Friday, July 1, 2011

Interview with Gene Mueller, Outdoor Writer Celebrity

Gene Mueller with a fat Lower Potomac largemouth bass

Many of you that live in the Washington D.C. area probably are familiar with Gene Mueller.  My fishing buddies and I follow Gene's weekly fishing reports in the Washington Times along with thousands of anglers in our region.  Not only do we rely on his fishing reports so that we can better plan our own fishing trips, but we enjoyed reading his newspaper column for years and years as he shared his experiences and his passion for the outdoors.  For those of you from other areas, I'm going to introduce you to him so that you may also benefit as we have.  He is an outdoor columnist that hails from Southern Maryland.  For 35 years, his columns in the Washington Daily News, Washington Star and Washington Times fed outdoor enthusiasts addictions for fishing and hunting information and reading pleasure while being recognized many times with awards for best columnist, best feature writer, and best photographer.  This is really a treat for all of us, as I've had the opportunity to interview Mr. Mueller so that we could pass on his fascinating view of the outdoor world to you.  Currently, he writes the weekly fishing report for the Washington Times and has his own blog (both linked on the right side of this page and also at the end of this article).  So please, make sure that you check out his blog and also make sure that you add it your favorites so that you can check back periodically.  His blog posts include hunting and fishing news, articles, and political issues that affect our favorite outdoor pastimes.  Make sure that you go through the blog archive because I guarantee that there are several posts that would appeal to you.  His work shares interesting and captivating outdoor stories and often provides us with informative and important information about the sports that we all love.  So, on with the interview.  I hope you enjoy his answers to my questions as much as I did.  
FB:  How did you first become involved in outdoor sports?  How would you describe your initial development as an outdoorsman and who influenced you the most?
Gene Mueller:  I was born and raised in post-war Germany in the state of Bavaria where hunting and fishing among the mountain people is a way of life. My father, grandfather, uncles and cousins all hunted for roe deer, wild pigs, red deer and pheasants; some fished for the famous brown trout, a.k.a. German trout. That's how I got the "bug," and began to actually live a lifelong dream.

FB:  What is your fondest memory of the outdoors while growing up?
Gene Mueller:  Many years ago, I actually observed a deer giving birth to two fawns. I was sitting at the base of a big beech tree in Southern Maryland, planning to take a nap, which I do occasionally. A soft breeze going through the tree tops is the best sleeping "pill" in the world.  Just below me in a dense thicket, I noticed some movement and upon a little better gazing into it, spotted a big doe, dropping her first fawn. She did it standing up, kind of squatting a little. Then came the second one. It was a wonderful miracle of birth and I didn't move for hours, lest that doe became worried and abandoned her young. You never know. Eventually, was able to back out of there. My regret: No camera.

FB:  What outdoor celebrities did you look to as role models that influenced your development as an outdoorsman?
Gene Mueller:  I know of no outdoor celebrities that influenced me greatly, but I read everything the great Homer Circle (who eventually became a friend) wrote. He was fun to read and made me think that writing about fishing, etc., would be great.

FB:  You’ve done what many folks in the outdoors community would love to do, making a living around your interest in the outdoors.  How did you get your start?
Gene Mueller:  My favorite story and it's all true. Back in the mid 1960s I was a young man working for the Washington Daily News. The paper had an outdoors writer who once pulled the ultimate boner when he wrote a squirrel hunting column and actually said that the most beautiful sound in the world is a squirrel falling from a 60-foot oak tree after you made a successful shot. The sports editor was livid, fired the guy for being grossly insensitive, and asked me to write a squirrel hunting column. (I did not know what had happened because I had not opened the paper that day.)
I wrote a how-to column on an old Royal typewriter and along the way mentioned that if you hunt squirrels -- or any other game -- you owe it to your God to dispatch the animal quickly and humanely. In other words, don't try to be an Annie Oakley and go for an impossible shot with a .22 rifle that might only cripple the little animal. If you're not a good shot, use a 12-gauge shotgun and kill the little animal. The word "humanely" did it. I was told I'd be the new outdoors editor of the newspaper the following Monday. Then they told me what happened.

Gene with a large northern snakehead caught along
 the Lower Potomac River in July 2009
FB:  If you had to summarize your career as an outdoors writer, what would you say were your high points and low points?
Gene Mueller:  High points are the frequent congratulatory comments from readers who enjoy what you're doing and they're kind enough to say so, sometimes even to the boss, which can result in pay raises. Low points are the reverse of what I just wrote; whenever a reader complained that I wrote something that was inaccurate or did something that irked him/her. (It happens and you'd better develop a thick skin if you're going to succeed in the media.)

FB:  You’ve been an advocate vocally in your columns regarding political issues related to our favorite outdoor activities.  What advice would you give your fellow anglers and hunters on how to get involved to maintain our hunting and fishing privileges?
Gene Mueller:  Do what I occasionally do: Write letters of support or complaint to your Congressional, Senatorial, even state or county representatives, voicing your opinion --- but never do it in a threatening way. However, let them know that you and all your friends and family members support this and that issue and you wished that he/she would vote it into law, or whatever the action should be. Let them know that your future votes depend a great deal on how your representative "represents" you and your wishes.

FB:  What obstacles have you encountered during your attempts to enlighten your fellow anglers and hunters on politically sensitive issues relating to outdoor sports?
Gene Mueller:  That's a tricky question to answer. I'm not afraid to let people know that I'm politically conservative, hence have little patience with hare-brained schemes and proposals. That can run counter to the wishes of young liberals who simply cannot get it into their heads that there is no Alice In Wonderland and there are no magic solutions to many of the real problems that face us. 

FB:  As an outdoor columnist, you’ve had the pleasure of fishing and hunting with many local and national celebrities.  What outdoors experience with any of them was the most fun for you?
Gene Mueller:  Yes, I've been fortunate to hunt and fish with local and national celebrities, including Redskins pro football players, major league baseballers, even some huge national entertainment icons, such as the 1980s rock group, the Three Dog Night lead singer Cory Wells, and Nashville super star of the 1960s and 1970s, Ray Price. Among my personal friends are Ray Scott, the founder of the international Bass Angler Sportsman Society; also Brooks Robinson, the Hall of Fame Baltimore Orioles third baseman. Add also having had dinner with the President of Argentina, Jorge Videla, back in the 1970s-'80s. My most memorable experience with an outdoors celebrity was repeatedly fishing with Roland Martin, of the Roland Martin cable TV fishing show and appearing on a nationally televised bass fishing segment featuring the tidal Potomac River.

Gene also goes on to add:  President George H.W. Bush (the elder Bush) invited me to the White House to have breakfast with him and some other national outdoor writers back when he was in charge. He loved the outdoors press. I went and eventually offered to take him fishing. A couple of days later a White House wheeler-dealer called to set up a date for George, Sr., to do just that. We arranged to have him in a boat with a bass fishing guide, while I was in another boat following him around, shooting photos and exchanging pleasantries. He is quite a man. I was very impressed with him. All this happened while Secret Service agents surrounded us on all sides, even on land when we got close to the Alexandria, Va., shoreline. He caught one bass on a very cold day, but he was all man; tough as nails; never complained about the cold --- while we froze our ***** off!

FB:  Is there any one article that you’ve written that you are most proud of and why?
Gene Mueller:  In the late 1970s I wrote an article for the Washington Star (I was the outdoors editor at the time) concerning the plight of Louisiana's huge Atchafalaya Swamp that was in danger of being slowly drained by business interests that wanted to drill more gas and oil wells. It would have put an end to the Cajuns' crawfish industry, the great bass fishing in the swamp and would have affected thousands of small and large wild creatures whose home is the Atchafalaya. I went down there, fished with a Cajun guide, almost got into trouble with some back-woods Cajun swamp moonshiners. What a blast. My article won the top sports story among all the entries received from newspapers in the middle Atlantic states.

FB:  Many anglers and hunters are proud parents that love to take their kids or grandkids fishing.  Would you like to share some fond memories of those experiences?
Gene Mueller:  There are too many to list them all. Let's just say that my grandchildren (2 boys and a girl) are the light of my life and they accompany me whenever their schedules and mine allow it. All three love to fish, the boy, who is 13, will be trained to start hunting this fall.

Gene boats a Southern Maryland slab crappie
FB:  What was your funniest outdoor experience?
Gene Mueller:  A friend of mine who shall remain nameless hunted deer with me one icy winter day when I watched three deer walk straight toward his elaborate, roofed 6'x8' deer stand. I watched helplessly from a distance. He didn't shoot and the deer kept walking right past him. His answer: "I had on so damned much thick clothing, I couldn't lift my gun and bring it to my shoulder." He was right. I actually had to climb up to his deer stand and help him remove some of the goosedown jackets, vests and heaven knows what else, before he could move. He had taken a bag filled with spare clothes early in the morning and simply kept layering on more and more until . . . well, you know what happened.

FB:  What type of fishing do you enjoy most and why?
Gene Mueller:  I enjoy traveling to distant places, and the finest fishing I've experienced again and again were my outings to Brazil's Amazon region and its fabled peacock bass. That, and Argentina's golden dorados in the Parana River in the province of Corrientes. It's a tie between the two.

FB:  What type of hunting do you most enjoy?
Gene Mueller:  Sitting in a hedgerow blind with 60 or 70 Canada goose decoys in front of me, and me calling on an old wooden goose call that actually brings in a bird now and then. That, and sitting camouflaged from head to toe in my woods, scratching my call box, hoping my hen yelps entice a wild turkey gobbler to get within shotgun range.

FB:  Many anglers dream of that trip of a lifetime.  Have you ever been on your trip of a lifetime?  Where did you go and how would you describe that trip?
Gene Mueller:  See my Amazon and Argentina mentions above. If I had to suggest a trip of a lifetime, however, I'd probably urge everyone to book a fall outing to Alaska and fish for silver salmon, Arctic char and grayling. Alaska is America's treasure chest. Visit it before somebody tries to pave it over.

FB:  Looking forward to your outdoors career, what are you goals for the future?
Gene Mueller:  I've written several books. None of them made any real money to speak of. So my goal for the future is to write the great American novel, Hemingway-style, with lots of fighting, loving, fishing, intrigue, maybe a mysterious, voluptuous woman who'll say she will kill herself if I don't make love to her.

FB:  Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers?
Gene Mueller:  Yeah, check out http://genemuellerfishing.blogspot.com/ and also check my weekly fishing reports in the Washington Times, www.washingtontimes.com/sports/outdoors/.

Gene, thank you for sharing your time and some of your stories and wisdom with us. 


2 comments:

back packs said...

HMMMMM,You really did enjoyed fishing aren't you...Fishing was also my favorite past time specially ice fishing i really really enjoyed it.



Best regards,
backpack

Fat Boy said...

Backpack, thanks for the feedback! Yes, I crave fishing. I dream about it. Every time I'm driving my car over a body of water, I envision fishing it. I absolutely love to fish. I'm the same with with my other addictions too, bowhunting and fossil collecting, especially sharks teeth! Sometimes I get confused, for example, when I'm collecting sharks teeth, I wonder about the fishing, and vice versa! Check back often during the winter because icefishing is also one of my favorite things. I'll be posting on that subject. Check out www.iceshanty.com, I'm a member there...great website.