While I could believe that my byline will be familiar to a whole lot of you Gun Digest devotees, I’m more realistic than that. So allow me a moment to introduce myself, and then we’ll get my portion of the GunDigest.com blog section up and running.
Somewhere back in time, in a galaxy far, far away, I got hired as a “decorative” item in a Northern Virginia gun shop and indoor shooting range. The owner was a bit of a dirty old man, harmless, but lecherous nonetheless. He thought a pretty girl might brighten up his day, if not his sales. Turns out, though, I was pretty good at selling a gun. And so, since the owner was also a tightwad (which of course made him a pretty savvy and successful businessman) he had me run the sales floor after my first year there and contented himself with some minimal skirt-chasing while he watched the cash roll in.
I spent seven years in that gun store, and it wasn’t because I was bringing home a whole hog’s worth of bacon, but more because I’d discovered something about myself. Remember learning about Thanksgiving when you were in grammar school? You crayoned turkey drawings out of hand stencils, made Pilgrim hats out of black construction paper, and got your first real dose of American pride, as you learned about our country’s early beginnings. We lose that, it seems, as we get older; days like Thanksgiving become more about the food fest and football games than about remembrance for our humble and hard beginnings. But, corny as it may sound, I kind of got back some of that U.S.A.-pride selling guns in that store, felt more connected to things like the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, as I learned more about 2nd Amendment rights and struggles. That gun store was a good place to be.
The more I worked in the store, the more involved I became in the shooting sports—I took up IPSC, skeet, trap, and sporting clays—and the more fluent I became in gun speak and lore. I was pretty conversant across a wide spectrum of guns and their applications—shotguns for skeet, Single Action Armys for cowboy action shooters, rifle and scope combos for hunting, etc.—after my first year in the store and had a steady stream of regulars who relied on my expertise for guidance in their purchases.
I’d been at the shop seven years when, one Wednesday, one of my weekend-only customers stopped by. Red walked up to me at the counter and said, “Hey there, I want to talk to you a minute. Do you know who I am?” I replied that sure, he was Red, the only name he’d ever introduced himself by. He shook his head, slid a business card across the glass display case to me, and said, “No, do you know who I am?” I looked at the card: E.G. “Red” Bell, Director of NRA Publications, the paper rectangle stated. Red looked at me hard and said pointedly, “You speak English, what are ya doin’ workin’ in this shop?” I laughed, and replied half-jokingly, “I’m waiting for a better job!” Six months later, I was inducted into the family of the National Rifle Association as its newest junior editor.
I spent four stellar years at the NRA, by far the best place I’ve ever worked. I continued to shoot competitively—mostly sporting clays, along with some IPSC—and started taking my hunting seriously, especially bird hunting. I had two birddogs by then, an English setter by the famed Tekoa Mountain Sunrise, and a Lab from a local NAHRA champ. (Both are gone now; I saw a lot of birds shot over both, have a lifetime of stories from them both, too, and that’s a supply that’s sure to never shrink as I return to the fields here shortly with my Guard Rail-bred English pointer, Highway.) During my tenure with the NRA, I had the great good fortune to travel around the country, meet a lot of super folks, hang a lot of taxidermy on my wall, and, in general, launch the career I have now. My indebtedness to the NRA and mentor John Zent, now the NRA’s Editorial Director, is boundless. I wish I’d had longer than four years there, but fate intervened.
One day Larry Weishuhn, Mr. Whitetail himself, called the American Hunter department, needing an editor for a muzzleloader whitetail hunt in Kansas with Thompson/Center. I got nominated, and 24 hours after I landed in Salina, Kansas, I’d bagged a 13-point 130-class buck and fallen pretty madly in love with the game warden who came to check my tag. Seems he fell in love, too. He asked me to marry him four months later, and three months after that I moved to Kansas.
That was the start of my freelance career, one I worked hard to make a success. By the time the marriage came sadly to an end, three years later, I had a regular cache of assignments for a number of magazines. That helped net me the head editor’s position with Texas Trophy Hunters in San Antonio, Texas. We parted ways after I overhauled and redesigned that magazine, just in time for me to stumble upon a blog consultant, who helped me produce my own site, www.HuntingTheTruth.com (that’s where you’ll find the much longer version of this tale). Now, here I am, finding a new place with the F&W Media/Gun Digest family, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to join all of you here. I hope you’ll be just as happy to join me. As you can probably gather, my specialty, at least for the purpose of this blog, will be guns and gear for the hunt, as well as topical news on the subject, though I certainly expect to cover every side of the firearms industry as my work with the Gun Digest family progresses. Tell me what you like, tell me what you don’t, tell me what you want covered, what books and DVDs you’d like created, and what you’d like to get out of the GunDigest.com and GunDigestStore.com sites. Find me here, chat with me on my Facebook fan page, or hit me up on Twitter @JLSPearsall. I promise, talk to me, and I’ll talk back.
Jennifer L.S. Pearsall
Editor, Gun Digest Books