What Deer Hunting And Coffee Drinking Both Have In Common

I just had a terrible cup of coffee.   At Christmas I received one of those single-brew coffee makers and it came with a variety pack of different coffees in an attempt to find just the right blend a person would want to purchase more of.

Well, sorry Starbucks fans…but that coffee sucks.   It’s bitter, leaves a bad aftertaste, it’s just not what my java-drinking palate yearns for, I guess.

I’m more a traditional coffee drinker…I like it hot and black.   Nothing added.   Just the pure taste of the roasted coffee beans and the aromatic magic it creates for all the senses.

Yet, I completely understand we all drink coffee in our own way.   Those who go to Starbucks are accustomed to somehow enhancing the flavor and making it more, shall we say, “personal.”   Take one Starbucks gourmet blend of your choosing then add a little cream, a little sugar…hell, for that matter add whatever pleases you to make the liquid your daily morning ambrosia.   It is your choice so do what makes you happy.   After all, you paid $4–5 for the experience get the most out of it.

As you can tell my personal tastes for coffee are not worthy of any fancy experience.   Oh, I’m glad there is Starbucks, Caribou Coffee, and all the other chain java stores willing to cater to the crowd who likes that sort of thing, but it’s not for me.   I’m totally happy with a different sort of coffee drinking experience.

This brings me to deer hunting.   You might ask, what does deer hunting have to do with drinking coffee?   Perhaps nothing in the literal sense, but certainly plenty in the figurative relationship.

You see, I also like my deer hunting simple without all the frills.   I don’t fret about finding this way or that way to constantly improve the experience.   Nope, I just like to enjoy the basic deer hunt experience without fancy additives.   Sort of like my coffee.   I want to consume the deer hunting experience much the same way I have always enjoyed it.   Not looking for creative new ways to improve it no matter what the motivation is behind the action.   That’s not my cup of…well, in this instance, coffee.

But that’s not how a growing number of deer hunters seem to operate.   They seem restless.   Always skeptical of their state’s game managers and the plans they have set forth for population managing the herds.   These folks have purchased their deer license and by god it’s time now to manipulate the experience in the manner best suiting their individual hunting tastes.

I call them Starbucks deer hunters.   Indeed, with that license purchase gives them the right to add a little antler point restriction, suppress methods and equipment use they don’t favor, essentially create the outdoor experience they want while all other deer hunters be damned.   This is their license and the deer resource should be enjoyed the way they choose to concoct it.

This is what troubles me about what hunting (and enjoying the outdoors in general) has become.   Lots of selfishness pushed by fringe interest groups.   Sometimes it’s done because folks think they know what is better for everyone else.   Other times it’s because they have a belief their hunting management style would be better suited to achieve personal goals and that is really all that matters.   They take this àla carte approach to deer hunting management much as they do the coffee they drink at upscale establishments.   They fine tune the taste so only they think it’s palatable, and in the process not really caring what others may think.

Seemingly gone are the days where our society all drinks out of the same coffee urn and is subsequently pleased with the product being consumed.   Today, we have become a divisive group of selfish wildlife consumers many of whom demand things be served up “their specific way” because that is what happens to appeal to them.

You may think how making a coffee and deer comparison is a rather silly approach to this topic.   Perhaps so.   Yet, I contend the analogy only serves to underscore how it’s still possible for all to enjoy the same product (deer hunting) without getting so hung up on the many various options available (restrictions, laws, regs, etc.) one might think is necessary to make it a more enjoyable experience.

As deer hunting and population management goes it should not become some trendy “flavor of the day” offering only to suit a rather small segment of the deer hunting tastes.

Oh yes, I get it when one walks around carrying a Starbucks logoed cup or carrying a fancy Mathews bow in hand this says a lot about the person.   Just realize my personal tastes for what you covet as important might be completely different and should not be shortchanged.   Not all deer hunters favor the latest trendy brand of deer management many folks want served up, nor should we be forced to drink it.

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.

Looking Back 25 Years At The SHOT Show

Last Thursday when I walked out of the SHOT Show Press Room and hoofed it back to my hotel room it ended an era for me.   I had now attended 25 SHOT Shows during the past 27 years and I determined it was time to move on.

Oh, sure,  don’t count me out that maybe in another 5 years or so I might stop back for a glimpse to see how the industry is evolving, but for the time being I’m moving on to some other opportunities in life that are not SHOT Show focused—at least on an annual basis.

Indeed, next year while many of my outdoors cohorts will reassemble in Vegas to keep alive the vibrant SHOT traditions, I will be spending my time in Orlando at an entirely different trade show—the PGA Golf Merchandise Show.   Oh, I’ve been to this show a couple times before, too, but it’s time to break out of my usual routine.

While the guns have always been a big attraction for me at SHOT, the people I've met have been even more important.

While the guns have always been a big attraction for me at SHOT, the people I’ve met have been even more important.

Yet, as I reflect back on SHOT over the years I have so many fond recollections.   Memories of products I first viewed at SHOT before they hit the market and became big sellers.   Memories of outdoor icons walking the aisles just like normal folks.   Memories of endless aisles and exhibitor booths that would honestly take a full four days of walking in an attempt to see it all.   Those are but a few of the constants to be experienced at SHOT.

But change happens.

I remember the days of SHOT when the entire hunting community was under one, single roof.   This was before the archery community found it necessary to fracture off and create their own, independent trade show now known as the ATA Show.   I don’t blame them.   As I recall their booths were rather scattered around on the SHOT Show floor.   If you came with the sole interest in archery you had to walk by a lot of guns and accessories to get from archery booth to the next archery booth.   I believe it was at this time SHOT recognized how grouping like items such as guns, clothing, outdoor products, etc. was a worthwhile undertaking for the floor layout.

Lots of firearms industry business occurs at SHOT during its four day run.

Lots of firearms industry business occurs at SHOT during its annual four day run.

So, yes, unless you are a bit long in the tooth you may not remember SHOT for also being heavily archery.   Yet, it most certainly was back in its day 15+ years ago.

I remember a day when the so-called black guns and related products were banned from the show.   Not sure if this was an official SHOT stance or not, but the word was made pretty clear how these were not a welcome sight.   I believe what essentially happened was after the archery factions departure from SHOT it created a vacuum for a new category of goods which has now fully evolved into the Law Enforcement Section.

Try to imagine a SHOT Show today with no Modern Sporting Rifles on display.   Indeed, 20+ years ago they did not enjoy the same widespread acceptance within the hunting community as they do today.   People’s attitudes change.   Obviously, SHOT has grown much more tolerant of changing buyer attitudes, as well.

Yes, I even remember a year when the folks at SHOT decided to wet their line, so to speak, in the fishing market.   Imagine that.   Buyers could drool for days over guns, but then before traveling home they could also purchase their sporting store’s fishing essentials.   The fishing show didn’t succeed.   I believe it was only attempted one year, but kudos to the NSSF for trying new things.

Even though SHOT is about business, it's the fun times AFTER HOURS where friendships are celebrated and cherished.

Even though SHOT is about business, it’s the fun times AFTER HOURS where friendships are celebrated and cherished often lasting a lifetime.

Another big change I have noticed is how product manufacturers interact with outdoors writers.   There was a time when you could walk down the aisles of the show with media credentials and the booth staff would try to lure you in for a product pitch and perhaps a sample or two.   Wow…has that changed.   Case in point.   This year I walked up to the Havalon Knife booth asking if they had any product samples for sale.   My intent was to purchase one of their new innovative knives with a replaceable blade for a potential product review and to establish a contact person direct with the company.   Instead, the booth attendant looked at my media badge and sternly informed me how they are here [at SHOT] only to sell to “stocking dealers.”   Really?   Not only did they lose a potential customer, but they lost out on an opportunity for me to write anything positive about their company.

Over time these sort of changes are inevitable.   During the course of 25 years you see lots of good and occasionally some bad.   It happens.   Part of the growing process.   And over this time SHOT has never stopped growing.   Oh, sure, some of SHOT’s new rules don’t particularly thrill me when they change the way I have enjoyed SHOT for so many years, but I understand why they are necessary.   Nothing stays the same even as much as you would like it to.

More than anything SHOT has been a wonderful reason to make personal connections.   New friends, old friends…you can never be quite sure how attending SHOT will ultimately enhance your life until you experience it.   While many folks may focus on the new and innovative products to be seen, for me the networking and the people who attend SHOT has always been of great importance.

For sure, over the past 25 years I might forget some new product I first experienced back in 1998, but I won’t forget the character I briefly met on the elevator heading towards SHOT who taught me one of the most fundamental marketing principles I still use to this day.   You just have to be there to experience it.   I will miss those people next year.   Thus, I will also miss SHOT…but it’s time to move on.