Read & learn about fishing & hunting
There is a one-word statement that often is uttered following the name of a famous but deceased outdoor writer. It is: "Who?"
My outdoor education began when I was about 10 years old, and I began my personal subscriptions to Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield — the so-called "Big 3" outdoor magazines.
I read each magazine from cover to cover, and eagerly awaited the arrival of the next issue. Certain writers captured my fancy, forced me to probe my mind, test their hard-earned advice and knowledge, and they made me want to learn more about fishing and hunting.
Reading the old masters (noted below) can teach fishing & hunting.
There were many of them through the mid-1960s that helped me develop an even greater personal interest in outdoor writing. Some of those names have vanished with time as the author passes away.
Many were people whose outdoor writings captivated my imagination, and made me dream of far-flung fishing or hunting adventures. My early favorites, should anyone care, were men of great stature in the outdoor writing field at the time.
Men such as: Charlie Askins, Erwin "Joe" Bauer, Havilah Babcock, Peter Barrett, Fred Bear, Ray Bergman, Craig Boddington, Nash Buckingham, John Cartier, Homer Circle, Eugene V. Connett, Jim Corbett, Byron Dalrymple, Henry P, Davis, Frank Dobie, Frank Dufresne, Ben East, Charlie Elliott, George Bird Evans, John Taintor Foote, Corey Ford, Arnold Gingrich, Roderick Haig-Brown, John Jobson, Bill Jordan, Elmer Keith, Tom Kelly, Dana Lamb, Arthur Macdougall, Gordon MacQuarrie, John Madson, Jack O'Connor, Robert Ruark, Archibald Rutledge, Jack Samson, Edmund Ware Smith, Robert Traver, Ted Trueblood, Joel Vance, Ray Voss, Jim Zumbo and countless others have helped, in many ways, to forge Dave Richey's writing career.
Many, in their later years, came to be personal friends. Some like Corey Ford and Robert Ruark passed away about the time that outdoor writing became my inspiration, but it had yet to become a hobby or full-time job.
I remember many discussions, in person and by mail, with Bauer, East, O'Connor Traver and many others. Some, like John Madson, were truly great writers, and I have dozens of handwritten and typed letters from Madson. His writing sparkled in a down-home manner, and he wrote with a great economy of words.
Those men above are & were among this nation’s best outdoor writers.
The late Ben East of Holly, Michigan, was perhaps the finest copy editor I every worked with. Some of these men were more outdoorsman than writers, but the late John O. Cartier, was as good in the field as at his computer or with a red editing pencil.
Ruark, although we never met, touched me deeoly with his whimsical "The Old Man & The Boy" book (see my Scoops Books for a copy), which should be required reading for anyone with an interest in fishing and hunting. It is warm, wonderful, filled with homespun philosophy, wisdom, and regardless of how great Ruark was, he died much too young as the result of far too much strong drink and a defeated liver.
The late Joe Bauer began writing while a game warden in Ohio, and he became best known for his superb outdoor photographs, his many books and his constant parade of feature articles in The Big 3. He was quiet almost to the point of shyness, and was hired to teach writers for Outdoor Life how to shoot great photos. His humble "I don't know how I do it" was the truth, but after listening to him talk for two hours, me and many other people came away with a greater knowledge of taking prize-winning photographs.
Most of the really good writers were reticent about discussing their fame and glory of their work. Others barked and bleated if things didn't go their way, and still, they did some things that others really wanted to learn.
There are many tales of the late Elmer Keith. He was fairly short, wore a big cowboy hat, disliked Jack O'Connor intensely (the reverse was also true), but many are the tales of Keith's exploits. He once saved a woman's purse after a man snatched it from her hand. Keith is said to have pegged several shots with his six-shooter around the culprit, who wisely dropped the purse and fled. Keith tipped his hat, gave the woman her purse, and walked off.
Reading good writing can lead to far better angling & hunting success.
These men were people I looked up to, and meeting them (most of them), was a high point in my life. I also met Ted Williams, baseball's last .400 hitter years ago, and I showed no more hero worship for him than for the outdoor writers noted above. I simply admire their skills at their chosen jobs, and in truth, the angling or hunting writer were more real to me than someone like Williams.
The point of this discourse is that reading today's outdoor writers offers a peek into their lives. You can learn from the true outdoor writer, the one who spends time in the field, but learn very little from the indoor-outdoor writer, a person who writes about fishing and hunting but never does it.
Fishing and hunting, as we know it, will gradually lose some of its luster as this world keeps spinning. It will never entirely die out, but people will become more diversified, and parcel ever smaller amounts of time to these pastimes in the future. So, if you love fishing and hunting now like I do, read as much about it as possible now.
To read is to learn, and to learn means one will become more successful in the future. Today’s outdoor writers, and those of yesteryear, deserve some attention. People can become better anglers and hunters by reading and studying the combined works of 20th and 21st century sportsmen-writers.
And offer a word of occasional thanks to those who toil so you can better enjoy the outdoors. Many of my favorite writers are long gone, and one day, some of today's favorite writers will also be gone, this writer included.
Let them know you appreciate their efforts. Doing so after they have fished around their last bend or hunted their last grouse covert or deer woods, as is true with some of those greats who were mentioned above, is a belated attempt to reverse an earlier error of omission.