OK, this one isn’t going to be as easy to write as the last time I wrote about this… just a couple of days ago.
A couple of days ago, I was filled with self-righteous fury… or something akin… and I let myself perpetrate one of my own pet peeves. I jumped to conclusions. Yeah, that’s right. Me. Mr. “let’s wait and hear the whole story,” Hog Blog dude, went mildly postal with some preconceived notions about this upcoming episode of The Pig Man. Sure, I prefaced it with the disclaimer that I hadn’t actually seen the episode in question, but what does a disclaimer really mean? If you don’t know what you’re really talking about, you probably shouldn’t be talking about it. Right?
Enough with the self-flagellation. I’m human. Mistakes are part of the package.
In a nutshell, let me review what I said.
My concerns centered around two things… The first is the polarizing nature of aerial hog hunting, writ large with two bigger than life personalities, Brian “Pig Man” Quaca and Ted “Motor City Big Mouth” Nugent. The second concern had to do with the press release mention that fully automatic weapons would be used. The potential for negative PR spilled from my computer screen as I let my imagination go wild, picturing the scene of Nugent (the antithesis of restraint) roaring with glee as he sprayed lead across the Texas landscape while Quaca, always eager to goof around, joined the fray with abandon. OK, maybe that’s a little exaggeration… but to be honest, it’s not much of one. I honestly expected the worst.
On a purely serious note, my concerns aren’t all that far off base. Aerial gunning is a hot issue for a lot of reasons. As I said in the initial post, a lot of people, including hunters, really don’t understand the line between sport hunting, and depredation. They don’t get that the same ethical rules don’t apply… can’t apply… when it comes to the need to drastically reduce the population of an invasive species. Add to that a second flashpoint… fully automatic weapons. ARs are winning a grudging acceptance in much of the sporting world, although the non-hunting/non-shooting public still holds a strongly negative image of them. Televising this sort of thing is opening a can of worms. What’s worse is the potential for anti-hunting organizations to leverage these uneducated misperceptions to push their propaganda.
And Ted Nugent… well, he is a walking PR disaster all by himself. I don’t hate the man, because I don’t know him, but I hate what he has done to civil discussion of guns and hunting. The mere intimation of his presence in a conversation about firearms or hunting derails logic. I won’t go on, except to say I had real fears that he would say or do something so stupid as to demolish any credibility Brian Quaca has been able to build up. It would only take one of his infamous rants to overshadow everything that the Pig Man has worked to build… and that would be a shame.
So that’s sort of what I said in my first post, and I stood by that in the comments and replies afterward (although I started to inwardly question the vehemence of my initial post).
And I still hadn’t seen the episode in question.
Now I have.
Thanks to the Pig Man business office, I was given the opportunity to view the full episode in advance. I watched it tonight, and then I went outside and sat on the porch to think it through. Then I came back in and watched it again. I obviously owe Brian and his crew something of an apology, because they handled the whole episode extremely well… or at least as well as could be hoped. I’m not going to sit here and try to summarize the whole episode. Ya’ll can watch it yourselves when it hits the air on August 26.
But what I will say is that the worst of my fears were largely unfounded. First and foremost, as he usually does, Brian Quaca spends the time explaining the rationale behind aerial hog gunning and makes clear that it isn’t about sport hunting…it’s eradication. Throughout the episode, they make clear that these hogs are a pestilence financially and ecologically. Personally, there are a few other questions I’d like to have heard him address about safety and shooting from the helicopter, but maybe that’s a little much. I know most people just tune in to see him shoot hogs.
Nugent’s presence is kept to a dull roar. He comes on pretty strong during the introduction, including some pretty boastful (and questionable) claims about his role in the passage of the “Pork Chopper” bill (HB 716), but he never quite gets to full roar. Whether I should or not, I’m going to credit the producers and editors with managing that.
What about the full automatic weapons? Yes, there is a full-auto. Yes, there is spray and pray. And that was mildly unfortunate, because a lot of the semi-auto shooting was actually pretty good (or at least a lot of the shooting that made the editor’s cut). But the machine-gunning is kept to a bare minimum and it didn’t look very effective. I think I actually heard it more than I saw it. I didn’t really feel like it played a big enough part to make any difference in the overall program. It was certainly not a focal point.
So all that said… were all of my concerns silenced? No. This episode is still pretty loaded with potential negative PR.
Are they having fun killing things? Yes, and they make no bones about it. There’s laughter and banter (fans of Pig Man know what to expect), but overall they never get outrageously irreverent. Some people are still going to have an issue with that, but I don’t.
The footage of the kills is still pretty harsh, and I expect the episode is definitely going to draw some negative feedback on this. There is some particularly graphic action with swimming hogs that is almost certain to set off some outcry. There’s also going to be the question of humane kills. Many shots were obviously less than perfect, and people will wonder how many hogs were left to die slowly instead of being finished off with additional shots. However, I think Holly Heyser may have been right in her comments that, because people dislike (and even fear) feral hogs, the backlash may not be as bad as it would if they were shooting something more controversial, like wolves.
So yeah, the Pig Man producers and probably the Sportsman Channel will get some letters. I’m sure Quaca and Nugent will both be featured in some anti-hunting website and blog, with all the requisite rhetoric and stereotypes. But compared to some of the other aerial shooting videos that are out on YouTube, this was probably one of the least controversial aerial hog hunts I’ve seen yet. This epispode probably didn’t improve the public image of hunting, but they certainly didn’t make it any worse.
So, Pig Man. Mea culpa.