Truths About TV

Truths About TV

As I write this at the end of December, Bowhunter Magazine TV has just completed its third year on Outdoor Channel, and we are gearing up for our fourth season. That astounds me because it seems as if we started the TV program just yesterday. We must be having fun because time is flying.

Cameraman Mike Malley has recorded many segments of Bowhunter Magazine TV.

Until this year, Bowhunter Magazine TV aired only a half year, but now you will be able to watch the program all year. Let me explain: Like most programs on Outdoor Channel, Bowhunter Magazine TV airs for 26 weeks each year, in our case from July through December. That's why you do not see us on Outdoor Channel from January through June.

Each year we prepare 13 original programs, and each program airs three times per week -- Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday in 2007 -- for 13 weeks. Then we repeat the program cycle for 13 weeks.

The schedule on Outdoor Channel will remain roughly the same in 2008. However, you will now have the opportunity to view Bowhunter Magazine TV year around. In 2008, for the first time, our program will appear on InterMedia Outdoors' partner The Sportsman Channel. On this venue, we call the program Bowhunter Magazine Adventures. The show will air (all times Eastern) Mondays at 10 p.m., Wednesdays at 8 a.m., and Fridays at 3:30 p.m., January through June.

For information on acquiring The Sportsman Channel on cable or dish, go to the website www.thesportsmanchannel.com. You also can get The Sportsman Channel on your computer. You pay a subscription fee of $4.95 per month to receive live broadcasts directly onto your computer.

Here's another option: At the end of each programming season on Outdoor Channel, we compile all shows from that season on DVD. DVDs of the 2005, 2006, and 2007 seasons of Bowhunter Magazine TV are available by calling 1-800-260-6397 or going online at www.shop.bowhunter.com. Price for the most recent season is $29.95.

In talking about TV, I can't help but reflect on the first three seasons of Bowhunter Magazine TV. To some extent, it has been a life-changing experience for me, probably because I look at life primarily through a writer's eyes. After three years, I recognize certain aspects of TV:

• As a writer, no experience is wasted. Every thought, observation, or action in the field can be woven into the fabric of a story. Not so with TV. All too frequently, the animals do not cooperate, the weather goes sour, the camera breaks down, the cameraman breaks down, the archer misses -- something goes south and we end up with no program. On average, to build 13 original programs, we take twice that many hunting trips.

Similarly, we can never judge how much video to shoot. On each 30-minute TV program, we have 22 minutes for editorial content (the remaining time goes into commercials). To get those 22 minutes, we shoot anywhere from 5 to 10 hours of videotape. Thus, well over 90 percent of the material we shoot -- some of it great stuff acquired through a lot of hard work -- never sees the light of day.

• A writer gets some of his best material in solitude, but that never happens with video. Because video always in-volves at least two people -- hunter and cameraman -- it has social overtones often absent from pure hunting. As I mentioned in The Wild Side (Jan/Feb 2008), until breaking free for five days of moose hunting by myself, I had not been alone on a hunt in four years. That's not necessarily good or bad; it's just business. But one thing is undeniable -- hunting with a cameraman greatly alters the hunting experience.

• A writer is far less vulnerable to criticism than a hunter on TV. In writing, a person can choose words carefully to paint precisely the desired picture. On camera, a participant is far more vulnerable. In essence, he's under a microscope for everyone to examine like a specimen in a Petri dish.

We on Bowhunter Magazine TV have certainly witnessed that reality. That's not all bad, of course, because we receive many positive comments, and we always appreciate those. They confirm that we're doing something right, and they make us feel good.

At the same time, viewers have ripped us over show content, program format, hunting techniques, shot selection, the way we comb our hair, whatever. This always stings a little because no one likes criticism. Still, it's part of the business, and we listen to all comments, positive and negative, in a constant effort to improve the content and presentation of our program.

Above all, we always do our best to get good footage and to edit that footage into entertaining and educational programs. We especially strive to present bowhunting in a positive light that elevates bowhunting in the eyes of our viewers and the general public.

Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail, but we do not defend ourselves. On video, what you see is pretty much reality, and once we air that reality, we accept our choices and live with them. Cameraman Larry D. Jones may sum up the truth about TV best as he constantly reminds us: "Video can make you look really good -- or really bad." As we have learned, he is right.

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