Memorable Manitobans: James M. “Jimmy” Robinson (1897-1986)
He was one of the world’s most famous hunting writers and sportsmen, editor for Sports Afield magazine, and the hunting partner of some of the biggest names in entertainment, politics, and business.
Jimmy was born in the small town of Kent, Minnesota in August 1897. On the death of his father in 1900, he moved to Winnipeg with his mother and brother, and lived with his grandfather, Sam Cruikshank, at his Maple Leaf Hotel in Elmwood – long since demolished. In 1910, the Robinsons moved to Morden where Jimmy spent some of the happiest days of his life. He loved to hunt on his grandfather’s ranch seven miles south of town. It was in the company of his grandfather and noted Winnipeg brewer, Edward L. Drewry, that Jimmy, as a young boy, first set eyes on Delta Marsh. Except during the First World War, he returned to the marsh every year until his death.
After serving his adopted country in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, playing hockey and semi-professional baseball, and exploring a career as a market hunter, Jimmy joined the Amateur Trapshooting Association as a statistician in 1922, an association that he maintained for the next fifty years. In 1926, he began writing for Sports Afield magazine, with his first article about his good friend, Annie Oakley. Renowned as a hunter, fisherman and conservationist, his writing career spanned 45 years. He wrote fourteen books on shooting and hunting. Each year since 1935, his duck survey of Western Canada was awaited eagerly by hundreds of newspapers all over North America. His contributions in building Ducks Unlimited were so great that they named him an honorary trustee in 1970, along with Bing Crosby and Andrew Mellon. Several times he tried to retire, but could not — his editors would not accept his resignation and no one could replace him. Sometimes called the “Sportsman of the Century,” Jimmy is the only man inducted into five Halls of Fame: Fishing, Minnesota, Skeet, Trapshooting, and Waterfowl.
Jimmy founded his first lodge at Delta Marsh in 1935 in a farmhouse near Portage Creek. Its more luxurious successor, dubbed the“Sports Afield Lodge” in honor of Jimmy’s long-time employer, was built in 1958 on the east side of the marsh, south of St. Ambroise. Known for his excellent memory and irrepressible personality, and described fondly by his friends as a “benevolent mooch” and an inveterate flatterer, Jimmy routinely avoided paying for many of his pleasures. Consequently, the “Sports Afield Duck Club” had numerous, well-heeled members from a broad cross section of the American business community.
Jimmy Robinson passed away in June 1986, leaving a legacy of sportsmanship that is still widely admired today.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 18 November 2022