Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire 
The author glasses harsh terrain on a beautiful October day on an unsuccessful hunt in 2015.

Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire The author glasses harsh terrain on a beautiful October day on an unsuccessful hunt in 2015.

I Went to the Woods: The danger of overexposure

Outdoors content isn’t a monolith.

By Jeff Lund

For the Juneau Empire

Elk guru Corey Jacobsen and his crew recently returned home from an absolutely miserable Alaskan elk hunt. Not typical Alaskan misery, a brand of dangerous misery that necessitates the Coast Guard for the unprepared or the unlucky. It didn’t go that way for them, because they don’t hack up the gritless, deep-pocket, private land hunting content like their predecessors and some contemporaries. They trained for the hunt, respected the severity, and I can’t wait to watch the footage.

But since he and his crew did it, will it attract more hunters? Will the spot be ruined or impossible to draw? Will he be the latest in the long line of big names from the Lower 48 who come up here, document their adventures, and be blamed for an overstress of the resource?

It’s hard not to imagine an impact when content-makers from down south come up here to do as we do for a week, then return home to hundreds of thousands of “likes,” endorsements and appearances on shows and podcasts to talk about how great our backyard is.

But the answer to whether destination shows, travel writing and podcast recaps are good or bad, is far more complex than a simplistic yes or no.

Either answer is too shallow. Too convenient.

As an outdoor content-maker myself, I wrestle with this often, though my reach and subsequent impact is a fraction of Jacobsen’s. I enjoy videos, podcasts and articles made by people who come up to Alaska, and one of the reasons I am buying and saving preference points for an elk hunt down south is because of content-makers like Jacobsen who have put hunts on my radar. In other words, I am hoping to be the exact person in Wyoming I hope doesn’t show up in Alaska. Those hunts sound fun. I want to go. So should I criticize a fellow hunter for making his dream hunt happen and broadcasting the story?

While Jacobsen, a humble, non-chest bumping type, has emphasized the brutality of the trip, the way people read and watch content does not always yield expected results. Jon Krakauer went to Mount Everest in 1996 to report on the commercialization of the world’s highest point. After surviving the deadly storm that killed eight hikers, he wrote “Into Thin Air,” and more people than ever started to show up to have their shot at the summit.

Reality only becomes real at close range for some, and some believe, or want to believe, they have the right stuff.

However, the sad reality is most people don’t follow through, which is why Jan. 1 is so different than Feb. 1 and why there isn’t just one self-help book. Self-help is its own ever-growing genre busting with angles and stories, but no matter what insight or short-cut is sold or advertised, it all comes down to the simple question, “Am I going to follow through?”

Maybe the best-of-the-best types will put in for the draw, maybe a bunch of Walter Mitty-types will too. Either way, I’m happy for Jacobsen. The whole crew. They seem to have a solid understanding of what happens when someone of note puts something low-key into focus and are promoting without the inconsiderate bravado of some other conquering non-residents.

More so, however, I have tried to resist the temptation to become the “must be nice” type of person when I see someone doing what I wish I had done. Rather than be upset that someone else is making things happen, start to make things happen myself.

I have a buddy who filmed a hunt he refuses to share. That is the epitome of hunting for the right reasons and I love and respect that as a local. As a writer, I am also an advocate for the power of story. It sounds like Jacobsen has a great one, and I am excited to hear it.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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