walk snow woodsAfter 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.