April 12, 2023
On a still April morning, I sipped coffee and checked the news as the day unfolded. While I'd rather have been out chasing turkeys or spawning bass, duty called and neither of those outdoor pursuits was an option.
But it didn't mean that I couldn't live vicariously through the social-media accounts of a few folks I know, some of them experts on the water, some experts in the woods, and other experts at all of the above. That latter group includes Jason Hart, a bit of a legend and one heck of a great guy whose broad smile and rich laughter punctuates many a trade-show floor.
If Hart's name sounds familiar, there's a reason for that. He's a proud alumni from Clemson University and you'll likely know that every fall on a Saturday afternoon. He's the co-founder of NOMAD and HUK Gear fishing clothes for hunters and anglers. And a while back, he returned to his Mossy Oak Camouflage roots, where today he is a Community Leader for the Mississippi company built by Toxey Haas.
He's also a fanatical turkey hunter who lives for the springtime game and has taken gobblers all across the country. So it wasn't surprising to see in his latest Instagram post that he had gone and done it again, taking another longbeard. But this tom turkey was different than all of the rest, and by the time I was through reading his post, there was a bit of dust in my eyes, if you know what I mean.
"Ten years ago this morning, I was awoken in a Texas camp with news that my buddy Tommy T @thomasjohn4x4 was on the other line with an emergency," wrote Hart. "Tommy had the terrible duty of telling me our mutual friend James Guthrie had passed away overnight."
It was a morning that shook in the outdoors industry, including Game & Fish parent company Outdoor Sportsman Group, where Guthrie was a prolific contributor in his roles as a writer, columnist, and TV presence. Known as J., or J. Guthrie to most, this larger-than-life personality left deep and lasting impressions, despite passing away at the age of only 37.
A Georgia boy by birth, Guthrie was a Putnam County High School graduate in 1993, got his college degree from Georgia College & State University in 1998, and went on to become a bright and rising star in the outdoors communications field, doing stories and video work for several publications under the OSG umbrella. Those included Game & Fish, Petersen's Hunting, North American Whitetail, Rifle Shooter, Shooting Times, and Guns & Ammo, where his firearms expertise made him a frequent face in front of the camera and a familiar voice on the print magazine's back page where he wrote a regular column.
A son, husband, and father, J. was young, in good health, and a fairly athletic young man who shouldn't have passed before his 40th birthday. He died in his sleep on April 12, 2013, in Mobile, Ala., leaving behind an indelible impression on all who read his work and watched his TV show on The Sportsman Channel, "The Modern Rifle Shooter."
But the mark left behind was even deeper on the lives of his friends, industry colleagues, and even people like me who might have run into him at an industry event or two.
The first time I ever met J. Guthrie was at a West Texas writers’ camp with a collection of some of the industry's best writers and biggest names in the hunting-gear manufacturing world. I'll admit that I was probably a bit nervous as I rolled into that hunting camp, unsure of myself and trying to find my place in this industry. As it turned out, I shouldn't have because everyone accepted me for who I was, including J. Guthrie, who made it a point to talk to me and to celebrate my success even more than his own.
I didn't know enough at the time to be greatly impressed and realizing how special a camp experience I was having—I think I even took the biggest buck of the trip, a happenstance of divine providence, for sure—but I should have realized all of that. As I would find out in the months ahead, even someone without a gray hair on his head, J. Guthrie was already the stuff of legend.
Yeah, J. Guthrie was something special, and everyone who was privileged to know him, soon found that out.
"Guthrie was one of my best friends, a former coworker and roommate," explained Hart. "This post isn't about the grieving and mourning that his friends and much of the hunting industry experienced, but rather the mark he left on this planet in 37 years. I could go on and on about the dozens of friends and industry contacts I met through Guthrie, some of which became strengthened through his death.
"There is not a hunting camp that goes by nor hunting industry trade show I attend where a ‘Guthrie Story' is not told The man's legacy is as strong as it was 10 years ago on the day of his passing."
The legacy and legend of J. Guthrie—who was eulogized in many places, including on Petersen's Hunting and Guns & Ammo—continues in the springtime woods today as Hart and others have thought of their late friend and colleague.
And in Hart's case, there was a little something else to remind him of J. Guthrie, and most likely, leave a little dust in his eyes, too.
"This morning at 6:50 am I got lucky and harvested a longbeard with two buddies who also share numerous friends of Guthrie," wrote Hart in his social media post. "Tonight over a glass of brown water, I'll toast over that fine bird to a man whose legacy is still drawing friends together in hunting camps a decade after his passing."
Indeed, and as the hundreds of likes that Hart's social-media post received, something tells me that he had plenty of company for that sip of brown water, as scores of Guthrie fans and friends raised a toast to the man who died far too young. And in this spring season of turkey hunting, a few Guthrie stories will likely be told, punctuated with laughter, smiles, and a few tears as the memories of the man continue.
Because J. Guthrie was quite the talent, quite the southern gentleman, and quite an outdoor-writing legend who had really and truly barely even begun. You are missed sir, and on this fine spring day and many more lying beyond, you will not be forgotten. Thanks for the memories J. Guthrie, they'll last a lifetime for many.