Mail Call: Inside That Black Box On An Outdoors Writer’s Desk

Over the past 30 years as an outdoors writer I’ve seen some pretty cool press kits cross my desk.  On the other hand, most press kits delivered by the post office lack any real motivation to even open the package.   In fact, most press materials I’ve seen are more apt to elicit a yawn rather than a yee-haw!

So, when a big black box lands on my desk delivered by FEDEX it sort of sticks out and grabs your attention.  Let’s open the box together and see what’s inside.

Interesting box…nothing flashy…feels rather light. Let’s get this thing open and find out what’s inside.

As I’m cutting the tape I see it is advertising some programming coming up in two weeks on both the Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel. Hmmm… what could be inside?

Oh wait! There’s a card inside. Almost opens like a gift…after all, aren’t we used to getting a gift card from the recipient before an actual gift is exposed?

I see a repeated theme being developed. Starting to think HASHTAG #DEERWEEK is supposed to have some significance during the days and weeks to come.

Nice, friendly card directing me where to go for additional information should I need it.

Let’s dig a bit deeper to see what else is inside this box. Hmmm…looks like multiple items of potential interest.

First, a can koozie. What self-respecting outdoors writer couldn’t use that at their desk to keep their…ahem, soda pop cool? Nice touch!

Hmmm…a cell phone accessory. Must admit I have seen people use these…but not quite sure what they accomplish. Something more to play with at my desk.

Okay, you had to know THIS thumb drive would be in there somewhere. It seems after the past dozen or so years PR folks have figured out that a USB flash drive is much more valuable than a packet full of printed materials.

After all…on the thumb drive you can put logos (in many different formats), include photos and even promotional videos.

But alas, here is the real crème de la crème for spending time digging through the box. On the very bottom was this reward of venison jerky. What sort of writer wouldn’t want to be chewing on a hunk of savory flesh while promoting #DEERWEEK

So, there you have it…the complete contents of a modern outdoors press kit.  Thanks for spending a few minutes to dig through the contents with me.   Now, start using the #DEERWEEK hashtag on your related social media posts.   Also, mark your calendars for October 15-21 during the evenings starting at 7pm.

In case you haven’t noticed…it’s FALL and time to start getting excited about doing the sort of things we all enjoy doing outdoors!  Best of luck!

HUNT. FISH. FEED. Once Again Serves Up Goodwill In St. Paul

The popular outreach program that takes protein (venison, fish and fowl) donated by sportsmen and turns it into a gift of kindness to help those less fortunate in the community arrived in St. Paul this past Monday.   Of the approximately 50 such events that have been held around the country, this marked the second time (since 2010) where volunteers from the outdoor television industry rolled up their sleeves and donned aprons for a good cause.

The concept of HUNT. FISH. FEED. first began with the Sportsman Channel launching the initiative back in 2007 and has since served up several thousand meals in an effort to end hunger.   Not only does it show sportsman doing something positive to give back to the local community, but it allows television executives, TV personalities, local politicians and others an opportunity to see first-hand how people continue to need such assistance.

Back in 2010 I was fortunate to first experience one of these events at the Catholic Charities Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul.   At the time, my entire family assisted in both the preparation and the clean-up of the charity meal conducted by HUNT. FISH. FEED.   I must say how even though this is a one-meal effort and the need continues daily, there is something quite humbling to witness how certain segments of humanity depend greatly on such volunteer efforts.   It changes how your perceive the world.   And I dare say, it warms the heart in ways very few other volunteer efforts can achieve.

This time around, however, I was invited to the event to just cover all the good deeds going on.   In fact, Michelle Scheuermann and I conducted a quick podcast with some special guests that will be posting soon — stay tuned.   On that podcast we talk briefly about HUNT. FISH. FEED., but mostly we talk with some wild cooking notables who share some great insight on how to best prepare wild game.

If you ever get the opportunity in your local community to volunteer with any such charity work I encourage you to give it a try.   And if you are part of a sportsman group and can parlay that effort into a more positive image for sportsmen, even more power to you.   At the very least, every sportsman should consider perhaps donating some of their wild game to a local food shelf.   Some states and localities might have certain restrictions on you doing that, but at the very least check it out as the need continues to exist.

In closing, here are some pictures from Monday’s event held at the Catholic Charities Dorothy Day Center:

Here The Sporting Chef, Scott Leysath, stirs up some hearty venison chili that will be served to all guests.

Volunteers form a production line to fill each tray with salads, fruit, cheese bread, venison chili, chocolate brownie and milk.

All in all over 200 people were served in downtown St. Paul on this day.

Moments before food service began, Scott Leysath took a moment to discuss the HUNT. FISH. FEED. program with St. Paul Mayor, Chris Coleman.

The many volunteers who made this day possible.

Heading To SHOT? Use That Camera In Your Pocket!

The year was 2001 and it happened to be the last night I was in New Orleans for the SHOT Show.   What’s a guy to do?   Of course, you go down to Bourbon Street and have a bit of fun before it all ends.   After all, there’s no place on earth quite like Bourbon Street, am I right?

Well, little did I realize how the excitement didn’t end when I hopped in a cab to go back to my hotel.   Indeed, what I walked into in my room was nothing short of a nightmare.   What my disbelieving eyes were seeing is water everywhere.   Water was dripping from the ceiling and I stood in a complete and destructive mess.   Everything I had collected at SHOT, all my clothes, yes everything I took with me on the trip was now drenched with water.   Worse yet, I didn’t even know what kind of water, if you get my drift!!

Water dripping everywhere from the ceiling is not the sight you care to see in your hotel room while at SHOT.

Water dripping everywhere from the ceiling is not the sight you care to see in your hotel room while at SHOT.

What a mess. And when the large hotel chain didn't want to compensate me until I showed them these pictures it was a bad deal on many different levels.

What a mess. And when the large hotel chain didn’t want to compensate me until I showed them these pictures it was a bad deal on many different levels.

Imagine the fun of having to pack up all your wet belongings and leave for the airport in just a few short hours.   So much for a good night’s rest before heading to the airport.

Yeah, horror stories like this happen in life…and even during SHOT.   What saved me during this incident is grabbing my digital camera (didn’t have a cell phone in those days) and snapping multiple photos.   You see, the large hotel chain did not want to compensate me for any of the damages nor for any of my frustrations/troubles after the fact.   That tune changed completely when images (evidence) was brought to their attention.   I went from no compensation to four nights of comped rooms plus replacement of all damaged property.

When you’re traveling, no matter at SHOT or anywhere, there simply is no excuse for not taking multiple images even if they appear mundane and not necessary.

A great example of a nice picture to grab is inside a Las Vegas taxi cab.   Back 11 years ago I was in Vegas with my then fiancé (now wife) and we were headed to the courthouse to get a marriage license.   It was about 9pm at night and it just seemed like a fun time to do it.   We hopped in a taxi, told him where we wanted to go…and the rest is yet the beginning of another nightmare.

The cabbie spoke broken English and did not have a clue.   He took us to a building he claimed was the courthouse and dropped us off.   It wasn’t.   It was 6 Vegas blocks from the courthouse and a high-crime part of town away from the touristy Freemont Street area.   We were pissed.   Not only did he scam us…he also put our personal safety in jeopardy as we encountered many street people that night hiking back to a safe area.

I got my satisfaction later, however.   You see, what the cabbie didn’t realize is that whenever I get into a cab I discreetly snap a picture of the cabbie’s license.   Armed with that information, I proceeded to call the Las Vegas Taxi Cab Authority and describe my predicament.   The nice guy on the phone informed me how this cabbie will have his license immediately suspended within the hour and that likely it will lead to a termination of his employment.   The only reason this could happen was because I was armed with the evidence to identify.

Pictures are important.   They help us remember details.   They can serve as evidence.   They can document the sort of things that might ordinarily get lost or easily forgotten.   What if you left a briefcase or a purse inside a taxi cab?  How would you describe the driver who took off with it?  He was driving a yellow cab?

For instance, I generally snap a photo of all my receipts when traveling.   That way in case they get misplaced, I still have a way of tracking expenses.   I also snap images of important business cards, hospitality room invitations, just about anything I am likely to forget.

Sometimes even snapping a picture of a good restaurant helps jog your memory for future years.

Sometimes even snapping a picture of a good restaurant helps jog your memory for future years.

Indeed, fun pictures of the SHOT experience are always the priority.   Yet, I still think people need to use the camera on their phone for the handy tool it can become.   Images not needed can be easily deleted.   Images not taken can hold a lifetime of regrets.   Develop the habit of using your phone’s camera often and for everything.

One final thought.   Three days ago a friend of mine arrived in Las Vegas for a different trade show happening currently this week.   She had a miserable day with plane delays and a taxi ride where her cab driver was pulled over by police and ticketed on the way to her hotel.   Just to finally unwind she sat down and ordered room service.   Her misery was not about to end…at least not quite yet.

Her shrimp Cobb salad and water delivered to her room ended up costing her $49.78.   To make matters even worse, they forgot the bottle of water and the salad came inside a styrofoam container the size you would get a burger in at some fast food joint.   Hardly worth that kind of money, would you say?   And to top it all off…THE SALAD DID NOT CONTAIN ANY SHRIMP!!!

Would you be taking PICTURES and complaining?   I sure bet you would.