The Hero Shot
Picture this, you have just made the perfect cast into a back eddy along a cut bank on your favorite stretch of stream. As the dry fly naturally drifts just along the edge of the flow, a trout rises and takes your offering. A solid hook set, followed by a few minutes of gently playing the situation out and you are blessed to bring a beautiful 22 inch Brown Trout to hand. You carefully lift him from the water and admire his coloration and big hook jaw. A quick grip and grin “Hero Shot” or two and one of the greatest moments of your fly fishing pursuits begins to fade away as you watch your prize vanish into the darkness of the deep run along the river bank.
If that doesn’t speak to you, maybe this one will.
You rose well before the November dawn and drove in anticipation towards a stand that you had placed several weeks ago for this exact type of morning. A little while later, you are settled in as the rising sun begins to bring the hardwood bottom to life. The squirrels are first to break the silence with their industrious activities, each one sounding excitingly similar to a walking deer. A short time later, the wild turkeys that were roosted on the nearby ridge-top fly down and pick their way across the bottom and out of sight. Hours pass. The set is perfect. The wind is perfect. The weather is perfect. No action. Then, just as the warmth of the afternoon sunshine begins to make your eyes heavy, you glance to your left and there he is. At first you think your mind is playing tricks on you. You didn’t hear him; how did he get there? You look again and he is now moving, walking straight toward your stand. In one fluid motion you are at full draw and as he enters your shooting lane, you settle your 30 yard pin tight behind the shoulder and trigger your release. He lunges forward and runs halfway up the ridge where he stumbles and falls. Now, all too soon, you climb down and walk slowly up to the buck of your dreams. It is over, faster than it began and you are left with only your memories and the “Hero Shots“.
These types of scenarios play out countless times every day of the year somewhere in the sporting world and while the Hero Shot is hardly a new fad, the motivation for the pictures seems to have changed. Originally, the pictures were less Hero Shots and more meant to document the event for future generations and solidify the memories. The Hero Shots of today still do those things but there are new twists as well. The fact that there is an entire outdoor entertainment industry with hundreds of “celebrity” hunters and fishermen changes the motivation. In addition to the ones who have already made it in this industry, there are literally tens of thousands of others trying to get noticed and they all are actively seeking recognition on this “new” thing called the Internet. If you don’t believe me, just sign on to any social media site and since we primarily associate with people who think, act and live like us, you will likely see a never-ending barrage of Hero Shots. We all strive to be successful in our outdoor pursuits and when we are privileged enough to experience some good fortune, it is only natural that we want to remember, record and share the experience. Please let me be clear, I would never say that anyone should refrain from taking the Hero Shots as long as they are done tastefully and respectfully. But, is that truly the motivation or are we more interested in “Likes” and “Shares” for the purpose of boosting our own egos?
For the record, I have taken and posted more than my fair share of Hero Shots and will continue to do so in the future. In fact, there are several in my previous blog posts and all over Instagram and Facebook. I suppose I am simply beginning to examine my own motivations. As I look back at these Hero Shots, they do bring back good memories, as they should, but they are only a small piece of the big picture. If I am honest with myself, there have been instances where unsuccessful hunts or fishing trips created better memories than successful ones. I also have experienced times when the actual kill was the least memorable part of a hunt. My Utah Mountain Lion would be the best example of such an experience. The difficulty of the conditions and overcoming pneumonia to continue hunting far overshadow the actual harvest. That being said, this seems like an appropriate time for an admission. Yes, I have Hero Shots with the Mountain Lion (in addition to many other photographs that mean more to me than the Hero Shot). Here are a few of my favorites from that trip.
I suppose the real point I am feebly attempting to make is that there is so much more to the stories of our outdoor pursuits than just the finality of the Hero Shot. It is my goal to not get so caught up in the image of success that I fail to remember the real reasons that the experience was so valuable to me as an outdoorsman. The effort, the preparation, the failures, the sunrises, the sunsets are all at least as important to me as actual success. Wait, let me rephrase that. Those things are all contributing parts of the success story.
I understand that this thought is contrary to the prevailing attitude of the many outdoor shows that are nothing more than a highlight reel of kills and Hero Shots but it is enlightening to see some new film-makers putting more focus on the journey and less or at least a more respectful perspective on the end result.
Click HERE for a great example of one these from Sicmanta and Donnie Vincent.
Is it asking too much to encourage everyone to re-examine their motives and the way they share their outdoor adventures with the rest of us? I think not. In reality, I believe it would be uplifting to those of us who love to hunt and fish. More importantly, it might change the way our sports are viewed by people whose only understanding of what we do comes from what they see on TV and in social media circles.
Think about it, how would you describe your outdoor passion to a non-hunter or someone who does’t fish if you were trying to get them involved in the sport? Would you simply break out the Hero Shots and bask in the glory of your success or would you use the Hero Shots along with other images from your adventure to really, fully tell them your story? I personally don’t believe that a picture is always worth a thousand words. Often, the words matter much, much more.