Did some thinking last night. Thinking that spans nearly 50 years of life spent in the outdoors.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve garnered is how the outdoors is in a constant state of flux. What I mean by that is nothing stays the same…just give it a decade or two and the outdoors can take on a whole new appearance. Different sights. Different sounds. In general, a different vibe.
Case in point. Last night I heard from a neighbor how a bear has been marauding bee hives less than a mile from my house. In fact, bear sightings over the past few years in my area has gone from highly unlikely back 40 years ago to now almost a common occurrence. New local sightings are being heard weekly in a somewhat diverse area leading one to believe we are not dealing with just one or two wandering bears. The likelihood of many bears certainly exists.
Now, you might think this should not be odd…after all, I live in Minnesota. True enough, but I live in the heart of the ag zone where bears have not traditionally hung out. No more. In my lifetime I have gone from no bears to bears now in my back yard apparently quite regularly.
And don’t think these changes are limited to just bears. When I was a mere 6 years old I had my first encounter with a red fox. Back in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s fox were big in these parts. Red fox were most predominant with an occasional gray fox thrown in just for good measure. Not so today. Oh, sure, you still see an occasional fox dashing along some fenceline…but the sightings are rare. You know why?
Because now we have coyotes. Yup, the dreaded coyotes. When I was a young trapper starting out the only coyotes I had seen were in magazines showing trappers from out in the Western states. Then about 30 years ago they started showing up and BOOM! It’s to the point their population is out of control! Hardly a night goes by I don’t hear coyotes howling within earshot of my house. The packs sound large and sometimes real close. And guess what. As a teenager I would have never hear those song dogs anywhere close to my property.
Oh, I could go on and on. Growing up pheasants were so abundant that aside from shooting barn pigeons I honed my wingshooting skills by walking the sloughs each October. No more. Pheasants have all but disappeared. To see a pheasant sighting is rare indeed. These days even though it is legal to hunt them I wouldn’t even think of shooting one. In fact, I derive more pleasure out of just watching them try to scratch a life during these difficult times for their species.
Indeed, growing up pheasants were abundant and wild turkeys were…she we say, not even on the radar! Then a few birds were transplanted about 40 years ago and BOOM! Today, the wild turkey population is everything the pheasant population used to be. As a teenager it would have been a dream to think I could ever turkey hunt ON MY OWN LAND. In fact, today there are so many turkeys around these parts I would not think of hunting anywhere else.
Change happens in the outdoors in other ways, too. As a trapper, I am amazed how the river that runs through my farm changes so much from year to year. Sure, if you look at a map its not that the river is moving…but the character of the river. A location where I might have placed a mink trap last year might be totally unappealing to mink this year.
The river changes. The woods changes. The critters that run around…at least in time…tends to change. Makes me wonder…as an outdoorsmen who also feels like he is part of the outdoors am I changing, too? I suspect I am.
Change. One of the many reasons the outdoors stays exciting and challenging to those who enjoy it.