Welcome to the host site for outdoor writer Steve Sorensen’s “Everyday Hunter” columns. For a complete index of all columns, go to EverydayHunter.com.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Hunting for TV Hunting Shows

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., March 31, 2007.)
Somehow I can't imagine a Native American
dancing a jig around the carcass of
a deer shouting, "I smoked him!"
If you're searching for good outdoor television programming, you probably realize it's hard to find. It seems that all it takes to produce a TV show is a good old boy with a video camera, access to some good hunting land, a few willing sponsors, and a story line that's stale.

Don't get me wrong. It's great to film your hunts, to share your videos with friends, even to sell them. But when I look at what's made for TV, I see an overload of same-old-same-old. Not much is unique.

Some programs merely entertain, and nothing is wrong with that. We each have our personal taste in entertainment. A few are instructional, and offer some good information. Other than that, it's hard to find an excuse to watch the repetitive clones. Even if the hunter and the location are different, so many programs look like reruns. Did I mention that they're repetitive? And that they look like reruns?

Sometimes the personalities of the hunters (and huntresses) make a show interesting. A practical joke, a little husband and wife bantering, or a few credible experts might make them stand apart from the crowd.

But too many feature an elevated deer condo where a hunter and cameraman sit and whisper to one another while waiting for a big buck to arrive at a mineral lick. These depict only a very narrow aspect of hunting.

Filmed hunts usually do not put the viewer in touch with the realities of the challenge, and they make hunting look far easier than it really is. They'll convince any non-hunting John or Jane Doe -- if they pause while flipping channels -- that any dimwit can be highly successful on turkeys, deer, bears, caribou and ducks.

In the interest of filling an on-air time slot, some well-known hunters happily display their ignorance. I recently saw one program where a famous host (who shall remain nameless) called a gobbler to the shotgun. The young bird's tailfan was stepped in the middle, he had a 4-inch beard and nubs on his legs for spurs. The host told everyone it was a nice two-year-old. Baloney.

He should have known better. That bird was a one-year-old peep, a juvenile. That celebrity hunter, knowing only that viewers wanted to see turkey hunting, arranged to kill a turkey. Then he broadcast his ignorance to the world.

The truth is that most half-hour television shows are formulaic. They consist of ten minutes of introduction and conclusion, ten minutes of commercials, and hours upon hours of filming boiled down to ten minutes that include a celebratory kill scene.

Although the moment of the kill can be full of emotion, the fist pumping and dancing get tiresome. I have no problem with a successful hunter having a sense of satisfaction, or even enjoying the kill. But too often, merrymaking over the kill comes across as glee at the death of the animal. We don't need that. Nothing is wrong with showing honest emotion associated with the kill. It's an exciting moment. Unfortunately, television requires performers to dramatize that moment. When the subject matter is hunting, that's not so good.

I think of it the way one legendary local football coach taught his players about the theatrics of chest thumping and dancing when they made a tackle. It's your job, for crying out loud. Just do it. And when you do it, don't act like you've never done it before.

Somehow I can't imagine a Native American dancing a jig around the carcass of a deer shouting, "I smoked him!" It's easier to picture him kneeling beside the animal, recognizing it as a sacred gift.

Yes, hunting is partly about personal achievement. We do have some truly uncommon experiences in the woods, and accomplish some pretty special things. Those are some of the reasons we hunt. But my opinion is that right now we're witnessing an imbalance. When people produce hunting shows for our boob tubes, I'd like to see them strive to teach more about human responsibility and hunting techniques, and focus less on personal achievement and an overemphasis on the kill.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Start Turkey Hunting Now

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., March 17, 2007.)
Despite the hoopla about calling contests
and all that you hear from other hunters,
calling turkeys is not rocket science.
If you've been promising yourself that you'll hunt spring gobblers this year, don't wait until the eve of the April 28 opener to get started. And if you're age 16 or under, your special day is April 21.

Spring gobbler hunting can be loads of fun, and I'm surprised that more people don't do it. The season is long. Although five Saturdays (six if you count the early junior hunter day) put plenty of pressure on the gobblers, that first week or two is prime time. By taking a couple of vacation days, or by getting into the woods and out before your daily grind starts, you can pack a lot of turkey hunting into a little bit of time during those first two weeks.

Turkey hunters must be early risers, so "early to bed" is the successful turkey hunter's motto. Being tired at a 4:00 AM wake up or starting to drag after an hour in the woods is the quickest way to lose enthusiasm. Get out in the woods a month before the season -- so that you can be sure to know where turkeys are actively gobbling. Otherwise, day after day of hearing nothing will discourage even the most well rested crack-of-dawn hunter.

Although the advertisements suggest otherwise, you don't need a truckload of specialized equipment to hunt turkeys. You probably already have everything you need. Camouflage clothing is a must, but don't worry about the latest camo pattern. Hunters wearing unsophisticated camo are still killing turkeys. Camo-up your face, make sure your white socks or T-shirt are not showing, and don't move.

Powerful 3½-inch magnum 12 gauge shotguns that will kill the turkey and stun the hunter are not necessary. Calling the turkey close enough for a sure shot is. Although specialized turkey shotguns can throw an effective pattern at 50 yards, I seldom shoot beyond 30 yards. At that range, a 20 gauge with a dense pattern can kill a gobbler.

A few words about calls. There is no best call. Not a box, not a slate, not a diaphragm. Each has its advantages. It's hard to make a bad sound on a modern box call, it's no big deal if you do, and boxes seem to project the sound a fair distance. A slate will purr and cluck so softly and sweetly that you'd think you have a ball of feathers in your lap. And a diaphragm, although it takes more practice, has a big advantage. It can be operated with nary a movement on the hunter's part.

Try several calls at a sporting goods store, and settle on three or four that are easy to use and produce different sounds and pitches. Some calls might be better than others, but they all will work. Don't worry about name brands. They all reel in gobblers every day in every state throughout the season.

Practice plenty, comparing your calls to recorded sounds. Concentrate on tone and cadence. Despite the hoopla about calling contests and all that you hear from other hunters, calling turkeys is not rocket science. Once you have an excited gobbler, try to sound a little less interested than he is. Make him look for you.

There you have it. Get plenty of sleep. Do your scouting. Wear complete camo. Know the limits of your shotgun and how it patterns. And be able to throw different sounds at the turkeys.

Finally, be patient and have confidence. I tagged my first spring gobbler on a trip home from college to hunt for 2 or 3 days. My dad had done the scouting. I was wearing woodland camo and carrying Dad's Ithaca double barrel. That longbeard took 45 minutes to get within range. Soft yelps on a single-reed diaphragm brought him to 40 paces -- still the longest shot I've ever taken. He weighed more than 20 pounds.

There were experts hunting hard for that turkey. I was no expert, but I carried him home.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Fallacy of "the Gun Show Loophole"

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., March 3, 2007.)
According to the FBI's own research, the so-called
“gun show loophole,” which anti-gun
politicians campaign against, doesn't exist.
When an advocate for a cause has science to back him up, he loves science and trumpets its conclusions. When science fails to back up his position, he takes up residence in the Land of Oz, hoping the public will "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

Gun control is a case in point. It is a volatile issue with vigorous energy on both the pro and anti sides. But for more than two months now major media outlets -- bastions of anti-gun propaganda -- have been hoping no one pays attention to a major five-year Federal Bureau of Investigation study of felonious assaults on law officers. Why? Because the conclusions do not support one of the myths that they promote, the myth of "the gun show loophole."

Those who favor new gun laws preach like it's an article of faith that one of the big bad wolves of the pro-gun movement is gun shows. They encourage the public to believe that it is easy to purchase guns illegally at gun shows. They lecture that gun shows are a major source of illegal firearms trafficking and that gun shows attract criminals. They portray gun shows as arms bazaars for criminals. The research proves they are wrong.

Contrary to popular anti-gun wisdom, FBI analysis concludes that gun control laws do not keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and that gun shows do not contribute to illegal trade in firearms. The Forced Science Research Center, a non-profit institution based at Minnesota State University in Mankato, reported on the study saying, "Predominately handguns were used in the assaults on officers and all but one were obtained illegally, usually in street transactions or in thefts. In contrast to media myth, none of the firearms in the study was obtained from gun shows."

That should be no surprise. The Pennsylvania Gun Collectors Association, which sponsors gun shows several times a year in the Pittsburgh area, enforces a variety of rules at its shows, including the following:
• All federal, state and local laws must be obeyed, including the performance of background checks when required.
• Safety rules established by the PGCA and the show venue must be obeyed.
• All magazines from semi-automatic pistols and bolts from rifles must be removed.
• All firearms must be secured with wire ties, cable tie-downs, or display cases.
• Dealing from vehicles is prohibited.

These rules and similar ones in place at gun shows across the country, plus the integrity of the collectors and dealers who display at the shows, effectively prevent illicit trade in firearms at gun shows. These law-abiding individuals and businesses do not want to aid criminals in acquiring weapons. But the popular media myth marches on.

The truth about gun shows is this: Gun shows serve hunters, target shooters, collectors and military buffs, plus law abiding citizens who have a legitimate interest in lawful personal protection. Gun shows do not serve criminals. According to the FBI's own research, the so-called “gun show loophole,” which anti-gun politicians campaign against, doesn't exist.

One of the researchers in the FBI study, clinical forensic psychologist Ed Davis, noted that not a single one of the criminals in the research was "hindered by any law -- federal, state or local -- that has ever been established to prevent gun ownership. They just laughed at gun laws."

The fact is that cop-killing criminals ignore gun laws. Where do criminals get their guns? Almost universally, their sources are already illegal. Further restrictions on law-abiding gun owners can't do anything to make the criminals' sources more illegal. Neither can further restrictions on law-abiding citizens do anything to make guns less available to criminals. Gun laws that only law-abiding citizens will obey can only make the public less safe.