After last’s night episode in which I hunted magical new country for a week, walked long and hard, sweated and cussed, laughed and had fun, but came home empty-handed, Steve emailed me and said: “Mike, loved the Anticosti show, too bad you didn’t get anything, that would have made it better.”
I thanked Steve for writing, and sent him a link to a blog I wrote while ago, and reprint here with a few tweaks and updates:
In the last few seasons of BIG DEER TV, we have aired episodes from Maine, Wisconsin, New York and other places (and now Anticosti Island Canada) where I hunted hard as hell but did not kill a buck (BTW, hard is the only way I know to hunt.) Those no-kills turned out to be some of our most popular and highly rated episodes, and I hope it’s like that with the Anticosti show.
One good trend in hunting TV is that more and more viewers want to see and hear the real story and the adventure, whether it ends with a buck or not. While there is still quite a bit of whack-and-stack going on, more and more producers and network executives are starting to get it. Good hunting TV is not all about the kill, far from it.
Reminds me of a great letter I got from a viewer:
‘Mike: I want to tell you that I really appreciated and enjoyed your show in 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 most of the time 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’re after the challenge of outsmarting a mature buck. 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 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.’
Look, I try to shoot a buck, a big one, every time out. But you and I know that is not going to happen. But here’s what does happen every day you hunt but don’t kill– you “come home with nothing but knowledge, experience and memories…also known as the important stuff,” as Paul so eloquently put it.
That is why I try to keep it as real as I can, because there are a lot of hunters like Paul in the audience that want to see the good with the bad, the ugly with the pretty, the failure with the success. Are you one of them? Tell me what you think.
No kill hunts are as much a part of hunting as the successful ones. You cannot appreciate success fully unless you have experienced “failure” sometimes. The nice thing is as we get older ( I mean experienced) we learn to appreciate the fact that we can be out there trying and that in itself is a privilege and special. Showing it on T.V. is exposing people to what hunting really is…a search! Great job Mike on keeping it real!
Agree with all comments above. I rarely watch any hunting shows, or purchase videos any longer because of most of the reasons stated above. Carry on Hanback.
I let my wife watch your hunting show, it’s one of the only ones I can stand. As a hunter I’m embarrassed to sit in a room of non-hunters and watch some of the “shit” that is aired today.
Duck Dynasty, Alligator hunters, what is this stuff?
I can not believe we make these people rich (in money) by putting this on national TV. Have we got nothing else watch?
I will not let people judge me by what they watch on TV, I want no part of it.
This is why you have the #1 show on Mike “in my opinion,” you tell it through the average guys eye.
I’m a self taught deer hunter growing up in CT, the first deer hunt I ever went on was in 1990 in the big woods of Northern Maine. My father and myself not knowing much on deer other than what we read in magazine articles and watching deer videos grabbed our compass and maps, took the 8 hour ride north for the week. Surprisingly we saw deer and i missed a fork horn buck, I was hooked and have been back every year since.
Between hunting CT,ME and NY there has been many a trip even season of coming home empty handed in those early days, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’ve learned so much by trial and error and hunting hard for the whitetail deer, it just amplifies the experience of the hunt/succes/memories and people I’ve met along the way, I think most hunters never have a chance to experience that.
That’s what you bring to the screen Mike, when your tracking that buck in Maine through the thick snow cover trees or hunting hard in the goat country of the Adorondacs New York. You make the show realistic to the average hunter and that it’s ok you didn’t fill your tag or shoot that B&C buck, but you walk away with a great adventure. That’s why I love the show…
Keep up the good work Mike…
Hunting is nothing like it used to be. When I first started deer hunting, we didn’t spend thousands of dollars on bows, food plots, and cameras. We just climbed up in a tree (or took our lives in our own hands and used a baker tree stand) and shot the first legal deer that came by. If you managed to shoot a “big deer” back then, it was truly a big deal.
Last season, a lady whose husband was a deer hunter who had recently died, asked us if we killed a deer if we would give her some meat. I took a nice fat doe, had it processed and gave her just about all of it to her. The look on her face was priceless.
Most enjoyable hunt I’ve had in a long time……
As a follow up to your comments about producers/network execs. as a viewer I have quickly become disinterested in shows that have personalities with camo paint that looks like it was applied by air brushing and the over emoting after a kill shot. Surely I’m elated when I harvest an animal but I don’t carry on like a rock star in a mosh pit dive.
I like seeing women more involved in the outdoors but to story line a show on her boobs is another pet peeve of mine.
Mike: When I was younger and full of myself success was measured in inches and quantity, if I failed to kill a P&Y or a B&C my season was a failure and I booked twice as many trips for the next year. I just could not understand how my father had gotten to the point of not caring if he tagged any deer even though he loved going to camp with his family each year until his death. Now with my 61st birthday in a few weeks I hardly notice the couple dozen 150″ + racks lying around the den while my eyes frequently scan the framed photos of my children and grandchildren I have introduced to the outdoors.
I am always amazed how smart my father became when I hit 45 years old.