Story last updated at 2/18/2009 - 10:57 am
Outdoor magazines have changed a lot over the past 40 years, and so have the people who read them.
Field & Stream, for example, was always one of my favorites. I got my first subscription when I was just nine. In addition to adventure stories and big fish photos, I loved the advertisements.
As a child, I longed to order books on how to become a game warden or taxidermist, and sometimes sent off for catalogs of Indian arrowheads.
There were ads for x-ray glasses, switchblades, bull whips, slingshots, spy cameras, crossbows and books on how to get rich selling earthworms.
In short, there was plenty to interest a child-and in those days there were plenty of children interested in hunting and fishing.
Last week, while cleaning out some closets for a yard sale, I came across a stack of Field & Streams from long ago and couldn't resist sitting down to re-read them.
In particular, I enjoyed comparing the February 1969 issue with the February 2009 edition that arrived just last Tuesday.
In 1969, the cover price was only fifty cents, and there were 185 pages.
Today, with a cover price of $3.99, the issue had just 88 pages.
Inside, the ads were vastly different. The full-page spreads for Schlitz beer, Jeeps, pipe tobaccos and Tareyton cigarettes have given way to "Viva Viagra" and scantily clad women prompting "male enhancement."
On the 1969 cover is a painting of a father in hip waders carrying a big striper. His young daughter walks by his side, carrying a surf rod. They are talking and laughing together as gulls swirl overhead, and of course the sun is shining. Their black Lab walks with them.
On today's cover is a search-and-rescue worker, draped in communications and climbing gear and surrounded by a pair of formidable looking German shepherds. It keys to an inside article about how such teams are busier and busier rescuing lost sportsmen.
What does it all mean? Yes, we're getting older. This month's issue even has an article on how to restore and touch up taxidermy that has faded with age.
Field & Stream itself - still one of the finest publications of its kind - will turn 114 this year. I'm getting a little gray myself. And I'm not alone.
Video games and the Internet are dragging young people away from the outdoors in ever growing numbers, and those of us who grew up "outside" are becoming fewer.
Although our reading material has evolved and matured over the decades, I had to chuckle at one comparison I made between issues 40 years apart:
In 1969, shooting editor Warren Page penned a column on the needless complexity of modern gun laws. "The Gun Control Act of 1968 strikes sportsmen right where they live," he wrote.
This month, contributing editor Bill Heavey pens a column on the needless complexity of modern gun laws. "Obeying the law," he wrote, "sometimes makes you feel like a criminal."