As a child, I lived for the next issue of Outdoor Life magazine. Not for the periodical itself but for the opportunity to get together with Jack O’Conner, maybe go on a hunt with him, at least sit across the flames of a campfire and listen.
Outdoors rock star
O’Conner was the shooting editor for that popular outdoor magazine for more than 30 years and by far his name continues to out-shoot any of the top 10 gun writers of the last 100 years.
Why? While I was chasing chipmunks and frogs, O’Conner was high in the Rockies with his beloved Winchester .270 pursuing elk or even higher than the tree line on the trail of a goat.
He didn’t know this child from Ohio, but I sure knew him, not in person perhaps, but certainly through his words.
Reading O’Conner was as close to being there with him as it could be. That guy could tell a story. Simple as that.
O’Conner died in 1978 and I still miss his stories.
I still read a lot of magazines. I like them because they stack nicely beside my recliner, I can read what I want to read in 20 minutes, which pretty much stretches my attention span, and they survive any trip in a duffle bag.
All that plus I can read them from back to front — another bad habit I suppose.
But over the years, especially in the last 20, too many magazine bosses have tossed out storytellers and filled that space with promotional name drops, and poorly disguised marketing.
Look at a picture and count the number of product names. Instead of reading about the joy of the catch we now see and hear that we can attribute the catch to specific tackle while the angler wears sponsor patches and holds his or her catch strategically in front of another bunch of sponsor names.
But given the simple fact that marketing dollars keep our magazines affordable, there are still some great writers and some top-notch magazines out there.
Here’s how I rate a few, and perhaps you have a couple favorites. I’ll give up to five stars for the best in my opinion, keeping in mind that the seasonal aspect of where and when to find hunting and fishing success is written and edited months before you and I read it.
Stuff happens so don’t be too critical about those “on-the-average” guesses.
Fur, Fish, and Game is, and has been for years, a true, blue-collar, down-to-earth monthly with nothing but solid, hunting, fishing, and yes, trapping features. Probably the least fancy of all outdoor magazines, in my book this Ohio-produced magazine is consistently a five-star product.
Peterson’s Hunting also gets a bunch of stars as an enjoyable and informative magazine. It may be a bit overboard on distant and expensive destinations but overall it is top shelf and a good read.
The rest of the national big-name magazines are, in my opinion, one less star than this one.
Ohio Game and Fish is another good one and right up there with four stars. Cover to cover it’s all about state hunting and fishing plus some occasional teasers about easily reachable and affordable out-of-state destinations.
Pretty solid information here and certainly earns its keep.
One of my very favorite monthly rags is Mid-West Outdoors. Produced in newsprint and weighing in at about 100 pages, MW Outdoors starts in Ohio and reaches across the Midwest with timely articles on all the best lakes fishing and hunting destinations.
I drool, dream, and plan when this one fills my mailbox. Easily four stars.
Predator Extreme is fairly new but coming on strong as the source of information, instruction, and insight into the growing interest in coyote and other predator and varmint hunting. Three stars here but improving steadily.
Lastly, for one-sport outdoorsmen and women, the fishing monthly title goes to In-Fisherman, easily five stars of all-around freshwater angling features. In-Fisherman puts the how-to, where-to, when-to all together on every page.
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