It has been a good year for those of us who partake in all the outdoors has to offer.
And not just because Dick Cheney didnít shoot anybody ó that we know of.
With that in mind, here are 10 things hunting and fishing seasons reaffirmed in my mind this year:
Alaska remains too big and grand to put into words: The Last Frontier has long been a mecca for hunters and anglers looking to chalk up some big memories ó and bigger game ó but until you actually see it, you canít quantify the scale of things in the north country. The hunting opportunities are spectacular, but the fishing in the summer is in a league of its own. Whether your pleasure is dapping a fly in the riffles for salmon and trout or cranking up a chunky halibut or tasty rockfish from 300 feet below, hitting the water that time of year is well worth the time and expense.
Turkey hunting and goose hunting can be a lot of work: When it comes to turkeys, the birds are relatively easy to locate and pattern. But thatís not to say a mature tom wonít defy logic at every turn almost as if he planned it that way and is toying with you. Seasoned turkey chasers will tell you having a plan for intercepting an old bird is great ó until the turkey throws it back in your face by sneaking out the opposite direction. For geese, pulling the trigger is the easy part. Toiling over decoys is another story, especially on frigid early mornings when your fingers donít want to cooperate. However, it sure beats glossing over reruns on TV.
Sandhill cranes are the most impressive things with wings: A mature sandhill cuts a wide swath through the air with up to a seven-foot wingspan, and when a flock of the birds decides to come swooping into your decoy spread, thereís no experience like it in the world. The distinct cackle of the birds also is something to behold, especially when theyíre thousands of feet in the air and you can still hear them as if they were right on top of you.
Rain always comes at the most inopportune time when youíre hunting or fishing: Itís not that getting a little wet on an outdoor excursion is that big a deal. It just makes for tougher sledding. Attempting to tie a fly or another fishing lure onto your line with slick hands can be somewhat irritating. So can putting the sneak on a turkey or any other quarry while trekking through a half-foot of mud. Then again, the challenging outings make the ones that come together easily all the more worthwhile.
Lightning is impressive, just not when youíre on the water with a graphite fishing rod in your hands: As the old saying goes, "Where thereís smoke, thereís fire." The same could be said for thunder and lightning. Iíve heard stories of anglers flipping out a plug and their line hanging in the air due to the surrounding static charge in a lightning storm. Iíve also heard of fishing rods starting to sizzle in a fishermanís hands. Yes I was on the water a couple of times this year when Mother Nature put on a show, but Iíd rather keep lightning stories in the third-person, so my rod and I ended up as low as possible in the bottom of the boat for a while.
When you live in the Panhandle you get used to driving a little ó or a lot ó to get places: Texans, especially those living at the top of the state, have never been shy about adding to the odometer. When I was younger, a two-hour drive was a draining experience. Now, a half-day trip to a great fishing hole or hunting spot is well worth the expensive go-juice.
There are some great leaders in our state who are helping educate youngsters about the importance of conservation and other wildlife issues: People like Dr. Dale Rollins of the Texas Cooperative Extension, who founded the Bobwhite Brigade, and others involved with state wildlife resources are doing some great things when it comes to educating future generations about the roles they will play in conservation and habitat improvement, among other things. There are not enough good things to say about people like Rollins and others who arenít after glory, but who so deserve it.
Nothing smells quite as sweet as a sunflower field in September: Thereís not much you have to say about this one. Itís like potpourri for the soul. Having plenty of doves zipping around is just a bonus.
The white-tailed deer has the keenest senses: This is kind of a no-brainer, but these rascals continually find new ways to bust you in any kind of setting. They are at the top of their game, and thatís what makes it so fun to spend time in the woods in the fall.
We live in the best state for any outdoor activity: From hunting and fishing to hiking and biking ó and everything in between ó Texas boasts an impressive amount of things to do outdoors. The best way to ensure it stays that way is to share all the outdoors has to offer with a youngster. Showing a youth that thereís more to the world than computers, video games and TV will forge a bond that will last a lifetime. You might also be helping a future leader who could pass it on to another generation.
See you next year.
Will Leschper is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Texas Outdoor Writers Association. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.