SPORTS AFIELD: Best of the Big 3SPORTS AFIELD magazine is celebrating its 125th year of publication this year, and it continues to be the best of the “Big Three” outdoor magazines, the other two publications being Field & Stream and Outdoor Life.
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
SPORTS AFIELD magazine is celebrating its 125th year of publication this year, and it continues to be the best of the “Big Three” outdoor magazines, the other two publications being Field & Stream and Outdoor Life.
I bought my first subscription to SPORTS AFIELD back in the early 1970s, and it was a good magazine in those days too, featuring writers like John Jobson on camping and rifles, Jimmy Robinson on waterfowling, and the incomparable Gene Hill, who wrote the back page column, entitled “Tail Feathers.” (Later, when Hill inexplicably moved to Field & Stream, his column was called “Hill Country.”)
Sometime around 1990 SPORTS AFIELD changed its entire direction, and began shunning hunting and fishing articles. Instead, it published stories on kayaking, mountain biking, hang-gliding, hiking, and I even remember one article about firing pumpkins from homemade cannons! I was aghast! I let my subscription expire.
It wasn’t long afterward when at a trade show I saw a SPORTS AFIELD booth run by a woman who was handing out free issues of the magazine. I approached her and as politely as I was able, told her about my unhappiness with the direction SPORTS AFIELD had taken.
She replied that the “hook-and-bullet” theme wasn’t succeeding. We left it at that.
Well, other readers must have had similar complaints, because by the mid-90s, SPORTS AFIELD was back to being a hunting and fishing magazine. Then, about a decade ago, the magazine hired a young Pennsylvanian, Diana Rupp, as editor-in-chief, and she has made SPORTS AFIELD into the best publication it ever has been — high grade paper, quality photographs, excellent articles on every facet of hunting in all corners of the globe; a regular section on rifles, another on shotguns, a third on custom guns. The back page is written by Thomas McIntyre, an author in his own right.
Meanwhile, Field & Stream slogs along, cluttered and, except for the excellent work of Dave Petzal on shooting and rifles, and the humor page by Bill Heavey, it is hardly the magazine it used to be. I have subscribed to Field & Stream since at least 1970, when I clearly remember reading the magazine in a bunker on Hill 250 in “The Arizona” in Vietnam. I enjoyed Warren Page, who had an English degree from Harvard, and his writings on rifles, hunting and cartridges. And Bill Tarrant, who probably was the best gun dog writer any magazine ever produced, and Homer Circle who wrote about fishing. Today, Field & Stream is a hodgepodge of things that don’t interest me, including rating various outdoor gear — everything from fishing reels and waders to binoculars and outdoor clothing. I find it monotonous.
Outdoor Life magazine is even worse — cluttered with “how-to” pieces, and artwork showing hunting scenarios for white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and the like. As with Field & Stream, Outdoor Life has a continual drumbeat about hunting “booner bucks and bulls” that leaves me cold.
Gone are the days when Jack O’Connor’s stories graced the pages of Outdoor Life, along with his “Getting the Range” column. O’Connor, a former journalism professor from Arizona, and a giant among hunting writers, left Outdoor Life in the early ‘70s, wrote for Peterson’s Hunting magazine for a number of years before his death in 1978.
Outdoor Life hired Jim Carmichel after O’Connor’s departure, and he did an exemplary job for many years until his retirement during the last decade. Since then, there has been a procession of lesser talent writing for Outdoor Life, the same cluttered layouts and confusing “jump” pages. (I just allowed my Outdoor Life subscription to expire once again.)
However, SPORTS AFIELD marches on as the best of the “Big Three.” Buy a copy on the newsstands sometime and see for yourself!