Selling The Outdoor Experience… Or Just Selling Products?

Utter ridiculousness…that’s what I call it.   Unnecessary commercialism at the very least.

When a fellow outdoors communicator recently wrote the following piece it left me shaking my head.   Not in disbelief, but rather, in disgust that seemingly everything to the outdoors has to be tied to some product these days.   Here’s what I’m talking about:

7 Upland Essentials for Female Hunters

Honestly, there wasn’t one item in that list that was truly “essential” to being a hunter—whether male or female.   Now, I get it when you can afford to hunt with nice equipment that is a luxury to be thoroughly enjoyed.   Yet, when you create a laundry list of accessories and pawn them off as being critical equipment that is a completely different subject.

To be perfectly clear there is only one piece of equipment necessary to call yourself an uplands hunter and that would be a shotgun.   And technically speaking, even that is not “critical” as many falconers will tell you.

The point is articles like this one, in my opinion, do a big disservice to hunting.   It lists over $900 of equipment that some might perceive to be a barrier to taking up the sport.   Honestly, if your perspective was someone coming into the sport and you read that laundry list it would not inspire you to take up a sport…quite the opposite, it would discourage you.

Hell, if you were taking up the sport of upland bird hunting you could buy all this gear and you would still need to invest in a gun.   Hunting is not about equipment.   Oh, sure, when you have nice equipment it can make it easier and perhaps even inspire confidence for some individuals, but the truth is very little equipment in hunting is necessary.

It is not shameful to hunt upland birds in blue jeans and tennis shoes.   I’ve done it before.   Is it always practical or even most comfortable…no, but that isn’t the point.   A person should enjoy the sport of hunting not for the designer clothing they wear.   Certainly that can come down the road when your pockets are deeper and a hunter has some maturity under their belt.   Yet, to call out certain items as “essential” and promote them as such is just plain wrong.

Maybe I am hung up on the word “essential,” but that was the author’s word not mine.   I think it carries with it a very strong connotation that needs to be carefully considered when describing the outdoors experience.

In summation, outdoors communicators need to choose their words more carefully.   When I read articles like the one in question it conjures up one thing in my mind…and it’s not a very pleasant thing.   What I see is promotionalism that simply doesn’t need to be there.   Providing a list of specific clothing items speaks to me how the author is somehow indebted to those manufacturers and is trying to pay them back for a favor with a mention.   That may or may not be the case in reality, but that is my perception.

I’m certainly not saying it is wrong to like specific clothes or gear and to mention them as having great utility value in an article.   I have done that and will likely do it many more times to come in writing this blog.   What is wrong, however, is framing the entire article in such a manner as to set a high standard that truly is not necessary and then calling it “essential.”   Every hunter who takes to the fields or forest should feel good about what they are doing and not feel inadequate by what they perhaps can’t afford to wear during the experience.

The Role Mice Play In Our Outdoor Lives.

Mice.

Can’t say I love them.   Yet, I don’t have the desperate fear of the existence like some folks I know.   My wife, in particular.

If you enjoy the outdoors the time will eventually come when you must deal with mice.   Granted, they can be a real pain in the ass.   Take, for instance, the mice that invaded an old hunting truck I used to own.   One day I was driving along with the heater blasting to take the chill out of the air.   Suddenly, what once was nice comforting heat transformed to smoke and a truck that was in serious trouble.   I immediately turned the truck off suspecting an electrical problem of some kind.   Nope…just mice that built a nest that started on fire.   Little bastards!!

I’ll never forget a bear hunting trip about 25 years ago with a close friend staying in an old (mostly abandoned) farm house.   The house seen human occupants just a few weeks each year during hunting seasons.   On the other hand, the full-time residents were various vermin ranging from mice to…well, I don’t care to dwell on that.   Suffice it to say sleeping at night was interesting.   You could hear the faint pitter patter of feet across the old linoleum floor all night long.   Even worse, those little rascals had no regard for a person sleeping as they zipped across the bed sheets tickling a person’s torso.

By all accounts this depicts a good day on the mouse trapline.

By all accounts this depicts a good day on the mouse trapline.

Yeah.   Mice are sure fun.   The only good mouse is a dead mouse used for fox bait.   And trying to eradicate them from anywhere can be challenging as any hunt you might take on.   I’ve used snap traps, poison, ultrasonic sound, even pails with spinny pop bottles to teach them a lesson.   To some extent all those methods work, but none of them is the perfect answer.

Particularly frustrating for me is keeping mice out of my boat during winter storage.   I’ve used moth balls, I used packs filled with dried mint leaves.   Nothing is foolproof.   The little rascals get in all my compartments and make a mess.   In my glove box they shred anything that is chewable and seem to have a good time doing it.   Worse yet, they pee and poop on everything.   Once they stake their claim to your property nothing can be deemed clean anymore.

Yet, to many people mice are much more than just an occasional nuisance.   I’ve known women AND MEN who shriek at the mere sight of a mouse running loose.   Somehow their life can be in perfect control one minute, but add a mouse to the picture and all chaos breaks out.

Another one bites the dust!  The days are over for this little bastard getting into mischief.

Another one bites the dust! The days are over for this little bastard getting into mischief.

Case in point, two years ago we went on a family vacation to a resort for some fishing and relaxing for a week.   That goal was achieved until about the 5th  night in when a mouse was witnessed scurrying along a wall.   The next morning when the office opened my wife was complaining how our cabin was overrun with pestilence.   Amazingly, we had existed in the cabin for several days with no sightings…but eventually all good things come to an end.

Yup, and so did the trip.   We were packed and on our way headed back home a day early thanks to a furry little mammal weighing a few ounces.   Indeed, the mere presence of a mouse can profoundly impact many good plans.

So, tell me about your adventures with mice.   Do you have a good story?   How have mice or other rodents impacted your outdoor experiences?   In particular, if you have a funny incident we absolutely must hear about that.

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!