Field & Stream's 20 Best Classic Hunting and Fishing Stories

This year,_ Field & Stream_ is 115 years old, the oldest continually published sporting magazine in North America. And in that century-plus we've brought our readers some outstanding hunting and fishing stories -- breathtaking adventures, evocative and moving tales, and truly engaging fiction. To mark the occasion, we're picking one new story from our archives each week, for 20 weeks, and running it here. The stories are, in our view, some of the best that have appeared in our magazine. Check back each Monday for the latest in the series. After all 20 have been published, we'll give you the opportunity to vote for your favorite. We're anxious to find out if you like them as much as our readers did when they were first published.

hillcountry

Hill Country: Texas Digest
"Hill Country," one of Field & Stream's most popular columns, debuted in April 1977. The best way to introduce you to Gene Hill and his special world is to quote from the opening of his first column, in which he said, "Hill Country is neither here nor there. It's the place just over the next rise, that soft pool around the next bend, or that cover you planned to hunt but somehow never did." For 20 years, until his death in 1997, Gene invited readers to pull up a chair by the fire and talk about shotguns, fly rods, dogs, people, and places (not necessarily in that order). This is a sample, on Gene's love of Texas.

tinkhamtown

The Road to Tinkhamtown
First published in an edited version by Field & Stream in October 1969. This is the original version, written in 1964 (returned in 1993 by Laurie Morrow from Corey Ford's handwritten manuscript). Reprinted with permission of Dartmouth College.

classiclyons

Why Fifty Million People Fish
With more than 400 magazine articles and 20 books to his name, Nick Lyons has been a force in the publishing of outdoor books for more than 30 years. Here, in an article from the August, 1972 issue of Field & Stream, Nick explores a favorite topic: why we fish. As you'll see, he touches on things that ring familiar with all of us. Click here to read the article.

terror

Where the Trees Grow Too Close Together
Written by current field editor, Keith McCafferty, this feature, titled "The Cabin Where Terror Came Calling," appeared in the September 1984 issue of Field & Stream. At the author's request, we have put his original title back onto the story. Click here to read the story.

measure

Measure of a Hunter
Norman Strung did not grow up in a hunting family, but when he graduated from high school in New York in 1959, he headed to college in Montana and never really came back. He made a name for himself as a writer and was eventually invited to become a contributing editor at Field & Stream in the early 1980s. Once on staff, he amazed his colleagues with an intimidating show of complete professionalism. He could write on nearly any subject, producing full-length features (in those days often more than 2,000 words) as well as short back-of-the-book how-to fillers with amazing ease. He had a deft touch embossed by personal experience--to complete one article he hoisted himself into a tree to watch a feeding rainbow in a pool. He was destined for greatness, but was cut down in 1991 by cancer just before his 50th birthday. "Measure of a Hunter," which ran in January 1985, touches on a subject close to his heart: it's not about numbers, but rather the quality of the experience. It's a lesson worth repeating and passing on to the next generation. - S.W. Click here to read the story.

onemorehunt

Just One More Hunt
Long-time contributor to Field & Stream, Phil Caputo shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1973, when he was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. A Rumor of War, a memoir of his service during the Vietnam War, has become a classic, with more than two million copies sold since its publication in 1977. His most recent novel, Crossers, is a riveting tale about life and death along the Mexican border. His others books include Acts of Faith, Horn of Africa, DelCorso's Gallery, Indian Country, Means of Escape, Equation for Evil, Exiles, The Voyage, In the Shadows of the Morning, and Ghosts of Tsavo. In "Just One More Hunt," published in Field & Stream in August 2007, Caputo reflects on what it's like to get older, and why he needs to go on one more grueling elk hunt in the Rockies. Click here to read the story.

tarrantdog

And I Do Not Walk Alone
Bill Tarrant, Gun Dogs editor at Field & Stream from 1974 until his death in 1998, possessed a rare understanding of the canine mind and often wrote about the complex and curious relationship between man and dog. His total dedication to this animal led him to his most important mission--to end brutality in training--and his relentless assault on those who would beat or otherwise terrorize Pup has changed the face of dog training. Bill was so passionate on the subject that he often said, "People who train with brutality just don't have much fertilizer in their plot." But Tarrant was no grim reformer. He delighted in the special world of dogs, dog trainers, and hunters, and for nearly a quarter of a century he entertained and informed the readers of Field & Stream with a "country-simple" approach that became a hallmark of his writing. It was a deceptively simple style that bore the touch of a master hand. Bill Tarrant was truly dogdom's poet laureate, and this article, his first, set the tone for all that followed.
Click here to read the story.

lilyfish

Lilyfish Bill Heavey was the editor of a construction trade magazine in Washington D.C in the early 1990s when an article he had written for The Washington Post's Sunday magazine on fishing for smallmouth bass in Virginia's Shenandoah River found its way to the offices of Field & Stream. Impressed by the writing talent, the editors asked Bill to start contributing to Field & Stream, and his first article, "The Middle Ground," was published in the magazine in November 1993. It didn't take long for the editors to realize they had a new major talent on their hands. Though Heavy is perhaps best known for his humorous writing, often in his monthly column, "A Sportsman's Life," he is also capable of penning thoughtful, introspective pieces. Here, in a piece that ran in the July 2000 issue, he looks into the depths of his very soul, trying to make sense of the most heart-breaking event a parent could imagine. Click here to read the story.

thewire

The Wire
David E. Petzal has been a staple at Field & Stream since 1972. To some staffers, his offbeat sense of humor has, over the years, made him appear as "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma," as Winston Churchill, famously, once said of the Soviet Union. He courts controversy, deliberately salting his writing with phrases intended, as he puts it so well, "to shake the apes out of trees." He then sits back and enjoys the mayhem. But beneath that gruff exterior beats the heart of true outdoorsman, one who hunts with passion, but also with a high sense of ethics. Thus, we have "The Wire," one of his most poignant, and angry, stories. For Petzal, who is wise to the ways of the world, and who certainly understands (and accepts) the implacable--and impersonal--forces of nature, there is some human behavior that defies reason and is beyond comprehension. That you will read all of what follows is testament to his ability as a writer--and a storyteller. (Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Field & Stream.)
Click here to read "The Wire."

photographdogs

How to Photograph Dogs
No question about it, Ed Zern walked to the beat of a different drummer, and his penultimate creation, Orville Dykenfoos, was, in many ways, an entirely appropriate alter ego. For Zern inhabited an alternate universe, one filled with out-of-kilter hunting and fishing yarns, obscure literary references, elaborate puns, and the doings of an inexhaustible supply of bemused friends. Beginning in 1958, Exit Laughing anchored the last page of Field & Stream, and it remained a staple of the magazine for nearly 35 years. Some columns would produce peals of laughter, others a wry smile; there were those, too, that produced letters from befuddled readers asking just what the hell was going on. The editors didn't always know, which was fine by Zern. This particular Exit Laughing, which appeared in December 1959, will give readers a peek into Zern's fertile mind. And he came up with this stuff every month! Click here to read the story.

A Hunter's Story

A Hunter's Story
John Barsness started publishing outdoor articles more than 30 years ago. He's written about many outdoor topics, including hunting, fishing, optics, firearms, and Western history. His stories have appeared in every major outdoor magazine, including Field & Stream, where his first article appeared in 1982. He has published seven books on subjects from flyfishing to hunting optics, the most recent being "The Hunter's Book of Elk." Barsness lives in Montana with his wife, Eileen Clarke (also a writer). This piece, about a grandfather figure who played an important role in John's life, is typical of the author's style: evocative, descriptive, heartfelt. It appeared in March 1987.

gooddeercamps

Good Deer Camps Never Die
Many authors and prospective authors send unsolicited manuscripts (or attachments) to Field & Stream, hoping that the editors might like their story, might even publish it. This is one of those - a rare gem that simply appeared in the mail one day. The editors thought it was a strong story and published it in December 2006; readers, in turn, also loved it, and sent letters of praise to the New York offices. Many readers had similar stories. Perhaps you do to. This is the only piece Dave Mance has ever sold to Field & Stream; it's heartfelt and compelling. If you belong to a deer camp, and that camp is on leased property, Mance's story hits a special nerve. Click here to read Mance's "Good Deer Camps Never Die."

aj bone

Dem Dry Bones
As the story goes, a young Albert McLane walked in to the Field & Stream offices in 1947, applied for the job of fishing editor, and was hired. On the morning of his first day, he left the building to get a cup of coffee and was fired by then publisher Eltinge Warner . But cooler heads prevailed and the young staffer was re-hired in the afternoon. The rest, they say, is history, and A.J. McClane became a legend at the magazine. He fished throughout the world, bringing his wide-ranging curiosity to all things fishing. He was always a step ahead, too, and recognized trends long before the crowd. For instance, in 1955 he introduced the readers of Field & Stream to a new-fangled lure called the plastic worm. Those who had the privilege of watching him fish witnessed a master at work. Distance , yes, always, but with pinpoint accuracy. And those who had the privilege of working with him saw a complete professional. His copy rarely needed an editor's pencil, except for the occasional comma--the proper use of which somehow eluded him. He spent years working on an authoritative encyclopedia of fishing, and in 1965 the classic "McClane's Standard Fishing Encyclopedia" was published. It remains the standard by which all other fishing encyclopedias are judged. The earnings from the book allowed him to move to Florida to pursue his passion--bonefish. Late in life he began to experiment with bonefish flies and concluded that these famous bottom feeders would take a dry fly. The result is "Dem Dry Bones," one of his classics. Indeed, the opening sentence in this February 1986 feature, in which he compares the bonefish to a 12-cylinder Ferrari Testarossa, is all A.J. Enjoy. Click here to read the story.
The White Coon
Larry Brown (1951-2004) began writing while he was a firefighter in Oxford, Miss., and went on to publish eight books, including Joe and Father and Son, both of which won the Southern Book Award for Fiction. To contributing editor Jonathan Miles, Brown was a mentor and a best friend. After his death, Miles found this essay in a notebook dated 1982. According to Brown's notes, it is the first true story he ever wrote. "Fittingly, he chose a subject close to his heart," says Miles. The story ran in the October 2006 edition of Field & Stream. Click here to read the story.

el ten

Though best known as a shotgun expert (his Shotgunning: The Art and the Science was a revolutionary book in its day), Bob Brister was no slouch with a rifle. Though he hunted all over the world, he loved nothing more than slinking around the senderos of South Texas looking for double-drop-tine whitetail deer. And he, like many natives of this outsized state, could spin a yarn with the best, and "El Ten," which ran in the November 1986 issue of Field & Stream, is one of his very best. Click here to read the full story.

Dont Wait Too Long

Ted Trueblood was a true westerner who pined for the open country and big skies of his native Idaho. So it stands to reason that the six years he served as _Field & Stream's fishing editor in the magazine's New York City offices were to him, a form of indentured servitude. In 1947, he abruptly quit and said he was "going home to hunt and fish." The editor at the time, Hugh Grey, didn't want to lose such an all-around talent and asked what he could do to keep him on staff. Trueblood said he would mail in a column once a month, but that he would never again set foot in New York, a promise he kept for the next 35 years until his death in 1982._ Click here to read the full story.

the descent

_T. Edward Nickens is an editor-at-large of Field & Stream. Known for do-it-yourself wilderness adventures and profiles about people and places where hunting and fishing are the heart and soul of a community, he has chased ptarmigan and char north of the Arctic Circle, antelope in Wyoming, and striped marlin from a kayak in Baja California. He will not turn down any assignment that involves a paddle or a squirrel. Author of the magazine's "Total Outdoorsman" skills features, he also is host, writer, and co-producer for a number of Field & Stream's television and Web shows, among them "The Total Outdoorsman Challenge" and "Heroes of Conservation." Nickens has been a National Magazine Award finalist, and has won more than 30 writing awards, including three "Best of the Best" top honors awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, within striking distance of mountain trout, saltwater flyfishing, and a beloved 450-acre hunting lease that has been the cause of many a tardy slip for his two school-age children. The following story, from June 2007, is typical of Nickens: good fishing, high adventure, and paddling in a wild place._ To read the full story, click here.

why i hunt

_Longtime contributing editor William G. Tapply was a prolific writer, producing more than 40 books (including more than two dozen New England-based mystery novels)and thousands of magazine articles. Bill, son of the legendary H.G. Tapply (creator of Tap's Tips), had a privileged childhood. By that I don't mean money, but something far more precious. Friends of his father included Ed Zern, Harold F. Blaisdell, Burton L. Spiller, Lee Wulff, Frank Woolner, and Hugh Grey (Editor of Field & Stream from 1946 to 1966). These were men who in their time were giants read by millions of hunters and fishermen. And Bill got to sit at their side at the kitchen table and in the car while en route to a favorite grouse cover. He learned well. He took from his father a deceptively simple style that never grew old and from the others a lifelong appreciation of grouse covers, grouse dogs, and grouse guns. He was also a masterful trout fisherman. But one of our most memorable conversations centered on lunch, and I recall him lovingly describing a grouse hunt where he and his father sat beside a crumbling stonewall next to an abandoned apple orchard and ate cheese sandwiches. It was, he told me, as close to heaven as one can get to on earth. The following piece, from December 2000, is classic Tapply. Enjoy! --Slaton L. White To read the full story, click here._