In 2017, we marked the 25th anniversary of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. It is New England’s largest circulation monthly hunting and fishing magazine and the most comprehensive sporting magazine in the Northeast. It had its beginnings in the basement of the Journal’s co-owner and current marketing and sales manager, Vic Morin.
In the early 90s, the Journal’s founder and his wife Sue published a shopper called The Penny Pincher. Morin, a longtime outdoorsman, had long dreamed of putting out a hunting and fishing publication. A big fan of Gray’s Sporting Journal, he decided to dub his new undertaking “Maine’s Northwoods Sporting Journal.”
Boobar recalls, “We were a pretty small operation. We set up an office in Vic’s cellar. We had a couple of old hand-me-down computers. We put the pages together by the old cut and paste methods. It was pretty crude,” she recalls with a smile.
Here is an excerpt from the Sporting Journal’s 10th-anniversary story.
Founder Vic Morin recalls:
When my wife and I started the paper, it was on our kitchen table. Many nights, our family couldn’t even eat dinner there because it was covered with the latest page my wife was working on. Our equipment consisted of a 286 computer that took literally five minutes to change a type style, an old Okidata printer, rubber cement, and Exacto knives.
My wife was our booker, secretary, layout department, subscription, and distribution manager. I spent all my time in my trusty Ford Ranger that had over 100,000 miles on it setting up stores and selling advertising averaging 1,500 miles a week. Plus, delivering the papers personally each month.
One of my funniest memories was, as the paper grew, so did the amount of papers we printed. My truck bed would be full of papers, so I had to fill the inside of the truck with papers. Jam-packed to the ceiling covering the whole seat in the back and front, I hardly had room to steer.
If it rained, I carried trash bags to bundle the papers in the truck bed to keep my valuable cargo dry. I was constantly on the lookout for an overpass or gas station with covered pumps that I could bag up all the papers. Believe me, I remember the weird looks I received bagging up papers.
We had some awesome employees, Annette Boobar, Gayleen Oakes, and Donna Veino. They started with us with no prior knowledge of producing a paper and no computer experience. So it was, at times, the blind leading the blind.
The skills they acquired over the years made them invaluable to the company. Along with their willingness to learn all that went into producing a paper, they also had intense loyalty. Many weeks they had to wait to get their paychecks because sales were slow or the accounts receivables weren’t coming in on a timely basis.
Christmas bonuses sometimes came in January instead of at Christmas. They are all still with us at the paper. We feel blessed by their loyalty and sacrifices made to have the Sporting Journal become a reality.
When not selling ads for the new magazine or trying to set up sales outlets, Morin says, ” I beat the bushes for new writers. We didn’t have a huge budget for writers. Many of them wrote for nothing to help us get off the starting block.”
Some of those outdoor writers who started on the ground floor in the early 90s are still writing for the Sporting Journal today. They are writers like Steve Takach, Gil Gilpatrick, Stu Bristol, and Bob Cram, who wrote under the pen name T.J. Coongate. One of those early writers was V. Paul Reynolds, who, at the time, wrote an informational column as Information and Education Director for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Vic Morin, founder and co-owner of the Northwoods Sporting Journal.
Reynolds, a former newspaper editor and avid sportsman ,who today is editor and co-owner of the Sporting Journal, recalls, “About 16 years ago, I left state government and bought a 50% share in the Sporting Journal. I knew Vic had a good idea going. He was busy selling. His wife, Sue, was taking on a full-time job outside the home. Vic needed an outdoor editor to help nurture his publication forward. I shared his excitement and belief in the magazine’s potential. I had been editing IF&W’s magazine and enjoyed the challenge. So, in many ways, my move to the Sporting Journal was a natural transition,” Reynolds recalls.
The rest is history. Today, the Northwoods Sporting Journal dominates the northern New England outdoor publication market. It has subscribers in all 50 states and Canada. It is a household publication in sporting homes in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts.
It is also available online. The Journal employs 25 full and part-time workers. It is printed monthly by the Lewiston Sun Journal.
The office staff includes:
- Operations manager, Annette Boobar
- Subscription-manager, Alicia Cram
- Associate editor, Donna Veino
- Assistant editor, Josh Reynolds
- Graphics arts manager, Gayleen Cummings.
- Webmaster, V. Paul Reynolds
Sales representatives include:
- Regional advertising manager, Jim Thorne
- Sales associates, Thomas Schmidt and Paul Hatin.
When Reynolds and Morin formed a publishing partnership, they were on the same page about the publication’s overall direction and tone.
“We both wanted a publication that was not based on a formula.” says Reynolds, “We wanted a hunting and fishing magazine with personality. We got there by allowing writers to be free to have their voices, which is the case today 25 years later.”
Morin recalls, “Paul and I revised the banner’s design, but kept the signature moose that had been on our cover since day one.”
Morin and Reynolds also collaborated on a “mission statement,” which appears on the contents page each month. Both of their wives, Sue Morin and Diane Reynolds, are listed in the masthead as Northwoods Publishing Group members. They share their husbands’ pride in the outdoor publication.
Both insist that the mission statement has not changed over the years. Especially the part about being an outdoor magazine for ‘Maine folks.” They are always trying to capture “the essence of Maine’s remarkable outdoor heritage.”
The modern Northwoods Sporting Journal boasts far more outdoor writers and advertisers than in the early days when the Journal was produced in Morin’s basement in Passadumkeag. According to Reynolds and Morin, the 25th anniversary of any publication is a special occasion.
“We have had our ups and downs like any small business in Maine,” says Reynolds, ” but the positive feedback we get from readers and advertisers seems to grow each year. Outdoor folks value us, and their loyalty is remarkable.” Morin, the founder of the Sporting Journal, says, “We want to say thanks to those who have helped over the years to make the Sporting Journal what it is today, our loyal readers, long-time and recent advertisers, and dedicated outdoor writers.”