Let the countdown begin the countdown to the fireworks of another fall hunting season, that is.
As another sizzling Fourth of July holiday approaches, hunters all across North America are already beginning to dream of the chill of an autumn breeze, not to mention the blazing colors of autumn's glory splashed across creation.
They're also anticipating first trips into the field later this year with a shotgun, bow, rifle or muzzleloader in tow as the chase for big game, small game, upland birds and waterfowl begins in earnest.
In the meantime, what's a sportsman to do on this long, hot Independence Day holiday weekend?
That's easy tune in Sunday, July 3, for the arrival of this year's ESPN Outdoors Hunt Sunday lineup, which features programming designed to whet a hunter's appetite for what's to come later this year. (And tune in each Sunday afterward, as Hunt Sunday runs all the way through December this year!)
A key component of that lineup will be the weekly Realtree Outdoor Block, which airs Sundays from 9-10:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
First up is "Whitetail Country," beginning at 9 a.m. ET.
Billed as a deer-hunting show akin to something on the order of "A&E Biography" or "Headliners and Legends," host Tom Miranda promises viewers a rare glimpse into the day-to-day lives of some of the country's most successful deer hunters.
"So many shows are about whack 'em and stack 'em," Miranda said.
"We wanted to delve into the lives of some of the country's best deer hunters, see their trophy rooms, find out what kind of truck Bill Jordan drives, see where they eat lunch or, in other words, see just a day in the life of these hunters."
Viewers will also get a look at the hunting tactics of these deer hunting pros that have helped to fill their walls with big antlers and their freezers with succulent venison.
"No other show has more pros than 'Whitetail Country,'" said Miranda, who will be speaking to his ESPN2 Hunt Sunday shows this Saturday from 6-7 a.m. ET on
"The Outdoors Show on ESPN Radio."
"We've got 20 pros this season. It's a who's who of whitetail hunters. Every week we've got guys like Bill Jordan, Chuck Adams, myself, Stan Potts, Joel Maxfield and Greg Miller."
Add in people like writer Bill Winke, the husband-and-wife team of Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, Scott Schultz of Robinson Outdoors fame and Alex Rutledge of Hunter Specialties, and it's easy to see that there's plenty of deer-hunting knowledge to be gained from watching this show.
"We've got something like 400 years of deer-hunting experience," Miranda said.
"It's pretty amazing when you start adding up everybody on the show and what they've done there's a lot to draw from."
Fresh on the heels of "Whitetail Country" is Miranda's other show, the longtime ESPN Outdoors' staple of "Advantage Adventures."
Airing at 9:30 a.m. ET, this is the show where Miranda grabs his bow each week and heads off on another globetrotting adventure for big game critters ranging from Africa's Cape buffalo to the Arctic's musk ox to Midwestern whitetails.
"This year on the show it's a totally new show with new opens and new bumpers," Miranda said.
But while the production end of the show will have a new look and feel to it, what will remain unchanged is Miranda's commitment to both entertain and educate hunters with great action from the field.
"You have to entertain, or they'll turn the channel," Miranda said. "And you have to educate, or they'll turn the channel."
Following the short vignette-styled "Monster Buck Moments" at 9:55 a.m. ET, the Realtree Outdoor Block will be capped off at 10 a.m. ET each week by Bill Jordan's long-running "Realtree Outdoors," one of the most popular hunting shows in North America.
During this first weekend of a new season, viewers will get a taste of what's to come throughout the third quarter.
That's plenty of exciting hunts, big antlers, hero shots, and even a miss or two along the way including this weekend's episode of monster buck hunting in South Texas.
In weeks to come, viewers will see the likes of Bill Jordan, David Blanton, and their guests traveling across the continent to take aim at a variety of critters ranging from caribou to Dall sheep to elk to spring turkeys to more monster whitetails.
"We've got a lot of cool stuff," said John Tate, the producer of "Realtree Outdoors." "I'm really excited about this year."
Despite the track record of success that exists behind the show, Tate says that viewers should not expect to see "Realtree Outdoors" resting on any past laurels.
"One thing we've never done here is sit back, especially with our TV shows," Tate said.
"Every year, we will try to reinvent ourselves somewhat and come back with something bigger and better.
"We never sit back, because if we do, we're going to get passed by somebody."
This year, that means that viewers will get more than rock-solid footage, snappy edits, and up-tempo music that were hallmarks of the show during its ESPN2 debut a year ago.
"The bottom line is just telling better stories," Tate said. "We'll have better storylines this year than last because of the learning curve. You have to tell a (good) story."
Why is that? Because the days of simply putting 'me-and-Joe-went-hunting' footage on the air is apparently over with.
"The competition for a hunting show is much heavier now than it was a few years ago," Tate said.
That means that to win viewers something that Bill Jordan's crew has excelled in down through the years a variety of key ingredients come into play.
"There is so much stuff that you have to have for a great show to come together," Tate said. "You have to have cooperation from the weather, from the animal that you're hunting, and the hunter has to be interesting on camera."
While much of that is uncontrollable, Tate stresses that what is controllable are the people looking through the camera's viewfinder and the decisions they make in the field.
"As far as the story unfolding, you've got to be on your toes," said Tate, who got his start at Realtree behind the viewfinder himself.
Often, the plan at the start of a day may go through a metamorphosis if not change completely by day's end when a crew is out on location.
"You have to be able to realize that this is the direction that the story is taking and you've got to be on your toes to record it," Tate said.
"It's hard to go back and try and record something later. You've got to get that initial shot, frown or smile. That's up to the camera guy."
From there, it's up to a talented core of editors and producers including Tate, to turn raw footage into the finished product that viewers will see each week on ESPN2.
All along the way, from the start in the field to the finished product in the editing suite, two key ingredients help "Realtree Outdoors" remain atop the outdoors television kingdom.
"Very few people work harder than we do, but we also have fun," Tate said. "That hard work and fun come through on camera, I think."