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Inside the Outdoors: Time for some New Year’s outdoors resolutions

Despite good intentions—some resolutions will fall by the wayside. But coming up short on a resolution doesn’t mean that making it is meaningless.

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One of our more familiar cultural traditions is the annual ritual of the New Year’s resolution. We resolve to make life changes and improvements, to pursue new or revisited goals. Most of us have aspects of our lives that we might like to be more satisfied with. Some of the resolutions will be humdrum, others ambitious or grand.

Despite good intentions—some resolutions will fall by the wayside. But coming up short on a resolution doesn’t mean that making it is meaningless. Optimism and hopefulness—dreams—go a long way toward making life’s obstacles and setbacks more tolerable. And all the better if what we hope for and aspire to actually comes true. As we’re often told by psychologists and self-help gurus, things we desire are more likely to happen if we consciously focus on them, visualize them and find ways to remind ourselves from time to time.

As the last few days of December trickle through the hourglass of 2021, I’ve been looking ahead to the coming year and reflecting on some hopes and goals. A few may be beyond my control, and could be thwarted by events or priorities I can’t foresee. Others are mostly a matter of discipline and follow-through.

With this in mind, here are several resolutions that I hope to keep in the year ahead.

I’ve been pretty much on the sidelines in recent years when it comes to active involvement in the conservation organizations that directly connect to my most avid outdoor interests. In years long past I was a member of fundraising committees for the Minnesota Waterfowl Association and the Ruffed Grouse Society, contributed “grunt” labor doing trout stream improvement, helped with skills clinics with Trout Unlimited, and was a local chapter officer for several of these groups.


But for too many years now I’ve rested on my laurels—rested on my wallet, you might say—paying membership dues in several organizations, but doing little more than that. At a time when hunters and anglers are a declining share of our population, and some—duck hunters, for example—are dropping dramatically in raw numbers, I know I could do more.

Things like raising my hand—clicking “reply” on that e-mail—when volunteers are being recruited to help with an event at my trap and skeet club. Or contacting a local or regional chapter of Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Trout Unlimited or the Lake Superior Steelhead Association, and asking “What can I do to help?” Or contacting the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to see if there is a mentoring opportunity in their hunter recruitment programs. It’s true that I may have been putting my money where my mouth is. But maybe it’s time to get back to putting muscle—in the form of time and energy—into such conservation opportunities.

Some of the other things I’m resolving to pursue may be more self-centered. But there’s nothing wrong with becoming better at the things you enjoy doing, and being more contented or happier as a result. Joy and reward should not be bad words, as long as that’s not all we’re preoccupied with, and it doesn’t come at the expense of others.

One is to get involved in a new dimension of fishing. It may seem like sacrilege—grounds for excommunication from the society of anglers—to admit that after all these decades of pursuing fish and game I’m a tenderfoot when it comes to ice fishing. I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve sat on a bucket or a stool inside a “shack” staring at a hole in the ice, or peering into a luminous rectangle of light—spear in hand, watching a wooden decoy swim in lazy arcs below—in a dark house.

But with ice covering our lakes for four to five months every winter, and having so many opportunities almost anywhere within the state, how can I call myself a Minnesotan if I don’t at least give this virus that infects so many a chance to infect me? My new toboggan is ready to be loaded with the new pop-up shelter, an auger, portable heater, rods and what-have-you. This will be the winter!

For others—during the open water months—a worthy resolution might be to try fishing for one or more species that in the past they have neglected. For someone who has been exclusively a lake angler, consider spending time on a river for smallmouth or muskies, on a smaller stream for resident trout, or a Lake Superior tributary for steelhead. In my case, I’ve long been almost entirely a stream fisherman, so the reverse would be true for me. There’s probably a new fishing frontier waiting for all of us.

As avidly as I have hunted grouse and ducks for more than a half century, I’ve been anything but religious when it comes to the kind of shooting that keeps a hunter capable from one year to the next, or that improves his shooting skill. I do belong to a sportsman’s club that offers the clay target games of trap, skeet and five-stand. I’ve also shot several rounds of sporting clays, a game that presents clay targets in natural field and forest settings, and a wide range of angles and degrees of difficulty. But I haven’t been dedicated enough to do it regularly, and my shooting during the hunting season often shows it.

From where I stand, one is never too old—physical condition permitting—to mend their ways and become more capable in the shooting aspects of the hunt. Not to mention the enjoyment of spending time with fellow shooters and hunters who share these passions. And, like so many other pursuits in the outdoors, it’s a recreation that is well-suited to a time when there is so much uncertainty caused by the pandemic from which we’re struggling to emerge.


Go ahead. Make some resolutions of your own, outdoors or otherwise. We might all be surprised at what we can accomplish and learn by having a New Year’s worth of resolve.

Mike Rahn - Inside the Outdoors.jpg
Mike Rahn, columnist

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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