She Touched A Leech!

This past weekend was the Minnesota Fishing Opener so I did what any good dad should do…take their kid fishing.   Of course, the fishing opener is much more than just fishing.   It’s a time to gather in the entirety of the experience, passed on from one generation to the next.

Our fishing outing began by stopping at Cabela’s.   You see, accompanying me fishing was my soon-to-be 8y/o daughter who has been anticipating this experience for several weeks.   What’s a good dad to do…well, you build excitement over the event because as experience has taught me…sometimes early season fishing can be downright slow.   Especially for younger children.

While at Cabela’s we were in search of a “lucky fishing hat” suitable for a little red-haired girl.   Eventually we found one that looked capable of not only blocking the harsh sun rays, but also delivering on the piscatorial fortune we had attributed to the hat.   After all, if you believe something to be “lucky” isn’t that half the battle?

Next, we had this pink, plastic Plano tacklebox that needed more “stuff.”   You know, the kind of “stuff” fishermen cram into their boxes to help complete it for just about any fishing situation.   We purchased bobbers, hooks, sinkers, pliers, lures, bait…you know, all the good “stuff” that any self-respecting fisherman should carry.

By now, our cart was filling up with plenty of fun fishing items to help fuel the fishing fires burning inside both of us.   It was about that time Elsie asked, “Dad, can we go over to look at the bait?”   Sure, that is next on our list.

We approached an employee who seemed eager to help us with all of our live bait needs.   Elsie peered into the tanks to look at the fathead minnows, the shiner minnows, taking in the lovely sights and smells that only a dedicated fisherman could possibly enjoy.

It was about that time when the employee asked if Elsie would like to hold a leech.   He took his dip net into the big tank and flopped out a big black ribbon leech onto the counter.   Elsie stared at it for a moment watching it squirm and wiggle.   As it did its little dance trying to escape back into the water, Elsie reached down and picked it up.   She cupped her hands and watched it slither and wildly squirm for about 30 seconds.

I then told her to throw it back into the water tank and let’s get going.   As I proceeded to thank the employee for his time, he made a comment that could not have made me more proud.   You see, what I learned is this employee likes to scoop leeches up and encourage young kids to play with them.   Part of it is to encourage contact with a form of bait not always pleasant to touch.   Another aspect is to learn more about the kids.

As we were about to walk away he told me your daughter just did something that most boys her age will NOT do.   “Really,” I said, “boys won’t touch leeches…what is wrong with them?”   The employee went on to explain how most young kids her age will refuse to touch them.   He actually stated how it warms his heart to see a young child so eager to explore their natural world horizons.

At first I thought, WOW!   How could inquisitive kids who come into a Cabela’s store not want to touch a leech.   When I was that age I wouldn’t have given touching a leech a second thought.   But, things have changed.   Society has changed.   By nature, and I hate to say this, but many kids are not automatically drawn to engage in such experiences like kids once were.

I never for a minute considered that Elsie would have an aversion to touching a leech.   That’s not how she is being raised.   If you want to fish you touch crawlers, minnows, grubs, leeches and other such things that fish like to eat.   Indeed, not only do you bait your own hook when fishing with me…but when you can do it safely you also remove your own fish.   It’s all part of the experience of…well, fishing.

Now, certainly I’m not saying that touching a leech is some sort of magical litmus test for whether kids will grow up to be positively engaged in the outdoors.   Nevertheless, I’ve taken every opportunity possible for Elsie to be present when I clean game and fowl.   After all, she dreams of being a veterinarian someday so why would I want to delay her first-hand exposure to the innards of God’s creatures.

And all of this is such a good reason to take a kid fishing.   Not only does it help develop a lifetime enjoyment with one of the best outdoor recreations available, but it helps to push kids beyond their normal comfort levels.   Kids need to realize how death does not only occur on video games and in the outdoors, as in life, there are no reset buttons or “do-overs” if things don’t go well.

The Curse Of Forgetfulness And Ways To Avoid It

Dammit!   I had a wonderful introduction to kick off this blog post and “POOF!!!”   It disappeared from my brain before I could even get the words down in pixel format.   This seems to be happening to me more often as I grow older.   I will walk from one room to the next and forget my reason for making the trip.   Sometimes I’ll be driving in my truck and a flood of great ideas for future blog posts fills my mind…only to be lost by the time I eventually attempt to write them down on paper.

I suppose it goes with the territory of getting older.   Forgetfulness is not a good thing.   In its worst form it could be an indicator of an underlying medical problem developing into a bad life-threatening memory condition.   To a lesser extreme it becomes a plain and simple mental nuisance.

Of course, the sportsman cannot afford to have these mental lapses no matter how slight they may be.   Mental acuity for the hunter or fisherman can often spell the difference between success or failure when outdoors.   Indeed, as a sportsman grows older I am here to proclaim concentration and memory recall can fall victim to brain synapses not quite firing the way they once used to.

Make Lists

One of the big things I have learned since turning 50 is to make a list on paper.   Or, for that matter, make them on your smart phone if this works better for you.   The point is a person has to write it down and document it.   Good ideas are like gems the do not come along every day.   It’s such a shame to waste the thought by letting it slip away into oblivion.TakeNotes

Another good thing lists provide is an opportunity to prioritize activities.   There’s simply nothing like looking at a list to have certain items jump out at you deserving greater attention.   I construct my list in no particular order (sort of as a brainstorming exercise) and then those activities with more important completion dates get circled (or highlighted in some manner).

Focus and Avoid Life’s Distractions

When I get up from my office desk and wander to another room it’s because I have a purpose in mind.   Then, about halfway there I will look over at my computer printer to discover something I printed, but had forgotten about.   BAM!   I just lost my focus.   Now, I might remember I was going into my bedroom, but I forgot why the reason was to get my wallet for a credit card number.

The same lost focus can occur outdoors.   When you’re muskie fishing and making a hundred casts per hour the monotony of the activity can cause the mind to look for other forms of stimulation.   Maybe there is an eagle soaring over the lake capturing your mind’s curiosity.   Maybe your fishing partner keeps digging through his tackle box and it has you wondering what he’s doing.   Perhaps there’s some strange activity taking place on shore and your interest is piqued.

Focus vs. distraction can be a challenging thing to overcome for the sportsman.   Inevitably that muskie will strike when your attention is diverted away from setting the hook.   When split seconds matter keeping focus can be one of the most challenging tasks asked of the sportsman.

There’s no simple solution for avoiding distraction.   I think it’s human nature to lose concentration and be susceptible to distraction as time goes on.   When a person fishes or hunts for relaxation I believe focus is not as important.   On the other hand, the sportsman who wants to hunt or fish with a serious attitude much like a pro has to develop the mind to stay honed and sharp.

Eat Right and Stay Hydrated

It should come as no surprise that a sharp mind is fueled by proper nourishment.   Likewise, a dehydrated body can play unwanted tricks on a person and I would guess many sportsmen—whether out hunting or fishing—tend to stay less hydrated than is ideal.   And obviously, there may be a reason for doing this to avoid bathroom breaks, but that can work against a person.

I’ve said it before in these blog posts how several years ago I did a story on hunting accidents and made the correlation to farming accidents.   At the time, agriculture safety specialists studied the peaks and valleys of blood sugar levels and how this contributed to poor decision making leading to accidents.

I think the same can be said about sportsmen.   For whatever reason, sometimes the sportsman just does not take the time necessary to pack with a few energy bars or a sandwich to keep their stomach from growling.   But that food can do much more than settle a rumbling stomach.   It can also keep blood chemistry in check that helps keep a mind functioning at optimal performance levels.

Honestly, I should not have to convince most sportsman to drink and eat properly.   I think we all appreciate the importance of doing so.   Yet, it does pay to give some attention to exactly what foods and liquids we put into our bodies.   Snack foods might fill a void, but they do little for providing a well rounded mid-day snack.   Likewise, grabbing a cold brew while out on a hot lake sounds ever so tempting, but that bottle of water will actually do your body better if maintaining focus is critical.

You know, getting older means getting wiser.   Or, at least I would like to think so.   Yet, part of growing older is also realizing that an aging body has shortcomings that a body half its age has yet to experience.   Yeah, it’s not fun to forget things especially when they are important to you.

As one grows older a person needs to be prepared to make subtle lifestyle adjustments to their routine in order to stay sharp and effective.   Maybe a few less beers, perhaps paying greater attention to eating properly, keeping a notebook and pen in a pocket.   It’s important for the older sportsmen to recognize as a body ages it requires different things.   And of course, a bit more sleep never hurts anything either.   That reminds me, it’s nap time and I am doing it with a tactical outdoors purpose in mind.

Paying Attention To Detail; The Sportsman’s Greatest Asset

I just finished reading a 200+ page book that contained two spelling errors.   Seriously, in today’s world with computer typesetting and spell checking how can this even happen?   Moreover, I have to believe several sets of human eyes thoroughly perused the manuscript proofreading the copy prior to press.   Yet, it still happens.

Perhaps even more egregious is when a person holds themselves out to the world as an outdoors writer and they commit these same sort of terrible spelling sins.   Case in point.   Recently I was reading the social media profile of a person who claims to be an outdoors writer.   In fact, this particular person is sort of “in your face,” so to speak, with the fact their life is all about writing.   Just one slight problem.   No matter how professional their prose may actually be…the fact their profile lists their profession as an OUDOOR WRITER [their spelling] just has a way of leaving a bad first impression.   Know what I mean?

Hey look.   Nobody’s perfect.   I know if you were to peruse the many pages of this blog and the other writings I have done over the years I, too, have made my share of dumb mistakes.   Will probably do so yet again before this post is even fully written.   But the point is we should all strive toward honing our “attention to detail” skills.   It will benefit us throughout life.

It’s not always easy to find the needle in the proverbial haystack, but it can be done and fine-tuning such abilities can often reap big rewards for the sportsman.

Back in 1996, while getting my paralegal degree, I discovered one of the biggest faux pas I’ve witnessed in a legal setting.   While studying Minnesota Landlord/Tenant Law, I discovered a statute (M.S. §504.181, Subdivision 2) that didn’t make complete sense.   It was a simple, yet very important error.   The word “Lessor” had been used when it should have properly been “Lessee.”   The law had been enacted and on the books for years.   Scrutinizing eyes of both the Minnesota Legislature had missed it, as well as the Revisor of the Statutes who holds the main responsibility of ensuring errors like this do not get enacted into law.   Yet, errors happen…and it pays to be vigilant scouring the details of every situation.

Take the game warden who is hot on the tracks of trying to break a case by getting a few more facts to strengthen a pending conviction.   The good ones not only read tire tracks to know their suspect has been in the area.   Indeed, the good wardens can get their eyeballs down closer to the dusty road and also determine the direction of travel much like a hungry predator in hot pursuit of its quarry.

Hunters are no different.   The ability to observe the details and then properly interpret them can set you apart from others also traipsing in the woods.   Sometimes it can be looking for little things that just seem “out of the ordinary.”   Other times it may be just a sixth sense that gnaws at you to believe this is where you should sit or how to place your deer stand.

The same sort of careful insight can give one tournament fisherman the edge over the competition.   Sure, it’s easy to claim how one successful fisherman always seems to have a “lucky horseshoe” in the boat, but the truth is that angler has likely developed better attention to detail on reading the conditions.   After all, most fishermen have the right gear and information to be successful, yet the difference can be so subtle in the interpretation of the signs.   Logic might dictate fishing in one particular manner over another, but a “gut sense” might tell a consistently successful fisherman to stray slightly from the mainstream thinking.

It’s hard to teach the development of attention to detail skills.   I agree, to some extent certain people just seem to walk through life more aware than others.   On the other hand, I’ve also noticed how one of the biggest impediments to honing an attention to detail awareness is pure laziness.   I have a teenage stepson that way.   He will repeatedly walk over some object that doesn’t belong there until eventually I believe his mind no longer observes it.   The next person will come along and their mind will question…”Why is this laying here” and then subsequently pick it up and put it in the proper place.

It’s easy to walk through life not watching for those blatant spelling errors.   In fact, our mind’s eye is trained to know what the word is supposed to be even if it’s missing several letters or they are slightly jumbled.   Yet, I contend how you approach these proofreading situations is often how you approach interpreting many aspects of life, particularly in the outdoors.   The road map to being a success sportsman is not always clearly defined or obvious.   Sometimes it’s necessary to develop the knack for observing with a keener eye than most folks are willing to give a situation.   In the end…paying proper attention to detail tends to pay off for those who recognize its importance.