By Andrew McKean
Since I joined the Powderhook team a week ago, lots of friends and colleagues have asked me the same question: Why? What is an ink-stained wretch of an outdoor writer doing with a bunch of computer geeks half my age? And how can a high-tech start-up ever have the grit and blood to speak passionately to people who define themselves in terms of grit and blood?
The answer is both easy – the Powderhook team is small, scrappy, and composed entirely of avid hunters, anglers, and outdoors folks like me who are committed to welcoming more people to each of those activities – and it’s hard. Hard because media – communicating ideas and information that has defined my career – is so fractured and noisy these days that trying to build an audience and deliver information has never been more challenging.
This is the competitive edge of Powderhook: It’s not your typical media company, or content-delivery device.
It’s mainly an app – a digital community that you can engage with on your phone. If you do one thing today, download the Powderhook app and plug in to the community. The element of Powderhook that I’m most excited about is our digital mentoring program, which connects people who want to learn more about the outdoors with people who have a lifetime of knowledge to share. Want to know where to catch crappie this weekend? Ask the app. Someone (probably a local) will have an inside tip. Want to help someone trying to figure out whether to hunt deer with a 6.5 Creedmoor or a .338 Win. Mag.? Then communicate your perspective through the app. Want to find a place to camp next month? Ask the app.
Eric Dinger, Powderhook’s co-founder, created the brand out of his belief that everyone in the country should be able to enjoy a good day outdoors. All the tools in Powderhook’s kit exist to enable that goal, to inspire, educate, prepare, and celebrate current and future outdoorsmen. More specifically (and ambitiously), Powderhook aims to create 3 million hunters in the next 5 years; participants who buy guns and ammunition, purchase licenses, and fuel the economy that sustains the American system of citizen-sportsmen and public wildlife.
So far, so good. But where do I fit in?
The best way to answer that is to look back on my career. My first job out of college was editor of a little weekly newspaper in Wolf Point, Mont. I love newspapers for their ability to responsibly inform their communities, an obligation that I took seriously as a reporter and editor. As I climbed the ranks of journalism, I always considered my next post on the basis of nearby hunting and fishing opportunities. So it was probably natural that my next career was in magazines – specifically outdoors magazines.
For half a decade, I was the editor of Fishing & Hunting News, a mashup of newspaper and magazine. It was the hook-and-bullet bible for its subscribers. It came out every two weeks, told readers specifically where to fish and hunt anywhere and everywhere in the West. I’d probably still be its editor if it hadn’t gone out of business, a victim of the digital economy. Who needs a newsprint magazine when you can get that same information off the internet?
I moved on to a gig at Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, where part of my job was coordinating the hunter and bowhunter education program. I fell in love with the idea of minting new hunters through our classes, but I also surprised myself how much pride I took in being a public servant. Wearing FWP’s grizzly bear patch on my shoulder made me stand a little taller and has given me a lifetime of respect for the game wardens, wildlife biologists, and technicians who keep fish and wildlife in the field and available for our enjoyment.
Then it was back to magazines, this time at the only brand I ever wanted to work for: Outdoor Life. I started as Hunting Editor, but worked up to editor-in-chief, and in that gig oversaw a team of talented storytellers. That’s the magic of magazines, packaging cool stories in ways that transport readers – to the Pennsylvania whitetail woods, Colorado’s elk mountains, Montana’s trout streams, Africa’s lowveld. Great brands tell great stories across all sorts of campfires – the print of magazines, the screens of computers, the speaker of radios…
This is a long way of telling you that Powderhook is simply another way, a very modern way, to tell great and timeless stories. Some will be profiles of mentors who inspire. Some will be illustrated tutorials that show you how to do something cool and useful. Some will be come-along adventures that transport you outdoors, to the world of grit and blood.
Powderhook is a campfire. Come join us around it. Tell your story. Make a hunter.