Fishing & Hunting News ends 58-year run

A glaring void in the region's outdoors information scene has opened with the closing of Fishing & Hunting News.

The bi-weekly sportsmen's tabloid featuring a lucky hunter or angler on every cover ended 58 years of publication with its Aug. 7 issue.

Based in Woodinville, the paper has reached about 70,000 readers with regional editions covering 12 states. Twenty-two times a year F&H News published local expert advice on where to bag deer and birds and what to use to land more bass, trout, salmon, steelhead, walleye and every other fresh and saltwater species in the local regions.

"It's more of a disappointment than a surprise," said Dave Workman, who's written for the publication since 1979. "It's a tough market right now for gun and outdoor publications, particularly regionals, but Fishing & Hunting News filled a unique position. It told what happened last week and provided information somebody could use for the upcoming weekend and beyond, with maps, stories and local perspectives."

"The end came about rather quickly, so all of us are trying to get used to it," said Tom Erikson, F&H News publisher for Outdoor Empire Publishing.

"Unfortunately, outdoor industry consolidation is shrinking national advertising budgets and the recent state of the economy has hurt a lot of outdoor business, the boat industry in particular. This has created a tough business climate for much of the magazine industry."

The climate also is adverse for other outdoor pursuits. For example, after 19 years, Minnesota-based In-Fisherman announced this week that it will discontinue the Professional Walleye Trail after this season, noting that sponsorship was not covering expenses.

Mike Walker, an Arizona marketing representative for eight companies, including Toyota, cited a domino effect as cutbacks in national advertising reduce the co-op advertising available for local advertisers.

"Yet you go to the stores and people are still in there shopping," he said. "People still want to buy good products, but it's getting harder to get out the word when you have one.

"I think people are going to regret the demise of these kinds of publications because they fill an important niche for reaching not only serious sportsmen, but hunting and fishing novices who may become the heavy users and consumers of the future."

Regional outdoor tabloids are another victim of the sputtering economy, with unsettling prospects for both consumers and marketers of outdoor goods and services.

In the past three years, outdoor programming on cable TV has gobbled up a hefty share of outdoor advertising, Erikson said.

Workman considers that a shame.

"Hardly anybody watches those cable shows because they're on weekends when real outdoorsmen are out hunting and fishing," he said.

"The internet has some potential to fill the void, but the big problem there is accountability," he added. "You say something in print and people know where to go if it's wrong."

On the internet, he said, people can say anything, and often anonymously. Internet users also are seeking information for free. But dependable writers aren't going to work for free, Workman said.

"Even at $50 a story, we had an enthusiastic group of about 50 writers," Erikson said. "These are guys who know their section of the state and write well. Everybody had a real passion for what they were doing, helping other people find the opportunities.

"Nobody was getting rich. It was a labor of love."

Workman said he'd get calls and photos from people praising him for helping them find a place to fill their buck tag or catch a limit of fish.

"Of course, I'd also get some complaints from guys mad that I was revealing their 'secret' spots," he said. "I'd say, 'That's what we're in business for. You don't own that property. It's public land, and that river isn't yours, and neither are the fish.'

"Fishing and Hunting News was for the average guy who couldn't travel to some exotic place in Africa or Alaska. It's sad to lose that."