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The Outdoor Narrative: ‘Snuffomercials’ masquerade as hunting shows

Many of today’s shows and episodes on YouTube channels are designed to convince people to buy equipment in the same way cartoons makes kids want to buy toys. Only the killing isn’t make-believe.
robert koopmans column head

I liked watching outdoors shows when I was a kid.

Actually, I liked one show, the Red Fisher Show, as there weren’t many other hunting and fishing shows to watch.

Every Saturday, Red would invite viewers to pull up a stump at his Scuttlebutt Lodge as he shared stories and grainy homemade movies about his hunting and fishing adventures in various parts of Canada.

It was fun stuff. The production values were usually poor and the set used by Red was comically simple. But the show was honest, and Red spoke with conviction about subjects that touched everyone who loved the outdoors.

He addressed the adventure and spirit behind hunting and fishing and encouraged people to develop deeper values for the activities. Red inspired children to want to hunt and fish.

There are many, many more hunting and fishing shows today. On several different cable stations and thousands of YouTube channels, guys (mostly) in camo chase all manner of birds and beasts.

Whether it’s rifle or bow hunting, big game or small, it’s possible to find something that aligns with your interests.

I recently watched one YouTube clip — I don’t remember which channel — but it featured a couple of good ol’ boys doing what it seems good ol’ boys do best — huntin’. They crawled around some Texas “game” ranch all decked out in the latest desert-pine-snow -with-oak-leaves camouflage clothing, sporting rifles with bipods and carrying tree stands, deer calls and all sorts of other fancy stuff.

Finally, as they always do, they pinned some poor deer up against the fence of the compound and, with a bit of dramatic theme music rolling in the background, blasted it into the next world. This was followed by high-fiving, hollering and prancing about. They held the animal’s head up for the camera, pointing out the “thick brow tines” and “long primaries and secondaries” or something to that effect.

And then they moved on, apparently leaving the messy work — the gutting, skinning, and dragging — for someone else. It seems subjects like meat care and proper field handling of game don’t warrant a mention.

It would have all been laughable, but for the killing. The show was amusing enough (at least in an “I’m bored out of my mind and have nothing better to do” kind of way) until the moment the good ol’ boys lined up on an animal and pulled the trigger.

And then it just became pathetic because it was done for the worst possible reasons.

It looks to me that so many of these shows are filmed because companies want to sell more gear.

The good ol’ boys kill deer, elk, bears, moose and all other sorts of creatures to attract sponsors, who want us to buy their carbon-activated scent-reduction suits or deer-pee-cover scents.

The hosts engage in tactics that would make The Shopping Channel proud. They shamelessly place products in seemingly real-life situations, with the label of the gear set in such a way that the manufacturer’s name is always apparent.

Yeah, right.

They even stoop to making the show’s guests use specific gear when it’s unlikely they would ever use it if they were not on that particular show.

I once watched a northern Canadian hunting guide lead a couple of good ol’ boys on a typical slaughter. He was all decked out in a fancy camo jacket with a prominent logo. You could tell he didn’t feel comfortable wearing it, kind of like he was embarrassed to be seen.

This guide was one of those red-and-black lumberjack jacket kind of guys. He looked silly in it, but I suspect he wore it because the show’s hosts said he had to wear it if he wanted the publicity to his business the episode would surely bring.

On another clip, several different people all used the same firearm — a Thompson Contender.

For those who don’t know the brand, it’s a quirky little American gun. I’ve never seen anyone carry one in the field. What are the odds all the guests were really Contender fans?

Many of today’s shows and episodes on YouTube channels are nothing but commercials — “snuffomercials.” They are designed to convince people to buy equipment in the same way cartoons makes kids want to buy toys. Only the killing isn’t make-believe.

There are a handful of good shows, though.

I have developed healthy respect for U.S.-based Steven Rinella, (a.k.a “The Meateater”) for the way he portrays hunting.

He’s honest and tells it all.

He shows footage of his missed shots, days with no game and even wounded animals that got away. It happens and he shows it as it is.

The gear he uses looks to be equipment he has always used.

His hunting bow, for example, is a Mathews Solocam, one that hasn’t been made for years.

He doesn’t push products and he tells stories the way Red did — with philosophical passion and true expression of respect for the places he visits and the animals he chases. He skins his harvests, hauls quarters, cuts meat and cooks it up.

The Meateater and the decades-old Red Fisher Show espouse similar values.

We need more shows like these on cable and YouTube because the messages they share are influential.

Young minds are being developed.

Without them, today’s generation might come to think gear is what is most important and that using cool stuff and keeping score is what hunting is all about.

Robert Koopmans is an avid angler and hunter who spends as much time as possible in B.C.’s wild places. He also hosts the Hunting & Fishing British Columbia podcast (find it on Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your podcasts). To share a thought, send an email to info@theoutdoornarrative.com.