Editorial-Opinion May 2024

Daryl Kirby | May 5, 2024

I used to have a running dialogue with a buddy and neighbor about our jobs. He was a fireman. These weren’t complaints, more like comparisons… working at GON has been a dream come true for me. Since I was old enough to read and would flip through ancient torn and faded issues of Outdoor Life at my grandpa’s house, I wanted to be an outdoor writer. But like any job, it’s still a job, and like any job, there are downsides.

The downside to being an editor for GON is that when you take a few days off, the work is waiting for you when you get back. You still gottta make that next magazine. I used to compare that to my fireman buddy, who had a house at Mexico Beach and spent lots of time fishing and relaxing when he wasn’t working. I’d say, “When you take time off, someone else fights the fires. They aren’t stacking up and waiting on you when you get back to work.”

He would then compare ‘hunting and fishing for a living’ to the 911 calls he would get, like to help a lady get her groceries up the stairs and into the house… Apparently the definition of a 911 ‘emergency’ has morphed into a bunch of entitled folks who call 911 and demand help with about anything you can imagine.

My friend died of a heart attack a little more than eight years ago, only 40 years old. At his graveside service I cried like a child, not just at the sadness and loss, but because of how special that first-responder service was. I really should have been a fireman, I remember thinking.    

More than ever, sportsmen need a community and a voice they can count on. That GON is the last magazine standing isn’t luck. Like any success, it’s been won through extraordinary effort, through a rare and at times surprising level of talent that passed through the doors of GON. In the almost 40 years since Steve Burch first came up with the idea of GON, at several times the house caught fire. Some of the fires were small, a little smoke in the kitchen, and no one except the cook even knew. Some were large. Y’all probably saw the smoke from down the road.

I have been with GON almost since day one—it started in 1987 and Burch hired me 18 months later.

My pledge is to be the fireman. We need this house. Sportsmen need an advocate. Hunters, anglers and folks who care about wildlife and habitat need a vehicle for information. We need a way to mobilize the troops, when needed. The wildlife and habitat needs an advocate—the status of wild turkeys comes quickly to mind. Your constitutional right to own as many guns as your heart desires deserves an advocate.

We need this house. It will continue to take extraordinary effort, and we’re always on the hunt for talent. We’re particularly on the hunt for talent right now… so don’t be shy.

I’ll do everything humanly possible to never let this house burn to the ground and to ensure it is filled with the like-minded. The house may soon get a new coat of paint, but despair not, GON faithful. Some changes are needed, necessary and welcome. For those who say “Don’t change a thing about GON,” and we hear that a lot, my question is, “Are your kids reading GON? Have you ever seen your grandkid pick up the magazine and flip through those newsprint pages and read an article?”

Hunting and fishing are generational. The vast majority of people passionate about the outdoors are so because of a father, grandfather, an uncle—a mentor who was older, wiser and passed down some knowledge and took the time to carry a youngster to the woods or a lake.

There’s a generational aspect to GON, and it flows both ways. For the kids who know and recognize the GON logo, I bet they had a daddy or grandpa who kept the magazine on the coffee table or at the hunt camp. Like instilling the love for hunting and fishing is generational for the teenagers and 20-somethings, so too is a knowledge and relationship with GON.

And when we say it flows both ways, that means we need that younger generation. We need for them to engage in a way that’s much deeper than scrolling through a phone on a social media app run by people who literally hate what we do and who we are, people that with the flip of a switch have the power to turn off those lights.

We need the kids and grandkids reading GON. And we need some talented ones at the ready with firehose in hand.

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