To the average person, an avid outdoorsman may seem a little…off. Crazy, even. We spend an inordinate amount of time up a tree during deer season, and wake up at absurd hours to chase our scaly friends practically year round. To those who don’t partake in outdoor sports like hunting and fishing, the things we do may indeed seem insane.
But what about to the outdoorsman himself?
I asked myself this question last week while hunting a dim game trail, so old that a team of paleontologists were beginning to show interest in it. I brushed away a few million mosquitoes, sat back in my climber, and asked myself: “Am I crazy?”
Becoming an avid outdoorsman starts off innocently enough. As a child, or even later as an adult, one goes fishing or hunting for the first time. The experiences had are good enough that before you know it, you now own your own deer rifle and conventional tackle.
And for many people, this is where the progression stops. The outdoors remains something special. Something to enjoy every once in a while. A time for self reflection. Appreciation. Or even just a chance to get away from the busy troubles of life. But for some, just dipping their toes into the outdoors isn’t enough. It’s a slippery slope, and the transformation over to the dark side happens without one realizing it.
That’s right. The next thing you know, you’re holding a bow or fly rod in your hand. You don’t really know how it happened, but it did. And for some bizarre reason, you only wish to use these tools in the pursuit of game.
I can vividly remember as a child watching my dad fly fishing and thinking to myself: Why would anyone want to do that? It looks a lot like work. Plus, I actually like catching fish. But as I got older, all that “work” started to look like “fun” and it wasn’t long before I was right there next to my dad, double hauling for all I was worth.
Every outdoorsman changes as they spend more and more time chasing their quarry. And it’s not necessarily the known changes that are often mapped out in an outdoorsman’s life (the shooting stage, the limiting out stage, the trophy stage, etc.) Rather, it’s little ones that have a major impact on the outdoorsman. Changes in the obsesssion, if you will. There have been periods of time where the -only- thing I wanted to do in the outdoors was snatch mullet with treble hooks. Everything else dimmed in comparison. But after a while, my obsession cooled, and I went back to other activities.
I didn’t realize it until this year, but it is actually possible to get burned out on a particular outdoor activity. Even for the seasoned outdoorsman, too much can become…well…too much. And it’s in moments like these that one must take a step back, and do something a little different for a bit. This realization came to me right after I asked my question, “Am I crazy?”
Some quick math can spell out my last year as an outdoorsman. I picked up my bow for archery season at the end of last September. I continued to hunt October, November, and December. I took a break in January, and then started my field job in February. To sum up my field work, I darted deer with a tranquilizer gun that has a max range of 30 yards. So essentially, I bow hunted for work. We darted from February through June. So looking back, I pretty much hunted for 7 and 1/2 months during the past year. And from Feb-June, I wasn’t just hunting weekends. My shift consisted of sitting up a tree for 6-8 hours. Every. Single. Day. And to be perfectly honest, I got spoiled seeing all the deer on private land in southern Georgia. Central Florida public land just can’t hold a candle to it.
So while sitting in a crooked pine tree on Lochloosa WMA, slowly bleeding to death from mosquitoes, and not seeing or hearing the first sign of deer, I realized that I’m not ready to be up a tree right now. I need to take a step back and do something else for a bit.
Being alone in the outdoors can be a great time for self reflection. It is, believe it or not, good for the mind. Healing, even. But one can have too much of a good thing. They say that if you talk to yourself, you aren’t crazy. You’re only crazy if you start answering yourself.
But what about the deer hunter who talks to himself, and then whispers back the answer so he doesn’t spook deer?
Am I done with deer hunting? Absolutely, 150% not. I love to hunt. Hell, it’s practically my job. I know that in another month’s time, I’ll be itching to get back into the woods. But for the time being I’ll take a break, do some fishing, and do my best to enjoy myself in the outdoors.
Regardless of the methodology, the time of year, or the quarry, hunting and fishing is an outdoorsman’s passion. Those who are avid about it truly love what they do. Some things may seem crazy to others, but are perfectly justifiable to the avid hunter or fisherman. Reasons aside, any outdoorsman does the things he does because at the end of the day, he enjoys it. There may be speed bumps along an outdoorsman’s hunting/fishing career, but nothing will ever really deter him for good. It’s his obsession. His passion. It makes him feel happy, accomplished, rejuvenated. So when you think about it…
Is it really that crazy?