The year has drawn to a close. Time for some resolutions. I’m not talking about the hollow oaths some take, casually dismissing certain foods, tobacco, alcohol or various depravities from their lives.
I’m talking about realistic resolutions that might actually stick. Stuff geared toward enhancing those things you find pleasurable. I do mean your outdoor pursuits.
The most important outdoor pursuit, in my mind, is deer hunting. The resolution here, for me, is to go back to making it a year-round pursuit.
No, I’m not talking violating. There is always something to do to prepare for, remember, or preserve the hunt. For instance, scouting used to take up much of my winter.
I’d slog through the snow for miles to scout a bedding area or look for rubs, trails and those mystical topographic bottlenecks that would funnel deer right to me. I got caught up in it so much that from 1992-97 I only ice fished three or, perhaps, 40 or so times (I didn’t record days I was skunked those years). I love ice fishing, but I spent most of my free time in the deer woods.
Of course, winter is a great time to cut shooting lanes at your stand sites, well-removed from the fall hunts. I need some work in that area. Also, I need some construction work on one of my permanent stands.
The stand I built behind my house is a little narrow. From the time I first used it, I’ve sat there thinking about how moving one wall out about a foot would be helpful if, say, some big fat guy needed to swing a rifle quickly within its confines. You never know when a big fat guy might have occasion to use the stand.
For some reason, it’s work that grows less important as the year’s deer seasons slip into the past, even becoming less important than frivolities such as snow removal, sleep, paying bills and going to work.
I resolve to supplant some of these activities with deer-related activities. (You didn’t think I was going to cut back on ice fishing, did you?)
I also need to make time to reflect on and preserve the memories of the hunt, such as it is, as another season goes too-softly into that good night.
I am the de-facto record-keeper for our hunting camp, Muutka Lodge, and thus must maintain the memories of our adventures. With each passing year, the maintenance becomes more necessary. It seems for some of our aging crew, a memory can scarcely exist if it’s not in tangible, holdable form.
If it’s not in our log book, it didn’t happen. Even if it is, it helps to have photos. I’ll admit, even then it’s sometimes difficult to jog certain minds, but I’ll keep trying.
Present some of these guys with a picture of himself engaged in an activity, or at the meat pole with a deer, and behold the bewilderment. It’s something.
I’ve heard smell is the greatest way to jog the memory, but I have no idea how to do a “scratch-n-sniff” log book, at least while keeping it relatively sanitary, nor would I want most of the smells associated with a deer camp preserved for the ages.
It’s quite an endeavor keeping history, and I’ve slipped behind, but I have many notes and pictures scattered hither and yon and will eventually corral all for organization. I resolve to.
Also, there are a few neglected “trophies” in my uniquely organized freezer. Antlers, skulls and such that need to be cleaned and bleached and mounted and whatever for proper display. Not only do they represent a back-log of work, their presence had led to some tiresome conversations.
Wife: “Why is there a deer head in the freezer?”
Me: “Because it will stink if I leave it out.” (Duh.)
Repeat every several weeks until the end of time.
There is also the antler collection I inherited this spring when my father-in-law passed. These are not his biggest trophies, but his “garage racks,” the small to mid-sized deer antlers that hung amongst his tools, ropes and extension cords. To me they make a special set and I’d like to do something nice with them.
And my guns. If one can say I have loving hands, it’s when they cradle a firearm. I should shoot more often.
Did you have a BB gun when you were a kid? I did. It was a constant companion and I slayed many a beer can with it, which kept my shooting motor skills fine-tuned.
Now when I slay beer cans, it has a different effect on my motor skills. I should go back to targeting the outside of the can, like I did when I was much younger.
It didn’t matter if the can was near, far, still, or thrown – I could hit it with my Red Ryder (and I never shot my eye out).
Now, hand me a 12 gauge, toss a clay pigeon in the air, and there’s a good chance I’ll miss it clean. Unless, of course, I wait for it to hit the ground. Then I’m a regular dead-eye.
That’s right – I just admitted that I’m not above ground-swatting a clay bird.
I could also try to keep my archery equipment dust-free. I don’t mean just by periodically wiping it, either.
From what I’ve seen, archers that use their equipment year-round are more proficient with it. I think it’s possible that it’s because a well-used bow doesn’t “stiffen,” as I call it – a condition that results in the bow’s draw-weight increasing from one fall to the next. Mine’s already increased from a 70-pound draw-weight to about a 200-pound draw-weight, I estimate.
If I don’t keep it loose, I’ll have to incorporate a come-along into my draw by next fall, which will really mess with my mechanics. Not to mention that a come-along is even noisier than my shoulders while pulling on something that offers resistance.
Time with my guns and bow would be fun, for sure. I like to pursue game. But I also like to pursue fish.
Luckily, the ice fishing season actually begins in December, sometimes November. That means I have a number of months until I have to make good on my ice fishing resolution.
I resolve to make it out ice fishing before “You shoulda been here last week” time. For this season, that ship has sailed. Once again, the best of the early ice fishing has gone on without me.
Of course, my fear that maneuvering my large frame out onto early ice to fish might instead result in an open-water swimming adventure does make this one a special challenge. I could to resolve to lose weight, I suppose, but such a resolution would be in defiance of my thesis. I’d have to dismiss certain foods – a hollow oath indeed, I’ve found.
Instead, I plan to wish for good, solid early ice. Actually, when I think about it, wishing is a fundamental part of a lot of my plans.
One perfects wishing during down-time on deer stands, wishing for deer to show. I’ve incidentally incorporated it into other areas of my life.
For example, as I write this, I’m wish-planning that I had written it yesterday, because writers have deadlines and I find myself short on time. And when I get short on time, I tend to digress, in spite of myself. It’s an idiosyncracy, I guess.
I’ll be extra careful not to digress here, but if I do, at least you’ll understand why. Of course, I’m distracted, too, because I’ve been trying to use wish-planning on a stack of bills. If the wish-planning goes well, I might be in the market for a new power auger. Hey – that segues me nicely into ice fishing.
I gave up resolving to build a permanent ice shanty some years ago, though I would like to have one. I’d like it to be light, sturdy, warm, easy to haul and set up, roomy and free.
But I have also surmised, with the comfort level a permanent shack provides, that I might just choose to fish from there all winter, or at least until state statute forces removal. And I like to not catch fish on several different lakes during the course of a season.
Really, I like trying to catch fish a lot, so I don’t just pursue them with vertical presentations through tiny holes cut in their roof. I also enjoy flailing a line or two during the open-water season. In fact, if people and creditors would just leave me alone, it’s safe to say I’d flail my life away. Some suggest I’m doing so even now, but I haven’t been fishing much lately, so I’m not sure what they’re even talking about.
Anyway, every year, I say I’m going to go through all of my fishing stuff during the winter, trimming the load, cleaning tackle boxes, maintaining rods and reels, etc. A resolution of sorts, I suppose.
But I seem to put it off until spring, then rush to find and gather suitable, functioning tackle and gear when it’s time to take those first casts of the season. Not this year.
If I fail to get my gear ready, I resolve to buy all new stuff a month in advance of open water fishing. Assuming, of course, that my wish-infused expense planning goes as well as anticipated.
Reviewing this, I can see that some might describe my resolutions as a sort of to-do list with the mundane, workaday, boring, excruciating and important things crossed off, but they’d be wrong.
I haven’t crossed any of those things off. I’ve just carefully avoided any hollow oaths.
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com