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Searching The Wild Within with Steven Rinella [Radio Interview]

Posted on 14 March 2011 by Cork Graham

I thought I had accidentally landed on one of the ever-increasing number of hook and bullet channels when I came across an ad for The Wild Within, hosted by Steven Rinella; not the Travel Channel. With the way Travel Channel programming has followed the New Yorker nepotism of the New York publishing world, it seemed as though you had to be either a New York whinning, potty-mouthed ex-junkie chef-turned writer, carrying a child-like fascination with Apocalypse Now; or a New York glutton with a penchant for traveling the country in search of restaurant-promoting food competitions, to get your own series. To see a Michigan-born-and-raised hunter and trapper hosting a show on that channel floored me.

With great anticipation I waited for the first airing: finally a hunting show that went further than an inundation of boring kill-a-minute, 30-minute sponsor advertisements, pushed on the new overabundance of outdoor channels—how I miss the educational hunting shows broadcast during the 1980s and early 1990s. More importantly, here was a show that would, hopefully at least, reveal to its viewers how to dismantle a deer.

Can you believe that the major outdoor channels actually don’t want any close ups of the processing of game? Many would think it’s because of the advertisers, but not the programming directors who pushed for this—because they’re afraid it’s too politically incorrect: Now you know why Cork’s Outdoors TV isn’t broadcast on satellite, though many requests from the different outdoor channels have come down the pike this year—they won’t allow me to show you how to even gut and skin a feral pig!

Rinella learning to make fish arrows in Guyana

 

THE WILD WITHIN

The first episode of The Wild Within was set in a place I know well, and remains as my hunting and fishing heaven: Alaska! There are very few states left where you can truly live off the land as a hunter/gatherer, and Alaska is at the top the list. On Prince of Wales (POW) Island, where Rinella and his brother own a hunting cabin, there’s a plethora of sustenance.

I must admit that I was hoping Rinella would’ve hunted near his home, in New York or New Jersey, for the first episode. Everyone flies to Alaska for an outdoors show, and yet there are so many poorly-represented, great hunting places right next to such a major center of anti-hunting: Ingrid Newkirk and Wayne Pacelles’ cash cows, PETA and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) campaign from NYC. But, you can’t go wrong with Alaska, especially Southeast Alaska: bush planes, remote cabins, full crab and shrimp pots, and Sitka blacktails in good number…having lived and worked around the world, there’s a reason Alaska is the only place I ever truly get homesick for…

From Alaska, The Wild Within continued to Montana the next week, and that’s where I think the shake-down cruise for the show hadn’t yet found its legs. As Rinella mentioned to me over the phone, this is their first season, and they were just getting their steam and there was a question as to what to focus on: historical, environment and conservation, or the adventure of hunting, fishing and gathering.

This happens with all types of programming, whether scriptwriters on shows like Hawaii 5-0, or producers on TopShot. For most, it’s the first time the production team has met and are just learning each other’s quirks, along with not only clearly filling out the premise through field experience, but also editing and trying to coordinate programming with the broadcast company.

It especially gets interesting when parts, or all of the production team have never even participated in the main activity of the show…As is often the case, producers take the job no matter their own lack of knowledge or experience—perhaps you’ve heard of actors in Hollywood getting hired for a film, saying they’ve been riding horses since they were knee-high to a grasshopper, or that they hearken from a long line of motorcycle riders, yet the most they’ve straddled was a bar or diner stool while searching the jobs section of a newspaper? Same thing.

If you noticed that some episodes seemed to be off, like San Francisco (as one based in the City by the Bay, I know well the amazing opportunities for hunting, fishing, and gathering—I was aghast to see Rinella collect roadkill, totally illegal in California) which slapped me in the head with a big “Huh?”, or the Montana episode, that made me wonder whether this was a show best suited for the History Channel. When Rinella told me that The Wild Within was originally formulated for sale to the History Channel, it all made sense: the Molokai and Scotland definitely fit within the parameters of Travel Channel, while the Montana show appeared shot for either the History or Travel Channel.

So, like any crew on a new boat, a new production has a variety of learning curves related to the first shake-down cruise, of which this new season definitely has its highs and lows. Part of the problem can be that programming doesn’t actually coordinate to shooting and editing. What may have been shot first, ends up as an episode broadcast much later in sequnce. I can’t tell you how annoyed I was with the POW Island episode, when I heard Rinella repeat that oft repeated saying given non-hunters: You’d be paying $30 or $50 a plate for this in a restaurant!

Again, YOU CAN’T LEGALLY BUY TRUE WILD GAME IN THE US!

Not until the Scotland episode did Rinella clarify that in Europe, where the laird of the land owns the land, game, livestock and those who work it (one of the main reasons my ancestor, David Graham, said to hell with Scottish and Irish landlords, and took his family of Calvinists to South Carolina in 1772—hitting home the final point to King George with a round ball at the Battle of Kings Mountain), true wild game is shipped to market in Paris and London, and sold much fresher in the butcher shops of little villages that neighbor these hunting estates.

I was impressed that the introduction scene of the Scotland episode had Steven Gow, the Scots ghillie (hunting guide), working on meat that was to be shipped out that week. They really captured the hunting in Europe, and how much of a commodity it is. It also made me cringe, remembering how in the US we’re quickly following in their footsteps: $800 to $1,500 to shoot a wild boar in California?

We already have enough problems with a majority of the population growing up in urban areas, having lost their hunting, fishing and gathering traditions by generations—traditions that would have helped keep a clear public eye on such fabricated science pushed by PETA and HSUS. Charging horrendous fees on game that legally belongs the citizens of a state, does nothing but create an elitist attitude about something that was so free and drew many from their nations of origin.

In the Scotland episode, the hunter, angler, gatherer, theme of the show really came across, from field to table. And, this last weekend, the Guyana show carried it well again. This theme of field to table, and local bonds built, is the strength of the show, and even its honesty works, though it did make me recoil a few times, starting with the crippled blacktail that they finished off in the first episode in Alaska, and then a wounding arrow shot on a tapir.

During the Central America War, tapir found a fond spot in my heart. I was at a secret Contra base along the Honduran border, and because of the ridiculously low rations afforded our Cold War allies by US Congress budget cuts, we had to augment beans and rice with whatever animal protein got from the jungle.

Contra with three Sandinista rounds in his gut, leaving on my medevac in.

 

For the same reasons of the bigger bang for the buck Rinella mentioned on Sunday’s Guyana episode, the Miskito tribal members fighting in the Nicaraguan Defense Force (FDN) guerrilla unit I accompanied, targeted the tapir with dogs—much more meat than a hapless cuzuco (armadillo) or iguana. Imagine mountains, sides steep as cliffs, and during the rainy season, knee-deep mud, and thick brush and tall canopy—a shiver runs up my spine remembering firefights conducted under those conditions. We carried AK-47s to make the shot on the hungrily sought tapir table fare, but also to defend against surprise attacks by Cuban and Russian Spetsnaz-trained Sandinista Special Forces units.

Those harried days of the 1980s came rushing back as Rinella narrated on the tapir, and Jim Jones (I worked the Loma Prieta Earthquake in San Francisco for NBC, along with longtime NBC cameraman and Jonestown survivor, Steve Sung—see enough bullet and fragment wounds and you recognize them easily, especially along the arms), but also the creepy crawlies and slithers that leave you not only very uncomfortable with a bite or sting, but even perhaps in the end, dead.

The Guyana episode also struck home the difference between sport and subsistence. In Alaska, those of us who actually survived on our caught or shot food, had no problem shooting a caribou in the water—in contrast, those who flew in from out of state for a hunt, or lived in Anchorage, would never think of doing so for the flak they’d get from their hunting party.

And this is where I’ve started enjoying the show, when in the beginning I had my misgivings with its clarity of purpose. The Wild Within really gets its legs when it focuses not on the historical qualities of hunting, or an area, something that can easily be touched on at the beginning, in short review, as with reference to Reverend Jim Jones in Guyana; but instead focuses on the present-day locals, the conditions, and work a subsistence lifestyle requires: shooting, trapping, catching and gathering everything you need from the environment, doing it day in and day out, no chance of calling in a sick day, especially when you have to provide for your family.

That’s Entertainment!

As Rinella mentions on the adjoining Cork’s Outdoors Radio episode, TV is definitely focused on entertainment (whether a travel show, or sadly of late, the news) first, and secondly, if you’re lucky, you educate as much as you can between those emotion-stirring moments, in the hopes that the viewer will pick up a book and go further in-depth. That’s where I laud the Travel Channel in even airing such a program—showing hunting and gathering for what it is: not necessarily pretty, sometimes amazingly gorgeous.  The upcoming Texas episode promises to be quite the saddle-burning ride…

The Wild Within comes into its own as it remembers that premise by focusing on the local peoples, and their quest to keep sustained on what the wilds offer them. Most importantly, not as one of the other proliferations of survive in the wilds and get out alive shows, but instead looking forward to the trip outdoors, the resulting fine meals of game and fish, to that reconnection with oft-lost skills that kept us alive where we all originally came from—the wilds!

Related Links:

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy the interview of The Wild Within’s Steven Rinella on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

TOPICS: Steven Rinella, author and host of THE WILD WITHIN, speaks about his writing and adventures for the Travel Channel.

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Waterfowl Season Starts Now

Posted on 16 June 2010 by Cork Graham

It’s amazing how the screech of a poorly blown duck call can sound like a teacher drawing her nails across a blackboard. Such is the sound of waterfowl hunters who start much too late in their preparation for the season.

Being prepared isn’t just about calling, either: there’s making sure your shotgun’s shooting as well as last year; checking your duck jacket to see if you need to patch some holes, or just get a new one. Is your ammo shooting the way you think it is?

Every year it behooves the hunter to make sure everything is working as they want, and to find out long before it’s time to head out into the field. All too often the first chance at putting wild duck on the table turns dismal—leaky waders, missed shots—or, more dangerously so, duckboats sinking!

A great waterfowl season begins months before that opener in October.

Take out your waterfowl hunting clothing now. If it’s your duckhunting coat, hopefully you didn’t pack it away in a footlocker or drawer for the off-season. This compresses the insulating materials and such repeated season storage depletes their ability to keep you warm the next season. Check it for those holes, and perhaps take it to the tailor to have those shell loops replaced if they’re all stretched out.

Get Callin’

Spring is also the best time to start your calling practice. As master duck caller—and the one who taught me how to call ducks as a thirteen-year-old newbie duck hunter—Billy Gianquinto recommends, every duck hunter should purchase their calls in spring, get a good instruction tape or CD and practice everyday. It’s during this time, that I carry my duck and goose calls in my truck so that I can practice during a day’s commute.

What’s nice about practicing your calling in the vehicle is that you need to have one hand free for driving, which forces you to learn how to use your call with one hand: much more appropriate for a duck hunter holding a shotgun in a blind with the non-call hand. This especially comes in handy when learning how to use a goose flute with one hand instead of the normal two.

Get a good collection of duck hunting videos, not just the slicing DVDs that just show the kill shots. Get the DVDs that take you from calling to learning how to set a decoy set, to best of all, how to call based on what the ducks are doing.  Gianquinto and Cajun Duck Commander Robertson Clan have some great calling instruction videos.

Hittin’ What You’re Shootin’ At

Cork Graham successfully testing the original Black Cloud through a Remington 11-87 and SP-10 on Sacramento Valley snows and specks

Now’s a great time to look at what your shotgun really does and with the ammo you choose to shoot out of it. So many duck hunters just purchase a shotgun and a box of shells and head straight out into the duck blind, not even knowing how their shotgun is shooting.

What sighting in at the range is to a deer hunter with a newly purchased rifle and scope, patterning a shotgun is to a duck and goose hunter.

The average hunter might be surprised at how many people who purchase a new shotgun think that it need only be pointed in the general direction, and you hit what you’re shooting for. Must have been all those cartoons and mythical descriptions of how the trench guns worked in battle, especially to infantrymen whose rifle skills were wanting—but there are many that think a shotgun has magical properties.

When I received my first pump shotgun I was surprised at how much I was missing. This was a shotgun built by a major manufacturer—what could be wrong? A trip to the range and aiming at a dot on a large piece of white butcher paper quickly offered an answer.

The shotgun was patterning up to the right. I could have taken it to a gunsmith and had the pump modified, but instead I just remembered to adjust my shot picture while shooting. Had I not taken the shotgun to the range to find out what was really happening, I’d probably have gone on with a hit and miss for years.

The decision to pattern a shotgun should be taken not when just getting a new shotgun, but also to see how a new shot load does out a specific firearm. It’s also wise to check into a new choke when purchasing a shotgun.

For years I only shot the different chokes that came packaged with my shotguns and never inquired into the multitude of chokes, until last year and a chat with George Trulock, owner of Trulock Chokes and a man with a vast firearms knowledge that started in law enforcement, and distilled through many years researching the effects of chokes on shot. I learned how 3-inch chokes are a prime length for patterning a shot load especially steel shot.

Unlike a rifle that is accurate because of the effect on a bullet by the rifling, a shotgun influences its shot effectiveness by forcing a load of shot into a column that will spread out in as uniform a pattern as possible. By having a choke that that forces the load in three inches instead of two, the pattern delivered is much more uniform: think shot hitting a wall, because it’s so steep and angle, as compared to sliding along the wall because the angle is lessened by the longer length of the 3-inch choke.

The importance of chokes appropriate to the load was made clear a couple years ago when I tried Federal Premium’s Black Cloud ammunition for the first time. What I consider the deadliest duck medicine out there, I noticed that not only did the unique collared barrel shot perform amazingly, with solidly killed ducks, but also that the Trulock Black Cloud choke I got for hunting with the new cartridge performed admirably. One of the main reasons it works so well is that it’s designed to let out the shot and wad in a staggered manner that permits the shot to pattern effectively without creating so many flyers that destroy a pattern.

New for this year, Federal Premium has the new Black Cloud Snow Goose load. While the first release of Black Cloud was flying at 1450 fps, the new Snow Goose is screaming at 1635 fps!

That means it really cuts the geese, but that also means its patterning is effected differently than the slower shot. According to Trulock, the higher the speed, the wilder the flyers as they bounce off the inside wall of the choke instead of slide along its sides.

As Trulock said, it’s a tug-of-war between killing speed and uniform patterns. Too many flyers and the loss of not only the uniformity of the pattern, but also more holes in that pattern that a duck or goose can escape through.

Now, all these are just guidelines. Like everyone’s personal preferences for hunting equipment, a shotgun has its own personality and by learning it’s personality, not just shooting it, but modifying it, do you make sure every shot counts…and the earlier you start preparing for the fall season, the more prepared you’ll be to make your fall waterfowl season that much more enjoyable and successful.

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy the latest news at Federal Premium on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

TOPICS: Federal Premium PR Manager Tim Brandt talks about the history of Federal Ammunition’s merge with ATK, long line of excellent ammunition for big-game and waterfowl hunting, along with the new and upcoming offerings.

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Welcome!

Posted on 10 March 2009 by Cork Graham

In the coming weeks and months we’ll bring you all types of episodes on proactive conservation, whether hunting, fishing, or field management and agriculture. We’ll also release shows on cooking and field medicine and other techniques related to hunting and fishing, both on land, and in the water–yes, spearfishing and abalone diving will be included.

And for you photo and video buffs who want to know how to do we what we do, we’ll even be bringing you how-tos on that too, so that you can record your own conservation efforts!

Cork with snows and specks

Cork with snows and specks

Our first episode was a goose calling one that we shot at the end of the 2008-2009 California waterfowl season. We were hunting with one of the better goose callers out there: Blake Bunnell.

His operation is run out of Northern California, near the Sacramento and Delevan Wildlife Refuges, and well worth a call. He can be reached at www.goosehuntingnortherncaliforniaguide.com. That episode is available for viewing hereNEW YEAR’S SNOWS. Check out the related cooking episode, too!

In the next month we’ll focus on wild boar, trout and steelhead, with perhaps an abalone dive thrown in for good measure.  We’ll also be sure to key you on on new equipment and technique developments so that your own experiences in the wild will be that much richer!

Good Adventuring!

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