When Blaine Anthony got into the outdoor TV biz as host of “Maine Safari” on the Sportsman Channel, he had relatively few peers in the field.
“Outdoor television was not humongous,” the Benton man said. “I think I was the 63rd hunting show on television. Compared to right now, seven years later, there’s over 500.”
The recent explosion in hunting-related programming isn’t holding Anthony back, however. He makes a living producing shows for others, while hosting his own offerings — most recently “North American Safari” — as a hobby. And on Wednesday, Oct. 5, his latest offering, “The Bear Whisperer,” will make its debut at 6:30 p.m., also on the Sportsman Channel.
Anthony spent several years guiding bear hunters in the Maine towns of Bingham and Moscow, and will draw upon more than 20 years of bear-hunting experience during the first season’s 13-show run.
And Anthony promises his show will be different than any other hunting show that has focused on bears.
“You can turn the channel at any time [now] and find the guy killing a bear with a doughnut in its mouth,” Anthony said. “We wanted the show to be different. What you never see [on other shows] is people spot-and-stalking bears, calling bears in like coyotes.”
There will be no baiting footage on “The Bear Whisperer,” Anthony promises. And there will be a constant emphasis on bear research and conservation.
“The only thing people know about bears is they eat doughnuts and you can kill them over them,” Anthony said. “That’s all they see on TV, rather than the actual life of a bear.”
To that end, while hunting will be a key component of the show, and hunters will likely make up a huge portion of the audience, “The Bear Whisperer” will not be simply a show about successful hunting excursions.
“I can tell you that not until show four does something actually die,” Anthony said. “A lot of it is just straight education, teaching people about bears. Not how to kill ‘em, but just about bears.”
Not that Anthony is anti-hunting when it comes to bears. Far from it. He’s just striving to present a fuller picture of bears and bear hunting than he feels is currently available.
“I’m a conservationist when it comes to bear, and an unbelievably large part of that conservation is hunting,” Anthony said. “So you’re going to see that part of it, too. It’s conservation from A to Z. It’s not just conservation from A to L, and then I joined PETA and I didn’t want anything to die.”
Some viewers might be confused by the show’s name: Another “Bear Whisperer,” featuring a man who was tasked with bear control in a California town, appeared on Animal Planet. Anthony said his production had trademarked the name a year before the other show had even been conceptualized, and that a legal challenge has been settled, giving him rights to the name.
Personnel from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will be featured in some episodes, as Anthony went on two bear den surveys with biologist Randy Cross and his crew over the winter. Anthony also traveled extensively to hunt, conduct interviews and capture footage. Among his stops were Alaska, British Columbia and New Brunswick.
Despite the name of the show, Anthony said he isn’t under the illusion that he can talk to bears. He does, however, think that bears tap into a person’s energy similarly to the way some think dogs do.
“It’s a vibe, an energy that you’re actually sending out. When you’re relaxed, they’re relaxed. When you’re wound up, they’re wound up. And you’ll never see them,” Anthony said.
And Anthony said the “Bear Whisperer” tag stuck after he kept having success while hunting hard-to-find bears.
“So many people started calling me that because [they were thinking], ‘I can’t figure out how this guy can do this,’” he said. “[Like] going up to New Brunswick to kill a bear that nobody else can kill. It has taken down moose. They’re trying to bait it, they just can’t get it. We went up in one day and not only did we get it, we got it on film. We called it in.”
Anthony already has a pretty good idea which shows will be particularly popular — the final episodes of the season that focus on bear attacks, including two bears that attacked him.
“It would be really easy to put out a two-part special on bear attacks, but if you educate [viewers], by the time episode 12 rolls around and I say, ‘See how I deserved this?’ they’ll understand what I’m saying.”
And at least once this season, he’ll say just that.
“One [attack] was just bad luck,” Anthony said. “One I had it coming to me.”
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