- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

SELMA, Ala. It wasn't long ago that some of the most respected leaders in the outdoor industry told former tennis pro Jackie Bushman that it was impossible to unite America's deer hunters.
But the 6-foot-3-inch, soft-spoken Alabama native proved them wrong about a half-million times wrong if you count the steadily growing national membership in his Buckmasters association and the subscriptions to his three specialty deer magazines.
In the early 1970s, Bushman, the No. 1 tennis player at Auburn University, from which he graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and a minor in marketing, turned pro.
Jimmy Connors ruled the sport, yet Bushman did fine on the American Express Tennis Tour.
He eventually took on the job of city tennis director for Montgomery, Ala., but the call of the hunter's horn was strong.
"I had a brainstorm," he said last week during the 16th annual Buckmaster Classic Life Hunt event at a plantation near Selma. "I wanted to do a VCR tape on how to hunt the white-tailed deer."
That done and out of the way, the Buckmasters idea was born. "At the time, I worked for the KinderKare Company in the mornings, then met with companies that could help me launch our deer-hunting group," he said.
It happened in 1985, when Bushman was 29. Armed with little more than burning determination and a stool, he hit the road selling Buckmasters memberships one at a time.
"I'd buy booth space at outdoor shows," he says, "and I would sit on the stool by myself with my mock-up magazines and newsletters, and I would sell Buckmasters memberships." From February through August that year, he sold nearly 3,000.
Much has happened since then. Bushman has turned the Montgomery-based Buckmasters into the world's largest deer-hunting organization, with members in the United States, Canada and Mexico paying $26 a year (Buckmasters Whitetail magazine is included). For children, a Young Bucks magazine is free for one year, and Rack magazine for hunters of all ages costs $18.95 a year.
Bushman also stars in "Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine" on the TNN cable network from July through December. The series is in its 14th season.
It was the first hunting series on TNN and the first deer-hunting series on any network.
In 1987, he kicked off his Buckmasters Classic, which brings together sports and entertainment stars and the media to celebrate the hunter's role in wildlife conservation and management.
In 1991, Bushman introduced Project Venison, a national program to help feed the hungry. Through the program, hunters take excess venison to processors, where it is prepared for area food banks.
The Buckmasters American Deer Foundation picks up the processing and distribution tab, using funds that are raised by local Buckmasters Chapter banquets.
Bushman says Project Venison supplied meat for about 500,000 meals last year.

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