Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The More Things Change…

I’m not a total dinosaur, but I do consider myself a traditionalist.  As the gray in my beard overtakes the darker shades, I prefer to catch fish on a fly rod, hunt deer with a longbow, and wear wool as often as possible.  I wear practical wide brimmed hats when afield, to keep the sun off my face in summer and snow outside my collared shirt in winter.

I’m not a total throwback, mind you.  Contrary to those traditional leanings, I do find the internet a wonderful tool for the sportsman.  I keep tabs on a couple good fishing blogs and e-magazines, and I find the internet a wonderful tool for planning trips, investigating aerial images, and researching guides and outfitters in areas new to me. 

In this perusing, I am now frequently noticing that sportsmen don’t look much like they used to.  It strikes me that many outdoor films are starting to look like boy band videos.   Carefully planned shaggy hair, flat brimmed ball caps set slightly askew, and synthetic wicking fabrics emblazoned with energy drink logos are the order of the day.  Combined with the fact that one can now obtain professional quality video equipment small enough to strap to a fishing rod, surfboard, ski pole, straight brimmed ball cap; or anything else that remains rigid long enough to capture the fight, wave, run, kill or crash.  Edit the experience together with appropriately raucous soundtrack, and post online for the whole world to absorb your attention-worthy aura.  Now you’re really somebody.

I realize that Fred Bear, Marlin Perkins and Curt Gowdy haven’t been around for a while and, truth be told, my wanderlust as a tenderfoot was fueled by Babe Winkleman and Bill Dance as much as it was fueled by those old masters.  While not exactly mountain men, Babe and Bill at least knew that a flannel shirt and cup of coffee were camp essentials, as opposed to a hoodie and a shot of 5-hour energy.

I had been bemoaning this state of affairs for some time, smugly acknowledging that my traditional sensibilities were mildly superior to those extreme athletes turned outdoorsmen.  Then, one day at the family hunting cabin, sorting some gear for the approaching archery season, my father began to comment on how many new-fangled do-dads are now required to pursue game afield.   “Here we go”, I thought.   It was true that my father did not have the benefit of portable tree stands, scent eliminating boot spray, or scent producing doe in estrus scent drags; but surely he would have utilized these tools had they been available.  Wicking base layers join wool outwear like apple pie joins ice cream.  And so what if I had three pairs of hunting boots, designed for various seasons and terrain.

“Dammit! I was one of them, 20 years ago!” I thought to myself. 

I didn't want to give my father the satisfaction of knowing he had a point, but it dawned on me that things are no different today than they have ever been.  Some smokepolers probably cast a critical eye on brass cartridges and lever actions.  Split cane casters likely bemoaned fiberglass, and then graphite. 

As I begin to share a love of the outdoors with my young children, I think more about the really important things:

  • The love of natural systems – all the parts – not just the target species, or the charismatic ones
  • An appreciation for humility – knowing that we don’t know it all and knowing that quiet observation is often the best instruction
  • An appreciation for enough – enough for today, enough for the season, enough for the next generation
  • An appreciation for conserving the resources and preserving the landscape that produces the resources
  • An appreciation for the benefits of preserving truly wild places, where people are rarely, if ever, seen

 Perhaps the hipsters and the X-gamers are getting those things.

I just wish we could discuss it without a…with a cup of coffee.

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