The Hunt: Hits & Misses

Wildlife photographer and safari guide, Paul Goldstein couldn't resist the opportunity give his opinion on the BBC's latest natural world spectacular The Hunt...

"I pay my license fee like everyone else and the thought of forking out cash for smug camera crews to flit around the globe for months sitting in hides for days on end, with mosquitoes and constipation for companions, is surely an anathema. Do they really think we would actually watch these sorts of indulgent faunal fripperies? Well they're right! If the license fee was ten times its current value I would pay it just for the first episode of The Hunt as this was the best wildlife documentary I’ve seen. Utterly magnificent.

Cheetah on the hunt Cheetah on the hunt

My humanised diet of Nat Geo, Discovery and other US-backed documentaries paled long ago. Their constant use of syrupy voiceovers and anthropomorphic story lines sat in my craw, not to mention their miserly budgets leaving a cheap unedifying aftertaste and frustration at their patronising of the subjects. For a while the BBC lot in Bristol seemed to follow suit with underwhelming and frequently childish documentaries - The Polar Bear Family and Me anyone?

But not anymore.

I’ve already watched the first episode of The Hunt twice and I’ll certainly be watching it again during the long six-day wait until the Arctic installment.

The opening credits were worth the license fee alone. I felt pretty smug finally photographing a caracal after a 20-year pilgrimage, but seeing that one stratospherically airborne chasing doves was spellbinding, and what a brilliant teaser - even if they withhold that picture card until episode seven, I will still follow the series assiduously. Often the aces are played early in these shows to seduce the viewer, this time I do not care as the trailer alone for next week is nirvana.

Exodus clients on Photographic Safari with Paul Exodus clients on Photographic Safari with Paul

I know the area where the leopard hunt was filmed and the whole sequence smacks of two things: patience and budget. I still don’t know how the impala evaded her, but this coverage of the aborts and misses, as well as the strikes is adult and realistic, and brutally compelling. Often it is the endangered hunter that suffers most.

African wild dog African wild dog

The monkey that has sat on the BBC’s back since Planet Earth messed up the wild dog hunt all those years ago has been well and truly slung off. If you remember, despite the fancy helicopter with the much vaunted gimbal camera attached they missed the actual hunt, focusing on the wrong prey. This is harsh but wildlife viewers generally want closure.

Finally, we got it last night - the coursing dog chase sequence was remarkable. But then again, so was the clinical chameleon and indeed the Darwin spider spinning out her silk like an All Black scrum half fizzing out passes to his number ten. Then there was the million Amur falcons, ten million winged termites, tactical orca and humpback duels and then that taster again for next week. Was it really only an hour?

Cheetah family in the Masai Mara (June 2015) Cheetah family in the Masai Mara (June 2015)

For those concerned about the cheetah, I saw this dappled mother just last week with her three adult cubs all getting along fine. The picture above was taken earlier this year, around the time the BBC film crew were tracking her. I felt my shutter finger twitching as she closed in on her quarry last night…

As ever with BBC Bristol’s best offerings, my only criticism of The Hunt is of its indulgent behind-the-scenes segment at the end. Personally, I’d prefer the ten extra minutes of action. Just me?

Now, ‘the hardest challenge’ is waiting nearly a week for the next one!"

Tell us what you thought of The Hunt’s first episode in the comments below. If you missed it, catch up on iPlayer today!

Want to travel with Paul and hone your shutter skills? Join one of his Photographic Safaris and you could be capturing the hunt for yourself!

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