Letters To The Editor January 2019
The First Time I Met Steve Burch
Sometime back in the mid 80s, my wife, Debbie, and I were camping on Victoria Landing at Lake Allatoona. Early one morning as we were walking on the shoreline, I spotted something floating about 75 yards away.
I have had some experience as a rescue diver, and what I saw resembled the belly of a human body that had come to the surface after gases had formed. I told Debbie to drive up to the gate and have the campground host call DNR and the sheriff. I took a beach towel and began the swim out to the body to bring it in. As I got within yards of it, I saw that it wasn’t a human at all but instead was the biggest fish that I had ever seen in freshwater.
The fish had a large lure hooked deep in its mouth attached to about 10 feet of monofilament. I grabbed the line and began swimming back to a shoreline full of blue lights and people waiting on the beach. The DNR took told me that I had probably just brought in a lake-record striper. When I first reached the fish, he had made an effort to swim, but we saw no more signs of life after that. The DNR officer took the fish and had it mounted, and it hung for a while at the office at the dam.
My neighbor told me that GON might be interested in the story. At that time, GON was about a 10-page newspaper publication that I regularly picked up at a local convenience store. I loved it because it was current, local and had great information on hunting and fishing. I called the GON office, left my name and number, and the boss himself called me back. Steve Burch told me that the fish couldn’t be officially recorded because it had not been legally caught on a rod and reel, but we talked for almost an hour and immediately seemed to hit it off.
Not long after that, I picked up a GON at a convenience store and almost cried at what was on the front page. It said that this issue was the last issue unless by some miracle some money came in. I drove straight to the office located in Marietta and asked to speak with Steve. At that time, he had a handful of folks working for him in an overcrowded office, but he appeared from the back, and we sat down in his office.
He explained to me that issues sold over the counter didn’t net enough revenue to operate and that unless they could widen their subscription sales, the publication wouldn’t make it. I asked him for some subscription cards, and he handed me a couple of dozen. I told him that I worked for a large electric utility that had approximately 300 diehard arrow-slingin,’ gun-toten,’ plug-castin’ maniacs, and he handed me another stack of about 75 cards.
I spent the next two weeks on a sign-up campaign drive and returned to Steve’s office with almost 100 subscriptions. I placed the stack of cards and money on his desk, and he looked at me like I was Houdini. I explained to him that GON was important to a lot of people. Steve told me that it had inspired him to keep going.
Now GON is a world-class monthly publication that is full of great current information, seasonal stories of trophies, politics and great deals. It has been fun to watch it grow to other states and to read Steve’s editorials. I laughed at the one that said he was retiring.
But my friendship with Steve Burch has continued. My boys were selected for the youth hunt on Eufaula, and he was kind enough to give up his weekend and hunt with my youngest son (which was a story in itself.) Through more recent years, I have seldom missed the GON Outdoor Blast.
Almost 20 years ago, my wife and I founded an outdoor ministry for handicapped kids after my son was diagnosed with cancer, and Steve was there to cover the very first hunt at Foggy Bottom in north Georgia. He also attended several of the fundraisers and dinners. I have been with Steve many times on trips to the state capitol on issues that mattered to sportsmen in Georgia and even filmed him on a hunt back when he had a television show. Steve attended my dad’s funeral as we laid a great outdoorsman to rest.
I have asked Steve for advice and listened to his suggestions. He is a wise man but thinks differently than most. My thought process is basically a planned route to a solution, but Steve starts with the desired solution and works it back. He is unafraid of calling out politicians or organizations. He is blunt and in your face without any side dressing. If you don’t want to know the real answer, then don’t ask Steve because he has no problem holding people accountable for dumb decisions.
Steve and his wife, Emma, have been long-time cherished friends, and like most successful men, Emma is that woman behind him. Challenge is what motivates Steve, and his dedication to the outdoors has been relentless, and his contribution to outdoor sports and his accomplishments in conservation of wild game has been second to none.
After 30 years of a great publication and a cherished friendship, I just wanted to take this opportunity to tip my hat to a great guy. Sometimes you just need to let folks know how much you appreciate them.
Thank you, Steve.
Charles Walthour, Dallas
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