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.

The Sportsman’s Blogger Gets Interviewed!

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This blog post is something new for Sportsman’s Blog.   I’m actually the person being INTERVIEWED.   Let me explain.   Recently I was contacted by e-mail from a college student working on a college ethics project.   She asked if I would answer a series of questions for use in her project.   Well, here are the questions and MY answers.   Enjoy!

1) How were you introduced to hunting and fishing?

I was introduced to fishing at the age of 5 by my dad who took me to a northern Minnesota lake called  Dead Lake.   I ended up catching a 5-pound Northern Pike which was the biggest fish caught on the trip by anyone.  I was “hooked” on fishing for life.

My father died when I was 10 so I was exposed to hunting at a later age.  Probably around 13 or 14 years old.   I had two cousins in particular, Gary and Jim, who recognized how a child should be exposed to the outdoors and comfortable around guns.   They were not big into hunting, be together we learned to hunt everything from squirrels to deer.

2) What species of animals do you hunt and fish, and about how many do you catch/ shoot per year?

I am now 51 years old and hunt on a very limited basis mostly due to my career.   I own a publishing company that prints and markets calendars throughout the world.   As you can imagine, I’m busiest during September through Christmas–which is not real conducive to being a hunter during the fall months.

That being said, I still find time (mostly on weekends) to hunt deer, occasionally some ducks, wild turkey and predators.   My extensive trips out to Western states hunting elk, antelope, etc. are put on hold until someday soon when I plan to retire.

Numbers?   I’m at a phase in my hunting life where bagging game takes a backseat to simply enjoying the overall outdoor experience.   During the past five years I have pointed my gun (then mentally pulled the trigger) but not firing it at much more game than I ever actually shoot.   Many hunters reach a maturity point where 95% of the hunt is getting yourself in a position to kill an animal.   That final 5% is not always important.   Hunting success is not measured by everyone in terms of what game animal lays at their feet.

3) In regards to fishing, what do you do with the fish you keep?

If I keep a fish I eat it.   During my lifetime I have never kept a fish for purposes of taxidermy, etc.   Just never big into that sort of thing.   Oh, let me tell you when you catch a nice trout or big walleye it is not easy sending it away back in its native water…but it’s the thing to do.   Afterwards, you hope you either got a quick picture for some bragging…but even if not, you still have the memory and that is what spending time out-of-doors is truly all about.

4) In regards to hunting, what do you do with the animals you keep?

Unlike fishing, there is no shoot and release with animals while hunting.   Unless, of course, you do so with a camera.   I have been known to grab my camera BEFORE grabbing my gun while deer hunting.   And now with video cameras so prevalent taking a video can be even more fun to relive the experience.

But seriously, if I do intend to shoot a game animal with my gun the meat is used.   When I attended the University of Minnesota I minored in Meat Science so I take a special pride in butchering or cleaning a game animal so meat is not wasted by any means.   I have field dressed deer in complete darkness by just feeling with my hands.   I guarantee my game animals are the most wholesome source of protein available with no waste when I am complete.

5) How much of the animal do you use (meat, hide, etc.)?

With deer the meat and the hide is used.   I have had deer hides tanned in the past and made gloves from them.   More often these days, I now donate the hides to the Minnesota Deer Hunter’s Association Hides for Habitat Program where over the past 30 years almost $5 million dollars has been raised for conservation and habitat programs throughout Minnesota.

With ducks/geese both the meat is used and the feathers are often saved for fly tying (trout fishing).   The parts of the animals that are not edible for human consumption are sometimes used in my trapping endeavors for bait.   Very little animal that is harvested goes to waste.

6) Do you take any actions while fishing and/or hunting that are for the “respect”, “consideration” or “well-being” of the animals? If so, what actions? (Please specify weather fishing or hunting).

Absolutely.   Everything is about respecting the animals and the land that is hunted.   Same holds true for fish and the waters on which I fish.   I hunt mostly on a farm that has been in my family since 1856–that’s 158 years!   I have memoirs of my ancestors fishing on the river and trading for venison with the native Indians of this area just to survive those first years.   Their very existence relied on what they could harvest from the land–meat, berries and fish.

Oh, things have certainly changed over the years.   My Great-Great-Great Grandfather didn’t have a choice to survive.   I certainly do.   Nevertheless, I appreciate and fully understand where my roots came from.   The critters that live on this land are indirectly responsible for my very existence today.   Had my ancestors been met with harder times who knows where I might have been.

Today, when I hunt I sit and think about those who came before me.   I take nothing for granted.   I am thankful for all that this land has given me.   Even on those lean years when I don’t see many deer, ducks, squirrels, etc. I still count my blessings for what my family has been given over the years.

Consideration is shown by playing by the rules fairly.   If the season ended five minutes ago and I can still see the quarry, ethics dictate you don’t break the law no matter how arbitrary you may deem the rules to be.   For instance I have also shot deer that I wouldn’t ordinarily take because they were witnessed as injured (maybe from a car accident, etc.) just to end their suffering.   As a hunter over time you feel in your heart what the right thing is to do…and I let that feeling be my guide.

7) Can you recall an experience while fishing and/or hunting when you felt you had “hurt” or “wronged” the animal? If so, what happened?

Yes, I dare say it eventually happens to everyone in some way or form.   In my younger days I took a questionable shot at a deer in brush that was too thick to be taking proper shots.   Although it was still legal shooting hours, the dense brush and limited light presented a challenge in seeing things correctly.   I shot at what looked like a nice buck deer.   After trailing it for quite some time I found the deer.   What I had shot was not the buck, but rather a doe (which I did have a permit to shoot) standing beside it.   I felt bad because I took that questionable shot.   Yet, I learned so much from the experience not all was lost.   As a hunter you need to be sure of your shot.   You need to make certain your target is what you think it is.   I proved to myself that questionable actions can produce questionable results.   There’s no room for that in hunting as a hunter must take full responsibility for their actions upon pulling the trigger.   In the woods lessons are continually being taught.   It’s up to the hunter or outdoorsman to understand and learn from each lesson.

8) Do you take actions to prevent the spread of invasive species? If so, what actions?

In fishing here in Minnesota we now have strict laws requiring the cleaning of boats and emptying of live wells to reduce the transfer of exotics from one lake to another.   Aside from that I do not take any additional measures while fishing beyond what the law requires.

In terms of hunting, one of the biggest exotics which is unfortunately taking over my farm is the spread of buckthorn which is a terrible plant choking out otherwise good wildlife habitat.   More needs to be done to eradicate this plant by physically pulling the plant out by the roots, or in some cases using herbicide.

Specified based on your Blog:

1) In the post, “Sharing the Reader LOVE”, you proclaim that you carry out your sporting traditions in an ethical manner and with great care.  Could you elaborate on this?

Sure, I believe that hunters and fishermen have a rich tradition of supporting wildlife causes.   While to some it may seem as if we are only “consumptive” taking from the land, I think for the non-hunters who really get to know most of us they discover a group of folks who care very deeply about the animals we seek.   Many of my friends spend hundreds of dollars annually purchasing licenses, but way beyond that I have friends who attend wildlife fundraising banquets spending sometimes thousands of dollars for specific wildlife causes.

For instance, when this money transforms into millions of acres of wetlands preserved, it doesn’t just help ducks or geese.   It helps song birds, reptiles, the ground water…virtually all of nature(ecosystem).   I challenge anyone to name a group of people aside from hunters who have donated more money to accomplish what the hunter has achieved.   This doesn’t even take into account what the sportsman does thru federal funding such as Pittman-Robertson taxes which benefits wildlife from all the gear we purchase.

No, I am proud to call myself a hunter.   People can say negative things about me or hunters as a group, but most often the facts do not affirm their position on the issue.   Still, I value that not everyone appreciates what I do.   Thus, I try to stay tasteful and respectful in my public actions.   I don’t generally drive around with deer on display in my truck.   I take pictures of game animals that show I have taken extra measures to be respectful for what others might view as offensive.   In general, I realize that not everyone appreciates what I do so I tend not to get in their face to cause problems or any bad feelings.

2) Do you have a personal definition of ethical fishing and hunting? If so, would you give your definition?

Sure, the definition is called being a SPORTSMAN.   It’s what this blog strives to be all about.   I wrote a blog post back in 2008 entitled “What Does It Mean To Be A Sportsman.”   In that post I defined being a sportsman in this way:

“One who pursues fish and game with deep passion, conviction and respect for his quarry while honoring his heritage, adhering to his guiding principles, yet fostering a sense of fairness and compassion for others with whom he shares the fields and waters.”

I’ll be honest.   That definition holds just as true today as it did back in 2008.   It will continue to hold true tomorrow, too!