Did you get anything? Often those are the first words I hear from my family when I walk through the front door after a hunting or fishing adventure. Indeed, many people logically equate success afield with the act of bringing home something tangible to prove that the time and efforts you just spent were worthwhile. But most sportsmen should realize that success is not measured solely by the heft of the stringer or the bulkiness in the game bag. There’s much more to it than simply that.
The definition of “Empty-handed” is: 1. Bearing nothing. 2. Having received or gained nothing.
Okay, when I depart for home feeling “skunked” because the fish in the lake were not cooperating today…I admit that I might have little evidence to show for my efforts (besides a sunburn), but I contend that I ALWAYS take at least something from every outdoor adventure. Even the slowest fishing action of the year provides me an opportunity to relax and unwind from the daily hassles normally associated with life. Furthermore, I’ve learned that during times of slow fishing that’s when I can focus more on perfecting my technique or perhaps better understanding the correct operation of my electronic equipment. In theory…the next time I take to the waters I should be slightly more experienced and better prepared to change my luck.
Same goes for the woods. A hunter can sit in a deer stand all day and see absolutely no deer. Yet, during the same time that hunter might have been entertained by watching the “circus-like” high-wire act of a pair of squirrels off in the distant treetops. Later a few jake turkeys might have wandered by completely unaware of their audience in the balcony. A Black-capped chickadee might have landed on a branch so close to your hand you were tempted to grab for it. Heck, on this particular morning you might have even witnessed the most glorious sunrise you can ever remember viewing…but memories are not tangible.
I’m often amazed how when I walk in the woods with someone who doesn’t hunt just how out-of-tune they sometimes can be with nature. That’s not to say that a person must hunt to gain a full appreciation from time spent outdoors…but I tend to think it sure helps. When you hunt you have an underlying purpose to observe all the little tell-tale signs that could serve as a clue to solving the bigger puzzle. The casual hiker, on the other hand, only has to see the big trees and colorful little woodland flowers. To this person, it’s not critical to know the type of tree or the names of the vegetation growing on the woodland floor. On the other hand, to be a successful hunter being “tuned in” to all these little nuances of the outdoors can often spell the difference between success or failure.
When I walk along the river I can tell the difference between a mink track and that of a muskrat…those are observation skills I likely mastered on days when I wasn’t focused on appreciating the critters I caught while trapping. When you’re a young trapper and you don’t catch anything on a particular day…it forces you to go back to the basics and hone the very skills you need to better develop. The desire for success—or even the lack thereof—can be a tremendous motivator toward striving for improvement.
When you are turkey hunting and that big ol’ gobbler seems more interested in the hens he can see rather than the one you’re trying to imitate way off in the distance…it forces you to expand your options if you stand any hope for success. In the process, you learn valuable lessons and become a much more well-rounded outdoorsman for having been presented with the experience. Again, that doesn’t mean your day spent afield will provide you with anything tangible to show your family.
The point I’m trying to make is every trip we spend outdoors is fruitful whether or not we bring something home to show for our efforts. If you open your eyes and ears to the outdoors…then every moment you invest pursuing your sporting dreams makes you a more knowledgeable and savvy sportsman for the next time out.
Today’s sportsman is not the same “food gatherer” of old…our survival is not solely dependent on the food we slay for the family’s table. Thankfully with that big pressure off our shoulders…it allows us the opportunity to focus more on the pleasurable aspects associated with each adventure.
Our success should be measured more so by the quality of the time we spend and the satisfaction we derive from the experience. Unfortunately, that measure is not always tangible in nature to show your family or friends when you arrive home after a long day at the lake or in the woods. Still, I contend to my family and others who might ask that I never come home completely “empty-handed” from my time spent enjoying the outdoors.
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.