Weather Forecast


Inside the Outdoors: Give thanks!

My son, a senior in college, communicates with his family more by text message than any other way. We occasionally do talk “live” on the telephone, but the favored means of communicating for his generation (besides Facebook) is by text message. Young people would rather not interrupt what they’re doing to take a phone call (especially from a parent!), whereas text messaging allows them to stay in touch on their own time schedule, and possibly keep the “conversation” brief and to the point (especially with a parent!).

A person can also send photos, taken with their cell phone or iPhone, just as you would a text message. This weekend I received a photo attached to one of his text messages. He and his three roommates and their friends were throwing their own Thanksgiving celebration, since each would be going his or her own way during their holiday break. The photo he attached to his text message showed the boys’ living room. Across the top of the room divider was a large banner that read “Give Thanks.”

Apart from my surprise that four 21-year-old males appeared to have taken a page from Martha Stewart Living, and the evidence that our family’s traditions had made an impression, I myself was reminded that there ought to be a bit more to the Thanksgiving holiday than football, a great meal, and the start of the Christmas shopping season.

Most of us, no matter how rocky our road is, have something to be thankful for. Since this is a column about the outdoors, I’ll start with a “for instance” from my own outdoor year. Maybe it will jog your memory and help you recall reasons to hang a banner, figuratively more than literally, expressing your own version of “Give Thanks.”

For starters, the 2012 duck season has been special for me in one very unexpected way. My son had always been too busy with sports and friends to take much interest in hunting during the years from middle school through high school, even though he did participate in firearms training. Seemingly “out of the blue,” this fall when he was returning to school, he let it be known that he would like to accompany me duck hunting.

I don’t remember having as many “breaks” during the academic year as my son has, but was glad to have him home briefly during the third week of October. We chose a date, and traveled to one of my favorite duck hunting locations, a place where through the years I’ve made many fond memories; some with, some without, an abundance of ducks.

We didn’t make a substantial dent in the duck population that day, but we saw many ducks, which I’ve learned is more fun than seeing very few, but killing more. In this fourth week of the season, many of the birds seemed decoy shy and reluctant to come in close enough for high percentage shots. To his credit, Alex was careful to limit his shooting to birds at reasonable distances, rather than blasting away at every chance he got, to make up for so much lost time.

His eagerness to absorb the “how,” the “why” and the “wherefore” of duck hunting was both gratifying and bittersweet. It was gratifying to see him so quickly take to a sport that I care so deeply about; bittersweet to think of the years and opportunities that were irretrievably in the past. Hopefully we will have many future opportunities to share a duck boat and watch the bobbing decoys together in the future. As they say, “better late than never.”

I’ll bet that if you examine the seasons of your own outdoor year, you will find some “give thanks” moments. Maybe there were some special fishing successes, a “career best” day in fish size, or numbers, or a baffling fishing mystery you were able to solve. Maybe you taught someone to fish, sowing the seeds for a lifetime of reward.

In a year when all indications are showing a decline in the ruffed grouse population, maybe you and your hunting partner discovered some places where the birds hadn’t heard about the downward population trend, and you beat the odds with higher flush rates, or birds in the bag.

Maybe you added several species of birds to your life list, began training a new puppy to be a member of your family and a companion in the hunt, learned to make your own fishing lures, or discovered the practical benefits and just plain fun of target shooting.

Or, maybe the biggest reward was not success in the field or on the water. Perhaps you took the leap and got involved in a conservation organization, like Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Muskies Inc., the Izaak Walton League, or The Nature Conservancy. “Giving back” is what it’s called, and it has rewards that last far beyond the filling of a live well, or the baking of a wild duck or goose.

I’ll bet that very few of us have not had outdoor moments that we can be thankful for, in addition to events in other dimensions of our lives that are also deserving of our gratitude. Give thanks!