Realtree Editorial Director Receives Prestigious Award
If you’ve read about deer hunting the past decade, you’re familiar with the work of Tony Hansen. Now, Realtree’s editorial director is being honored for his accomplishments.
Hansen, 40, of Vermontville, Mich., was recently named the Quality Deer Management Association’s Signpost Communicator of the Year at the group’s 2016 national convention. The award is given to one writer annually for “demonstrating outstanding effort to disseminate accurate, sound guidance on deer management, habitat management, and wildlife stewardship that aids or complements QDMA’s pursuit of its mission. The recipient has an established record of journalistic integrity and ethics as well as unquestioned commitment to the betterment of wildlife resources.”
And that description meshes perfectly with Hansen’s professional philosophy.
“Somebody who really takes the job seriously, and what it means to be a writer and have the position that you have, you’ve got to have those boundaries of right and wrong, and you have to say what you think is right, and you have to stand against what you think is wrong,” he said. “When you do that, you’re going to make a lot of people mad, and when you make a lot of people mad — especially in this day of social media — it’s easy to feel like nobody really likes what you’re doing. It’s very, very rare … as a writer anyway, that you see somebody who likes what you’re doing.”
Hansen published his first outdoors story in 1993, between his senior year of high school and freshman year of college. He began doing the outdoors writing for the Lansing State Journal newspaper in 1995 and later moved on to edit Michigan Out-of-Doors Magazine. He’s worked for Realtree for about 10 years.
“I made a trip out to the SHOT Show when I took over Michigan Out-of-Doors Magazine, and it’s really something to see all the writers and media people in the industry, and you realize its big but it’s small, and it’s hard to break into it,” he said. “You kind of wonder if you ever actually fit. I just decided to keep it simple and stick with what’s right and what’s wrong and only write about what I know. I think that came at a time when people wanted to know about how to hunt older deer, bigger deer, in places where there’s not a lot of them around.”
Like any outspoken communicator, Hansen receives criticism from time to time. However, that doesn’t dissuade him from sticking to his core beliefs.
“When you shoot a deer, you see comments like, ‘How much did that cost?’” he said. “I can tell them what it cost me. It cost me 25 years of wondering whether I was ever going to make a career out of doing this, that’s what it cost me. What I paid can’t be measured in dollars, so that’s what I try to do — write about the things that I know, and what I know is hunting deer in heavily hunted places and having to really claw and scratch for it. I don’t think I’m that good of a deer hunter. I just think I’m a lot more stubborn than anyone else.”
Hansen earned his position in the industry with talent and determination, but he’s quick to point out that he didn’t do it alone.
“When people say it’s not about what you know, it’s who you know, that’s always viewed as kind of a negative thing, but I look at it differently,” he said. “There’s always going to be somebody who has to give you those opportunities. I think you earn them, but … if you don’t know the right people or try to know them and put yourself in front of them, you don’t stand a chance. I have an awful lot of people who have taken a chance on me, Realtree being foremost on that list. I always go out of my way to let them know I appreciate it.”
Don’t think the award will go to Hansen’s head. He plans to continue producing quality content while looking for future media trends.
“I’m always pretty afraid that I’m going to wake up one day and everything that I’ve worked for and everything I’ve done is gone,” he said. “I love getting that award, but as soon as you get it, you kind of think, ‘What do I have to do now to at least stay here.’
“I just want to keep doing the things I do but figure out that next avenue for media, because I don’t care if words are on paper or on a screen, they’re always going to matter unless we develop into some society where we can’t communicate with each other.”
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Brian Lovett, Realtree's news blogger, has been an outdoors reporter, writer, magazine editor and book author for 27 years. Spring turkey hunting and autumn waterfowling take up most of his outside time, but he also enjoys fishing, deer hunting and upland-bird hunting. Lovett lives in Oshkosh, Wis., with his wife, Jenny, and their retriever.