Essence of hunting and TV garbageHis name was Jack O’Connor, a native of Arizona who received a M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri and in the 1930s and taught journalism at the University of Arizona. He began writing for Outdoor Life magazine in that same decade, and was paid $200 a month.
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
His name was Jack O’Connor, a native of Arizona who received a M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri and in the 1930s and taught journalism at the University of Arizona. He began writing for Outdoor Life magazine in that same decade, and was paid $200 a month.
O’Connor became shooting editor of that magazine in 1939 and held that post until his retirement in 1972. He is still adored by those who have read his writings, including this humble columnist. Here is an excerpt from a wonderful piece he wrote following a hunt in 1946 for Stone sheep in the Prophet River country of northern British Columbia entitled, “A Day in Ram Heaven,”
“…we came out on top the world, in a land of rolling arctic sheep pastures — soft and spongy underneath, clad in a thick, damp carpet of mosses, lichens, grasses. These pastures were really a series of hilltops that formed a shoulder of a great mountain. They were cut by deep canyons, black with shale, formidable with cliffs; and behind them rose a mighty series of crags black as ink, crisscrossed with the glittering white of everlasting ice that clung to their crevices.
“All around us were other upland pastures, tinted in yellow, rose, and umber by the frosts. We looked down on great black canyons, purple timber, and the blue Prophet River meandering through yellow muskeg meadows and dark forest. The great mountain peaks across the river were powdered white with snow, and on their lower slopes patches of golden aspens glowed bright like candles in the night.
“We saw sheep almost the instant we put the glasses on the grassy slopes that were still above us…”
That is the sort of marvelous writing that O’Connor exemplified, but nowadays the focus is on outdoor TV shows on the Outdoor Channel and the Sportsman’s Channel. And 90 percent of them are dreadful!
In the first place, real hunting is not conducive to being a “spectator sport.”
Most big game hunts, and I have been on many dozens of them, usually involve days and days of hard labor — climbing in mountains and other rough country, glassing, enduring heat and cold, wind, rain, snow and adverse conditions, and generally struggling to find what one is hunting.
TV hunting shows show the opposite — 30 minutes interrupted by shameless amounts of commercials for outdoor gear. A few shows now include delectable young women as hunting partners, and through it all is the selling of outdoor products.
Most of the shows do more damage to the sport of hunting than any anti-hunting organization could formulate.
You won’t see many honest hunting trips into wild country — most of them feature “hunters” sitting in a blind above a food plot and waiting for whitetail bucks to show up within shooting range.
Then there are the “long-range” programs that promote shooting big game animals at insane ranges — 700 to 900 yards and beyond. One rifle company, Christianson Arms, even sells rifles for such a purpose and promotes such unethical long-range shooting.
The low-brow fist-pumping and sophomoric behavior following a kill has become too much for me. I simply have quit watching hunting shows on TV.
There are a few shows worth watching, the best of which is Randy Newberg’s “On Your Own Adventures” on the Sportsman’s Channel. Randy is a Minnesota native and lives in Montana. His theme is public lands hunting — no guides or outfitters. His shows are always tasteful, not always successful in the realm of killing an animal, and in none of his shows will you see hooliganism.
I personally have no qualms about hunting with a guide, have done so in the past and probably will do so in the future, but that is not to take anything away from Newberg’s creation. I haven’t seen a TV hunting show that surpasses “On Your Own Adventures.”
In any case, I came to the conclusion some time ago that for me hunting is not a spectator sport, and I’d prefer to read the prose of someone like Jack O’Connor, to digest the words about laboring up the side of a mountain rather than seeing smatterings of it on TV.
Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974