Field & Stream

Things learned from perusing recent issues of Field & Stream:

-- An empty Altoids tin can be critical when nature calls in the wild.

-- Venison is more American than apple pie.

-- Rush Limbaugh may indeed be a Big Fat Idiot.

Amid all the how-to diagrams -- on parking cars before pheasant hunting; tinkering with the trigger to resuscitate an old rifle; using a transducer cord for ice fishing -- there are some shoots of amusement inside the ancient publication. Of course, those stand in sharp contrast to the deadly (pun intended) serious.

Guns that no doubt would strike fear in the hearts of the Taliban get an endorsement from the editors for conquering big game. Be patient when stalking deer, readers are told: "If you don't have a good chance for a clean kill, hold off." The two fastest hunting bows on earth -- with "blazing-fast X Force" -- take a heckuva lot of strength to fire.

Then again, what do you expect from a magazine that caters to the ardent hunter (and angler), and has done so for an astounding 115 years? That's just about half of our country's life. If Ben Franklin had only realized its surefire appeal among Minutemen, F&S might have predated the Declaration of Independence.

The magazine's levity may be unintentional, but is on display each issue with the "Reader Tips" section at the front of the book. The F&S fan base could put MacGyver to shame, as they write in with can't-miss, oft-ingenious suggestions for vanquishing the wild.

Toilet paper -- perhaps understandably -- seems to be a popular topic. Iowa's Ryan Adams notes that something as small as an Altoids tin is ideal for carrying an ample amount of TP. A Colorado reader advocates using a Folgers' canister to store a roll -- and help ward off pesky mice.

Then there's the breakdown of 2009 heroes and villains, selected by the editors. New York's Kirsten Gillibrand was given a thumbs-up for being the "first gun-owning, NRA-supported" senator from the state in some time.

But Limbaugh, who some might count on to lobby for rights to keep a grenade launcher under the bed, is pilloried three times -- once for doing PSAs supporting the "virulently anti-hunting" Humane Society.

Enjoyably, the magazine has five of the country's top chefs weigh in with their favorite recipes for venison, noted as more American than apple pie. Among them is John Delucie of New York's celebrity-dripping Waverly Inn, who offers an alternative to the $55 mac and cheese.

Moving beyond the light-hearted, the February issue  highlights some of the best of F&S through the years.  Photography is definitely one top element. Readers way back in 1895 missed out! Whether it's of a deer in a cornfield, a fisherman showing off his prize, or antlers floating in a frozen creek, the shots are spectacular. Each of the issues I checked out (which also include November 2009 and December/January 2009/2010) has full-page displays that do justice to the cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words.

February's F&S also offers an off-beat, human-interest story about two parents who started a competitive hunting club at an Iowa high school. Even as the author acknowledges the touchy subject of schools and guns, it's a feel-good first-person account. F&S could do well if it had more of these eccentric-discovery pieces.

The pub also offers lengthier features with some quality writing --including one about a bearded Alaskan trapper who braves ungodly elements. An intruder from the "Lower 48" -- editor-at-large Bill Heavey -- joins the hirsute one on a journey to nowhere.

Heavey also writes a back-page column every month,  where the humor is sometimes intentional. The February version, however, is tough for a non-hunter to follow, and at one point Heavey admits he wanders into "inside baseball."

But playing that game, at least in part, is a necessity for F&S. It wouldn't have a shot in the dark at being around another 115 years without appealing to its core readers.

Its editor, Anthony Licata, sure seems to know that.  In November he opined that more schools should close to give kids a day to hunt deer.

MAG STATS

Publisher: Bonnier Corp.
Frequency: Monthly, except December and January issues are combined
Web site: http://www.fieldandstream.com

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