Kenneth Kieser: Outdoors TV shows don't always go as planned

The Examiner
Not all of the author's television appearances turned out to be a disaster.

Outdoors television has flooded the market for many years. Have you ever wondered what it is like to be on an outdoors television show? I have been on several and here are some of my epic blunders. 

My first show was in a recording studio with hot lights that illuminated the room. I was nervous as one might expect and was trying not to say something stupid. After all, the television personality was regionally famous and many watched his show, including my family members.  

I was nervously stumbling through my words throughout the recording and hoped the experience would end when a knock sounded on the studio window. The show’s producer gave a signal that meant to stop the interview. The door opened and in walked a conservation agent carrying what was obviously a dead albino chicken hawk. He explained that the bird had been electrocuted on a powerline and the public should see this magnificent bird.  

The only problem was, the hawk had been dead several days and stunk to high heaven. The hot studio lights made this even worse as my eyes began to water and I gagged – repeatedly. The show went on and I tried everything, including talking while holding my breath or breathing through my mouth to escape the stench. Thankfully the show’s host saw my discomfort and stopped the recording. We started up again the next day after the studio had been aired out. 

My next “memorable” performance happened while filming a pheasant hunt in South Dakota. Two cameramen followed our group that included the host and a couple of soon-to-be-famous Nashville stars that could not shoot. This show was marked a disaster minutes after filming started when the first pheasant flushed. One of the country singers threw up his shotgun and barely missed shooting the show’s host – not a funny situation, but a prelude to the day.  

After some discussion with our group, the director decided that the country singers who admitted never handling guns before would carry unloaded guns throughout the taping session. They happily agreed, not wanted to accidently shoot someone or themselves. The plan was to show them pointing their guns while the host or I would shoot the birds. The cameramen would only film the pheasants being shot and the singers would hold their birds up with big grins, showing their harvests.  

Problem was, we were having problems finding birds. The first pheasant that jumped up was the only one we saw for a couple of hours. Everyone was frustrated and the cameramen had to carry the singer’s guns with their big cameras that were getting heavy – and they were not in a good mood.  

I walked down a hill and away from the group when a dog ran in front of me and froze in a point. I was carrying my new over and under shotgun and felt a hunter’s excitement. I looked over my shoulder and the group were still quite a distance up the hill, but starting to move toward the pointing dog when two pheasants flushed from almost under my feet. I took my time, swung on both birds, squeezed the trigger and missed twice. 

My temper took over and I swore an expletive out loud, the big one, and turned to find a television camera in my face. I had no idea the cameraman, who had a big grin on his face, had run down the hill and was there. I am sure that show was never aired. 

The South is full of great hunting and fishing. I had the privilege of being on a 1980s television show in the South based on swamp deer hunting.  

We were situated in high pine trees on deer stands. I was shooting a MK-80 Knight blackpowder rifle with open sights. We were in a bowl where no shots would be over 60 yards, a suitable distance for that gun. The cameraman was in the next tree with a huge camcorder. Television equipment was very large in those days and he lugged that camera a long way in the dark swamps and heavy conifer timber. 

I was informed before the hunt that the cameraman was in control and not to shoot until he said to through a headset that draped over my cap. I agreed.  

The morning progressed and I watched a small, scrubby looking buck off to my right. There were no other deer in sight and the scrub was happily feeding on swamp weeds and acorns.  

“Shoot,” came the command over my earphone. 

I couldn’t believe it. He wanted me to shoot that scrubby buck? I did not fly to Alabama for anything less than a big trophy buck, but my sponsors were in charge. I took careful aim and shot; the scrub buck took off running. 

We climbed out of the trees and stood talking a few minutes before the cameraman said, “OK, let’s go find your buck.” He walked left and I walked right.  

I realized then that there must have been another buck out of my sight. I had a sick feeling in my stomach while looking for the scrub. We retraced the shot and found the blackpowder sabot bullet had split a sapling and the little buck was thankfully untouched. 

Later that afternoon at the cabin we watched the cameraman’s footage only to see a sickening sight. There was a huge pine tree, at least 20 inches wide in front of me, and you could only see the buck’s antler tips sticking around each side of the tree. My blind was at a slightly different angle and the buck was well hidden. The buck I didn’t see was a monster, trophy deer that likely would have been the biggest of my life. 

Not all of my television appearances have been disasters, but you never forget the ones that are worst. They are on tape somewhere.  

I guess that’s show business. 

Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at kieserkenneth@gmail.com.

Kenneth L. Kieser