Terroristic Ducks

The Kill-Or-Be-Killed World of Hunting … Advertisement
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First, let’s get this out of the way in case it isn’t already clear — I’m cranky. Grouchy. Curmudgeonly. Crabby, even. But this fact doesn’t have anything to do with my peeve of the moment: Killer waterfowl.

Let me clarify. I don’t mean ducks have gotten more violent or dangerous in the last few decades, aside from perhaps a few young insolent wigeons. Yet, if you look at the current state of the advertising industry, you’d think every flight of pintail is ready to plunder your village, burn it and make off with your women.

Some of you may be saying “And they’re welcome to her,” but such matters are between you and Your Highness.


Fact or fiction?

Take a look around at how hunting guns and gear are portrayed in our industry. Instead of evoking images of pastoral fall scenes, maybe showing a couple of buddies walking in the field or perhaps depicting the penultimate moment in a deer blind, we now make hunting look as if it is always “kill or be killed” — and we’re not going down without a fight.

And don’t think hunting and firearms are the only genre to do so. If you are an avid angler, you know fly fishing advertisements make it appear you need body armor and a .44 magnum packed with Black Hills HoneyBadger rounds to subdue those vicious 8-oz. brookies. Forget about major-league catfishing — grim-looking publicity in this sport makes Moby Dick seem like a rollicking feel-good comedy.

This all started about 15-20 years ago. I remember riding an escalator down the lobby of a major trade show and there was a huge stadium-sized banner extolling the latest lineup from a famous outdoor television channel. Everyone, including the attractive lady hosts of their own shows, looked angry verging on murderous. I thought to myself, “What are they so upset about? They’ve got fame, a nice income, all the gear, travel and adventure they could want, yet their 40-foot high faces make it appear they are suffering from terminal gout. What gives?”

What gives is our friends in the marketing community — at least they were friends before I wrote this — decided we don’t want to see shooting and hunting as a simple and relaxing pursuit, a healthy outdoor activity and wonderful source of intellectual stimulation, but a direct challenge to our collective Man Cards (women apparently not being susceptible to this craze). I’m not exactly sure what shifted in society to make everything so focused on such testosterone-fueled imagery, but I’m not a fan.


Tactical sweat

Archery is probably the ultimate example of this phenomenon, with everyone glowering and grimacing as if they inadvertently sat on a porcupine in the outhouse. Most of the men and even a few of the women are the shown sweating profusely and flexing their biceps while inexplicably smeared in various places with black face paint. Yet, you can trust me on this one — I’ve been around countless advertising shoots and the sweat is courtesy of Revlon Spray Glistener.

I’ve already mentioned waterfowl hunting. I always thought a duck blind was one of the most low-stress places in the world. You and one or two buddies are sitting there, drinking coffee and chatting about the world and your opinions thereof. Occasionally, the air becomes contaminated due to last night’s Burrito Surprise at the local greasy spoon, then everybody gag-laughs and settles down to wait for another mark on the horizon. Depending on the hour and company, somebody might even take a small nip on a flask of preventative snakebite medicine. Nobody cares, because you never know when a deadly rattlesnake might show up, even though it’s currently 31 degrees and sleeting.

However, as portrayed in the popular press, it now appears the trio of grim hunters are expecting a suicide attack by, say, waves of nutria rather than a mere inbound flight of bluewings. The stubble-faced men appear angry and focused, with a faraway look in their eyes as if thinking about the time they were stranded somewhere off the Coast of Nowhere, hip-deep in shell casings and fighting off wave after wave of angry buffleheads. “Duck hunting changes a man, man.…”

Nearby their “Quack-R-Killer 5000XL” shotguns — featuring bayonet lug and optional wire cutter — lie in waiting. The guns are stoked with 3 ½” magnum “Killer Rain” or “MallardMurder”-brand shells, featuring special Unobtanium pellets guaranteed to punch through a car door at 100 yards. Why this is critical for shells intended to drop an animal with just slightly more bullet-resistance than a monarch butterfly is beyond me. Then again, I’ll admit if they’re goose hunting, 105mm artillery sometimes isn’t enough so I’ll give them a speculative pass on this one thing.

Our heroes manning the ramparts of Fort Swampmuck are wearing licensed “Duck Demise” matching camouflage outfits and even their dog sports a military-stye MOLLE vest with contrasting trim. Back when I was a kid, I can’t imagine what the guys down at the local swamp would have thought if your dog showed up wearing color-coordinated outerwear. Probably something along the lines of a sarcastic “Isn’t that precious?!?”


The Name Game

One thing that slays me (pun intended) is the new trends in naming guns and equipment. What used to be known as, say, a “Model 99” must now sport some type of warlike moniker such as the “Double-Nine Deer Mutilator.” Even the previously mentioned ammunition just isn’t aimed (pun intended yet again) at specific animals, but the hunters themselves. Why else would “Turkey Terror 12” or “Squirrel Scalper Explosive Double-Deuce” (a medium-velocity .22LR hollow point) exist other than to capture the imagination and dollars of a public apparently believing their God-given freedoms and very lives are threatened by large gallinaceous birds and small tree-dwelling rodents.

Either a symptom of the problem, one of the prime causes or both, is the prevalence of video hunting shows. First off, judging by the dozens of press releases I receive daily, if a product isn’t licensed by an official TV/YouTube hunter/shooter, it is worthless. Out there somewhere in the electronic ether, there is always an up-and-comer who is more than willing to put their name and likeness on a product provided you meet their strict criteria of paying them first. If your “semi-custom” hunting knife, er, Field Combat Cutting Implement — hand-forged in the finest caves of Pakistan and lovingly-imported by the container-load through the Port of Long Beach — doesn’t have a scowling video “star” glaring from the packaging and advertisements, you’re not really trying.


Harder Than Hardcore

I guess this all boils down to a current infatuation with being “hardcore.” The word, and its synonyms, I hear bandied about all the time. Admittedly I probably was victim to such inner desires when I was a young man doing exceptionally stupid things, such as jumping off tall objects with only a synthetic rope to prevent terminal splattage, paddling a man-sized plastic margarine tub through class V whitewater and SCUBA diving under ice, but we didn’t do it to pose. We did it because we were stupid and addicted to adrenaline, sometimes to the point of coming home with fewer friends than we left with on Friday. Yet, none of our hunting and shooting adventures looked like some type of paramilitary incursion into Illinois.

It’s pretty obvious by now I’m not a big fan of the warmongering imaging used by outdoor products. It’s not that I’m against war — in fact, I’m a big fan of large-scale bloodshed and general Armageddon, especially if we actually let the troops win rather than trying to achieve some nebulous goal such as “fight famine” — but such depictions aren’t needed in the outdoors.

Maybe we need to reset our expectations, our aspirations and our dreams. If facing the countless hardships of going off-pavement and using a firearm safely, effectively, and ethically aren’t enough to fulfill us, perhaps we collectively need to find something else. We need another test where we can derive some kind of affirmation of our machismo, our ability to prove ourselves under duress and have the opportunity to face our collective fears.

Like, maybe perhaps — this is a crazy notion, I know — actually enlisting in the military instead of trying to look like it?

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