The best lessons are learned out-of-doors
I’ve heard a lot of whining and teeth gnashing during the past 12 months. Not all of it was related to the pandemic. Some was due to the weather. Some was political in nature. Some was even caused by the caustic memes that permeat social media sites. But I didn’t hear anyone crying about the great hunting and fishing that occurred. That is because there is nothing truer than that old saying, “A bad day in the woods or on the water is 100 times better than being stuck indoors.”
Being outdoors is like being in a classroom where all the curriculum is pure enjoyment and the learning is fascinating and compels us to be our best selves. Here are some of the tidbits I learned this year at the School of Outdoors.
I learned that if you have a wheelhouse or a stationary shelter to ice fish out of, bite the bullet and buy an electric auger. It’s wonderful to lose the gasoline fumes that lingers for hours, permeating your clothing and creating a toxic atmosphere.
I learned how to make a livewell on the ice to keep the fish I am going to eat from freezing solid. Just auger some holes side-by-side (but not completely through!) and pop a hole in the middle with a spud. Keep your fish in this until you are ready to take them home to clean them. This makes for an easy cleaning job compared to trying to butcher a frozen fish carcass.
I learned an electric fillet knife takes a little practice, but once mastered it is the only way to clean fish. Cordless electric knives are a dream when you have a load of panfish to clean, and they work like a hot knife on butter when sliding through the rib cage of a big fish.
I learned when conditions change, be prepared to modify your game plan. The smallmouth fishing on Chequamegon Bay in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior is incredible. I’m there fishing for these trophy fish twice a week all summer long. This year the smallies avoided their normal locations. Northern pike have had a couple of good spawns and they are pushing the bass off their usual spots. I modified in two ways. I added a fluorocarbon leader and fished for the pike some days. I also shifted to other prime locations until I found a few that had good numbers of bass. The conditions changed this year compared to past years, and I had to change, too.
I learned that a well-trained dog is worth every second that went into making them the ultimate hunting machine. I was almost brought to tears this year hunting over a dog that was poorly educated. It would seem that yelling at a dog will guarantee birds flushing out of range, a very confused animal and very frustrated hunters. If the dog isn’t capable of performing to a high standard, leave it home.
There were plenty more lessons learned in 2021. These are but a few. I am confident the year 2022 will be another great year with new lessons, as long as I stay outdoors.