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  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e  May 2011


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Man vs. Wild

The winds of change are blowing in new popularity
for hunting — with a "survivor" twist.

King Solomon said it best: "Nothing is new under the sun. History always repeats itself."

Up until the mid-20th century in the United States, hunting and shooting were considered to be two of the premier sports in America. Folks were proud of their participation and when they "harvested" game animals, they displayed them for all the world to see, either on the hood of their vehicle or hanging from the limb of a tree in the front yard.

Along with that, target-shooting events were then of utmost popularity, achieving mass audiences all across the nation, rivaling modern spectator sports. Oh, not in stadium-type numbers, but in mass groups gathering in small towns and large cities everywhere.

In the 1960s things began to change, though, and change quite rapidly. A more urban-type folk took the forefront and with them, terms like "political correctness" and "social correctness" became the watchword.

It was no longer "acceptable" for hunters to display their take, and the word "kill" was replaced by the more sensitive word "harvest," even in the popular hunting magazines. This was all to placate those of a more "sensitive" nature.

In 1986, after more than 20 years on ABC, the once-popular TV show, "American Sportsman," went off the air for good. It was a show about hunting and fishing on ABC and hosted by sportscaster Curt Gowdy.

This anti-hunting/shooting attitude remained in the forefront of society from about 1970 through several decades, and for the most part, it is still a prevalent attitude in the urban contingents of our country.

But a very subtle change in societal attitude is happening and it began towards the turn of the 21st century. Its birthplace was a somewhat new medium called cable TV, and it spawned entire 24/7 programming under the guise of The Outdoor Channel, which once again catered to folks who hunted and shot guns.

That was soon followed by The Sportsman Channel, an even more intense venue about more of the same. Both of these channels focused on the theme of "the sport" and the taking of "trophy class" animals, as well as with killing game for meat and food.

These two channels became an immediate success to TV audiences, but they had a fault: They were quite redundant in programming.

The next small wind of change came on cable and satellite TV with the very popular "survivor shows." The Discovery Channel aired shows with the titles "Survivor Man," "Man vs. Wild" and "Man & Woman vs. Wild." They quickly became the vogue. Even on network TV, CBS' "Survivor" showed contestants fishing in order to eat and occasionally going after a wild boar.

All of these formats aired participants doing subsistence hunting and fishing and food-gathering to merely survive in the wilds. All of a sudden it was perfectly okay to kill, if you did it to eat, live and survive.

Then last year, the winds of change blew once again and even harder, as recreational shooting was introduced on no less than the History Channel with a program named "Top Gun." There, top shooters from the world of firearms from all over the nation come to compete before millions of TV viewers. They try their skills with everything from guns to axes to spears to slingshots!

This show was accompanied on the History Channel by a program hosted by a retired Marine Corp gunnery sergeant, named Earlie. He celebrated shooting all manner of weaponry from handguns to tanks. It too was a huge, instant success.

Because of this, the winds blew change some more, and in 2011, I have just watched the premiere of still another enticing program, this time on the Travel Channel. This show is about hunting, killing and eating all manner of wildlife and fish and plant-life. It is called "The Wild Within," and hosted by a young writer named Steve Rinella.

And he's from New York City! He is in the process of obtaining virtually all of his family's food supply from the wild and connecting with nature firsthand. Like the survivor shows before it, it is not for the squeamish; they actually show him gutting his animals, blood and all. Truly the times have changed once more!

I've seen similar shows on National Geographic Channel, too, although not as a series.

Even the TLC network got in the act when it had a show about ex-governor Sarah Palin, hunting game for her table. She hunted with her husband Todd and her daddy to shoot caribou and to deep-sea fish, all for the family's larder for the winter. Whoever labeled this woman a "diva" just has no concept of her! Her show was cancelled after a season, not because it wasn't popular, but because of the possibility that she might run for president, and if she had that much air time, then her opponents would have to be given equal air time.

What all of these shows have in common is the message that hunting and fishing for food is a perfectly acceptable pursuit once more, and shooting guns for fun isn't evil.

As you may or may not know, I work part-time in a local gun store; I see the winds-of-change happening there, too. Probably one in 10 customers are women!

There are now several women editors and writers featured in the hunting publications, and I know of one fellow writer who happens to be female and is a hard-core gun writer!

Why, there is even a full line of hunting clothes made especially for the supposedly "weaker sex," and for the first time ever, a gun company now exists that only makes rifles for women.

This past year also saw the emergence of pink guns and binoculars to show support for "breast cancer awareness," and yes, they have become quite popular, too!

And now another new show has appeared that is on track to eclipse all of its predecessors in popularity; it is called "Sons of Guns" and is about a company owned by a father and daughter who make really outrageous guns. It too is featured on the Discovery Channel.

Yes, Solomon was right, so hang onto your seats and hats because the winds are going to keep changing and will blow ever harder and popular in the coming decades.

As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may The Forever God bless you too

 

 

When not ramblin' outdoors, Larry Lightner watches TV in Silver City.

 



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