The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


February 23, 2013

Outdoor writing is challenging, fun

— I work with the hunting and shooting media on a daily basis.  Their requests can be as simple as fetching a photo or setting up an interview or as complex as getting people and gear into the remote Alaskan wilderness. Every day is different and the challenges of keeping up with the demands of those who choose to write outdoor stories for a living is what keeps the job fun and interesting. 

This past week was indeed one of those challenges. Perhaps a setting of the scene and its characters will shed some light on the matter and add some spice to the dish.

The main character of the plot was an award-winning shotgun that frankly, has been covered fully by the outdoor press already. The only thing new to the story is the shotgun was dressed down to meet the demands of hunters who pursue game in all kinds of conditions — both weather and terrain. This particular shotgun was designed to be a true field-grade model and would be best enjoyed by those who appreciate a few scratches and dings that come from trudging through briery hillsides or bouncing around in the bottom of a duck-hunting boat. 

The supporting cast was a group of outdoors writers. By accepting the invitation to the affair, the writers felt confidently they could cover the subject and thread their stories into places sportsmen choose to be entertained and enlightened.Most wrote magazine articles and subsequent internet blogs while others penned regional columns that hang on shelves where retailers sell hunting products. The writers were there to field test a new product and provide opinions, but more importantly, they were there to write sellable stories.

What sets off a good field testing event from a great one is generally the setting.  That is always the toughest part to wrangle. Sure we all want to go to exotic, far-off locations and indulge ourselves in a mysterious culture where majestic critters roam freely, but often times the products don’t lend themselves to the glamorous offerings. 

In this particular case, I had to play the cards I was dealt. A field-grade shotgun is no royal flush and I was tasked to find an appropriate but sellable locale to pique the writer’s interest. I needed to find a quarry that was challenging in a proper setting for the product while maintaining relevance to the writer’s audience. 

I settled for a time-honored tradition of chasing rabbits with beagle hounds to add zest to the plot.   Anyone who has hunted rabbits with hounds knows well there will be plenty of action, conflict, drama and comedy. I rolled the dice and went all-in for a story based on four outdoor writers, a pack of beagles and a new field-grade version of a shotgun that hopefully would be received as advertised to point well and swing smoothly.

If I have done my job correctly, in the months to come you will see a surplus of rabbit hunting stories filling the pages of popular publications and somewhere in the background will be a field-grade shotgun. Only time and luck will tell if each story will become, like a young rabbit beagle, a blockbusters or a flop. I can’t wait to see.

Text Only
  • Gettin’ ready for gobbler season: Step 4 — the setup

    This just in — in a recent study on turkey hunting and turkey hunters it was found that 98.7 percent of the time when hunters were unsuccessful when calling in a gobbler, the hunter made some mistake during the last 50 yards of the bird’s approach.

    April 17, 2014

  • 041314 Ellis.jpg Spring break is an attitude

    Finally, warmer weather has arrived to the Mountain State. I’m told, it’s socially acceptable to be late nowadays and there is even a term for it — being fashionably late. Of course, I have also been told that camo is the new black in fashion. I don’t care much for tardiness, or for fashion for that matter, but I am perfectly content with the weather forecaster’s report as of late. And if wearing camouflage is trendy, I will fit in just nicely at any social gathering.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Coming soon to a garden near you: Hummingbirds!

    One of the things I look forward to each spring is the northbound migration of ruby-throated hummingbirds. Until 1997, that meant waiting until one showed up at my feeders. But that year a website (, began mapping hummers as they moved north.

    April 13, 2014

  • Morel mushrooms are a W.Va. delicacy, but be careful

    The morel mushroom is one of West Virginia’s best-known delicacies that grows wild in the woods statewide. Mushroom hunting is a wonderful way to get exercise and be in the outdoors at the same time. There is no expense involved, and a bag is all that is needed.

    April 13, 2014

  • 041014 Turkey Call Gettin’ ready for gobbler season: the mystical world of calling

    Do you think that calling wild turkeys into shotgun range is some sort of art form that can never be yours?

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fishing is a good way to introduce kids to the outdoors

    Few experiences are more rewarding than introducing a child to the outdoors. I remember teaching my daughters at the age of 3 to recognize the voice of a barred owl — “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all!” They were amazed they could identify a bird without seeing it.

    April 6, 2014

  • ‘A river runs through it’

    He was a natural at reading water. Whether in a kayak, a whitewater raft or a fishing boat, he simply saw water differently than most. He was good, no doubt about it. When I was learning to row a raft down whitewater, I asked him for his guidance. He would sit in the back of the raft coaching me on waters and their currents. With his help, I too began to see the waters differently and read the river.

    April 6, 2014

  • 040314 turkey feather Gettin’ ready for gobbler season: Step two — scouting

    So you want more hero pictures this year crouched behind a big gobbler fanning his tail out? Either that or the ever popular gripping him around the neck and straining to hold up his 20 plus pounds?

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • 033014 Ellis.jpg Sportsmen’s tax dollars prove very beneficial

    If you enjoy wildlife recreation and conservation, you may want to find the nearest sportsman in your neighborhood and shake their hand. Ultimately, it’s their spending of dollars on the equipment to fuel the passion of the lifestyle they cherish that brings in millions of dollars to our state for wildlife.

    March 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • You may know more bird songs than you think

    Early migrants began returning several weeks ago. Turkey vultures, killdeer, and phoebes were probably as befuddled by the late winter weather as we were. But by early April, we should be safe from any more extended cold snaps. And that means the parade of returning migratory birds will accelerate every week.

    March 30, 2014