The IAFWA Regional Television Committee people and the “Sports Afield” staff met in Ocala, Florida in the summer of 1981 to plan out more professional wildlife and fisheries management segments. Shown here, left to right, front row are: Mark deLinde (Glen Lau Productions), Francis “Curly” Satterlee (Virginia Commission of Game & Inland Fisheries), Selda Gibbons (Glen Lau Productions), Dick Lattimer (Fred Bear Sports Club, Chairman of the IAFWA Television Subcommittee). Back row, left to right: Bill Brown (Wyoming Game & Fish), Rod Baughman (Kansas Game Commission), Glen Lau (Glen Lau Productions), Mike O’Malley (Tennessee Wildlife Resources), and John Urbain (Michigan DNR).

CBS Hatchet Job

Then the stuff hit the fan, so to speak, before anything could be done. CBS decided to produce a “documentary” titled “The Guns of Autumn.” And as they went around the country shooting footage, they convinced even hunters to participate, saying that it was going to be a balanced look at the sport of hunting. Most people interviewed or filmed were assured by the producer that the effort was for some bicentennial project on the “role of hunting in America.”

But Fred and I smelled a rat. And before “The Guns of Autumn” even aired, we wired our 300 top Bear Archery dealers and all the charter chapters of our Fred Bear Sports Club, warning them that advance information indicated that the program was unfair in its portrayal of hunting. We also wired Sen. Herman Talmadge, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, and Sen. Warren G. Magnuson, chairman of the Committee on Commerce of our concerns. We also contacted the president of CBS and the rumored advertisers at that time. And we contacted all of our state legislators in Michigan.

“The Guns of Autumn” aired on national television on Friday, Sept. 5, 1975. Here’s what Nelson Bryant of the prestigious New York Times had to say about it later: “If one were planning to portray the glories of love between woman and man in a television documentary, then devoted the entire show to the antics of a drunken clod in a bordello, one would achieve the same level of ‘truth’ realized in the CBS News 90-minute film, “The Guns of Autumn.”

  1. Boyd Pfeiffer ofThe Washington Post, wrote “‘The Guns of Autumn,’ the 90-minute CBS documentary that purported to characterize hunting in America, should receive an award for the ‘most biased TV reporting of the year,’ possible of the decade.”

I could go on and on with the quotes, but to sum it up, “The Guns of Autumn” was a blatant hatchet-job on the American hunter, often taking things out of context and generally screwing over the 20 million ethical hunters in America, in my opinion. From our point of view there was nothing unbiased about this look at American hunters, nor in the follow-up program titled “Echoes of The Guns of Autumn.”

In the meantime the Webb & Athey project got lost “in committee,” so to speak, and nothing ever came of it. I was deeply disappointed and frustrated, and so were Fred and Kelly. We all talked it over and decided that if no one else in America’s hunting community was going to do very much about it in a united effort, we’d better get more deeply involved in the entire issue. Further, we believed that any attack on hunting in general, was also an attack on bowhunting. We could not sit by the sidelines and let illogical emotions ruin our fine tradition of scientific wildlife management in this country. For one thing, we knew that the anti-hunters would come after the smaller sportsmen’s activities first, those that they thought were the least able or unorganized to fight back against them—America’s bowhunters, muzzleloaders and trappers.

Fred gently encouraged me to get even more involved on the national level than I had been with the American Archery Council, letting me know that my travel budget would not be a problem. Little did I know what I had in store as a result of this quiet conversation that day in his office. By then Fred was in his 70s and in deteriorating health, although we tried to keep that from the public. I became his surrogate in doing all that we could to fight the anti-hunters on behalf of all of America’s hunters, not just for our bowhunting community. I spent the next 25 years working to fulfill his vision of what needed to be done to preserve and protect our tradition of hunting here in America. Even after he died in 1988, I continued to do his bidding in this regard until my own retirement from the conservation stage in the year 2000. He was a wonderful mentor, and it was an exciting, albeit sometimes frustrating, journey.

“American Outdoors”

One of our biggest frustrations came about because of the “American Outdoors” television series. We had been approached along about this same time period by Wally Taber, a well-known outdoor writer, lecturer and film-maker who traveled the world hunting in exotic places and then taking his films on the road to help support his operation. They’d be shown to sportsmen’s groups and the like with an admission fee, and that’s how Wally and his wife made their living. Not bad work it you could get it, doing something you loved doing in the out-of-doors and getting paid for it at the same time.

Taber, the host of “The American Outdoors,” had a master’s degree in biology and game management and had done post-graduate work in fisheries management. He had also been the outdoor editor of the Denver Post.

Teaming up with Taber was a fellow by the name of Don Higley from Chicago. Don was an extremely creative person and had been a big game guide in Africa about the same time Fred had been hunting there. So, in addition to his creative side, Don had that to his benefit at the time. Don also had created and was marketing something called “Computer Football Forecasts” that had swept America’s television markets in the ’70s and was a very well-known feature in those days on television. In addition, Don was the producer of “Championship Bowling,” “World Famous Hunting and Fishing,” and “The World Series of Golf.”

Taber and Higley had come to Grayling to see us with a proposition to help fund a 26-week one-half hour television series that Don would then get on the air by bartering time he had available on television stations around the U.S. They wanted to include Fred’s hunting films as part of their program series. Fred, Kelly and I met with them and saw it as an opportunity to get wider exposure for bowhunting, in general, and for Fred’s films, in particular. So we eventually entered into an agreement with them. We put up  $100,000 to help with production costs, and we started working on this in the spring of 1974.

We announced the availability of this new series in the Spring 1975  issue of “The Big Sky” newsletter, plus in many other ways, of course. Higley and I had even taken the idea for the series in to the National Rifle Association and pitched the idea to them as a way to help put some positive television on the air in support of America’s outdoorsmen and women. The NRA then put in another $100,000. We also pitched it to our Archery Manufacturers Organization (AMO), and they, too, through The American Archery Council, agreed to put in a like amount.

Don and I then attended a luncheon of the state fish & game directors at the annual meeting of the International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies to tell them about our new series and to seek their endorsement of “The American Outdoors.” “The International,” as it is known in conservation circles, was organized in 1902 as part of the conservation movement begun by President Theodore Roosevelt, and has played a major role in the evolution of national conservation affairs. Its officers and members include most of the nation’s conservation leaders, plus conservation leaders in Canada and Mexico.

I hit it off immediately with Dr. John Gottschalk, IAFWA executive vice president and the former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), especially once he found out that I was born and raised in Indiana. He had been, too, and had even received his master’s degree from Indiana University, my alma mater. And he had worked for the Indiana Conservation Department before the war and then for the USFWS, eventually becoming its top man. Then, too, I told him that my mother-in-law’s family name was Gottschalk back in Germany before they came to this country and Americanized it to Cutshall. So we always had that special little connection going.

Soon I met C.R. “Pink” Gutermuth of the NRA who was also from Elkhart in northern Indiana. That was just about 20 miles away from where I had grown up in South Bend and where I had worked for the Juhl Advertising Agency. Pink was the NRA president from 1973-75 and was born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and graduated from Notre Dame University in 1927 in my hometown of South Bend. He joined the Washington, D.C. scene in 1945 after serving eight years with the Indiana Department of Conservation as director of education and director of fish and game. He was a member of the Secretary of the Interior’s advisory committee on fish and wildlife and served on the Secretary of Agriculture’s committee on wildlife. And for more than a quarter of a century Dr. Gutermuth was vice president of the Wildlife Management Institute. The Institute is one of America’s oldest national conservation organizations, dating back to 1911. He was also a past president of the World Wildlife Fund. Both of these fine gentlemen took me under their wings and helped me along a great deal during the ’70s and early ’80s.

Someone else who quietly gave me encouragement through all of this work I was trying to do for the fish and wildlife folks was Seth Gordon of California. This grand old man even wrote a nice letter to Fred telling him what a good job I had been doing for the International, and this kind of thing made it all worthwhile. The highest award the International gives each year to one of its own is known as the Seth Gordon Award and that made his kindness to me especially meaningful.

I wanted you to be aware of all of these folks because it was an honor for me to have worked with them and to have been accepted by them at many of their executive committee meetings over the years. They and those who took their places on these two key International groups were wonderful to work with and had a great deal of vision for the future of our natural resources in this hemisphere and in the common sense use of our renewable resources.

We discovered that the International, too, had been working on how they could get the positive story of professional fisheries and wildlife management to the American pubic. They had come up against a dead end when they discovered that it would cost between $400,000 to $500,000 for them to produce a proposed series of four prime-time one-hour specials to get across their message. Since the IAFWA is simply the dues-paying organization of the combined state and federal agencies with the responsibility for stewardship of our natural resources, there obviously was no money in their limited coffers for such a project.

So when Don and I pitched them on it, they were extremely interested. They referred us to what was then their small new television subcommittee that had been looking into the possibility of getting their message on the air. Heading that up was Ralph Bitely, the fish & game administrator from Maryland. It was decided that our “American Outdoors” series of stock-footage programs could be a good first step in getting the word out to America, and the IAFWA agreed to work with us on the project.

Fred, Higley and I, along with some of the members of the IAFWA Television Subcommittee, journeyed to the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) 49th Annual Conference on June 24, 1976 at Snowmass Ski Resort in Colorado to explain the project to them. Fred’s lungs by then were really bothering him, at the time we didn’t know it, but it was the early stages of emphysema, and he could not stay for the whole event due to altitude sickness and had to fly home early. After the conference I rode back to Denver with Chuck Saunders over Independence Pass to catch my flight home and had a delightful visit with him along the way as we drove over the mountains. Before Fred left, he, Chuck and I had taken a drive up into the mountains in the Snowmass area and we were all almost overwhelmed with the beauty of the area.

Ralph Bitely gave a talk to the OWAA members about our new television series and in particular pointed out to them the part that Fred and our Fred Bear Sports Club were playing in this effort. By then I had been invited to attend the television subcommittee meetings, would later be appointed a member of the group, then chairman of the subcommittee, and eventually vice chairman and then co-chairman of the full IAFWA Communications Committee. It was all because I was representing Fred and all for which he stood. I was only there because of Fred’s wonderful reputation with all of these fish and game fellows over the years. They truly viewed him as a real pioneer in the field. I was just his traveling mouthpiece.

For our Winter issue of “The Big Sky” in 1976 our lead article was titled: “WHY YOUR HUNTING IS IN DANGER,” and the issue featured a piece by Gary Sitton. In it he covered 25 national organizations that were bent on curbing or totally eliminating hunting. His warning had originally run in Field & Stream. He detailed the alarming growth of funds available to these anti-hunting organizations where just the six major anti-hunting groups had grown from gross revenues in 1972 of $5.75 million to more than $14 million in 1973!

Now “The Big Sky” was sent to more than just our Fred Bear Sports Club members. It also went to all OWAA members, members of Congress, the major conservation groups, all state DNR directors, our 6,000 Bear Archery dealers, AMO members, and many other individuals and groups.

In the meantime I got busy and took the opportunity to write a communications plan for the IAFWA with Fred and Kelly’s approval and input. This was well received at the International, and parts of it became a reality in those days. As a part of the plan, I wrote copy for magazine ads in various sizes for the individual state fish and game departments to run in their publications and in any newspapers that would donate space in their states. I also prepared copy for television spots for them along with an outdoor billboard.

I also wrote a brochure for the International in 1976 giving all of the details of “The American Outdoors” series, and announcing the new $1,000 quarterly Fred Bear Award that would be given out for the best segment of “The American Outdoors, Phase Two,” dealing with a scientific fisheries or wildlife management topic. These brochures were distributed across the country by the individual state fish and game departments to familiarize their staffs and the people of each state with this new series.

Once “The American Outdoors” series of 26 programs was completed, including the addition of information about the IAFWA, Taber and Higley continued trying to peddle it to potential advertisers and sponsors. And Higley and I began work on Phase Two, which was to be a series titled “America’s Wildlife.” This would be a series of half-hour news format programs produced in three segments.

Next: Cash Strapped