Three hometown hunters on new History Channel show
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | April 08,2013
HISTORY CHANNEL / Chasing Tail
Michael Vaughn of Fair Haven is featured on the new History Channel show “Chasing Tail.” It follows a group of deer hunters who stalk their prey not in the woods of Vermont, but in the suburbs of Connecticut.
The best deer hunting isn’t always in some remote forest.
For Mike Andronaco of Benson, it’s been between large, expensive houses.
Andronaco, along with Michael Vaughn of Fair Haven and John Bassett of Rutland, is featured in “Chasing Tail,” a new History Channel program that follows a group of deer hunters who stalk their prey not in the woods of Vermont, but in the suburbs of Connecticut.
“Most of the time we’re in the woods between houses,” Bassett said. “It might be 100 yards across. ”
With an exploding deer population, Andronaco said, many homeowners in the area welcome hunters who come down to take advantage of the higher tag limits, and Andronaco’s particular group stumbled into the attention of a television production company.
The program debuts Thursday at 10 p.m. Two half-hour episodes will air back to back. Andronaco said the focus is on the hunting but, as in similar reality programs, interactions within the team of hunters will also figure prominently.
“The arguing and things like that, the bickering — there’s some of that,” he said. “The low man on the totem pole is the brunt of most of it — that’s my cousin Louie.”
Andronaco said there is inevitably a little tension when four or five guys share a hunting camp — that’s right, a camp. In the suburbs.
“The humor of it is, we’re surrounded by multimillion dollar mansions and we converted the loft of a barn into a little hunting camp,” Andronaco said.
And, no, stray bullets are not an issue. Andronaco said they are bowhunters, typically shooting toward the ground from above.
Andronaco is originally from Connecticut, but moved to Vermont in the 1980s. It wasn’t long after he moved that he started to hear about the spike in the deer population back home. A cousin began hunting, with owner permission, around some of the high-end houses. Andronaco eventually joined in with his own crew.
Andronaco refers to the owners of the property he hunts on as “clients,” but says the hunters are not paid. He also said homeowners typically get a share of the venison.
“It’s organic meat, really,” he said. “It saves on their grocery bills.”
In a good year, Andronaco said he takes as many as 15 deer in a season that runs from September to the end of January. In addition to cutting in the homeowners, he gives some of the meat to people he knows are fond of it but have grown too old to hunt and also donates to food shelves and church programs.
“We cull a lot of the doe deer, but we like to get a trophy buck once in a while,” he said. “I usually get a decent buck once a year, something you could mount on the wall. That’s not our focus, though — our focus is on culling the herd.”
According to a History Channel spokeswoman, Connecticut had 18,000 deer-vehicle collisions last year resulting in $28 million in property damage.
The show’s genesis was the graduation project of film student Peter Vandall, son of Andronaco’s “favorite cousin.” Vandall followed Andronaco and crew with a camera, producing a short documentary that was shown, along with similar projects, at a Manhattan film festival.
“He got a standing ovation,” Andronaco said. “People were making me sign their programs.”
The project was picked up by Left Field Pictures, the production company responsible for the show “Pawn Stars,” and then successfully shopped to the History Channel. Vandall remains involved as executive producer of the show.
Andronaco wouldn’t say how much he was making out of the deal, but that it wasn’t much and that it wasn’t his primary motivation — though he wouldn’t mind if the show took off and he wound up with some free hunting gear.
“My main goal is to get my favorite cousin’s son a job,” he said. “We got compensated a little bit for our time — enough to get gas to get down there. ... We enjoy the sport. We enjoy the meat.”