On August 30th, the National Geographic Channel dropped Melissa Bachman from the series “Ultimate Survivor Alaska” after protests from those who are opposed to hunting animals for sport. Melissa Bachman, known for her writing for Petersen’s Hunting magazine and her website, and years in the industry producing, editing, filming and hosting television programming, will no longer be on the show and we are appalled.
We will share a bit about the facts in this controversy and let you share your opinions and spread the message that what has happened to Melissa Bachman was wrong and that hunters are an important part of the conservation landscape that cannot be ignored. In the last couple of days, comments from those in the industry as well as common hunters have escalated with some calling for boycotts of this particular show and even National Geographic itself. We thought we would share some facts and our opinion on the growing controversy so hunters can arm themselves when discussing these issues.
Tim Martell and the controversy
Tim Martell, 42, who defines himself as a conservationist and a Certified Florida Naturalist, grew up like many of us watching National Geographic specials and reading the National Geographic magazine. He was inspired to pursue a career dedicated to preserving animals and their ecosystems.
Yahoo News interviewed Martell on Friday via phone and he stated, “I’m not against all forms of hunting. I’m primarily against trophy hunters. I believe that it’s wasteful. It’s damaging to the ecosystem. To kill for a thrill or just a photograph is just unnecessary.” At the bequest of friends, Martell reached out to NatGEO and received a generic response about their plans to move forward with Melissa on their team. Martell started a petition on Change.org and within 24 hours received a whopping 13,000 signatures from anti-hunters. The petition went viral fast and National Geographic made the following statement on Thursday:
“The National Geographic Channel has carefully considered the public discussion of our series on surviving the wilds of Alaska currently in production and premiering sometime next year. Upon further reflection we plan to eliminate one of the survivalists from the ensemble cast, Melissa Bachman. Hunting is not the focus of the show, and we regret the misinformation that has clouded what we hope will be an exciting adventure series set in the incredible Alaskan landscape.”
Tim Martell is no stranger to online protests. In December 2011, he launched a similar campaign against Rosie O’Donnell after she posted pictures of herself with a hammerhead shark she caught while on a fishing trip. Martell was surprised by how quickly National Geographic responded to this controversy he stated again via Yahoo News, “When a company loses its moral compass it’s up to us as fans and consumers to remind them of their original mission statement.”
Let’s start with the mission statement of the National Geographic Society which, according to John M. Fahey, Jr., is “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world’s cultural, historical, and natural resources. Its purpose is to inspire people to care about their planet.” That is a lofty goal and one that hunters can and should respect. For the past 125 years, National Geographic has covered conservation issues and has published articles and opinions which have been both for and against hunting in a variety of situations. National Geographic has never been specifically anti-hunting and has submitted positive articles in regards to hunting as a conservation tool. In November 2007, National Geographic wrote an article called “Conserving Hunters,” a well-balanced look at the positives and negatives in regards to hunting. As long as I could read, I have personally been reading National Geographic. I read with wonder the articles about far off lands and animals and how local populations survive in places like Africa, Australia, and Asia.
The producers of Ultimate Survival Alaska did not plan on focusing this show on hunting, but they could not have gone wrong with a survivor like Melissa Bachman. She is a producer, editor, videographer, and writer and she has spent a considerable amount of time both in front of and behind the camera in the last several years. When not working, she pursues her passion for hunting, writing, and getting outdoors. Melissa is an attractive individual who brings in viewership through a strong social media following. She has traveled the world and has experienced climates and real-life survival situations in all kinds of environments.
Alaska is a rugged environment and those who travel into the backcountry and wilds of Alaska in most cases carry firearms with them. Those who do not carry firearms are generally ignorant of the real life survival situations that come up in the Alaska wilderness. Anyone in a long-term survival situation will need to make food collection a vital part of their survival strategy and Melissa is the kind of person who carries that experience. The vast majority of those living in Alaska support hunting and use hunting as a very real means of survival on a daily, weekly and yearly basis.
Melissa Bachman is exactly the kind of person the producers should want in regards to entertaining and educating viewers. They knew she was a “Hardcore Huntress” and that played into their decision. It is shocking that pressure from 13,000 signatures on an online petition would derail that plan. I am assuming pressure from sponsors played into the decision. While the show was not aimed to be a hunting show, hunters carry the outdoorsman skills and spirit in today’s world and these skills and spirit need to be shared with viewers. NATGEO and the producers made a huge mistake in not including an experienced hunter like Melissa Bachman in this series.
Hardcore Huntress – Melissa Bachman
Melissa Bachman is the very definition of Hardcore Huntress. She grew up in a family that lived and breathed hunting as a way of life and as a tool to keep the family together while providing food for the table. At a very young age, she was tagging along on family hunts long before she was allowed to carry a gun. She began shooting bows before the age of 12. Hunting season was always an important time in her family as way to spend quality time in the outdoors together. Whether it was waterfowl hunting, deer hunting, fishing or trapping gophers to protect the roots of trees they had planted, Melissa was included in all aspects of family outings. In time, Melissa began to hunt along with her family. Spending time in the outdoors and hunting becameb passions for her.
Melissa graduated college with a double major in Television Broadcasting and Spanish. She sent out over 70 demo reels and got the same answer over and over: she needed real experience. Not one to give up, Melissa approached North American Hunting and agreed to work for free in the hope that a position would open up for her. After four months, she was hired on as a producer and began filming, editing, and producing with some of the biggest names in the industry. After several years, she branched out on her own and her reputation as a Hardcore Huntress has been growing ever since. Melissa has traveled the world and she has worked hard to succeed.
Melissa Bachman was described by Tim Martell as a “heartless trophy hunter who has killed hundreds of animals without purpose.” Tim has obviously been drinking the Kool-Aid from the anti-hunting crowd. Melissa Bachman hunts because she has a passion for it, she pursues a career in the hunting industry because she was taught by her family and friends that if you do something you love, you will succeed and she sets a great example for young women who also have a passion for the outdoors and hunting.
Tim Martell would not have attacked Melissa if he had not seen her as an easy target and I honestly do not think he would have attacked Melissa were she not an attractive female who enjoys showing her passion for hunting and conservation. Martell has not attacked individuals on other NatGeo shoes like Wicked Tuna, Alaska State Troopers, Wild Justice and others, all of which show hunting on the network. Martell threw around the phrase “trophy hunter” in every single interview and comment: “When I was young, nothing was more exciting than hearing the magnificent sound of the trumpets of National Geographic blaring on the TV in the other room. … But lately, the famous sound of trumpets has transformed into the sound of bugles. Bugles that sound to mark the death of our precious wildlife that National Geographic once protected. Bugles that sound the mark…a trophy hunt!”
When I asked Olivia Nalos why she thought NatGeo cancelled after Melissa Bachman, she said, “Obviously anti-hunters realize that women hunters are a huge threat to their efforts… We’re not your stereotypical Elmer Fudd-appearing hunter, we’re the mothers, teachers, wives and nurturers of society – no wonder the antis worked so diligently in successfully persuading Nat Geo to remove her. Although, it would be comical to see a bunny-hugger survive in the wild!”
I also asked my daughter, Audrey, to share her thoughts on Melissa. “I look up to Melissa Bachman. Not only is she a hunter, but she’s also helping the world. If people like her didn’t hunt, the populations of animals would be out of control. I’m thankful for hunters like Melissa…if you take pictures of yourself with an animal, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a trophy hunter. It just means you’re proud that you got something. Hunters take pictures for memories…. it’s not killing animals to be wasteful, it’s killing them for food.” I am proud of my daughter for sharing her thoughts and I think she has some great points. Women like Melissa are great role models. And I believe Olivia Nalos has a great point as to why women hunters are such a threat to the anti-hunting movement. The biggest growth sector in the hunting world is women.
The use of the phrase “Trophy Hunter” by Tim Martell and those who worked so diligently to have Melissa removed from this program is just as disturbing to me. This phrase has long been used by the anti-hunting crowd to define, dismantle, and destroy hunting. The definition has been purposefully broad. Those who share a passion for the outdoors need to work hard on spreading the message that we will no longer take the use of this label lightly. We must work to define what trophy hunting really is and take back the power of what this phrase means to hunters and non-hunters.
In conversations over the weekend, I asked several people to define trophy hunting. The answers varied between hunters who only hunted for the racks to and definitions that aligned hunters to poachers. A hodge podge of individuals had no real definition but knew it was bad, provided no value, and fueled ego alone.
The definition of Trophy Hunters should be realigned to be:
Trophy Hunting – a passion for fair chase hunting and the pursuit of the best animal in a given region based on the skills and abilities of the hunter.
I grew up hunting with my father was always about hunting for meat. My father saw every animal as a trophy whether it was a forked buck or something slightly bigger. Every deer, every antelope that was legal to shoot and provided an opportunity was taken. During the years spenting hunting with my father, we filled the freezer. Horn size never mattered. We each got one tag and because we hunted desert mule deer on the Eastern Sierra range where deer were spread out, finding a legal buck was difficult so you took what you saw. One tag, one deer, and a full freezer was important and in most cases essential to feeding our family.
My father never really had the opportunities that I have had to hunt in states where I had 2 or more buck tags in my pocket as well as several doe tags. Hunting in the East for whitetail where deer are overpopulated allowed me to change how I hunted. I can now define myself as a trophy hunter. Let me explain: I have shot small bucks and filled the freezer, but I no longer need to do that. I can fill the freezer by filling my tags on doe and be selective about the bucks that I shoot. I am willing to walk away without out filling my buck tag and still enjoy the experience. I don’t look down on hunters who shoot the first buck they see. Each hunter must make his own choice based on the circumstances. Every hunter should respect those among our ranks to make their own choices to pursue the biggest and best bucks because more often than not those hunters go home with empty tags.
Trophy hunters who pursue opportunities to hunt all over the world have learned through experience that hunting, even if it is just for the experience and the thrill of the hunt, provides meat for someone. They realize that the care and use of meat is just as important the world over as it is here in the US. The meat from all species that are edible and safe for humans to eat is collected and distributed to those in need.
When I was in Cameroon filming John, ever scrap, every bone, every hide was brought out of the field, processed, and dried into biltong to feed the 65 people in the village. John took 8 different species in 10 days. Besides the small amount that we ate, all of the meat was used to feed the local villagers. I would have happily brought meat home if it had been legal to import the meat to the states. After bear hunting in Canada, I brought back processed bear meat. The opportunity to cook that meat for friends and family was a badge of honor.
Melissa Bachman is by definition a trophy hunter, but she was brought up in a family that understood hunting was an essential part of food collection for the family. Those traits do not simply vanish. The animals Melissa takes are either brought home to feed family and friends or donated to needy individuals in the local area. Like Melissa, many of us in the outdoor media industry have a wealth of opportunities to hunt in locations throughout the world. We are under even more scrutiny than the average hunter to follow game laws. We make sure to live up to higher ethical standards in order to set a strong example in the public’s eyes. Holding out for bigger animals is a hunter’s choice. Those of us, like Melissa Bachman, who are willing to hold out for the trophy and challenge ourselves to take a monster animal should not be penalized by the public for our choices. As long as we are legally and ethically hunting, why not hold out for the mature animals we are seeking and allow the younger animals a chance to grow the herd and provide opportunities later for other hunters.
Tim Martell stated he did not have a problem with all hunting, just trophy hunting. Was it because Melissa posed with the animals and filmed her hunts? Was it because she was an attractive female? Was it because she hunted more than deer? National Geographic caved to public pressure with only 13,000 signatures and broke a contract with Melissa to include her in the show. Was it the speed at which this came up? Was it because they did not realize this would be an issue? What is NatGeo’s position on legal ethical hunting? How is it that other shows that include the participation of hunters are not affected?Are hunters going to stand for this kind of discrimination?
We have a choice to make and we need to band together to address these issues. As hunters, whether we hunt locally for meat or hunt the world in pursuit of trophies, memories, and experiences, we must spread the word about our passion for hunting, we must define who we are and what we stand for, and we must stand behind those who are wronged for sharing their passion for the pursuit of the Hunting Life!!!