My love and passion for the outdoors has provided me with a lifetime of enjoyment and given me an education of the natural world that cannot be learned just from a textbook. Spending time in the woods or on the water has always been an adventure to me and after a half-century of ‘being there’, I learn something new every time I venture out afield or on the water.
I have noticed that I have to look a bit closer these days to discover new sights and sounds than I did as a youngster, after all, after fifty years, I’ve experienced a great deal of what Mother Nature has to offer. Rather than just being a hunter and fishermen these days, I’ve noted that I have subconsciously become a student of what I see and hear. Just about the time I begin to think I’ve experienced all there is to see, Mother Nature opens another page in her amazing book and shows me something new. For instance, this past winter, I was heading to a bow blind I had set in the edge of a pin oak flat in east Texas. Along the trail, I noticed a particular weed was covered with cotton candy looking white ‘fluff’. I’d never seen this sight before and was amazed at how the trail was lined, on each side, with weeds that appeared to have been decorated with white ornaments. Since first discovering these plants covered in white, I’ve experienced the sight a couple more times, each time on very cold mornings. Could it be that somehow the frigid temperatures pulled moisture out of the plant stems and caused the sap to fluff out into white cotton looking balls? Guess I’ll have to wait till next winter to find the answer! Chances are pretty good that I surely have witnessed this sight in years past but was probably was more intent upon getting into my stand and killing a deer than I was taking the time to observe the ‘big picture’. I wish now that I would had my camera along and photographed the phenomena so that I could have identified the plants and learned exactly what caused them to be adorned like mini Christmas Trees.
It seems to be the trend these days to be a ‘bass fisherman’ or ‘deer hunter’ or ‘fly fisherman’. While all these endeavors are challenging and great fun, why limit oneself to a particular aspect of the outdoors? Why not enjoy as much as possible? As a young sportsman, I became a devout deer hunter. I read every book I could find on whitetail deer and spent countless hours in the fall woods with veteran hunters learning about scrapes, rubs and the habits of the whitetail. I hunted only with a rifle and, later when I managed hunting leases, demanded that the other hunters on my lease hunt only with rifles. Bow hunting was not allowed! A few years later, a good friend introduced me to shooting a bow and I became hooked. My love for archery and bow hunting became an obsession and I have been bow hunting ever since. Had I been more receptive to new ideas younger in my outdoors career, I am positive I would have become an avid archer at a much earlier age.
Even at my advanced stage of addiction to the outdoors, I still find new activities. I was exposed to fly fishing at a young age by two of my uncles who were avid and accomplished fly fishermen. At the age of ten, I was accompanying them on trips to catch farm pond bass and bluegills. When I discovered the bait casting reel and plastic worm as a young teenager, I joined the ranks of ‘bass fisherman’ and abandoned the sport of fly fishing. Why couldn’t I have fished with conventional bass tackle and, on occasion, Fly rod? Are you beginning to get my drift? We really miss out when we become too deeply involved in one particular aspect of the outdoor life. I recently placed an order for an economical, fly fishing kit that comes complete with 6 weight fly rod, reel, line, etc. I also ordered a few popping bugs for catching bass and bream. I’ll certainly have to work at my casting skills, it’s been decades since I fished with a fly rod but, I welcome the challenge of doing something ‘new’. I even found myself recently on YouTube, searching for instructional fly fishing videos! I might not be classified as ‘proficient’ when that fly rod arrives but feel positive I will fall into the ‘adequate’ category! Besides, bedding bream are not all that particular about bait presentation; they will nail anything that resembles a threat that falls anywhere close to their nests.
Regardless whether you decide to begin shooting a muzzleloader, big bore air rifle, compound bow or, fishing with a fly rod, learning the basics has never been easier. Even if you don’t have the luxury of an uncle or family member skilled in a particular aspect of the outdoor life, there is always the internet. You can ‘Google’ anything from ‘trapping hogs’ to ‘trout fishing’ and instantly be bombarded with more information than you can digest in a month!
So, if you discover that you fit into that category of sportsmen or women that engages in only one outdoor endeavor, I challenge you to think ‘outside the box’. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you discover that with today’s modern compound bows, you can become a proficient archer in no time. This Fall, big bore air rifles will be allowed for harvesting big game in Texas, you might just want to begin your “airgun learning curve”.
If you begin to feel the least bit bored or complacent with a single outdoor sport, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself! It’s how you learn and HAVE MORE FUN!
Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas on weekends or anytime at www.catfishradio.org.