Friday, August 3, 2012

Ted Nugent hunting hogs by helicopter: Yay! or Oh No!

During the 2008 presidential election, we learned that aerial hunting is controversial. Nary a single critic could blast Republican Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin without making a point of her support for hunting wolves by helicopter.

On Aug. 26, anyone who gets the Sportsman Channel will be able to watch Pigman and lightening rod Ted Nugent hunt hogs from a helicopter.

Will this be another blow to hunting’s image, or will America’s disdain for pigs render this episode PR-neutral?

It’s not a rhetorical question. In California, pig hunting is noticeably absent from the bill that would ban hunting bear and bobcats with hounds. Bear and bobcat are charismatic megafauna, and it’s easy to convince the public that hounding them is mean. Pigs, however, are despised. They have bristly hair and scaly skin, and they’re mean and invasive. No one wants to protect them from houndsmen and -women.


POSTSCRIPT: Phillip over at the Hog Blog has written a great piece on this topic - definitely recommended reading.

POSTSCRIPT NO. 2: Phillip has now gotten an advance copy of the show and written a new post on it.

Holly Heyser is a hunter, forager, writer, photographer and college journalism lecturer who lives in Sacramento, California.


  1. Just about anything Uncle Ted does is bad for hunting, he is quite possibly the worst, most outspoken representative there is. From being busted poaching, to his ad hominim attack filled diatribes he is a terrible representative for us.

  2. Shooting animals from a motor vehicle may de usefull in cullling, but please, do NOT call it hunting!

  3. It seems to me that anything "The Nuge" does is polarizing, whether it involves rotary-wing aircraft or not. He brings a lot on himself, of course.

  4. There are things I like about Nugent and things that make me cringe. I like that when he hunts over bait or inside a fence, he doesn't pretend he's doing otherwise. I don't think we can say that about everyone in hunting television. Honesty matters to me.

    Rodrigo, I generally shy away from trying to define others' hunting because I don't like it when people do that to me. But in terms of public relations, I agree that calling it a cull helps. But I think the species still matters. People hate pigs Personally, I love them - I think they're smart and funny. And tasty. But I think I'm in the minority on that.

  5. Phillip over at the Hog Blog has written an excellent piece on this topic that makes some really good points - I strongly recommend reading it.

  6. Holly, I agree that species matters. Making decisions on which species to hound or not based on reasons basically cosmetic seems to me a viscerally driven selective perception.

  7. Thanks for the link, Holly, and for the kind words. I wrote my opinion, based on an episode of the Pig Man program I have yet to see (it airs in two or three weeks, I think)... sort of a presumptuous gambit... but I'm confident enough in Ted Nugent's past behavior that I'll be pretty danged close.

    As far as calling any particular activity, "hunting," I generally don't believe that what we (hunters) choose to call our activities is as important as what those activities are and how we carry them out. BUT, in this specific case I do think the Sportsman Channel (and any television network showing this activity) should take pains to focus on the fact that this helicopter hunting (with full-auto weapons, apparently) is about depredation. The "hunters" are acting as exterminators here... this is not subject to the normal, ethical rules of the "sport hunter", and that should be made repeatedly clear. It won't soothe everyone's emotions, but it will be more direct and honest.

  8. He must be afraid of getting eaten by the hogs himself. I lost my respect for him when he started adding wildflife violations to his resume'.

  9. There needs to be some sort of differentiation, a line drawn if you will, between fair chase hunting for sport or food, and culling done for ecologic or management reasons. Most of the public and quite a few hunters are uninformed regarding the reasons that state wildlife agencies issue licenses for predators and unlimited licenses for some species.

    It's a very short leap of the mind from arial culls for invasives to hunters with blood and bits of flesh clinging to our teeth. The last thing we need is for those lines to be blurred by a polarizing figure like the Nuge.

  10. Just an update. I was given the opportunity to preview the episode in question, and have since posted up a reprise to my first post.

    It's not as bad as I feared (shame on me for jumping to conclusions), and based on other aerial gunning videos I've seen, is actually pretty restrained. There's an effort in the episode to educate about aerial gunning and depredation that does NOT feel forced or superficial, and the theme is carried throughout. Some people will still see that as mere justification for bloodlust, and that's too bad, but that's a perception we'll (hunters) never be able to shed.

    There's still a lot here that some people are going to find very objectionable. Aerial gunning is not pretty, and mass eradication is not a surgical operation. You're not going to see pinpoint accuracy with spine shots and instant kills. A lot of the shooting is done with buckshot, and pigs can soak up a heavy load of buckshot before they go down. Also, the fact that these guys are doing all this killing, and obviously having a good time is really going to sit hard on those who imagine that killing should be portrayed as a grim, and unhappy task. That one is hard to reconcile, especially for non-hunters.

    All in all, though, kudos are due Brian Quaca and his production team for their restraint and skill in putting this episode together. It could have been so much worse.

  11. "There needs to be some sort of differentiation, a line drawn if you will, between fair chase hunting for sport or food, and culling done for ecologic or management reasons."

    Sure, but lets not let our standards for humane kills and treatment of animals slip out of the need for a cull. This is the problem with hounding bears. Some here think hounding bears is an OK act because it's a tool to cull the population. It seems the more negatively we paint the animal (nuisance bears, deer killing coyotes, despicable pigs, and whatever), the less we feel the need for humane treatment. Wildlife harassment isn't OK regardless it's for food or for a cull.

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