Thursday, May 07, 2009
Outdoor Writing Allows Me To Help People
There are many important things in life, but being a full-time outdoor writer is my chosen profession and that makes me feel great doing something I truly enjoy.
I’m long past the stage where seeing my name in print is needed to provide an ego stroke. There are other, far more important things in my life ... like helping others understand the outdoors.
This is my 42nd year of writing about the great outdoors. I wrote my first magazine article in 1967 and sold it to Sports Afield. The next five stories also were sold to outdoor magazines with another going to Sports Afield.
Then came two hard years of rejected slips, and as time went on, more and more stories were sold. I began with a goal of writing for the Big 3 magazines—Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield—and it took four years of hard work to make at least one sale to all three.
My next goal was to sell to as many magazines as possible. That led to sales to well over 300 different magazines before I quit counting, and there has been more than 7,300 published magazine articles since that first one many years ago.
My ultimate goal was to become one of the most widely published outdoor writers ever, and although I no longer strive to fulfill that goal, I am, without meaning to brag, at or very near the top of the heap in terms of magazine articles sold. I worked pretty much full-time for Outdoor Life magazines for over six years, and one year had over 140 articles published in that magazine alone.
That was then, and I doubt if such sales are possible now. The roster of outdoor magazines has grown in some regards, but in the field around which I built my career, the number of outdoor magazines are tumbling. As gas prices soar and car sales drop, advertising revenues has fallen. Magazines that once flourished are sinking fast or have sunk below the sea of advertising losses.
Somewhere along the way, another of my many writing goals was to write books. To date, I’ve written 25 on fishing and hunting. Thousands of magazine covers and inside black-and-white and color photos have been published over the years.
I’ve had my own radio outdoor show, appeared on countless television programs with a wide ranging host of outdoor celebrities. I guided trout and salmon fishermen for 10 years, guided bear and deer hunters for four years, and led hunts for bear and caribou.
My travels have taken me all across North America and to within several hundred miles of the North Pole, and as far away as New Zealand. I’ve fished for, and hunted for, every species of animal, bird or fish that would ever turn my crank.
I’ve given thousands of lectures, been a platform speaker for many years, and had a 20-year emcee job at the Detroit Boat & Fishing Show. I’ve given private and public seminars, and all through my 42 years, I’ve done what I wanted to do and went where I wanted to go. Like Frank Sinatra once sang: I did it my way.
Out of all of this travel, and after so many outdoor experiences, has come this wealth of work. I count, among my many joys, being an Active and now a Life member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA), as one of the greatest successes in my career.
OWAA became a part of my life in 1968, and I attended my first conference in 1969. I’ve attended every OWAA conference since 1976 in Snowmass, Colorado, and have chaired or served on perhaps 50 different OWAA committees.
I’ve been truly honored by having been awarded the Ham Brown Award, OWAA’s highest member award, and the Excellence in Craft Award. They also named me a Legendary Communicator in 2005, and the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame inducted me into their prestigious Hall of Fame in 2006 as a Legendary Communicator.
Guess what? All of this is very important to me, but there is something even more important behind this massive 42-year body of work. It is a very simple personal philosophy: What Goes Around, Comes Around.
I’ve given freely of my time for 42 years to help other writers. I never viewed another writer as a competitor. Every chance I’ve had to help someone become a better outdoor writer, I’ve given freely of my time ... without any consideration of pay. OWAA has a Mentor Program, but I’d been mentoring writers for many years before the organization chose to allow some of us graybeards to share our knowledge with others.
Is this sharing of knowledge important? Certainly. It’s just as important as having parents or guardians mentor youngsters about fishing and hunting. If we don’t teach our children, why would they consider these outdoor pastimes in the near future? The answer is, they won’t.
If I, and others, don’t give of ourselves to help mentor and teach beginning outdoor writers and sporsmen, who will carry this torch of fishing and hunting freedom into the foreseeable future?
I’ve given of my energy, talent and time to mentor outdoor writers and to mentor children. There no longer is a need for me to make a name for myself. I’m happily content to write my daily weblogs about fishing and hunting, and am equally content to bask in whatever glory has come my way over these many years.
But all awards and honors aside, what makes me feel best is to write things people want to read, and to help mentor people who wish to become outdoor writers. Someday, in the future, once my race has been run, all I care for is to be remembers as being a good person, a good parent, a good husband, a good writer, and someone who always stepped forward to help readers understand more about the outdoors.
For me, that would be sufficient.