Many of you have asked; why I do not submit more articles to various publications. This article may help you understand my feelings about this subject.
I can vividly remember the monthly anticipation of receiving my magazine subscriptions . That was during a period of time; when there was something at the post office, other than bills. I always subscribed to the big three: Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield. Organizational publications were also highly anticipated. Each issue was read cover to cover, upon arrival. I hunted, fished and trapped every day, or was thinking about doing so. I dreamed of becoming an outdoor writer.
Outdoor knowledge and woodsmanship, are abilities which require time and effort to develop. My skills grew and knowledge developed. I began to question some of the things that were being printed. I began to realize that the same facts and fallacies were being used over and over.
I was working in a sporting goods store, with a large magazine selection. I was exposed to everything that was being published , on a regular basis. A few thing that every outdoorsman should know, are that you can never call a turkey down-hill or across water and always remember that the musky is the fish of 10,000 casts. Store employee boredom became unbearable. It was time to move on. I quit and drove to the Eastern Outdoor Sports Show in Harrisburg, PA. I went job hunting.
I got a job, as a turkey hunting guide at White Oak Plantation, near Tuskegee, AL. Life had just gotten a lot better. The first writer that I remember being exposed to at that time was J. Wayne Fears. I was quite impressed. His knowledge and skills were immediately evident. He showed all of the qualities that I had expected. He was real and as they would say in Alabama, “ He knew how to act right”.
Sadly, things began going downhill. Shortly thereafter, I noticed the guest list for an upcoming hunt. On the list was a writer who’s work I really enjoyed, I couldn’t wait for his arrival. What a major disappointment; as soon as he walked into the room, it was obvious that “This fellow ain’t right”. He showed absolutely no outdoor ability and was clearly, “a bit touched in the head”. Yes, he is still writing, 25 years later. By the time deer season had finished, my thoughts on outdoor writing had been demolished. I had dubbed writers “the parasite pack“.
Don’t get the wrong idea yet. I crossed paths with some fine people, who made there living in the outdoor writing profession. The problem was that for every writer who was a joy to be around and did what they said they would do, there were six more taking up space. I quickly learned that if, for example: Jim Spencer, Dr. David Samuel or Jay Langston, said that something happened, it was true. I also learned to avoid the ones that walked around saying, “I can make you famous”.
I believe that my main turn-off for the profession was the photography sessions. I’m glad that I was able to witness these photo shoots, because I would never have believed how bad it was. I was really disgusted when a couple of writers would procure a buck from the meat cooler for photos. These writers would never have anything to do with the harvesting of this fine buck, but they would be smiling over it in magazines for years to come. They were always careful to get as many different poses and backgrounds as possible. They also were sure to use various types of weapons for the photo sessions.
My reading of outdoor magazines soon became minimal.
Fifteen years later, I was driving through the mountains of West Virginia, wondering if there was a way to make a living and still live in the state. The latent desire to become an outdoor writer was awakened. I found, during an internet search: Roger Brunt’s: North American School of Outdoor Writing. Shortly thereafter, I was talking with a friend about things we wished that we had done. Outdoor writing again came to the surface for me. When he asked me why I hadn’t pursued it in the past, I told him. His response was “You don’t have to be like them”. He was right. I had no idea where to begin, but I started the ball rolling.
NASOW is highly recommended for anyone; who like me, had no previous writing experience. The information and comments provided in the course are invaluable for anybody who is considering a writing career. I read numerous outdoor type magazines, while I was completing the provided course work. I read a few excellent articles. I read many others good and bad. I also read a few articles that left me wondering, why they were ever published.
I found a fishing author who I really liked. I enjoyed his articles and particularly liked one that he did about Florida fly-fishing. Alas, he did an article about one of my home streams. The piece was about fall trout fishing on this stream, which I am very familiar with. The article began with the source of the stream, which was wrong. He then began a discussion about how well stocked the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources keeps the stream’s waters. He notes that it is supplied with fish by the WVDNR two times during the month of October. This stream is not, nor has ever been, on the fall trout stocking schedule. It is practically dry in the fall months. The communities that rely on this stream for a water source, need to have water trucked in during the summer and fall. This has been necessary for at least 30 years. Finally he tells of getting away from the road, while fishing this stream, for a “wilderness experience.” In reality, this stream is synonymic with the road, which it follows. There may be two short stretches in the entire flowage where you may be able to get 75 yards away from the roadway. On the majority of the fishable sections, you must wait for traffic to pass, before you can make a backcast. I truly wonder if this author has ever visited this stream’s waters. I also question now, if he has even been to South Florida.Integrity in outdoor writing should not require rules, regulations or by-laws. Integrity in all communications should come naturally and not be governed. I polled a few people, who I knew had achieved a lifetime of outdoor success. The results were the same with all. They read very few outdoor magazines. The reason was that they knew reality and grew tired of the fluff.
(c) 2008 Randy Bodkins All Rights Reserved
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