With trapping season upon us, many sportsmen pick up a copy of Fur-Fish-Game to catch up on the latest fur market report, and perhaps read a few interesting articles on trapping or some other outdoor pursuit. This self-described “Magazine for Practical Outdoorsmen” has a long history as a source of information for the outdoor community, a history that began with an ambitious man and a simple, influential vision.
A.R. Harding was one of those great outdoorsmen with a gift for the written word. He grew up in Ohio an avid trapper with a strong desire to make a living from the outdoors. As a teenager he was running a trapline and buying furs from boys throughout the neighborhood, making his rounds on horseback. The young fur buyer worked his way up to a position with a major Ohio fur company before embarking on a publishing career that would change the trapping scene throughout North America.
Harding first published a weekly local newspaper with a friend in 1898 before really hitting it big in 1900. That year he founded Hunter-Trader-Trapper, a magazine focused strictly on the trapping and fur trading business. The magazine was an instant hit. Harding published information that had long been kept secret by old timer trappers who guarded their knowledge with tight lips. Fur being the major industry it was in those days, trappers benefited greatly by reading the pages of H-T-T.
The success of Hunter-Trader-Trapper, along with Harding’s abilities as a writer and publisher, led to a long line of trapping and outdoor living-related instructional books. Some were written by Harding and others by experts in different fields. Titles included Fox Trapping, Mink Trapping, Camp and Trail Methods, Land Cruising and Prospecting, Fur Farming and many others under the “Harding’s Pleasure and Profit Books” line.
Harding sold Hunter-Trader-Trapper magazine in 1914 due to ill health. The magazine continued running, and in 1925 a healthy A.R. Harding attempted to buy it back. His offer was refused, so he bought Fur News and Outdoor World, a similar publication, instead. He changed the name to Fur-Fish-Game, and nearly a century later the magazine continues in its success.
When you pick up a copy of Fur-Fish-Game today, you’ll see many of the tenets of Harding’s vision for the magazine remain after all these years. He focused on the outdoors as a lifestyle rather than sport or hobby, and relied heavily on information from readers because he felt they often provided better perspective than ‘paid professional writers’. At the same time, he valued the writings of professionals who were experienced in the field. The twenty-four books in his publishing library are still available today, including eleven written by Harding himself.
The fourth generation of Hardings publishes Fur-Fish-Game today. With a circulation of over 120,000, you can’t argue with their success. The magazine has changed a lot, though, and I love to look back through old copies of Hunter-Trader-Trapper and Fur News and Outdoor World. It sure was a different time.