Media marginalize hunters, fishermen

Entities that manage how and when topics are presented in the media (newspapers, radio, television) control public perception of those topics.With that as a segue, I miss the old “The American Sportsman” television show that first appeared as a segment of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” in 1964 (with a feature about brown-trout fishing in Argentina). More than that, I miss the show’s “style” — which presented hunting and fishing in a truer sense than most of the TV outdoors shows and videos available at outdoor events.

You don’t get where I’m going with this? Hang on.

Some hunting and fishing shows get it right. They present the importance of scouting, food sources and practicing so a hunter is proficient enough with his weapon (bow or gun) to place a clean shot or an accurate handler of a rod.

But most shows don’t pay attention to such key details. They mainly depict trophies taken easily and often (a fairy tale).

The original “American Sportsman” of the 1960s and 1970s (with genius producer Roone Arledge) did pay attention and, as a result, profited.

Arledge had his thumb on the pulse — or at least he put people in charge such as Joe Foss, Grits Gresham, Joe Brooks and Curt Gowdy — who understood what traditional American hunting and fishing meant. Each Sunday, everything stopped at my grandpa’s house after lunch as we watched “American Sportsman” on his black-and-white set.

Not only did the show invite famous guests (Ted Williams, Bing Crosby, Phil Harris, Andy Griffith, Fred Bear, Jimmy Doolittle, Burt Reynolds), but episodes didn’t shy from using weapons or tackle to take game or land fish that ended up as main courses.

The host and guests hunted or fished, enjoyed dinner and cracked jokes while re-living the day’s adventures, and they often talked about wildlife conservation at a campfire. The show’s goal was not to depict kill shots and slow-mo arrow and bullet penetrations of animals that collapsed in a heap and grinning, yelling, high-fiving “sportsmen” sitting in enclosed heated stands where they’d been placed by a guide or outfitter.

Oh, there were guides and outfitters and happy guys who downed a buck or caught a marlin, but I remember vividly the African segments of “American Sportsman” with a celebrity hunter on a game trail behind a guide and tracker, sneaking up on a dangerous Cape buffalo, an animal that lives to stomp unwary humans. Now that’s reality TV.

But soon ABC apparently went politically correct, and hunting and fishing segments (and guns and bows) were replaced by camera adventures with Margaux Hemingway, Cheryl Tiegs mountain biking or Peter Benchley telling us sharks were friendly but would bite you sometimes. Sponsors dropped away quicker than you could spell b-o-r-i-n-g because most American sportsmen don’t care about those activities.

And “American Sportsman” became an extinct species.

Hunters and fishermen have been marginalized on cable and satellite TV and videos as yahoos who enjoy “kill” and impact shots of game animals and little else. There are exceptions, but they’re not the rule.

Sportsmen have been pushed to the fringes by the PC crowd that controls media. And that is sad, not only for us, but also for America’s fish and game.


About Craig Holt 1382 Articles
Craig Holt of Snow Camp has been an outdoor writer for almost 40 years, working for several newspapers, then serving as managing editor for North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman before becoming a full-time free-lancer in 2009.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply