Wit & Wisdom


Sam Venable has carved a path as an outdoor writer and columnist, inspiring thousands to experience the joy of the sporting lifestyle

It’s early evening at Van Edom’s Wine Bar and I am enjoying a glass of wine with my wife Lisha. The relaxed atmosphere and pleasant staff find us here from time to time to unwind. I couldn’t help but notice the guy across the corner of the bar seemed to be searching for something and was furiously pulling all sorts of things out of his pockets. When the loosely coiled monofilament fell from his hand onto the bar I couldn’t help but ask, “Is that a tapered fly leader?”

“Matter of a fact it is,” he responded. “Are you a fly fisherman?”

My smile must have given it away.  The man introduced himself as Nathan Sparks, and in a few short sentences I knew I had found a friend. We ordered another glass of wine and down the rabbit hole we went, telling tales of fishing trips across the country.

During the conversation, I asked Nathan if he was familiar with Sam Venable or any of the books he’s written. “I am,” he told me. “Almost everyone knows Sam. His books are phenomenal, so is his column in the News Sentinel.” I filled Nathan in on the fact that I’m “Cuz” in all of Sam’s books and inquired if he would ever consider him as the subject of a Cityview feature.

Before long we were formulating plans on telling Sam’s story, but with one caveat: Nathan wanted a first-person account of our adventures. So, pour yourself a glass of your favorite libation or grab a cup of joe, and settle in to hear a little about the man who has shared his wit and humor for decades and taught me a lot of what I needed to know about connecting with the great outdoors. 

That night of fun at Van Edom’s with Nathan led us to a quail hunt at the Beretta Shooting Grounds, managed by The High Adventure Company. Nathan wanted to get a feel for how Sam and I interact on a sporting trip and have the opportunity for some photos. The facility is a short drive down to Adairsville, Georgia. We step out of Nathan’s Suburban to the sound of bird dogs anxiously barking in the kennel and the sprawling view of 3,000 acres of rolling sedge grass and burnt pines. HAC owner, John Burrell, happened to be onsite and it was entertaining to listen to them swap a few quick stories before John introduced us to our guide for the day, Steven Farmer, a lanky easy going fellow, and his dog, Sweetie, a beautiful German Short Haired Pointer.

The crisp air really set the mood as we walked alongside Steven while Sweetie worked. With a quiet voice and a gentle smile, Sam looks entirely in his element on the shooting grounds. We are not even five minutes in when Sweetie gets real “birdy” and Steven signals for us to spread out. Sweetie circled, and then locked up on point as Steven called “Get ready.” Watching the covey rise out of the grass, seeing the joy on Sam’s face as the shotgun swings and follows one of the birds, I am so transfixed that I almost forgot to shoot—almost that is! The morning went on like that and we flushed many more coveys and followed up on the singles.

Nathan Sparks

There is a sort of camaraderie that comes from sharing a hunt that seems different from other activities. We were all having a great time when Steven asked if we knew a guy named Joel Farmer from Loudon. Nathan laughed out loud and said, “I was at his house three days ago photographing his son Carson for a roping story.” Steven’s eyes flared with delight when I added that Joel and I had been high school pals. Come to find out that Steven competes in roping at many rodeos across the south, and that his six-year-old son is already competitively roping.

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