Book Reviews, The Daily, Thoughts

Old outdoor magazines bring fishing and hunting to life

Magazines with great art covers are wonderful mementos from the past.

Reliving some old outdoor passions is easy. Simply dip back in time with an old outdoor magazine and have your brain gently nudged again by something great from the past.

Kick back, dig into my old blogs, and choose those articles that are most appealing. Heaven knows, there are plenty of choices of fishing-hunting things to read about.

Do you really think reading is a dying art? If so, I’d suggest you think again. If that were so, there wouldn’t be the number of people reading my daily weblog as there are. Many people who have read me for 23+ years at The Detroit News followed me after I retired from the paper, and are now reading my daily weblog in seven different venues including FaceBook and Twitter.

There are too many magazines to list and photograph. Email me and query.

Reading a blog is like reading my column every day; it’s primarily for the Michigan fishermen and hunter, although people from all over the world read it.

Anyone want to read old outdoor magazines? The answer is quite simple: Many people do. It’s cheap and super entertainment, especially when some of my magazines date back to the early 1920s. Some are worth good money.

Many years ago I inherited Ben East’s records, memoirs, files, letters and outdoor magazines after his death 20 years ago. I’ve kept his magazine collection intact even thought he told me I could use any of the files, including his magazines, in any way I chose.

I’ve wrestled with the prospect of selling this huge stash of old outdoor magazines. After having stored them for 20 years, walked around the many plastic tubs filled to the gunwales, I’ve decided to share at a reasonable price, these treasured magazines. Most have articles by master outdoor writer Ben East, and most of them contain stories that are about fishing or hunting in Michigan.

There’s an old saying I’m fond of. It state’s that it’s impossible to know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been. I’ve been at this writing business for 45 years, and Ben East was at it for more than 60 years. There are many things of his that I won’t sell, but 1,000 magazines take up a great deal of room.

These magazines, ranging from 1922 to the early 1950s, covered the hey-day of outdoor writing and outdoor magazine art. All of these magazines, with the exception of perhaps only a few, are illustrated with an artist’s painting or sketch. Those drawings and paintings that appeared on the front covers were great pieces of period art.

They do what today’s magazine covers can’t do – they capture the moment, a short but defining period in time when something great, sad, death defying or just the marvel of a bird dog pointing a grouse, pheasant, snipe or woodcock, occurred. The artist captures the emotions of the hunter and of the dog as it stands quivering, tail as stiff as a fireplace poker, and waits for his master to walk in to flush the bird.

Art covers capture moods far better than photos.

Magazine covers were drawn by hand, and the artist captures the magic of that precise moment when blue-wing teal zip low and fast over the decoys or when pintails whiffle down out of the sky. Or as a bunch of Canada geese approach the decoys, their feet grabbing for land or water, their heads arched down as they scan ahead for danger while their wings cup the air as they descend to a landing or fall as the nearby hunters shoot.

There are covers, lots of them, that deal with trout fishing. These magazines are sorted by categories such as…

  • Atlantic Salmon
  • Bass
  • Bear
  • Brook Trout
  • Comic or Mood Scenes
  • Deer Hunting
  • Ducks & Geese
  • Elk Hunting
  • Esquire
  • Exotic Wild Game
  • Game Birds
  • Hunting Dogs
  • Lake Fishing
  • Misc. Outdoor Action
  • Moose Hunting
  • Muskellunge
  • People
  • Rabbit Hunting
  • River Fishing
  • Saltwater Fishing
  • Various Wildlife
  • World War II-related fishing and hunting topics

The covers of these magazine which are, for the most part, in fine to mint condition bring out the raw emotions of a day on the water or afield with or without a dog. They elicit feelings that a mere photograph cannot capture. People soon grow tired of seeing a photo of a big buck on the cover. Scoop’s Books, offers not only fishing and hunting books but old outdoor magazines as well.

Please remember: some of these magazines are 60 to 80 years old, and many look as if they were printed yesterday. They are not $5 each as some people seem to think they should be. An average price of $25-30 is about right, and magazines with superb cover art by the masters artists of that era, can range up to $125 or more. Most of these magazines, although not all, have a Ben East story inside.

One thing is very important, and I stress it here. Most of these items are one-of-a-kind. Email me to determine if a specific item still exists. Do not send money without checking with me first. People do it all the time, and I have to email them back, and ask specifically what they are buying. Check ahead avoids disappointment when an item sold just before your order arrived.

I take bank money orders, cashiers checks, company or personal checks, and PayPal. I do not take credit or debit cards. Business and personal check must clear my bank before any magazines are sent.

Postage, as we all know, has gone up. My postage rates may seem high at $5 each, but I usually ship in boxes, and each book is well padded. I ship with insurance in most cases, and purchase delivery confirmation. You don’t have to be home to get the package but the delivery confirmation notes that the package has been delivered. There can be no squabble over whether or not books or magazines were delivered. I will know precisely what time delivery took place.

If possible, send all available information for what you’d like to buy.

Some folks may think that some of these magazines are unfairly priced. Prices hinge on many things:

  • overall condition of the magazine
  • quality of the cover artwork
  • author’s reputation
  • whether the cover artist did any drawings or sketches inside the magazine
  • names of the various writers
  • whether magazines are collectible because of those names

Some artists are very collectible because of their quality work. People such as…

  • William Harnden Foster
  • W. H. Hinton
  • Lynn Bogue Hunt
  • Edwin Megargee

and a wide assortment of others can push the cost of an old magazine ever higher. Some magazines sold becomes more expensive because of their content, and as is true with most antiques, provenance is important. Each magazine will come with a letter from me attesting to the fact these magazines once belonged to the Ben East estate. That provenance, if provided with the magazine if it is ever sold, will keep the proof of these magazines belonging to Ben East clear. Note that East obtained some magazines from other people, as proven by an address label.

These magazines, and many other things such as signed Ben East letters, and letters sent to Ben East, are further proof. I still own one of Ben’s old four-drawer file cabinets and it still houses some of his extensive files.

People collect old outdoor magazines for many reasons. They like to read about what went before, and they come to love the old artwork that can and will capture the soul of true sportsmen. Many people horde these magazines as a link to their outdoor past.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this basic truth. Some people, whether I like it or not, have no love for the magazines but collect the old ones for their covers or as a hedge against inflation. Many who own fishing or hunting camps clip the cover off a magazine and put up a moose or trout cover and use the rest of the magazine to start a wood fire.

We need to communicate to make this work.

My job isn’t to be the fire marshal or the magazine police to watch over people to see how they treat these treasured magazines. If a person wants to clip a cover or cut out an article, slit out fishing or hunting ads, that’s up to them. I’d hate to think it would happen but I’m not so naïve to believe it won’t.

I welcome e-mails asking for specific issues or requests for particular authors or artists or artwork. I will try to accommodate. Feel free to write and ask the price ahead of time. Don’t be scared off by the high price because there aren’t many of those magazines left.

Here’s a chance to travel down memory lane with an imaginary rod and reel or firearm over your shoulder. It can be a thrilling adventure to read some of the magazines from your youth or your father’s youth. Or, it can be a major thrill to take a tour of yesteryear, and learn what it was really like back in the Good Old Days.


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