In the Media Diet column, Zero Point Zero Production asks prominent hunters about their reading and media consumption habits. What hunting magazines are they reading? How do they get their news when they’re at home? What about when on a hunting trip? What is on their Netflix queues? The answers to all these questions, and more, lie ahead. Up next, Karl Malcolm. Karl grew up outdoors in the northwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. He completed a PhD in Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, while studying bears in North America and China. He also worked as a hunter education instructor in Wisconsin and became involved with the state’s Learn to Hunt Program, hosting classes geared toward teaching ecologically minded adults how to find, kill, process and prepare their own wild food. Karl currently works as the Southwestern Regional Wildlife Ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Do you read a lot? What books are you reading?
My reading habits are really cyclical. I go through phases when I’ll tear through three or four books in a month and then go a few months without picking up any recreational reading. I usually keep a book in my pack during extended hunts and spend midday hours reading during siesta time. A good book, jerky and cheese, and a flat spot in the shade make those hot midday hours fly by. After finishing graduate school in Madison, Wisconsin, my wife and I moved to New Mexico. Much of my reading since the move has centered on trying to learn about the ecology and history of the Southwest. The culture, vegetation and wildlife are so different from what I’m used to that I can’t find enough time to even begin to cover all of the topics I want to learn more about. The most recent book I picked up was the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. We spotted a curve-billed thrasher while walking our dogs before breakfast today and wanted to identify it with certainty. A book called Everett Ruess: A Vagabond for Beauty is on my nightstand, thanks to a good buddy who shares an interest in southwestern wilderness. Before that, I read The Milagro Beanfield War for some solid insight into the Spanish communities that have lived in northern New Mexico since before the USA became the USA.
What about magazines? Which ones?
I receive magazines from various memberships I have to conservation groups. The Aldo Leopold Foundation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Ruffed Grouse Society, Trout Unlimited and others all play a role in keeping magazine articles coming my way. I rarely read any magazine cover to cover, but I usually find something well worth the time when I flip through. I’m a fan of Natural History, National Geographic and the usual suspects on the hunting front (Eastmans’, Field and Stream, Petersen’s, etc.), but I can’t say that I have a favorite. One of the best hunting articles I’ve ever read ran in National Geographic back in 2007. It was titled “Hunters: For Love of the Land”. After spending so much time studying wildlife in Wisconsin, I got into the habit of reading a periodical called Wisconsin Outdoor News. It comes out every two weeks and includes work from some guys I really enjoy reading, including Pat Durkin and Dan Small. The publication helps me keep tabs on what’s going on back in the familiar forests of the Midwest.
Which websites do you go to regularly?
USGS streamflow data are pretty important for those of us who like to chase trout and their website is very user-friendly. I also hit a few different weather sites with regularity. I’ll surf through Google News every few days when I’m home to keep up on global, national, and local happenings. Lately I’ve been frequenting the NCAA bracket sites to keep an eye on the college basketball scene. My two alma maters (Michigan and Wisconsin) have had great post-season runs which is fun to see.
Is it difficult to keep up with the news while hunting?
When I’m on a hunt, my phone is typically off to conserve battery for emergencies. I view that as a blessing. One of the reasons I’m out there is to leave the world behind. I’m worried more about hunt plans, camp logistics, finding animals, staying safe and having fun. News isn’t on my mind. If I’m in an area with service, I’ll track developments in the weather but that’s about it. I always establish a check-in plan with my hunting buddies and my wife based on predicted or known cell coverage. If my phone starts off fully charged and I keep the chats brief, it will easily give me a morning and evening check-in every day for a week. I’m the one giving the news updates in those circumstances. If my lady isn’t with me then she’s the one keeping up on my news and hoping it involves an early return home with full coolers.
How else do you get news and other media? Use social media?
My number one source of news is a satellite radio subscription that includes a BBC station. Once I got used to listening to news from BBC, it made many of our American “news” outlets seem totally slanted. It sounds to me like the BBC journalists take the goal of impartiality seriously. They provide facts and leave much of the interpretation up to the audience. I have no appetite for garbage that is peddled as news by some of our major American networks. You know the ones. Now, with that said, I am a big fan of much of the programming on National Public Radio. I download several of their podcasts, with my favorites being On Point, This American Life, TED Radio Hour, All Things Considered and Radiolab. I also like the storytellers and tales featured on The Moth podcast. I use the web to keep tabs on writing by Paul Smith, the Outdoors Editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He’s a strong writer and great guy who is filling the big shoes left behind by his predecessor, Jay Reed. If you want some memorable short stories from the Midwestern outdoors, grab a copy of Thor & More, a collection of Jay Reed’s best-loved works.
Do you watch TV?
As an undergrad, I lived in an old cabin on a research preserve near Hell, Michigan where I had a TV with a tiny screen and a handful of DVDs (including Jeremiah Johnson, of course). No channels at all, but there was a sweet fieldstone fireplace and unlimited amounts of seasoned oak to split and burn. I could go back to that model happily, but my bride has a longer list of shows she doesn’t like to miss. I’m thankful for the TV now during March Madness and we set the recorder for MeatEater. Otherwise, I try to spend my time away from work looking at something other than a screen.
Do you ever go to the movies?
We do go to the theater occasionally, but it’s been a while. More typically we grab a DVD for home viewing. The last movie we watched was “Her”. Talk about a depressing glimpse into the future. As smoking hot as Scarlett Johansson’s voice is (which is completely, mind-numbingly, outrageously hot), I don’t think that voice alone could seduce me into falling in love with technology quite to that extent. The degree to which many of us are apparently addicted to the digital realm does sadden and scare me at times though, so the movie hit home. The day after watching “Her” we went out to eat and there were a decent number of other people in the restaurant, including several other couples. At one point, every other person there was staring at their phone rather than interacting with the people physically in their presence. When it comes to media habits, I hope that’s one we can all work harder to avoid.
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