A Hero Revisited: Ted Trueblood

By Ben Long

Ted Trueblood
Ted Trueblood

I was reintroduced to an old friend this fall - someone I had not heard from in 25 years.

That friend was the legendary outdoor writer Ted Trueblood, 1913-1982. Given the wonders of the Internet, I tracked down a copy of his out-of-print The Ted Trueblood Hunting Treasury. I wore out my first copy back in high school. My new find was so moldy it makes me sneeze to read it.

Revising those pages, I was taken not only by the quality of Trueblood's advice about the outdoors, but by the quality of his advice about life itself.

Trueblood was associated with Field & Stream magazine from 1937-77. Growing up an outdoorsy kid in Idaho, I learned to read, and love to read, on his prose, along with that of fellow Idaho outdoor writer Jack O'Connor.

The two were much different. O'Connor was a globetrotting trophy hunter, who hunted with princes, shot custom rifles, wrote of ballistics and bullet performance. Trueblood was a meat hunter who hunted near home with his family and his buddies and carried over-the-counter Winchesters. Jack filled a museum with stuffed heads from several continents; Ted sent only one trophy in his entire hunting career – a bighorn ram – to the taxidermist.

Consider some of Trueblood's wisdom:

  • "In my earlier years, I was merely eager to hunt. But as I matured I began to develop a philosophy toward the outdoors and nature and all things connected with them."
  • "To me, deer hunting is still-hunting. I like the challenge. I like the feeling of being more or less on even footing with the game. If I'm successful in this contest, it leaves me with a fine feeling of accomplishment. If I'm not, I need no alibi."
  • "There is a real, as well as sentimental, values in hunting a familiar country."
  • "A big elk or moose roast is as is as good as any beef roast you can buy. Don't get carried away and cook it to a cinder just because it is game. The inside should be pink and juicy, the outside crisp."
  • "Time we take now to check and test and make sure we have enough proven equipment for the hunt we plan a month from now is time that we will never begrudge spending."
  • "Half the reason for owning a gun is the romance of it. Most of my friends have more guns than they need."
  • "Never assume you missed simply because game at which you shot does not fall instantly. This is equally true of upland birds, waterfowl and big game."
  • "The first snow of winter is a magic thing. No other snow is like it. No other manifestation of Nature's alchemy I so obvious, sudden or so complete."
  • "So don't wait until you retire to go hunting and fishing. Don't even wait for your annual vacation. Go at every opportunity. Things that appear urgent at the moment may, in the long run, turn out to be far less so."
  • "Why work hard and save money and then die before I had a chance to enjoy the things for which I had been saving it? The very idea was insane."
  • "The important thing is: Don't wait too long. If you wait until tomorrow, tomorrow may never come."

Trueblood is credited often for his contribution to outdoor literature. Less often he is credited for his contributions to conservation. He was a mighty champion of wilderness, and fought hard for the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho. Sen. Frank Church once said the area would never have been protected without Trueblood's efforts.

I smile to think of the many ways my life mirrored Trueblood's. We were born in the same state,, were newspaper reporters in the same western city, fished some of the same streams and hunted chukar in some of the same canyons.

Much has changed in the world of outdoor writing since Trueblood left this world. The "big three" magazines have been replaced by three hundred little magazines and websites. Trueblood sold articles about shooting cow and young bull elk for meat. Now, if an animal doesn't make the record book, there's little or no market for a story about it. Trueblood's work passed on skills and philosophies. Today's outdoor writing passes on shopping tips and product endorsements. Hunting is rarely depicted as a passion, and increasingly considered an "industry."

But there will always be place around my campfire for hunters who love Nature, love life itself, and have the talent to tell a good story. And I will always admire those who have the courage, tenacity and optimism to fight for the land they love.

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