Outdoor magazines (the kind you get in the mail, hold in your hand, and leaf through while riding a recliner) are as popular as ever, a rare fact considering that today’s reliance on hand-held devises to deliver all that is news. It seems that anything in print is doomed for extinction sooner or later.
But hunters and fishermen still hold dear a shiny cover with lots of pages full of hook and bullet stories. When I was a kid, my heroes were guys like Jason Lucas, Jack O’Conner, and Zane Grey. O’Conner took me on many great adventures as we hunted and shot our way across the country. Lucas taught me how to fish better, harder, and more successfully.
These fellows and other talented outdoor writers like them visited me every month as stable contributors in Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines. In fact, if it weren’t for outdoor magazines I may not have read much as a youngster and I most certainly wouldn’t have been so inspired to tread the same life paths that I have.
The “Big Three” are pretty much the same trio of magazines that have been the most recognized titles for a century or more. Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, and Sports Afield fill continue their dominance. For everyday hunters and every opportunity anglers, it is really the big two now as Sports Afield has bent more to globe-trotting big game hunters.
But there are more. Some good, some not so good, and some so inclined to a niche that they are dependent on a small group or interest.
Sports Afield is probably the oldest of the Big Three, with a start date of 1887. It was sub titled as the Journal for Gentlemen even then and the title has survived several owners, changes in theme, and bad choices.
After one-hundred years in one direction, corporate leaders decided to re-direct Sports Afield to the non-consumptive outdoor pursuits such as hiking, biking, camping, and birding. It was a bad choice and the magazine quickly found itself looking for a life raft. Fortunately the mast head returned to claim a spot on the rack.
Outdoor Life is no youngster either. Now owned by the some folks that produce Field and Stream, Outdoor Life came to be in 1898 with a story on Alaska moose hunting. In 1906 Outdoor Life flashed a color cover, well before print color was common.
This title can be credited for its long-time practice of exposing the agendas of anti-hunting groups. The magazine has always featured its pledge, one that countless sportsmen and even national leaders have taken seriously: “I promise to protect and conserve the natural resources of America. I promise to educate future generations so they may become caretakers of our water, air, land, and wildlife.”
Now add Peterson’s Hunting to the mix of great magazines and call it the big four. Make no mistake, every print publication has become slave to its advertisers but some have has remained loyal to the sport rather than the product.
And successful magazines have also modernized by partnering with other media such as TV and online markets. A recent cover of Field and Stream was graced with Eva Shockey and Peterson’ s Hunting’s current issue cover features a female backpacking archer. Welcome to the new world!
Good outdoor magazines provide a mix of opinion, news, how-to, where to go, and a base of well-written stories. Without the mix, a magazine becomes a catalog of product, a single sided platform for political view, or just plain boring.
Reading is the key that opens the door to education. One of the best ways to encourage reading is to feed youngsters a diet of something interesting in print. Something like an outdoor magazine. Try it.