The outdoors reading season is well under way and forecasts say there is no end in sight: front of the fire reading material will be particularly good gifts this year for outdoors people.
Readers often ask which is the best general outdoors magazine to buy, and I am happy to say Alberta Outdoorsmen, and not just because I am one of its columnists. I have written for most of Canada’s outdoors magazines over the years, many of them now defunct.
Editor-publisher Rob Miskosky was a multi-trade journeyman in the oilpatch until he stayed home and started into general sports publishing several years ago, and then started Outdoorsmen around 1999. Outdoorsmen is informative, issue-oriented and a good read. Last year, its writers won as many Outdoor Writers of Canada National Communications Awards as the rest of Canada’s outdoors magazines combined. A subscription for 12 issues is 39.90 (GST included) from Sports Scene Publications, Inc., #100, 10642 178th St., Edmonton, AB T5S 1H4, or phone 780-413-0388.
In the area of specialized magazines, particularly fly fishing, the best, in my opinion, is the quarterly Fly Rod & Reel, not just because John Gierach regularly writes the back page(s) column. John’s new book, All Fishermen Are Liars, will not make it out for Christmas, but the Book Mailer in Helena, Mont., is taking pre-orders and will ship when it is released.
Clearly the place to shop for outdoors books and great tackle deals is from the online catalog of the Bookmailer, www.thebookmailer.com, which offers more than 4,000 books in 24 categories. Viewing their newsletter online is one of the great free reads available in a crass world.
At Chapters recently, I picked up one of the best guides I have ever seen to essential outdoors reading: A Sportsman’s Library by Stephen J. Bodio, longtime book reviewer for Gray’s Sporting Journal. On Bodio’s strong recommendation, I’ll soon be savouring Blood Knots, an angling memoir, by Luke Jennings.
I’ve also finally summonsed the courage to read Fly Fishing Guide to the Henry’s Fork, by Mike Lawson, in my decades-done quest to understand the worst skunking I have ever endured anywhere. The Fork was a boil that day with big, rising trout. The thin, high-desert air was thundering with the multilingual curses of frustrated anglers from afar, and my superb angling guide, the late Jim Danskin, declined my invitation to earn his money and show me how: “Bob, there’s days no guide can earn his money.”
Absolutely essential reading for any Albertan who spends much time in our outdoors is The Cougar, Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous, by Paula Wild. I recently gave it a full review, but it deserves repeating that this fine book, with superb colour photos, is also a detailed manual on how to avoid cougar attacks and deal with them when all else fails.
My hunting was finished before it got started this year, so I have been enjoying A Mule Deer Retrospective, the Boone and Crockett Club’s companion volume to 2006’s A Whitetail Retrospective. Both books feature vintage photos and memorabilia from B&C’s archives regarding the great trophies of each species. Ed Broder took probably the greatest of all North American big game trophies, a huge non-typical mule deer, in November 1926 near Chip Lake, but did not enter it with B&C until 1961.
In this new book is a reproduction of a fascinating three-page handwritten letter from Broder describing for B&C “the most important hunting trip of my lifetime.” He recalls his first thought on getting a good look at what he tracked and shot for winter meat was “what a rack that one’s got!” He got that right; the antlers scored 355 2/8 B&C points, ranking the buck as the No. 1 non-typical mule deer ever taken, and most experts believe it will never be surpassed. Unfortunately, after a long and bitter family court case, the mount was sold for $325,000 and now hangs in Montana. Both books are available from B&C, 250 Station Drive, Missoula, MT 59801-2753, or phone 406-542-1888.
Outdoors thrillers are a new genre. I have been enjoying The Blight Way, The Huckleberry Murders and other Sheriff Bo Tully Mysteries by Patrick J. McManus, and the Walt Longmire thrillers, such as Another Man’s Moccasins, and As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson.
New Alberta outdoors books are rarer and scarcer than ever. Jim McLennan is still selling his classic Blue Ribbon Bow (hardcover only) and two of his three paperbacks, Fly-Fishing Western Trout Streams and Watermarks. Email Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I still have copies of two of my books and have them on special for Christmas: The Phenological Fly for $20, and Good Old Guys, Alibis, and Outright Lies, for $10, or both for $25, picked up, inscribed and autographed, if desired, more if mailed. Contact me at: phone 403-346-6264 or email at email@example.com.
Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer.