As I get older and my life and health changes, I find myself reflecting on the life I have lived and the effect/importance that the time I have spent in the outdoors has had on making me the person I am.
As the only child of older parents growing up in the Fifties, I did get to spend a fair amount of time with my Dad fishing. Because of his age, however, and the period of time he grew up in, hunting for most folks was strictly a subsistence-type activity. Rabbits, cotton-tail and jack, along with squirrels, if there were any in the area were “hunted” AKA shot on sight to provide meat for the family. Coons and skunks along with possums were trapped or caught with dogs and the furs sold to bring in a little cash.
Dad never reached a point in his life where hunting held any real importance to him, but he did love to fish. By the time I came along in 1950, he had just turned 54. By the time I got old enough, according to his and Mom’s standards where I could go with him, he was in his mid 60’s.
Dad and Mom had been long time residents of this area, and this was back in the days before lawsuits and deer leases, so he had access to dozens of tanks to fish in. This was when my love for the outdoors was born. To this day, as much as I like to hunt, I love fishing. This was a long time before I started fishing for bass, so Dad and I fished for mudcats and perch. As good as the different species of fish I have caught over the years, like trout and redfish and shark, etc, have tasted, those freshly caught fish were like Heaven to me.
After I got into High School and started playing football, I started going dove hunting with some of my teammates. My first hunting trips were in 1966 and I used as .410 that a neighbor loaned me. By 1967 I had bought a shotgun of my own, and yes, in 1967 a Sophomore in High School could buy a gun. By the time I was a Senior in 1969 I had 2 shotguns, a .22, and a military surplus bolt action rifle.
During the Fall of ’69, Dad went duck hunting with me one morning, the only time I can remember him actually going with me and carrying a gun. One other time in the early 70’s he rode down to a place I was hunting deer on but did not carry a gun himself.
1969 was the year I graduated High School, and the year I bought my first “real” deer rifle. It was also the year my first wife and I married, and the year I killed my first deer. It was a small 8 pointer that many today would laugh at, but at that point in time, it was a good buck. As I got older, the amount of time I had to spend hunting and fishing was dictated by my work. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending upon one’s perspective) I never fathered a child.
Sometimes I regret it, sometimes, however, especially considering the shape our world is in, I am glad I have not brought a child and then the accompanying grandchildren into it. Some view that as being selfish, and it probably is or was very selfish of me, because I have had the opportunity to spend a fair bit more time in the outdoors, and at a time when I was both physically and financially able to do so, than a lot of other folks my age were able to.
As many years as I have spent in the outdoors and with all the wonderful things I have seen and experienced, to this day, seeing a box turtle or a whitetail or catching 4-inch long bluegill on a popping bug still makes me thank my God for the life he has given me.
I have been extremely fortunate to have been married to two wonderful Ladies that in spite of all better judgment loved/loves me. I have no regrets, my first wife simply grew tired of living with a professional small boy. She is still a neat lady.
Lora has spent 22 years with me and God knows, she deserves better and why she continues to put up with my Mickey Mouse ways is a mystery but I thank God every day for bringing us together. At this point in our lives, I am fortunate to be able to spend all day if I choose to out in the pastures or sitting in various stands or blinds watching for deer or hogs or coyotes or turkeys or driving around watching for quail or monitoring dove numbers on the various places where we will be offering hunts.
Being in the outdoors/spending time in the outdoors has always been important to me, and I can recognize others that have had the ability to spend time in nature and learn from it. In our modern world with the time constraints most people have to deal with, time in the outdoors comes at a premium price.
Both in the amount of time an individual has available and the amount of money involved in gaining access to places. I was extremely lucky during the time period when I did most of my hunts. Lora and I both had good jobs and both of us were able to accrue huge amounts of leave time. For the Moose/Woodland Caribou hunt I did in Newfoundland, we took off the entire month of September in 1996.
Too often in today’s world, hunters and fishermen, are pressed for the amount of time available they are able to spend away from job or family. What has to be done, is to make the most of the time available. Seeing new country and new or different species of birds/animals/plants is a big part of the total experience, along with any potential historical importance of the area.
Many times, even though it takes 20 or 30 minutes to make the stop, much can be learned by looking at Historical Markers/Geographical Markers/Points of Interest. Yes, it adds time to a trip, but it also adds knowledge, and that can/does add a lot to the total experience.
Planning or finding hunts where fishing can also be done also adds to the experience.
I have not touched on camping purposely, because as one gets older, driving all day and then having to set up an overnight camp leads to a long day and a short night’s rest before continuing the trip.
To me any time spent in the outdoors is a learning experience that should be savored and enjoyed to its fullest if a person has to rush things, they miss out on so much and in many cases, people are never able to do those trips again.
I do not know what the Outdoors means to anyone else, but to me it is Heaven.