executives are getting that, albeit slowly.
Every time somebody questions me on whether we ought to air a no-kill episode or not, I point them to this letter I got one time from a viewer:
Mike: I want to tell you that I appreciated and enjoyed your recent show at Mouse River, ND. I enjoyed it for reasons you, and your producers likely did not–you didn’t get a deer. I appreciate you showing the truth and reality that the vast majority of us experience. Most of us hunt for days and weeks, and sometimes we come home with nothing but knowledge, experience and memories…also known as the important stuff.
I’m sitting in a cheap motel room in St. Ignace, MI. I’m here for 2 days to scout and set up some natural ground blinds on State Land for the upcoming bow and gun season. Two days in the heat, bugs, poison ivy and spiders just to increase our group’s chances of harvesting a deer this year. The State Land we hunt on doesn’t hold a lot of deer, but we’ve taken 3 mature bucks in the 4 past years. That equates to each dedicated hunter with a 1 in 4 odds of taking a mature buck in a given year. Last year I left empty-handed, but full-hearted. I spent over 120 hours hunting w/bow, rifle and muzzleloader. I passed on some spikes, couldn’t shoot the does, and never had a shot at the big boys.
We have access to properties in southern Michigan and have better luck putting venison in the freezer. But just shooting a deer isn’t what we’re after. We love the challenge of hunting the big northern woods. We accept the fact that our chance for the traditional definition of “success” is limited, but the experience is worth that sacrifice.
Your shows support that ideal; that “success” is no substitute for a challenge accepted.
For your producers and sponsors who wonder if my opinion is worth a damn in their financial models: I’m a 33 year old white male with an MBA from a Big Ten school working in the finance department for a major US corporation in metro-Detroit. I spend $1,000 a year in hunting equipment and fees. I spend roughly 25 days afield hunting whitetails. I watch the hunting channels religiously. I’m tired of seeing people shoot huge bucks in private, high-dollar, sometimes high-fenced places. I cannot relate to that experience. But I can relate to a hard hunt that doesn’t come to fruition. Thanks again for showing it once in a while. Kind Regards, —Paul from MI.
Amen. Let the magic continue, long live the hard working ‘average man’…
If I just wanted to see kill shots and the recovery, I could watch the last 5 minutes of just about any hunting show and save myself 25 minutes back slapping, watching hunters crawl into stands they didn’t place, and saying….. “I better give him another year”. Oh yeah, and tons and tons of ads……
I would rather see a hunter giving it his all and if it doesn’t end up with a deer being taken….then so be it. I can’t tell you how many times when I go hunting, I either don’t see deer, don’t see a deer I want to try and take or yes….get busted.
It’s why it’s called hunting……..
Right on the screws Maverick. Hunting is not just killing. The thrill of the chase is every bit as important as pulling the trigger or releasing the arrow is as a hunter gets older. I think it is crucial to show as much of the chase and the failures as well as the successes so those that don’t hunt can understand the reason we hunt better. congrats Mike on putting the real hunting out there for folks to see.
Hunting is just that..it’s hunting. No hunter can go out and kill a giant buck on every trip and I think the thrill of the chase is what keeps a hunter at his best. The fact that a buck can outsmart us in a heartbeat unless we’re on top of our game and every condition is perfect is what makes it exciting..I chased a GIANT coues buck with my bow for a whole month out here in AZ during January. I had 3 different encounters that would have made for amazing footage that anyone would have watched..yet the month ended and no kill. I view every hunting trip out there as a learning experience and I think that’s what people enjoy about watching some of these no kill hunts on TV..often times those shows are the best ones because they educate us hunters on what mistake the “Pro Hunter” thinks he made and how to avoid it on his next outing. Keep it up buddy I love what you do and think you’re show is certainly getting better with every episode!
You could get one every time if you went to many of the high fence places some hunters go. That may not be real hunting and it would get boring real quick. Keep it real.
Precisely why I feel your show is one of the, if not THE best whitetail show out there, Hanback. Sure, we all want to tune in and watch a mature buck get killed; but if that doesn’t always happen, so be it. You can’t kill a buck every single time you go hunting. That would get old and eventually you might burn out. The thrill of the chase means as much to me (and probably more) as the actual harvesting of the animal. IMHO you are doing the right thing, Mike. I understand if your producers want “results”; but I guarantee you that you are not only keeping viewers, but adding a whole demographic to your viewership if you “keep it real”.
Well put, Paul. I don’t view the “no kill” shows as failures, either. They are reality TV for the hunter. Mike puts on a real show for real hunters. And he often says, “that’s what it’s all about, man!”