The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 23, 2013

Outdoor writing is challenging, fun

By Chris Ellis
For The Register-Herald

— 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.