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, Robert Abernethy. Robert has hunted and fished across the U.S. for over 50 years and currently lives in South Carolina where he and his wife, Yvonne raised their two kids Erin and Garrett in the woods and on the creeks with guns, bows and fishing poles in their hands. Robert is currently working to restore the longleaf pine ecosystem of the southern United States as President of the non-profit conservation organization The Longleaf Alliance.
Do you read a lot? What book are you reading?
I do read a lot but most of it is related to my work with the restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem. Right now, the book I am reading for enjoyment is entitled The Heart of Everything That Is, by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin. It is about the life of Red Cloud, the Sioux Chief who came to power after the Civil War, fought the U.S. Army and eventually controlled 1/5 of the continental U.S. I really enjoy Western history from 1807 to about 1880. Steve actually turned me on to a great book a couple years ago when we were turkey hunting in Hell’s Canyon in Oregon: Empire of the Summer Moon, by S.C. Gwynne, which is about Quannah Parker and the Comanche wars in Texas. The Heart of Everything That Is is every bit as good and covers the history of the Northern Plains.
Can you recommend 5 books for someone new to hunting?
Anyone new to hunting has to start with Robert Ruark’s The Old Man and the Boy. It was written in the 1950’s and covers the time Ruark spent growing up in Southport, NC in the 1920’s and 30’s. Every chapter is about dove hunting and squirrel, ducks and deer and fishing. It is a great book no matter your age and every hunter should read it.
The best turkey book written is The Wild Turkey and its Hunting, by Edward A. McIlhenny. Written in 1914, it is all you will ever need to know to kill wild turkeys. A must if you are just starting out. Another great turkey read is Tales of Wild Turkey Hunting, by Simon Everitt, written in 1928 about chasing turkeys through Eastern NC.
My fourth book is another Robert Ruark book about his adventures in East Africa. The Horn of the Hunter is one of the best African books ever written.
The American Wild Turkey, by Henry E. Davis was written in 1949 and is a great history of turkey hunting and the early battle to save this incredible game bird. Mixed with the history are numerous personal accounts, stories and excellent advice on how old gobblers could be killed in the swamps and pinelands of the South Carolina Low Country in the first half of the 20th Century. But be warned, it is almost all about calling birds in the fall and winter as it was illegal to hunt turkeys after February 28 during this time. Spring hunting was not only illegal, but was bitterly fought as unsporting and unethical when first proposed. Times, they have a’changed.
What about magazines? Which ones do you read?
I read SC Wildlife and NC Wildlife to stay current on what is happening in the two states I hunt most often. I also read Smithsonian and Natural History because they cover a wide range of interesting topics not related to hunting. But the best magazine that I am currently receiving and have been for the last four or five years is Garden and Gun. It is published in Charleston, SC and covers all aspects of The South and the culture we have woven around gardens, guns, history and the love of the land. In any issue you might read about flats fishing in Florida or the best honkytonks in Texas. You could plan a year of vacations from every issue.
Which websites do you go to regularly?
I use two websites on a regular basis. The Weather Channel is great because I can pull up the hourly weather and see what will be happening tomorrow, or I can determine what will be happening in one or two hours if I am in the field. It makes it so easy to plan “on-the-go” while in the field hunting. I also use the NC Forest Service Fire Weather website when I am preparing to institute a prescribed burn for habitat management on our farm in NC. Landowners and hunters do not use prescribed fire enough. In the South, a well-planned prescribed burn provides more high quality wildlife habitat than all the food plots put together and is absolutely critical to the management of land. When you learn to interpret the information on this website, it can aid you in your burns and put more game in the back of the truck.
Is it difficult to keep up with news while hunting?
Not really. I listen to NPR while in the car and grab a local paper while traveling. If you stay in a hotel, there is always TV.
How else do you get news? Do you use social media?
I am one of the last people to still subscribe to our local newspaper. It hits all the high points on the state, national and international news and is the only way you find out what is going on around town. If I need more information, I Google the topic and start reading. Google and the Internet have really changed the way we get news, but I still like reading the paper. I do not have enough time to use social media.
Do you watch TV?
My wife and I didn’t get a color TV until the late 1980’s and we did not get a flat screen until this year. We have always believed that it is easier to raise kids without the distractions of TV, so we never got cable and for the last 10 or 15 years we have only picked up two channels. We use the TV for Netflix and watch a movie every weekend when I am not hunting. Our family has always chosen to experience life rather than watch it go by from a couch. My kids are now 22 and 25 and they claim that our family motto has always been, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I guess I can’t argue with that.
Do you ever go to the movies?
Yes, about four or five times a year. The best movie ever made was Jeremiah Johnson with Robert Redford, back in about 1973. I must have watched that movie 20 times before the fall of 1978 when my brother Richard and I decided we had had enough school for a while and decided to head out West. We spent 10 weeks on the road and hunted geese on the Missouri River and pheasants in Nebraska. We killed elk and mule deer in Colorado and hiked and camped and fished everywhere. I will never forget when we rolled into a little museum in Cody, Wyoming and located the grave of John “Liver-eating” Johnson, the real life man that the movie was based upon. I do not know how many times over the last 40 years I have been sitting in a hunt camp or around a fire and someone will say a line from the movie. Someone else in the camp will start the dialogue and it will be picked up by others in the camp until we have recited most of the movie that changed many of our lives and drove us to explore the West. “The Rocky Mountains are the marrow of the world and, by God, I was right. Keep your nose in the wind and your eye on the skyline.”
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