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Hunting the Menu - groundbreaking Australian TV

The SSAA has been proud to be a major financial sponsor of Hunting the Menu and help bring the show to screens across Australia. Host and producer of the show Corey Wilson has had a long relationship with the SSAA including as a member and says the show couldn’t have been made without the SSAA. “We really appreciate the SSAA’s support throughout the series and Hunting the Menu has been a great journey to take together,” he said. “I’d also like to thank Frontier Arms and Swarovski Optik for their sponsorship and support. It’s great to see sports shooting and firearms be used responsibly on Australian TV.”

We first got to know Corey and the Hunting the Menu team after commissioning them to produce a series based on our international and award-winning Field to Fork - The Australian Game Cookbook in 2012. The Field to Fork book and its philosophy were a perfect match for Corey’s team and that eight-part series is still available to view on SSAA TV. Some of the episodes go into the nitty-gritty of field-dressing and butchering, while another focuses on how to sight-in your rifle, and of course there are excellent cooking lessons showing how deer can be turned into venison pie and biltong strips.

Hunting the Menu, Field to Fork and other productions we have made are available on SSAA TV and when combined they have been viewed almost 700,000 times. Put another way, viewers have spent almost two and a half million minutes watching our videos through SSAA TV. The most popular demographic who watch our videos are between 25 and 34 years old. YouTube and SSAA TV enable us to connect with younger age groups who often consume media differently to previous generations.

Corey says the feedback from fans has been incredible. “People have told me it’s their favourite show and are demanding more to be made already,” he said. “In fact, we haven’t heard a negative review about the show so far.” Corey estimates that the show has reached more than 300,000 television and online viewers in its first six episodes, which is a testament to our great hunting and shooting culture. Hunting the Menu episodes are bookended with promotions for the SSAA as well as our ‘Join Us’ TV commercial in each episode. When you add it all up, our message has been seen a lot of times.

With six episodes finished and released to the public, planning and filming of a further six to seven episodes is well under way, so Hunting the Menu is likely to live on. Corey says his focus will be on social media and continuing to promote the show on different platforms in the interim. “Facebook and YouTube are important for us because they provide instant feedback. We are growing our brand and connecting with our audience more and more,” he said. Hunting the Menu’s social media reach has been consistently more than 100,000 and growing. Corey also says it is one of the most popular shows on C31 with 95 per cent of viewers watching the whole way through.

From early April, Hunting the Menu was available on Imparja, a free-to-air channel which broadcasts in regional areas and reaches about one million people across Australia. Having the show play on Imparja is another step in the right direction and will help the program become bigger and bigger and connect with more people. On top of that the series will continue airing on Aurora, a subscription TV channel for locally produced content, as well as various community TV channels around the country. “We will be staying active on our Facebook page so that’s the best place to keep up to date with our latest news,” said Corey.

 

Making the show

Many fans of the show have wondered how the actual hunting is filmed. It’s one thing to stalk a deer by yourself but it becomes even more challenging when you have extra people and a large camera to creep around with. However, Corey told us that hunting rabbits at night was the most challenging hunt, proving even more difficult than deer. “The rabbit shoot in episode two was the hardest hunting by far,” he said. While on the show it appeared as though they did it all in one night, Corey says it actually took five nights in total. “The main issue is getting the hunting on film. You need a lot of light to make the rabbits show up,” said Corey. “Plus some nights are just better than others and I always seemed to do better as soon as the cameras stopped rolling.”

Corey says that fishing is much easier to film than hunting animals for one simple reason. “Well obviously the fish can’t see or hear you when you are messing around with the camera,” he said. The most straightforward hunt of the entire trip was surprisingly the red deer from episode one. “We knew the area and happened across a beautiful red deer early on in the hunt,” said Corey. “That’s hunting though, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes even if you do everything right you come away empty-handed.”

While there isn’t always enough time in each episode to show it, Corey admits that Mother Nature plays a bigger role in their hunting adventures than she always is given credit for. “When we were hunting for goats in episode six the first day we went out it was an absolute smorgasbord of options. Then the weather turned on us the next day and we hardly saw an animal again. You take the good with the bad with hunting though.”

Corey believes that much of the beauty of hunting is just getting away for a while. “My father and I used to go out trout fishing and there’s only a 20 per cent chance you’ll come away with anything. But no matter what you get you come away feeling good and refreshed,” he said. “Each episode finishes with us serving up the food because that gives me a real joy, presenting food that I caught myself and getting to share it with people.”

 

The team

While there is nothing wrong with buying meat from the supermarket, there’s nothing better than fresh wild game meat you catch yourself, in Corey’s view. “This country was brought up on hunting for the table, but now we are starting to stray away from that. In fact, I think it’s something that is starting to be lost,” he said. This is part of the inspiration Corey used for creating Hunting the Menu.

The first place Corey went when he decided to start the show was Shane Simpson’s gun store to ask him to join and Shane jumped at the opportunity. “I walked into Shane’s shop, told him the idea, he said he loved it and had been wanting to do something like this for years and so with Shane’s hunting knowledge and my TV background we started what is now a little over four years of hard work to bringing Hunting the Menu to life,” said Corey. “Shane is a bit of a quiet guy but he is a brilliant hunter. He is excellent at reading animals and gives great advice on which animal to take, whether they might look unhealthy or pregnant for example.”

Shane is the perfect fit for the show, being a hunter as well as a chef and has owned and operated an award-winning restaurant. The fish Shane cooks up in the show are improvised recipes using the fish they have caught only moments before. Not to be outdone, Andrew Dawson is also a very well-renowned chef and has long campaigned for the importance of fresh, healthy and wild ingredients. Andrew received his chef training in Italy and rounds out the trio by effortlessly showing how easily game meat can be turned into gourmet dishes.

Corey Wilson - The host and producer

Corey was raised on a diet of his mum’s homemade lamingtons and his dad’s boyhood takes of catching rabbits to feed the 11-strong Wilson clan. His two great loves are television and fishing, rarely leaving home without a rod.
Born and bred in regional NSW surrounded by the green fields and dairy cows of Kiama and its backdrop, Corey transitioned to the big smoke of Wollongong as an 18-year-old starting his career with WIN Television before joining Network Ten as an online editor. He returned to WIN in 2009 as the producer of Fishing Australia where he spent five years travelling Australia in search of the best fish, the best spots and the best shots.
From many years coaching behind the camera, Corey moves up front for Hunting the Menu.

Andrew Dawson - The chef

Andrew grew up in an environment where nothing came from a packet or tin, and where everything had to be cooked from scratch. As a young boy in Ireland he caught eels in the creeks and long grass around the dairy and quickly worked out that eels weren’t much good as pets but, cooked the right way, were pretty tasty.
After becoming hooked on surfing, Andrew gravitated to Australia where, as a journalist and cold larder chef, he opened the restaurant Rafters, on the south coast of New South Wales. At the time (1975), it was the only strictly fresh food restaurant in Australia. Andrew followed this up by becoming one of the founding members of the Wine Press Club and opening Dawson’s Bar and Grill.
Viewers might have noticed that Andrew is sometimes in a wheelchair, which he requires to help move him around after a back injury. It certainly hasn’t slowed him down or affected his delicious cooking though.

Shane Simpson - The hunter

Shane spent his childhood foraging around the properties of relatives. He trained as a chef while owning and managing multiple award-winning restaurants, all the while pursuing his passion for guiding and teaching people how to correctly hunt and gather in the Australian bush.
Shane believes you can’t be a cook without being a hunter and you can’t be a hunter without being a cook. As far as Shane is concerned the two acts are intrinsically intertwined and one should not be done without the other.
The avid hunter and fisher owns and operates a hunting, camping and fishing store in Wollongong. However, he is most comfortable away from the bright lights, always preferring to be on the family farm located in the southern tablelands of NSW.

 

Hunting and the Australian public

Capturing your own food and preparing it is one of the closest connections you can have with nature. Dispelling the myth that hunting is cruel isn’t always easy because it’s something some people just don’t want to think about and many people today give little thought to where their food comes from according to Corey. “There’s a real lack of education for people about hunting - but we are bringing them on board so they can understand what we do, how we do it and why it’s important,” said Corey.

The rise of cooking shows across Australia like MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules has made the public more and more interested in cooking, which in turn has translated to people becoming interested in how they can harvest wild and healthy meat from nature. “We are here to show people there is a different and arguably better way of utilising nature and resources,” said Corey.

Corey feels that hunting is important because it is a part of Australia’s culture and it should be celebrated. “One thing that frustrates me is when we cull animals and leave them out there to rot, while at the same time making it harder and harder for hunters to get out there,” he said. “It’s a complete waste of resources. We should be utilising what we’ve got rather than producing more of what we don’t need.”

 

Moving forward

The plan for the future of Hunting the Menu is to make another seven episodes, which Corey is hopeful of doing this year but will ultimately come down to logistics. Corey says the idea is to head across all of Australia and meet up with friends who are more than happy to share their hunting trips with the team. “There’s so much hunting to be done out there. One trip in particular we would love to do is head down south for some duck hunting,” said Corey.

If you are still desperate for more Hunting the Menu Corey and the team will be at the SSAA SHOT Expo in Melbourne on May 20-21. It’s the perfect chance to meet the makers and pick up the inside scoop of the show. They will be talking about how they produce the show and will give tips and tricks about how they film all their hunting. They will explain how they use a combination of drones, cameras, scopes and other techniques to create the amazing shots they use in the show.

If you like the show and you support what the show stands for, help spread the message. Watch the series on SSAA TV, share their videos and posts on social media and be vocal about wanting to see more hunting on TV in Australia. The success of Hunting the Menu is success for hunters and the more the public understands how hunting and firearms work, the more positively recreational shooters will be treated.

 


Lemon and rosemary barbecue hare

Hares are considered a pest across Australia, but that’s no reason not to serve them up on a dinner plate. The Hunting the Menu team think you will really enjoy this recipe. Just make sure the hare has been bled and frozen in its skin for a minimum of one week, then defrosted in the fridge over two days.

 Lemon and rosemary barbecue hare

Ingredients
• 1 hare
• 1 lemon
• 2 sprigs rosemary - roughly chopped
• 2 cloves garlic - crushed
• 500ml alcoholic cider (we used a winter berry variety)
• 2 teaspoons curry powder
• 2 teaspoons paprika
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• salt and pepper - to season
• 2 tablespoons boysenberry jam
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• ¾ cup rich beef gravy - made up

Method
Portion the hare into eight to 10 pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the juice of the lemon, then cut the rind into pieces and add this to the bowl. Then add the rosemary, crushed garlic and enough cider to cover the meat. Marinate in the fridge overnight.
Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place in a clean bowl and add the combined curry powder, paprika and olive oil. Coat the meat well and then season with salt and pepper.
Chargrill the meat on medium heat for 10-12 minutes per side. The meat should be served medium to medium-well done.
To make the sauce, add the boysenberry jam and sugar to the made-up gravy, pour over the barbecued hare and serve immediately.

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