'Round The Campfire with M.R. James
August 17, 2015
THE M.R. JAMES INTERVIEW
By Mike Tomano
© 2014 Fossil Entertainment Group
For decades, I’ve enjoyed Bowhunter Magazine. Since I was a young boy, I thrilled to the exciting adventures depicted in each issue’s pages and accumulated a wealth of information from its staff of experts. Recently, I had the chance to chat with its long-time editor and founder, M.R. James, whose writings have inspired, entertained and echoed my sentiment of The Great Outdoors Lifestyle.
MT: TELL US ABOUT YOUR INITIATION INTO THE GREAT OUTDOORS.
M.R. JAMES: I grew up during the 1940s and 1950s in rural Wabash County, IL. While dad didn't have much time for hunting, he did bag small game for our family's dinner table. I often tagged along on his weekend hunts for cottontails, quail, squirrels, and waterfowl. No deer lived in our part of southen Illinois back then, but I began hunting game birds and animals by the time I was 10. or 11 Both of my older sisters were married to farmers, and I never lacked lands to hunt. I was hooked on shooting .22s, shotguns, and bows early in my life and have been a proud hunter for more than 60 years now.
MT: HOW DID YOU BECOME EDITOR OF BOWHUNTER MAGAZINE?
M.R. JAMES: I began writing and selling magazine stories and articles while still in college. I arrowed my first record book buck in 1963 and sold the story of that milestone event to ARCHERY Magazine. I later wrote features for BOW & ARROW and ARCHERY WORLD magazines; however, these publications covered all aspects of archery and my primary interest was on bowhunting. Since the sport was growing in interest and popularity, I sensed there was a market for an all-bowhunting magazine. In 1971, three friends and I launched BOWHUNTER. Within a few years it was the world's Number 1 bowhunting magazine. I had the pleasure of serving as BOWHUNTER Editor/Founder for more than 35 years before retiring at the end of 2006.
MT: THERE’S A LOT OF DIVISIVENESS WITHIN THE HUNTING COMMUNITY. WITH DISAGREEMENTS OVER HUNTING METHODS AND EQUIPMENT CHOICES, WE OFTEN ARE OUR OWN WORST ENEMY. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THE IN-FIGHTING THAT OCCURS?
M.R. JAMES: I can recall addressing this problem every year since the '70s. The hunter-haters take great delight in seeing the in-fighting we do. Attacking fellow hunters who pursue game legally and ethically is both divisive and dumb. We are, in effect, aiding and abetting an enemy dedicated to putting us out of business. While honest differences of opinion and healthy debate is normal, to resort to name-calling and personal attacks on fellow hunters is harmful to all of us.
MT: HIGH-FENCE OPERATIONS GET CRITICIZED BY MANY. WHAT IS YOUR FEELING TOWARD RANCHES THAT BREED DEER AND OFFER EXOTICS IN VAST ENCLOSURES?
M.R. JAMES: I've lived much of my adult life in Indiana where I've hunted deer on the state's three large, high-fenced military properties: Camp Aterbury, Jefferson Proving Grounds, and Crane Naval Ammunitation Depot. I saw no ethical problem with pursuing whitetails on these large, tracts of prime deer habitat. I've also bowhunted inside a handful of high-fence operations in Texas and Michigan (most consisting of 1,000 or more acres, and one Lone Star ranch of some 10,000 acres). Game raised on these lands have been challenging and satisfying to hunt. Regardless, the perception of "fish-in-the-barrel shooting" and "buying tame animals" is a problem with the public. I understand and support the Pope and Young Club's rule banning acceptance of these animals in the bowhunting record book. At the same time, I still enjoy off-season bowhunts for exotic animals on Texas ranches.
MT: LET’S PLAY WORD ASSOCIATION. GIVE US YOUR IMPRESSION ON THE FOLLOWING SUBJECTS:
MT: POPE & YOUNG
M.R. JAMES: Bowhunting pioneers whose adventures inspired millions; namesakes of bowhunting top record keeping organization, which I've served as a Director, Vice President, and President for more than 22 years.
MT: FRED BEAR
M.R. JAMES: A personal hero and friend; the man who's done more to popularize bowhunting than anyone.
MT: TED NUGENT
M.R. JAMES: Another friend and influence on the sport. His work with youngsters and anti-drug, anti-drinking stance is great, as is his use of his celebrity to promote hunting.
MT: SOUTH AFRICA
M.R. JAMES: A place I've never hunted, despite booking two trips. I sent Fred Asbell and Dwight Schuh in my place to get features for BOWHUNTER magazine.
MT: THE NRA
M.R. JAMES: I'm a Life Member and have participated in the organization's GREAT AMERICAN HUNTERS TOUR of the 1990s; also helped white and edit one NRA bowhunting book. Just wish the NRA did more to promote bowhunting.
MT: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE SPOTS TO HUNT?
M.R. JAMES: In fact, I'm not a globetrotting bowhunter. All my hunts have been made in North America. I love hunting Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia, Alaska, and most big buck states here in the U.S. Anywhere in the Rocky Mountains is another hunt I rarely turn down.
MT: WHAT’S THE MOST DIFFICULT HUNT YOU’VE EVER BEEN ON?
M.R. JAMES: Mountain goat bowhunts were the only times I realized I could die, due to the high and rugged terrain where they're often found. Also, stalking bull muskoxen across a frozen tundra with temps 20-below was likewise physically challenging.
MT: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE GAME MEAT?
M.R. JAMES: Venison, especially elk, moose, and cornfed whitetails; bison and mountain lion loin are excellent table fare, too.
MT: ANTI-HUNTING ORGANIZATIONS ARE INFLUENCING LEGISLATION ACROSS THE COUNTRY. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OUTDOORSMEN & WOMEN TO BECOME ACTIVE IN BATTLING THE ANIMAL-RIGHTS MOVEMENT?
M.R. JAMES: Support local, state, and national pro-hunting groups that are well organized and effective. Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett have my support, as does the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, and other established organizations with proven track records. Many state and some local archery and bowhunting clubs also effectively battle anti-hunting propaganda. Offer moral and monetary support.
MT: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING OUTDOORS WRITERS?
M.R. JAMES: Strive for a fresh view and voice; study your favorite magazines and determine what kind of articles they prefer. Write for the readers, not yourself. Submit manuscripts that are consise and error-free. Provide quality photos to complement your text. Accept rejection since it's common even with pro writers. Don't give up.
MT: YOU’VE WRITTEN NUMEROUS BOOKS ABOUT YOUR ADVENTURES IN AND PASSION FOR THE GREAT OUTDOORS. IS THERE A SPIRITUAL CONNECTION YOU CAN ELABORATE ON?
M.R. JAMES: I am never more aware of God and His handiwork than when I'm hunting. Seeing another sunrise, watching the outdoor world come alive, and hearing Nature's sounds are proof positive there is a Creator.
MT: IS THERE ANY HUNT YOU HAVEN’T GONE ON YET THAT YOU HOPE TO SOON?
M.R. JAMES: I still have hopes of stalking and arrowing a giant brown bear or grizzly. Bears have always fascinated me, and I feel a true kinship to these magnificent and powerful creatures.
MT: IT’S A PLEASURE TALKING WITH YOU. THANK YOU FOR THE INSPIRATION OVER THE YEARS. ANY PARTING WORDS FOR OUR READERS?
M.R. JAMES: I have been blessed to witness more than half a century of what some call "The Golden Age of Bowhunting." I've personally known most of bowhunting's icons and shared hunting camps with many. I'm humbled to have been recognized by my peers and inducted into the Archery Hall of Fame for my influence on and contributions to the sport, as well as my bowhunting accomplishments. I realize that without the support of BOWHUNTER readers, especially fans of my books and magazine features, I would not have had led the life I've enjoyed.