Viewers Question Game Care

Recently, we have received letters questioning our handling of game animals taken on Bowhunter Magazine TV. Specifically, in 2007, we aired a program based on a do-it-yourself elk hunt in Wyoming. Publisher Jeff Waring and I both killed bull elk, and, as shown on the program, we packed the meat and antlers from the backcountry with my pack llamas.

Since the airing of that program, several viewers have written to question our care of the meat in the field. Here's a typical example:

Dwight, In the episode where you and Jeff Waring were hunting elk in Wyoming, you used llamas to pack out Jeff's trophy antlers. What did you do with the meat from the elk? Also, later you went out and bagged another bull elk and then went and recruited help to track it.

In the majority of these supposed hunting shows, the hunters never clean the game for hours after they have been killed. I have been hunting for over 50 years, and this goes against everything I have been taught! I realize that the "actors" want to get their pictures taken with pristine animals and not blood-stained carcasses, but I can only imagine what the meat must taste like! R.S., Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Other similar letters have suggested that we packed out only part of the meat and left the rest in the field, or that we took so long to field-dress and pack-out the elk that the meat probably spoiled.

Here's the timeline on Jeff's bull: The bull died about 11 a.m.; we had finished shooting follow-up video and still photos by 12:30; we had the bull completely skinned, boned-out, and hanging to cool by 2:30. We returned that evening and packed the bull out with the llamas. The timeline on my bull differed only because I made a lousy shot -- inexcusable on a bull standing broadside at 15 yards, but proof that I am all too human. After some tedious tracking, we located the bull. He was bedded but still alive, so we backed off and returned at daybreak, standard procedure for gut-shot animals. We found the bull dead right where we had last seen him the night before. We quickly shot video and photos and had the elk skinned and butchered within a couple of hours.

One critic -- obviously a horseman -- suggested that we could not possibly have packed out an entire bull elk with only three llamas. Here are the facts: Mature bull elk bone out to between 275 and 325 pounds. The average is about 300 pounds. Dividing the meat among three llamas gives each llama 100 pounds -- a heavy but manageable load. After we'd packed out Jeff's elk, one of my llamas sprained his ankle, leaving us with only two packers, so on my bull we had to carry some of the meat ourselves. We have eaten every ounce of meat off those two bulls, and it was delicious -- every bite.

I cannot speak for other TV programs and individuals -- some may very well waste meat -- but Bowhunter's policy, and my personal philosophy, are: We do not dishonor game animals or ever jeopardize meat for the sake of video or photography. The animals always come first. To my knowledge, no participant has ever wasted any game meat while shooting an episode for Bowhunter Magazine TV.

Also, none of us on Bowhunter Magazine TV are actors. What you see on our programs is reality. Yes, we do have to eliminate details in order to trim stories to length for TV, but we do our very best to represent every hunting scenario honestly -- exactly as it happened.

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