Contributors to this thread:
I miss storytelling in bowhunting mags
In the 90's, before everything was so electronically accessible, the big bowhunting magazines used to run one or two actual stories about people and hunting- you know, Jim Doherty writing/M.R. James editing kind of stuff, along side all of the how-to and product reviews/advertisements. Some of my friends who work for those magazines have told me they phased the stories out because people really weren't interested in them- that people just want how-to stuff and product reviews. For me, that's when I let my subscriptions slip and just started looking for a fix online. As much as I love the stories I see here (some threads are absolutely incredible) , I miss the days of getting those magazines and reading the stories that were about life and death and friendship and hunting and deeper meanings to it all. Am I just old? Do any of you guys remember those stories?
I agree! The stories are the best part. That's why I really enjoy Bugle from the RMEF. Many good stories in there. I've never liked the "Gear Guide" editions of any of the magazines I receive. I guess it's because I'm not a gear nut and don't rely on a bunch of crap to make my hunts enjoyable/successful.
I agree 100%. Here is the problem. As an outdoor writer and editor, I see both sides. face it, we are an aging society, (bowhunting society), and as such, the tastes of hunters change. The younger guys, both in hunting and fishing, are tech oriented.They spend the money. So with on-line publishing becoming the "in-thing" short articles with plenty of product hype are what the buyers of articles want. The print media is slowly fading away. Reading for pure enjoyment and vicarious adventure are going with it. Ergo, the Me and Joe stories are going as well. It is sad because for close to 35-years, those types of articles were my bread and butter. But... There is a glimmer of hope. In the last three months, I have been hauled out of semi-retirement. I have been hired by two magazines and one daily paper to write just exactly that type material. It seems, they have had enough requests for enjoyment reading, they felt there was a market. If you want more "stories", write more letters to the editors. Now, here is the true downside. The writers coming up today, for the most part, are not storytellers. They are reporters. The true outdoor storyteller is a vanishing breed. The up and coming outdoor writer would be scared to death of the thought of writing a 2,200 word article with 25-pictures. He/she can handle who-what-when-where-why and how. Most cannot handle describing the sound of a sunrise or the sound of a wood duck's wings or the tendril of scent and the silhouette of an elk bugle. That takes imagination. Had this same conversation with M.R. James just a week or so ago.
“Ain’t no future in the past.”
I can usually find several “real” hunt threads each day on Bowsite. The info and hunting opportunities I get from Bowsite friends is eons beyond what I ever got from the old mags. Some of our hunt story tellers are extremely talented writers in addition to be serious bow hunters. JMHO
That's what is great about "Traditional Bowhunter" magazine. It's still chock full of hunting stories written by average joes like me. Darren
I agree with Charlie... IMO who hasn't read 1000 stories in magazines that tell about the 5 year quest after one specific deer or the first year hunter who kills a 200" deer. Read one, read em all... Many of the stories written here could be books.....
I agree, today most magazines are written for morons, or those who never under stood English in class,,,, or have no attention span,,,,, they are short paragraphs of information, and what I call blips,,,,,,,,, Most outdoor writers, just tell information, that has been told to them, they just know how and have the time, to put it on paper to get a little money for it.........................
Bowhunter magazine will have Eddie Claypool, he is great,,, or the average Joe writes a story they are great, other wise, its an outfitter advertisement...... nothing wrong with that, it just does not interest me, so I gave up reading it,,,,, D and DH magazine is nothing, compared to the original Stump Sitters, and we could go on and on......
I want to read a good story, I want to read about the adventure etc,,,,, If I read another how to article on the rut, from some writer, who could not find a rub line in a bag, it would not be too soon,,,,,,,,
I think Bowhunter does well on personal stories. The only hunt mag I receive. However, if they EVER run a success story involving crossguns I'm gone.
bowriter I should add, I believe you are John Sloan, you sir know how to write fun articles to read, so the above does not pertain to you
more stories for me too. The first 10 years or so into hunting I gobbled up every bit of info I could find. Now I just can't read any more articles on hunting rubs and scrapes
X2 Wausau. That's me too. After that I started getting Grey's Sporting Journal when it was good for hunting/outdoor stories. The only hunting magazine I get now is American Hunter because of my NRA membership, and a I rarely read much of anything in it anymore.
You captured my sentiments. I have dropped almost all of my magazines. I tried dropping EBH/EBJ but they offered a ridiculous rate to renew. I get Bugle, and Western Hunter (Left over from Elk Hunter, which was reincarnation of Elk 101). I will likely be done with that one also. I am not a gear guide, regurgitation guy. Those are the reasons I have dumped (over the years) Dakota Country, Fishing Facts, Walleye Insider, In Fisherman, NA Whitetail, Deer and Deer Hunting, Bowhunter, Runners World, Outdoor Life etc. (Bowhunter had some story telling, not enough to get my money) You get the point, same approach, different subject matter, same result, IE I dump them. Some of these magazines I started when they were in their infancy. They lost their way.
It comes down to the core of what will generate sustainable revenue. A review of a piece of equipment (Which the author will not offer a negative review since the company is likely an advertiser) Or an imaginative story which generates theater of the mind, which generates thoughts of hunting the west or Africa? The later does more for the sport of hunting, but doesn't directly generate revenue.
Digital media does product placement more subtle. And this is the reason why Bowsite and Randy Newberg are popular.
Those gear guides would be all right if it was more than a huge advertisement for their sponsors. Not really any sort of a guide at all.
X2 for TBM. Every issue has "smell the coffee" and "dunked in cold water" stories.
I found this thread interesting because I agree with most of what everyone is saying. That being said, I found it coincidental I just recently finished a piece for Bowhunter magazine that is a hunting story similar to what we're talking about here, It was solicited by editor Curt Wells. I killed a big buck in October 2017 that I had passed up the last two seasons (2015 and 2016) because of less than perfect shot opportunities. I think they were impressed that continued, tenacious efforts sometimes pay off and would be an inspiration to readers. At any rate, it will be the feature article in the upcoming March issue of BH. Maybe it's a new page turned (no pun intended) that magazines editors are listening to their readers preferences somewhat. That's good news folks. Happy New Year to all. BW
I still get both Eastman's Journals, Bugle, and Western Hunter. I enjoy Bugle's mix of stories, commentaries, and info on the organization's activities. The stories in Eastman's sound so much alike with the same catch phrases and almost scripted and few good pictures. I like Western Hunter for the stories that seem more "natural' and the use of plenty glossy photos with the articles depicting the hunt. Like their commentaries and other features as well. But I agree, with the type of things Randy Newburg is doing with Facebook and Amazon that has become more interesting. Nice to grab a magazine and a drink on these cold evenings and relax in my recliner with a fire going. But now I'm going to have to figure out how to put Randy on my Smart TV so I can sit in my recliner instead of in front of the computer! My son is coming home for a few days so I'll ask him how to do that!!
Like Barry, I've published a number of feature "hunt stories" in the mainstream magazines over the years. Had another one sold and due last month when my wife died, and haven't had the drive to finish it yet.
IMO, there are two factors in play here. Its much easier to write a structured "how to" article, and unfortunately most magazine readers want that these days. But the bigger factor is that it is difficult to write an excellent hunting story that is well crafted, with phrases turned and a compelling underlying theme. Most are poorly written as "Me and Joe went hunting and killed us a deer and thank you Jesus for this incredible buck". They are filled with eye-roll cliches. I believe this is because few hunters read good literature from great writers anymore, and because very few hunters have any sort of formal writing training so they don't understand how to write. Good writing is much more than stringing a bunch of words together.
I offer to read and edit quite a few manuscripts from hunters hoping to get published. Most are pretty painful to read initially. I really admire guys like Curt Wells and Brian Fortenbaugh who have to wade through piles of poorly-written submissions to find a few gems. And honestly, many of the hunt recap threads on the Bowsite are interesting only because of the photos, not the "writing".
LOL- You will sell more stories with good photos than you will with good writing. You can fix bad writing.
"Traditional Bowhunter" the best regardless of what you shoot
Oh yeah I mean I shoot everything from cross bow to long bow, I really like Traditional Bowhunter,,,,, although I would like to see more local flavor in it, it is a good read,,,,
I realize the world is changing, but I am grateful for my book collection, and there are still great books out there, that you can get for a song at the small shops and antiques stores,,,, Gordon Macquarrie, George Evans, Ray Bergmann, and the list goes on and on,,,,, during my rehab, my friend lend me a book, called Come November by the wensel guy, man I read that twice,,,,,,,
I also realize that Bowhunter Magazine is run by good guys, and I always admired Dwight Schuh, but they are a business that needs to stay afloat, so they have to appeal to the younger guys, I understand that
Bowriter, no question good photos are critical to selling articles, but as we learned from Holden Caulfield in "Catcher in the Rye", you can structurally edit bad writing, fix sloppy syntax, etc.., but you can't make bad writing excellent.
I like good photos but I hunt in the real world, too many big buck game farm photos for me, on the covers,,,,,,
Thread is timely. I got two magazine subscription offers in the mail today. . .
Peterson's Bowhunting for one year for $15. Bowhunter for one year for $8.
Gives you an idea of how badly they're hurting. . . .
I do have every Greys Journal since day one and has quality stories and writers, like E. Don Thomas. Only downer is too much fly fishin. :)
I don't think I've even read a hunting magazine since my dad past away right along with his back page in Petersen's Bowhunting. Sure miss him & the stories. Times have changed that's for sure. Darrall Dougherty
Sports Afield has become one of my favorites. Many excellent stories from the U.S. and around the world. I cancelled most of the others because they were just catalogs for compound shooters. TBM, Primitive Archer, and Trad World are the only ones of interest nowadays.
+ 1 Jaquomo I try to read as many as I can and although some pics are great, its nice if the writing is of the same quality. I'll watch for your article Barry:)
I feel that E. Don Thomas is the greatest living outdoor writer because of his fantastic storytelling from his numerous adventures. He's written about Kudu, elk, mountain lions, tahr, hogs, you name it and he's written about it.
The western style hunts are still captivating reads but who are we kidding on some of the all too common whitetail hunts that now typify the Midwest. " I planted my food plots and ran my trail cameras all summer. I placed my strategic feeders and mineral supplements and chose my two hit list bucks. I then carefully slid open the shooting house window and whacked him." I love hunting the Midwest for whitetails too but I find myself simply browsing at the photos in the grocery store magazine rack and I can go through six magazines in 10 minutes on the news stand. I rarely feel compelled to actually buy the magazine anymore.
I guess it's human nature but when I see a guy or gal with clean hunting clothes, combed hair and posing in a food plot.....I can't help but question it. Not for legal/ illegal reasons but wondering what kind of hunt it was? Part of it may be jealousy since I find myself working much harder for a lesser buck. Someone earlier made the point about "writers" simply being reporters anymore and not great story tellers. That could be as well as the fact it's nearly impossible with social media to truly "break" a story anymore.
Last mag I subscribed to was only for the stories, Extreme Elk. When it went away I was pretty much done with magazines. Get some GREAT stories right here..... I don't mind a bit of rough english...... as long as there's a gem of a story going.... =D
It's not just magazines that things are changing fast. Where cable/satellite TV had overtaken broadcast TV, that is being overtaken by digital streaming. I rarely watch any of the outdoor channel fodder anymore, HBO movies etc. Watching far more streaming/on demand like Youtube, Amazon, etc. Much more specific to what I want at the moment and convenient. Maybe some lacking in slick "production" but IMO that is what makes some of it that much more appealing.....
I still see good stories in Bowhunter and Peterson's Bowhunting. I still get Deer and Deer Hunting mostly for the food plotting stuff, and I have to agree with ground hunter about Eddie Claypool. There's just something about Eddie's stories that I like. . You can tell he has no formal education as a writer, but the story still comes across. Maybe I'm just simple minded.
I've read (and still have) every issue of Bowhunter cover to cover since 1980. I always enjoy the stories the most. Many of the "how to" and gear reviews are really painful to read thru, but I usually still pick up on or learn something. Unfortunately as others have said, very few writers have the talent to put together good stories. Those that can make us feel like we are someplace else with the written word are truly gifted. I believe that a lot of this stems from our youth not reading for enjoyment as many of us longer in the tooth had growing up. I think it also suggests that the education system for writers is not the same as it was back in the day. I think it's possible that we will see a swing back to more of these types of stories as time rolls on. At least I hope so.
What's this magazine thing you guys speak of?
I still like Bowhunter Magazine, but my favorite is Fur-Fish-Game. No high dollar hunts, articles about fishing, hunting, trapping, the whole gamut.
Fur-Fish-Game is the best magazine left. I get others but only as part of my life memberships, rarely are they a good read.
Darrald-your dad and I wrote for many of the same publications for many years. But I could never teach him to fish for smallmouth. Sure do miss him.
yup, couldn't agree more. PA Game news got me into hunting. I loved the stories
X3 on Fur-Fish-Game. Good info and trapping stories. Also has the fur prices in it. One of the last real mags left.
I subscribed to Bowhunter Magazine from the second issue they printed until a couple of years ago. The magazine content and advertising really went downhill after MR sold the magazine. Tired of stories that read like infomercials. Tired of the "gear reviews" that are nothing more an a bunch of advertisement in one column. The new owners of Bowhunter pretty much fired all of the old staff and replaced them with techies. I decided to walk and so did a lot of other subscribers. Traditional Bowhunter has its problems as well. The current editor and some of his staff prefer to stand on their soap boxes and preach their vision of what they consider traditional. I guess they think they will get more subscribers by yelling at their readers. I really miss the old Outdoor Life, the old Bow and Arrow magazine, and the old Bowhunter. Lots of good writers that took you on their adventures without berating you or sounding like an infomercial.
Yup....FFG is the only mag I subscribe to anymore. Been telling my wife it's the only decent one around anymore. I let my Petersen's Bowhunting run out after the loss of Jim Dougherty. He was the ONLY reason I continued to subscribed. Sorry to the few good writers out there but I'm not going to subscribe to a magazine in the hopes there may be a decent article by a real writer. I want to smell the smoke & feel the sunrise......& a 10 year old trapper in FFG does that better than most "professional" writers now days.
Jim Dougherty just had that innate ability to make you feel like you were talking to a friend.....outside by the fire late at night.....with maybe a little something in a glass.
Godspeed JIm........we all feel your loss Darrall !
No more mags for me. I just come here and read - more stories, more info, better hunters!
Yep, I sure miss those articles in Playboy too, that’s the only reason I got it ;)~
Thanks for the thoughtful replies, guys. I have the Jim Doherty compilation book- it's the best thing eve I wonder if there's any chance of one of the publishers that might compile some of those old stories from over the years in a similar book.
Jaquomo- I was lucky enough to share a turkey blind with Brian Fortenbaugh for a few days a year or two back, and I count him among my friends now. We had a similar conversation back then- and I concur with you- he and Curt's reading through the piles of manuscripts has to be pretty taxing.
Most mags are fast becoming a deer farming journal or an outfitters promo. hunt. Thats the direction its gone, but not for me. Change will not happen again as most of todays hunters as mentioned are not into hunting stories at all etc. End of an era. For those who like the stories save or dig out some of the old mags and have a good cup of coffee and re read and reminisce about the the outdoors when it was an adventure. The campfire is dwindling and about to go out.
Keep posting your thoughts. Editors are reading this thread. I'm getting emails. Maybe the message will be heard, but the metrics of sales tends to drive the content, and if more are buying for tech reviews and "how-to", thats what they're going to produce for their paying subscribers.
Tech reviews and "how-to" tie into the advertising sales staff and their livelihood, they have internal leverage that has some powerful pull. If it's going to come around, it may be out of some two minute drill to save the publication.
I get a dozen or more different magazines every month I've never subscribed to, never paid a penny. They send them to me free to boost their "circulation" number to advertisers. I don't know their mail rates, especially to HI (where it's the norm to get them at least a month or two late....) but If subscriptions cover subscription mailing cost many would consider themselves lucky. They make little if anything from subscriptions in this day and age. Advertising is life and death and that is driven a great deal by distribution numbers, secondly by demographics.
True story, happened yesterday afternoon. I have, running through my head, the first few lines to the song, "Cotton Eye Joe". "Down in the bottom land, long time ago, Daddy worked a man name of Cotton Eye Joe." Start pickin a little on the six-string and an idea forms. Thirty-minutes later I have a 1,200-word short story done about a one-eyed buck that lived in a cane brake on the banks of the Imaseeya River. One cold Christmas Eve, little boy called Nappy kills him with an old, Long Tom and double ought. Antlers hang over the fireplace in "Uncle Nappy's" house on the plantation for 50-some years until Young Mr. James decide to measure them... Now, I need an artist who can work wonders with charcoal to do a dreamscape. Not a product mentioned, not a word of truth and a flat out hunting story. Be hard to sell if I wasn't my own editor. Twenty-years ago, would have it sold before I finished it. And, sad thing is, I bet this one will win an award. I have it slated to run the week before Christmas, next December.
Jaq. said, "Keep posting your thoughts. Editors are reading this thread. I'm getting emails. Maybe the message will be heard, but the metrics of sales tends to drive the content, and if more are buying for tech reviews and "how-to", thats what they're going to produce for their paying subscribers."
Sadly, not many and the ones that are, probably won't do a thing. You may recall, I did a survey a while back for a magazine that just hired me. Sent these exact comments to the editor/publisher. Got a polite thank you and not one thing changed. Remember, if every one who posts on this site wrote to a magazine and voiced these comments, they would probably be ignored/ It is a game of dollars, not wants and subscriptions or news stand sales are a minor factor. Yes, circ. numbers count but the revenue from sales is minor. You can give a publication away and make money doing so.
TBM, Gray’s and Bugle publish well written articles with Gray’s at the top IMO. Don Thomas is by far my favorite outdoor author. I seem to get a free Sports Afield magazine or two in the mail every year and it’s pretty good, too. I’ve let all my other subscriptions expire other than the three listed.
Advertising is the revenue feeding most print magazines. No ads...no magazines. Content is therefore automatically skewed toward stories supporting the use of advertised products in those magazines. Wonderful tales of adventure are superb to read but advertisers could care less if the story doesn't support their agenda. Only (we) readers love those stories but our voices are lost in the clamor of advertising and money. It's the main reason why I subscribe to no outdoor magazines and haven't for about 6 years. I simply can't be entertained by ad-driven content which...subtly or not... influences readers to look into related products and services found within.
I suppose I'm jaded. I know at the bottom of all of this there is money. There's no other reason for any of it to exist...meaning print magazines. I deliberately try to avoid all of it and just keep doing what I love to do. Most current magazines feel like some sort of junk food-slow poison to me. I admit that I severely miss the skills of real outdoor writers who have the ability to do more than tell us how it is done. They had the ability to take us on an adventure and really feel the up-and-down emotions of the moments. I could get lost in their story and be completely outside my own setting. A very, very few of these guys exist or get to write like they want these days. Occasionally a great story shows up and makes me thankful, but it seems to happen less often. Money and egos are more important than wordsmithing and composition.
Growing up in the late 60's and early 70's, the big 3 were Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, and Field & Stream. While studying (maybe) during the Junior High Study Hall period, I usually had a copy of one of the above with me and always stared and dreamed at the ads in the back especially the ads about getting your own pet hawk or falcon. Never did happen but the dreaming and wishing was good. Recently started getting F & S again after purchasing it through my granddaughters school fund raiser and have come to enjoy it. Especially D. Petzal's (no BS) column in it. If none of the "younger" folks are buying magazines any longer because they (and a lot of us old guys) are now getting it all off of the air waves, who are buying the printed magazines. I would think advertisers would be looking hard at subscription and rack sale numbers.
BK- a few magazines survive but many have gone under, due to the internet availability. Not too many years ago, I was writing for about 19-magazines on a regular basis. Today, only four are still in print. It is even worse for the daily newspapers.