Some 30 years ago, this photo appeared with my first story in Bowhunter.
BOWHUNTER MAGAZINE WAS BORN in 1971, and this, the December 2006 issue, marks the end of Bowhunter's 35th Anniversary. It also marks the last issue in which M.R. James has an "official" presence. As M.R. wrote in his feature, "A Magic Carpet Magazine Ride," (Oct/Nov 2006 issue), his official "retirement" date is December 31, 2006. So this seems like the appropriate time to thank him officially for all he has done for Bowhunter Magazine, for bowhunting in general, and for me personally.
Obviously, without M.R., Bowhunter Magazine would not exist. Whatever his job titles have been in the past or his relationship with the magazine may be in the future, one thing will never change -- his title as Founder. That is etched in stone. In "A Magic Carpet Magazine Ride," M.R. wrote a brief history of the magazine, so I won't reiterate that here. However, I will emphasize that starting a magazine is risky business. New magazines die like flies, and keeping a magazine alive until it becomes viable takes vision, perfect timing, business acumen, and bulldog tenacity. M.R. and his partners displayed these qualities, and we, the readers of Bowhunter, are the beneficiaries. For the magic carpet ride, Thanks, M.R.
During Bowhunter's 35 years, M.R. has been a major force in bowhunting. He has used his position with the magazine to champion numerous conservation and prohunting causes. He has presented dozens of seminars and corresponded selflessly with anyone who has written to him, touching the lives of thousands of bowhunters. He has dedicated himself to worthy causes such as the Dr. Arnold S. Leonard Cancer Research Fund, and Physically Challenged Bowhunters of America. It's anybody's guess as to how much money he has committed to bowhunting and conservation efforts. M.R. served for 14 years on the Board of Directors of the Pope and Young Club, 10 of those as First Vice President, and was recently elected President. Again, all hunters are the beneficiaries. Thanks, M.R.
IN 1971, THE SAME YEAR M.R. and his cohorts launched Bowhunter, I set out to be an outdoor writer. My first stories were about fishing, duck hunting, even rifle hunting for deer -- whatever it took to pay the rent. But from the launch of my first arrow in 1969, bowhunting was my passion, and selling my first story to Bowhunter ("Five Steps to Success," October 1975) was a major milestone in my life. The fact that Bowhunter bought the story was amazing enough, but the fact that Editor M.R. James personally wrote and encouraged me to submit more stories to Bowhunter had far greater impact.
Taking his words seriously, I did write more stories for Bowhunter, and in 1984 M.R. added my name to the masthead as a Contributor. That huge vote of confidence stirred me to work even harder at bowhunting and writing. Getting stories into Bowhunter became a top priority for me.
Continued -- click on page link below.
In 1995, M.R. and I ended up together on a deer hunt in Mississippi and, fortuitously, bunked in the same cabin. During the three-day hunt we talked shop and chatted about our respective futures. The experience was pleasant but seemingly inconsequential.
However, a couple of months later M.R. wrote to ask if I would like to work for Bowhunter full time. He had reached a stage in life where he wanted to back off from work a little. In his letter he said I was his first and only choice to replace him. Twenty years earlier I had done back flips over selling a meager story about killing a spike buck to Bowhunter, so this was heady stuff.
It was a proud moment for me when, on January 1, 1996, I came on board as Senior Editor, working under M.R. Apparently, my performance was adequate, because on July 1, 1997, M.R. promoted me to the position of Editor -- his position. The fact that I now had his job, the perfect job that paid me for doing three of my favorite things -- writing, editing, and bowhunting -- was hard to comprehend.
Still, that paled in comparison with the fact that M.R. James would entrust me with his magazine, his baby. In life, we're all looking for validation. We want to know that we have value, that our efforts -- our lives -- count for something. M.R.'s trust not only opened up many opportunities for me to fulfill dreams and goals, but it justified, in my own mind at least, all of my efforts in bowhunting and writing over the years.
In short, M.R. James has played a major role in my life of bowhunting, writing, and editing. For all the support and opportunities he has given me personally, I can only say, Thanks, M.R.
IF THIS SOUNDS like a eulogy, let me set the record straight: M.R. James is not dying, and this is not a good-bye. M.R. will always be a friend, and he never will truly "retire." Rather, he'll just launch a new era, and I suspect his retirement from Bowhunter is not so much an end to anything as it is the beginning of something that augurs well for bowhunting. Wherever his travels, whims, desires, life, wife, Janet, numerous grandchildren, presidency of the Pope and Young Club, countless conservation causes, writing projects, and bowhunting challenges take him, M.R. James will continue to make a positive impact.
And we all will be the beneficiaries. For the countless contributions he will make to bowhunting in the future, I once again say, Thanks, M.R.