Rob writes a weekly outdoors column and covers energy, environmental and nuclear issues (and lots of other topics) for the metro section. He has been an avid angler and hunter ever since he realized he had neither the aptitude nor the desire to take up golf. He has been a full-time journalist for 28 years, including 11 years as bureau chief in Columbia County. Before joining The Chronicle, he worked at newspapers in Columbia, S.C., and West Palm Beach, Fla. He has edited or authored three reference books on antique fishing tackle; and his freelance work has appeared in Field & Stream, Gray’s Sporting Journal and Georgia Outdoor News. He lives in Evans.
Posted October 26, 2010 10:36 am - Updated October 26, 2010 04:00 pm

Hunter-hating sports editor gets rude awakening

It's always entertaining to check out the things our counterparts at other newspapers come up with, and last week's column on deer hunters by the sports editor at the Covington (Ga.) News was one of the oddest essays I've seen in a while.


In a nutshell, the writer, Josh Briggs, apparently took offense after he was sent a photo of a father and son with the boy's deer, and was asked to publish the picture.


Being from California, where they do things differently, he proceeded to attack deer hunters as lazy, insinuated that wildlife management through controlled hunting was a myth and made the erroneous assumption that people who hunt from a treestand are doing so over bait.


"If I'm going to run deer hunting pictures in my section, I can at least give my take on it, right? Fair enough?" he ranted, devoting the next dozen or so graphs to giving his "take" on everything from the taste of venison to the assertion that population control is needed more for humans than deer.


"Once upon a time, not anymore, we needed to trap, hunt and kill wild animals for survival. Then, we learned to be farmers and ranchers. Then, we invented the rail system and had the ability to ship goods. Eventually, we no longer had a need to kill wild animals. Yet for some reason, a lot of people feel they still do. Because being the perverse species we are, we turned it into a sport."


 There is more: "When you are at war, it's you or your enemy. You look for the upper hand. You find an elevated position, sit for hours or even days on end and wait. That's fine. At least your enemy knows you're out there... But a deer has no clue. When you sit in a tree stand and wait for a deer to come through your baited area, it's just a matter of time."


 The newspaper's general manager, T. Pat Cavanaugh, followed up with a column of his own  in which he offered a sort of back-handed mea culpa for annoying so many subscribers and advertisers.


"While reading it, the shock of what he wrote caused me to spill my coffee on myself and almost choke on my muffin," Cavanaugh wrote. "I knew our publisher, Charles Hill Morris, himself part of a family that has a hunting tradition that goes way back, would be shocked and mortified. He was, and I am still unhappy about our sports editor's comments. I want to assure each of you that the editorial board and the management of this newspaper support the right of every American to hunt."


Both columns, predictably, generated plenty of interest out there in Newton County, where lots of hunters are spending their vacation time waiting out a big one as the rut kicks into high gear this weekend.


It was also ripe discussion fodder on the GON Forum maintained by Georgia Outdoor News, which brings up the reason I am writing about it in the first place.


Several of the comments on GON asserted that the Covington News is owned by the same company that owns The Augusta Chronicle. I also received phone calls this week from two of our local readers asking about the same thing - and wondering if the Augusta paper was taking an anti-hunting slant as well.


Our parent company is Morris Publishing Group and the Covington News is owned by a different company: Morris Multimedia, based in Savannah. The owners of the companies are related, but the companies are not.


Now that I've set the record straight, I'll also reiterate that our readers are welcome to share their photos and experiences in the autumn deer woods, and while we don't always have room to get them all into our printed edition, there is unlimited space on our online Sportsman's Scrapbook, where we have almost 480 photos now - with more than half a million page views.


Happy hunting, and keep those emails and photos coming!