Editorial-Opinion February 2024

Daryl Kirby | January 31, 2024

In 1987, a handful of folks—principally Steve Burch and Brad Bailey—began a journey of blood, sweat and tears to create a new hunting and fishing publication in Georgia. From the beginning, GON was different. It looked different and it felt different. That dirty newsprint could leave a stain on your hands, and it wasn’t as pretty as those slick glossy magazines, but it allowed for timely information. GON quickly became a resource for sportsmen, not simply entertainment—although the pages contained plenty of entertainment, as well.

Outdoor writers who were accustomed to submitting a Lake Lanier bass fishing article that would appear six months later were now going fishing and seeing their articles in print a week or even days later. Fishing reports and hunting reports were not some finger-in-the-wind predictions of what might happen half a year later, they were timely. Regular folks who loved to hunt and fish found themselves part of a community with their articles and photos appearing in the magazine.

From the beginning, GON did not shy away from potential controversy and hurt feelings when an issue was important to sportsmen, important to wildlife or to the protection of hunting and fishing in Georgia. Some took those instances personally and still haven’t forgiven the perceived trespass. Take the baiting debate, for example. GON took hits from both sides on that one because we dared to present opinions from both sides of that issue and because we dared to ask sportsmen to share their opinions through our VOTES survey. Some didn’t like sportsmen having an opinion, and they sure didn’t like GON presenting that opinion so legislators and policy-makers could see it.

In this country that was formed on the premise of personal liberty, every person should have a voice, and that certainly includes sportsmen. If you disagree with a voice, debate or agree to disagree, but don’t try to silence it.

Each time I’m driving down a highway or pull into a meat-and-three parking lot and see the GON decal on the back of a truck, I’m reminded that sportsmen do indeed have a voice. But it would be reassuring to see more of those decals with the Georgia state outline and those three important letters.

The GON decal on the back of a truck says more than simply that the driver likes to hunt and fish. That person stands for something deeper. Certainly, hunting and fishing are a common thread, but so is a commitment to other sportsmen, a commitment to faith and family, a commitment to protecting Georgia’s wildlife, a commitment to abiding by game and fish laws and ethics, a commitment to supporting DNR, conservation groups and legislators who are on our team—and holding those same to account when they lose focus on sportsmen and hunting and fishing.

GON is important. Like you, we need family. Like you, we need dependable friends. Like you, we should have neighbors we can count on. Those connections we all need might be out of our control—maybe we don’t have neighbors, or even relatives, who are there for us. But we need each other.

I pray I am wrong, but I feel a storm coming. I can feel it in my bones. When I was a kid, my grandpa used to say he could feel it in his knees and hips when a cold front was coming that was going to bring new ducks to the Mississippi Delta. The feeling in my bones isn’t bringing something welcome like new mallards over a flooded soybean field.

More than ever, we need an umbrella of like-minded people. It should be big, and it should be powerful. Picture the largest revival tent you can imagine, and inside it shoulder to shoulder are men, women and kids from all walks of life and from all across Georgia and the South, people who share a bond that can be summed up with that decal of a Georgia state outline and three letters. If you are reading this, most likely you are already a GON subscriber or you bought the magazine at your local convenience store. We can’t thank you enough. But we need to grow this army of like-minded sportsmen.

There is a storm brewing, I can feel it. There are forces at work in this state, in our country and even across the oceans. These are people who could care less about your personal liberty.

Oh, they care about your passion for hunting and fishing, and they care about your right to own guns to procure your own meat for the table or to protect your family. But their care is basic—to take those rights away.

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