The job, as they explained it to me seven years ago, was to produce a magazine about turkeys and, of course, turkey hunting. Being an editor by trade, enjoying a passing interest in the subject matter and eager to move back to my home state of Wisconsin, I gladly accepted.
Sure, my new challenge came with the obvious upside that the work would always be interesting (unlike my first job with a magazine called Rental Product News), but it was still just another job.
Then, a funny thing happened on the way to collecting my paycheck: The turkeys got to me. They got into my head and under my skin and inside my soul. Quickly the line between the job and an obsession got very fuzzy, and then it disappeared completely. That’s never happened to me before.
Work in the magazine business long enough and you start to reflect on numbers: deadlines met, pages produced, editorials written and so on. Meaningless statistics, really, in the big scheme of things. And, as Jim Spencer has had to remind me frequently, it’s stuff that won’t really matter to anyone 100 years from now.
Sure, some historian might mention in a footnote that Jim Schlender was the editor of a magazine devoted to turkey hunting back in the old days when people used to print words on paper, but that will be the extent of it.
So, what do I think is worth remembering about this “job?” I will remember how seven springs passed in a blur of mornings spent shivering in the dark, waiting for the first cardinal to start. Of sunrises I would not have otherwise seen. Of cooperative gobblers that made me believe I really knew what I was doing out there. Of the more frequent days when they left me shaking my head and realizing I would never be more than a novice.
I will remember every detail of difficult shots made. And of ridiculously easy shots missed. Of friends made and readers met while sharing that irresistible urge to chase the gobble every spring. Of my son’s first turkey. And my brother’s. And how no matter how many times I went, it never got old. That, collectively, is what I will remember.
As you may have already surmised, Because the company has not formally announced the new editor, you will have to wait for your March to see who will be in charge. But I promise you will be pleased with the decision, because the job is going to the most logical candidate I can think of.
I will always be indebted to our contributing editors, past and present: Michael Hanback, Joe Arnette, Jay Langston, Jim Casada, Jim Spencer, Scott Bestul and Lovett Williams. Thanks, guys. I’ve learned something from all of you.
The same goes for my many friends in the “turkey industry.” You have made this a fantastic ride.
Thanks also to former group publisher Hugh McAloon for the opportunity, and current group publisher Brad Rucks, who has always made time for me when I needed to talk turkey business, even when it was the middle of the November whitetail rut.
Last, but not least, thank you to former editor Brian Lovett, whose continued contributions to the magazine help make it the most credible source on turkey hunting anywhere, and whose advice over the past several years has helped me keep the editorial content running straight and true.
While I will no longer be the editor of this excellent publication, I’m not done with turkeys. Far from it. Because, as you know, once the turkeys get ahold of you, they never let go.
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