"I started it because I wanted to subscribe to it," is how Ed Gray explains the genesis, in 1976, of Cray's Sporting Journal, a breath of fresh air in outdoor magazines.
Gray's subscription rate is expensive ($18 a year for seven issues) but the publication is exquisite. It is also a gamble, at least for Gray. He is betting that enough of America's 60 million fishermen and 20 million hunters are sufficiently disenchanted with run-of-the-mill outdoor magazines that they will want to try something different. And Cray's Sporting Journal, which now has a circulation of 50,000, is something different. The pages are of high-quality glossy paper with large print, and the color photography is opulent. Even the advertising fits into each issue like butter into a batter. Many of the ads offer artwork, prints and originals of wildlife and hunting and fishing scenes sold by artists and galleries. The lavish color, clean design and limited advertising make the magazine a visual delight.
The writing, too, is a treat. Happily, there is a minimum of jargon-filled outdoor articles, the formula stories of me-and-Joe-went-hunting. The pieces sometimes take an irreverent 20th-century approach that admits that the good old days are gone, while telling outdoorsmen what is left to enjoy, which is a lot. This breezy approach has offended some conservative sportsmen: subscriptions have been canceled because of the occasional appearance of four-letter words, anti-macho sentiments and blunt reports on overcrowded hunting and fishing conditions.
In his seven annual issues, three of Gray's journals are devoted to fishing, three to hunting and the seventh, "Expeditions & Outings," is sort of a catch-all. The hunting and fishing issues are billed as "Trout & Salmon," "Bass & Pike," "Trophy Fishing," "Upland Birds," "Water Fowl" and "Big Game." As a result, each issue is more like a book than a magazine, but then the price is book-like, too—$2.75 for a single issue, when one can be found. Try the book section of a large sporting goods store or subscribe by writing Gray's Sporting Journal, P.O. Box 190, Brookline, Mass. 02146.
Also like a book, Gray's journals are hard to throw away, if they do not find a place on your library shelf, pages from them will surely adorn your wall. And what is left will be passed on to hunting and fishing cronies. One thing is certain, they will not be taken to the basement with yesterday's newspaper.