The Huntsman – Episode 1 “The fall that changed the hunt”, Season 2 REVIEW.

The Huntsman is a very easy and enjoyable watch; sharp and thoughtful cinematography is accompanied by crisp and clear audio

Hunting, as a cultural phenomenon in Australia, is a pretty small-scale affair. But this is changing. A growing recognition of the value of outdoor experiences, an intimacy with the land, and of free-range, ethically harvested meat has simultaneously fed an appetite for home-grown media content that reflects the unique conditions, animals and people of the Australian hunting landscape.

Enter stage left The Huntsman.

Chris Waters (left), Jordi Ellingham (center), Dodge Keir (right)

It’s an exciting and fast-paced addition to the ‘narrative hunting’ genre that, over the course of 25 minutes, takes you up and down the hills of central New South Wales. You’ll join host Chris Waters, and pals Jordi Ellingham and Dodge Keir, during the highs and the lows of hunting fallow and goats – a good quarry for any hunter and fitting game for the newly released first episode of the second season.

I was initially struck by the production quality – this is no shaky home video. The Huntsman is a very easy and enjoyable watch; sharp and thoughtful cinematography is accompanied by crisp and clear audio. Having a professional camera operator behind the lens also gives the hunters, now unburdened by the ubiquitous handheld camera of Season 1, time to practice their craft. The end result is an experience that is more immersive and rewarding than a lot of the content currently available on platforms like YouTube. Indeed, the second season of The Huntsman is actually being broadcast on Foxtel Australia via the Aurora channel (as well as The Huntsman YouTube channel, of course).

With such a focus on production I was concerned the actual process of hunting might take the backseat. While the episode wasn’t a blow-by-blow account of the trip, what I saw on screen seemed accurate and realistic. The way the hunters identified and explained sign would be satisfying for experienced hunters and informative for new ones. The constant use of binos and wind detectors added a sense of immediacy to the stalks and legitimacy to the content.

That said, episode one guest Dodge did make the unfortunate ecological faux pas of claiming a wallaroo was a kangaroo/wallaby hybrid! (Easy mistake, but it’s actually its own species in the family Macropodidae).

Roo genetics aside, I particularly enjoyed Chris’ open and authentic interactions with the camera, and was surprised by a clearly ad-lib discussion of shooting prowess, and the pressure and burden of expectation – something we have all felt looking down a scope or sight, but are often reticent to discuss. After a fall that almost ruined the hunt (check out episode one to see what actually happens!) Chris was clearly in a bind all hunters find themselves in at one point or another. If you’re looking for content about real hunting, this ticks the box.

Chris Waters, lining up on a fallow deer.

A highlight of the show was the food. A young goat, butterflied, seasoned with the Carnivore Collective Greek Souvlaki rub and slow roasted made a mouthwatering addition to an episode otherwise filled with serrated tussock and tough terrain. Like many in the community I hunt to harvest and eat wild game and hope to see more recipes debuted in the future. The spice rub, along with a range of other products, were clearly part of the episode thanks to sponsors, but The Huntsman certainly doesn’t feel like one long commercial.

You would be forgiven if, at this point, you had begun to suspect the show sounds a lot like the highly successful American MeatEater series. Anyone who has ever thought of shooting a deer has probably watched an episode of MeatEater at some point in their lives, and there’s a reason for that; it’s very good. So how does The Huntsman stack up?

Well it does follow a very similar format, including the length of the episode. The filming style, use of suspense and music all reminded me of the American behemoth. Arguably MeatEater has nailed the genre and it’s clear Chris Waters and The Huntsman haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel.

Jorid’s Argentinian asado butterflied wild goat dish using the Carnivore Collective rub

But The Huntsman brings its own value proposition to the table – it’s Australian. It’s Aussie hunters in Aussie landscapes targeting Aussie game. To see central western NSW (a place I and many hunters know and love) presented in high definition in a high quality format was hugely exciting. The Huntsman is far from a rip-off of an American product. It’s a true blue production that celebrates and elevates Australian hunting culture – a culture that respects and loves the land, the game, and the sustenance it brings us.

Is The Huntsman the best hunting show in the world? Probably not, but it’s up there with some of the best. I do think the episode could do with stronger storytelling, the ‘drama’ often isn’t that dramatic and Chris Waters, a strong host, can sometimes wax lyrical in voice overs. This might sound like tough love, but I’m sure the boys can take it. And you see it doesn’t have to be the best hunting show in the world because it’s now, arguably, one of the leading hunting shows in Australia and that, I suspect, is where it will have the most impact.

Possibly the best part of The Huntsman is that it extends an invitation to viewers unfamiliar and uninitiated with the lore of hunting. It’s the type of content that is made for everyone, and I would be as happy watching this with my mother as I would with my mates. The Huntsman somehow manages to blend together all the best parts of hunting without falling prey to negative archetypes. As the Australian hunting community and culture continues to grow and mature, we need more content like this.

I can’t wait for episode two.

You can view Season 2 of The Huntsman for free at thehuntsman.com.au and The Huntsman YouTube channel. You can also find each episode from Season 2 as it streams live on Foxtel (on the last Thursday of every month at 8pm AEST via the Aurora channel until November 2024).

David Barnott-Clement is a hunter, science communicator and conservationist.

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