Giving The Wrong Impression

Okay, I know…there are bigger issues facing the outdoors than what I am discussing today, but sometimes these little pet peeves have a way of gnawing away at the general public’s sensibilities…and in the long run our outdoor sports are tarnished in the minds of those who will never know differently.

Case in point.   This past week I was out in Las Vegas at a trade show for my business and during the course of traveling I was captive on an airlines that played various in-fight movies, etc. on TV.   I mean, when you are on an airplane and a TV screen pops down in front of you…what else is there to do but watch?   Anything to pass the time, right?

Well, in this particular case the airline was promoting a MasterCard credit card that promised sky miles on a frequent flyer program.   Innocent enough, you say.   Yes, but as soon as I seen the fly fisherman standing streamside I just knew something would turn negative…and I wasn’t disappointed in that regard.

The ad went on to say something like, and I am paraphrasing here as I do not remember the specific language…weekend away with your fishing buddies…$150…titanium fishing rod…$250…(then this is where the video portion shows what looks to be a carp landed and laying on the shore with a tear slowly dripping from the eye)…discovering your softer side by returning the fish to water…PRICELESS!!!

Wow!   First of all, this ad really struck me the wrong way because it gives feelings to non-humans that simply doesn’t exist.   Okay, you say…there have been studies that show fish can experience pain…phooey!   The point is nobody has ever seen a fish cry.   Fishermen, yes.   But fish, no.   They don’t have those sort of emotions so why do the creative minds need to confuse people into thinking they have them.

Now admittedly there is nothing wrong with catch and release or showing fishermen as a caring sort.   Agreed, those are positive aspects of the commercial.   But in my mind those elements are far overshadowed when the general public (especially kids) starts thinking that fish of all kinds get emotional at the time they are caught.   What about all the fish that are caught and not released?   Suddenly, the fisherman who doesn’t practice catch and release must be some cruel, heartless bastard…right?

Sure, you might laugh at that notion…but believe it or not there are many folks out there who believe precisely that.   If they had their way fishing would go the same way as trapping and hunting, both activities much further on the frontlines of being shutdown by the antis.   But don’t be fooled, these insidious little commercial showings, like the MasterCard, bit do take their toll.   You’d be surprised what the gullible general public believes…especially when they never get outdoors to see reality with their own eyes.

Maybe I am just wrong for wanting the outdoors portrayed the way it is…and not the cutesy way some ad agency copywriter feels they can deliver a promotional message.   The sad reality is, however, if there was a young kid sitting on the plane a few rows ahead of me that might be swayed away from trying fishing because it makes the fish cry…well then, a terrible injustice is being served.

Believe me, our outdoor future is full of enough challenges in the years to come…it certainly doesn’t need a PR agency promoting a product at the possible expense of our outdoor heritage…no matter how minor the effect may be in this particular instance.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

When A Craftsman Dies…The Entire Outdoors Mourns The Loss

I would guess that the typical outdoorsman probably wasn’t aware of Joe Seliga’s existence and the lifetime contribution he made to the canoeing world.   As such, I must admit that I was not aware of who he was until recently, either.   Nevertheless, his death just days before Christmas last year serves as a reminder that slowly the outdoor world is losing the very folks whose name is synonymous with quality and craftsmanship.

This blog is not directly about Joe, because how do you memorialize someone whom you never met and really don’t know much about except for what you’ve read.   For additional information on Joe, all you need to do is check out a blog that now serves to honor his life achievements.   Or better yet, conduct a Google search and the name will show up scattered throughout canoeing literature and history.

Instead, this blog is to remember all the “Joes” of this world who have made tremendous contributions to the outdoor world…but are slowly passing on thus completing their living legacies.   Consider the likes of Fred Bear, Bob Allen, and a host of lesser known names like E.J. Dailey…all folks who have passed on recently but not before they carved out a niche in the outdoors by perfecting a quality product and creating a legacy that now bears their name.

Unfortunately, we do not always take the time to appreciate and understand what outdoor heritage we are losing with the passing of our older generation.   I fear we no longer live in a world where a person would devote an entire lifetime to perfect and develop a quality product that somehow benefits the entire outdoors world—either directly or indirectly.

Today, we live in a disposable world where quality is not always important.   If an item doesn’t last…it only gives us an excuse to buy the newest, greatest model a few years later.   I also think that subconsciously some of us outdoorsmen expect to only get a few years of use out of the outdoor products we buy.   Seemingly gone is the more frugal attitude of our parents and grandparents where a hunting vest was expected to last a lifetime, a fishing rod didn’t get replaced until the current one broke, a dull knife always got sharpened, not replaced…and so on.

Not too long ago Northern Minnesota lost a craftsman world renowned for his handmade snowshoes.   At the time of his death, he had a waiting list that would have placed him well past the century mark if he was to finish all the orders he had taken for his quality snowshoes.   His name now escapes me…and a Google search was unsuccessful in locating the details of his legacy, but imagine the world wanting something that you produce and willing to wait for years until you get a chance to produce it.   Simply incredible.

There’s a certain pride in owning a product known to be the best…and not mass produced on machinery.   Maybe it is a hand-crafted fly-fishing rod for which you wouldn’t dare tell your spouse exactly how much you paid…or maybe it’s a one-of-a-kind turkey call that was crafted and carefully tuned by some expert known for his abilities with the calling championships to back it up.

Next month I will be going to the annual SHOT Show (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show) and I will predictably see 1,000’s of items that are mass produced and stamped out by machinery.   Rare is the show booth that features a craftsman who takes a bare chunk of wood and slowly develops his wonders into an outdoor masterpiece.   I’m not saying that these folks are not still out there…but they are part of a dying breed that someday we will all surely miss.

During the coming year look for ways how your outdoor escapades could be enhanced by using the equipment crafted by a noted artist of their trade.   Whether it be a custom made knife, a shotgun that is beautifully transformed by some detailed checkering and metallic in-lays by a quality gunsmith, or whatever your interest may be.   The point is the outdoors experience is truly enhanced and thus better appreciated when you take pride in the equipment you use.

And if you’re lucky enough to find a craftsman in such demand, such as Joe Seliga and his canoes, consider yourself fortunate when the waiting list to receive such an item is only a few years long.   During the years to come, finding folks such as Joe will grow increasingly more difficult to discover.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Here’s What You’re Not Reading

This evening I was reading one of the big-time outdoor magazines when I read an interesting letter to the editor.   The crux of the letter was chastising the magazine for having over 30 pages devoted to advertising space out of the total of 80 or so the magazine contained.

No doubt about it…magazines are driven by their advertisers.   A large part of the revenue stream comes in from these sources.   And certainly I don’t begrudge any publisher for selling ad space.   In fact, I only find ads in a magazine to be a minor annoyance.   Now ads on TV, on the other hand, that is quite another story.

But I don’t think most sportsman know the power these advertisers yield.   Rather, I’m quite sure the typical sportsman does not give much thought to this.

Case in point.   Yesterday I was speaking to another outdoor communicator who told me that for years he’s had a hobby of collecting yellow snow.   YELLOW SNOW??   You must be kidding, I first thought.   But no, he was dead serious.

While many sportsmen traipse into the woods during the upcoming weeks to search for shed antlers…this particular sportsman also looks for discolored snow that might indicate that a deer has recently urinated on it.

The process is quite simple…he takes a clean jar with him along with a small trowel.   When he finds some yellow snow he carefully scoops it into the jar.   Eventually, he takes all of the snow collected and distills it down to the most pure form…or so he thinks.   This particular writer claims that his deer urine concoction, when added to some glycerin and other lure additives is far better than ANY commercial attractant you can buy.   Why?   Well, because this lure comes from the real McCoy…not some synthesized substance pawned off as real.

But I digress here for a moment.   This blog is not about collecting natural deer lure.   No, quite the contrary.   It’s about the power of advertisers and why you have likely never read of this unique sportsman’s activity.   My acquaintance told me that he queried several editors who were fascinated by the concept and the idea…but they said it would not fly in their publication.   Why?

Well, maybe you can see where I’m going with this.   That’s right…a large base of most publications advertising budget comes from various lure manufacturers.   Why would any managing editor want to risk ruffling the feathers on these ad-buying clients by running an article that might encourage money out of their ad-buying customers pockets?   Many won’t…and that’s why you won’t see articles such as collecting yellow snow.   It purports a technique that opens up too many cans of worms in the publisher’s office.

But is this right?   What has happened to the ethics found in much of the outdoor media?   As a sportsman, don’t you want to read articles how one guy collects yellow snow to increase his hunting success without the concept being sanitized or rejected because it might upset some commercial interest?   I know I sure do.

I fear that as the outdoors seems to continue a move down the path of big money, print publications and television shows will become nothing more than glorified infomercials.   Thrown aside are the journalistic ethics that should hunger to showcase a good idea on its merits alone, and not based on whether or not it will irritate an advertiser who might lose a sale or two because of the ideas contained in the writing.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.