Of Priorities, Commitments & Partners Afield

One of the aspects about enjoying the outdoors I have always valued was a common sharing of the passion to participate by fellow sportsmen.   Indeed, without constant reminding or conjoling…there was a time when most of my outdoor pals knew that certain days of the calendar year were considered sacred.   Among those days would be considered the trout fishing opener, the regular fishing opener, the small game opener, the pheasant opener, and the firearms deer opener, to name but a few.   That statement’s no longer true today.   In fact, I find it increasingly more difficult to assemble my sportsman friends on the same page so we can all continue sharing time together participating in the activities we love.

Basically the way I see it there are two general types of sportsmen.   There’s the enthusiast who likes to do most everything solitary because this allows for a more relaxing, peaceful, contemplative time away from life’s usual struggles.   Then, of course, there are the sportsmen who tend to be more social…deriving enjoyment by laughing and reliving memories with a group of like-minded individuals.

Throughout most of my sportsman career…I have always gravitated toward the more social aspects of enjoying the outdoors.

There was a time not too many years ago I could pick up the phone and within 15 minutes find a handful of guys who anxiously wanted to spend the afternoon pheasant hunting.   If they already had other plans…those plans were quickly scrubbed to go hunting.

There was also a time not long ago when I could suggest the idea that we all plan a trip out West hunting antelope for a week…and everyone involved scrambled to ensure their schedules would allow this activity to happen.

Indeed, there was a time when spending a week up in Canada fishing was no big deal…regrettably, however, those days now seem to be in the rear-view mirror of life for many of my outdoor cohorts.

Today, we seem to have our priorities rearranged on many other things besides the outdoors.   Maybe this is a product of getting older and having more family commitments.   Perhaps our busy lifestyles have us so wore down that on weekends all we want to do is “veg out” in front of the TV and watch a ball game.   I don’t know…but for me the trend is somewhat disturbing.   And I can’t say that I am completely excluded from being part of the problem myself.   God only knows how many times I have turned down friends recently because the invite wasn’t convenient to my schedule.

So what are we all doing wrong?   Why have so many people allowed the pursuit of outdoor activities to take a backseat to other aspects of life?   Don’t we all understand that our days on this earth are quite limited and that we should be maximizing that time to pursue the activities we know we all enjoy?    Apparently not.

During the past few years I have seen my annual fishing opener and the deer opener camps wane in participant interest.   What used to be a vibrant bunch of guys giving each other relentless grief has turned into a skeleton crew of diehards who now silently mourn “the good ol’ days” of the past.   The dates for these events have not changed on the calendar.   The locations for the events have not changed, either.   What has changed are the people…and the level of their passion for staying involved and making the events a good time.

Oh, sure…the dynamics of any group of people are going to see personality conflicts (we’ve had them) from time to time.   You’ll also see attrition due to people moving out of state or passing on to higher hunting grounds…but ideally what should emerge is an opportunity for new blood created by the absence of those who are less fortunate.   Those opportunities, however, are not always quickly seized nor are they being recognized by potential newcomers.

After seriously contemplating cancelling my annual Minnesota fish camp this coming May I have decided that to do so would be a terrible mistake.   Despite the fact commitments so far by attendees have been less than desired, I am convinced more than ever the show must go on.   Yesterday, I made reservations and booked fish camp for yet another year.   Even though our numbers this year will likely be far fewer than we have experienced in the past…it would be an injustice to those who want to participate to let the tradition totally collapse because of shifting priorities among other prior participants.   See post on last year’s openers.

Subscribing to the theory that when one door closes…others open up…consider this.   If you’re a fisherman with a buddy and a boat, drop me a note if you are interested in being part of a fun fish camp in northern Minnesota (near Bemidji) during the weekend of May 12th thru 14th for the Minnesota Fishing Opener.   I have a limited number of beds available for guys who are truly committed to having fun and would appreciate celebrating a long-standing Minnesota tradition.   Share with me a brief synopsis about you and your buddy…including a short statement that shows you are committed to the cause.   In the near future, I might then extend a few invites to lucky folks who will have the opportunity to join me for a weekend of fun you’ll hopefully long remember.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.