I’ve never been one to watch much television but during the hunting seasons I do catch a few hunting programs. Through the years there have been three occasions where I have found myself in front of a camera aimed at national audiences. But does that classify me as an expert? Hardly. In fact, I consider myself an expert at…nothing. However, there are a couple things I have found disheartening, especially on the shows where a self-proclaimed expert is hunting whitetail deer.
The first is where a bowhunter immediately celebrates their success as soon as the arrow strikes a deer. “Smoked him,” seems to be a common phrase and is usually the first words out of their mouth as the deer runs off. Then they turn to the cameraman and start fist bumping and other celebratory gestures.
Experienced bowhunters know even if you think you’ve made a perfect shot, things sometimes can and will go wrong. I have always remembered what a veteran turkey hunter told me years ago that applies to most big game hunting efforts.
I had returned to the cabin in northern Michigan one evening and explained to the group I had roosted three different birds. “Tomorrow morning should be a chip shot,” I said, confidently. “Roosted never means roasted,” my elderly friend replied, relying on his years of wisdom. He was right.
Heck, I watched a portion of one show (because that was all I could stand) where the arrow hit off its mark and the guy still reveled in his success. Instead of celebrating to anyone who would listen he should have been on his knees praying to Saint Hubert, the Patron Saint of Hunting, for a quick recovery.
But the real impetus for this column came when a show host walked up on a buck he’d shot earlier. He began circling the animal riding his bow, like a horse, while slapping himself on the rump. Then chest bumped his guide while talking smack to the cameraman. Is this the real image we want to project publicly?
I have always considered hunting a spiritual endeavor, one when success does come and the moment of truth takes place and you find the animal, it should be initially met with a moment of honor and appreciation. Don’t take me wrong, our outdoor accomplishments should be raucously celebrated if you choose but there is a time and place for that.
Our Native Americans exhibited true respect for the game they took. Several nationally recognized hunters have also carried the torch, exhibiting class and respect. People like Fred Bear, Saxton Pope, Art Young and in today’s age, even Chuck Adams, to name a few. Could you ever imagine any of them riding their bow like a horse and slapping themselves on the backside celebrating their harvest?
The majority of hunters hold respect for not only game animals but all wildlife. When fortunate in taking game that deference continues. The trophy on the wall, pelt or venison in the freezer serve as mementos of a successful adventure and an animal remembered long after the kill. When we communicate with others, especially those who don’t hunt, what image are we projecting?
So the next time you see some guy on TV doing and end zone dance around his deer think about advice given by the late, veteran bowhunter Fred Bear. “Act like you’ve been there before and pay the animal its due respect. A simple smile, a pat on the deer while you’re admiring the rack or just a moment of silence will suffice.”