Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Outdoorsman's Conumdrum

I like to think of myself as an outdoorsman.  I have always considered myself to be an outdoor type of person, especially since I grew up on a farm.  As a kid we only had 4 television channels, and those only got reception occasionally.  At a young age my dad introduced me to fishing, then a little later to hunting.  He taught my brother and I how to take care of the land or water, and it will provide for you.  We cared for the farm and the animals that lived on it, and we always picked up trash alongside the lake while fishing.  We were just doing our part to try and keep things as natural as possible, and protect the resources we enjoyed.  In my mid to late teens I discovered fly fishing and fly tying, and it quickly consumed all of my attention I had previously devoted to other outdoor hobbies.  I found myself falling into the dilemma that is so common today, I enjoyed one hobby more than the others and thought I would not succeed at that one hobby if my attention was divided among multiple others.  I actually carried this philosophy along for easily 10 years.  As all of my hunting and high end bass fishing gear lay around collecting dust, I focused 100% of my attention on fly fishing - primarily for trout.

A good percentage of time fly fishing was spent in Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP), where I chased wild brook, rainbow, and brown trout.  This also allowed me to soak in the beautiful scenery and enjoy catching fish simultaneously.  As I continued to explore fishing in GSMNP, I learned that the fishing seemed to be easier the farther one separated himself from civilization.  So, as a result I began to gain interest in hiking and backpacking.  It was inevitable, because many trips required a 4+ mile hike one way to prime fishing areas, and this hike was made easier by implementing the most recent innovations and gear used in the hiking community.  Eventually, this lead to me developing relationships with other people who enjoy hiking, and some of those also enjoyed fishing.  Occasionally, I would have a hiking buddy come along with me, and then they would just hang out at our destination while I fished for a couple hours before making the return hike to the car.  This past year I actually expanded my fishing routine into overnight fishing trips in the back-country where I once again utilized technology and gear developed for the backpacking crowd.  My gear and clothing selection seemed to now include as much Patagonia and Mountain Hardwear as it did Orvis and Fishpond.  Not a bad thing, as I do consider myself a gear junkie and these items were quite flexible.

Somewhere along the way I re-discovered my passion for hunting.  Not just deer hunting, but turkey hunting as well.  Additionally, I am now making plans for a future antelope hunt out west.  Unfortunately, all of my clothes were too small after sitting in storage for 10 years, so I had to restock my entire wardrobe.  This is the point where things began to start getting a little strange for me, and I noticed a significant division in the mentality of "Sportsmen".  I figured I would re-purpose some of my Patagonia and Mtn Hardwear clothing into my hunting wardrobe.  As, most of the high performance hunting clothing was quite expensive.  Especially considering I buy all of my clothing during end of year clearance sales for 50% off....  I found myself in a local hiking store one day looking at some items to purchase, and mentioned that the item I was looking at would work wonderfully for my fishing trips to GSMNP as it was breathable enough to hike in but also warm once I arrived.  The salesperson agreed with me.  However, next I mentioned that I could also use if for late season deer hunting, and you would have thought I had just strangled the person's puppy.  A look of shock and disgust came across his face.  He basically nodded his head, and excused himself to help somebody else.  I found it quite odd, but continued to browse through the store.  Later that night, I did a search of websites looking for reviews of the particular item I was searching for, and discovered that somebody else was being ridiculed on a hiking blog for mentioning hunting.  This peaked my interest, so my search then changed from a product review to something entirely different.

I discovered after reviewing various websites consisting of outdoor forums, backpacking forums, and hunting forums that there is vast discrepancy in philosophy and perception among outdoor groups.  I learned that hunters generally consider hikers and backpackers to be tree hugging, overly-sensitive, yuppies who want nothing more than to protect everything.  Conversely, hikers and backpackers view hunters as redneck trophy hunters who only want to kill an animal and stick the head on their wall.  Not only that, but they seemed to have moral objections to wearing clothing that is geared toward the other side of the divide.  For example, hunters for the most part disliked eco-friendly high performance clothing, and backpackers would rather go naked than to sport apparel from a company like Under Armour who has an extensive hunting line and minimal green practices.

I like to think of myself as an outdoors-man, because of all the activities I previously mentioned.  In my discussions with non-hunters I have learned that most are passionate about the land and animals that they like to enjoy in nature, but unfortunately most are uneducated about the role hunters play in animal population control.  Hunters are conservationists by nature (A tiny subset are just blood thirsty or trophy hunters), as it would defeat the purpose if we eliminated the population in a localized area.  Once I take the time to explain to non-hunters how I utilize almost all parts of the deer they begin to understand.  I eat all of the meat that I can possibly salvage (we even eat the heart and liver) and I use hair from various areas to tie flies with. My family can go all year on about 100 lbs of deer meat, so once I get that much meat I stop killing deer.  Regardless of when during deer season that is.

Unfortunately, I feel that in today's society groups are more divided than ever, and it carries through in so many areas of our lives.  Why can't I (or you) cross these self imposed boundaries and be an all around outdoorsman?  I have friends who insist that I cannot do all of this, as it is too complicated.  I enjoy camping and backpacking even if I am not on a fishing or hunting trip, and I am trying to teach my son how to enjoy nature these same ways while also protecting it for the future.  Now, don't misinterpret what I am saying.  I enjoy the outdoors and practice time proven practices, I am not advocating animal rights nor am I an environmentalist with a skewed view on US energy policies.  I just find it strange that it seems like these divisions seems to be growing increasingly larger every year.  Take a look around next time you are in your local sporting goods store, and see if you notice what I am talking about.  Remember though that next time you meet somebody who has a different viewpoint than you, take the time to talk to them about how and why you do what you do.  I think that we all will realize that we have a lot more in common that we think, and much of this divide has been created by media and industry to fuel emotions and drive market shares upward.  This is my opinion, and I may be way off course here, although I have a feeling there are quite a few others out there who see things the same way I do...

Click the link below for another story along these same lines...

Until next time, tight lines and God bless!


Bill Trussell said...

What a great story, this piece reminded me of some of past fishing and hunting experiences I had when I was younger.
My only regret as far as the fishing is concerned is not doing more of the fly fishing was I was younger. That is my passion today and will be the rest of my fishing days. There are many more trips left in your fishing and hunting days so enjoy all of them, especially the fly fishing. Thanks for sharing a great adventure in your life.

David Knapp said...

I enjoyed reading this one Travis! I've been fishing for years in "regular" clothes instead of fancy Simms (or other fly fishing brand) clothing. As I read, it occurred to me that you should tell me where you were shopping so I can go in there in camo to ask where the hunting section is. Mostly for my own entertainment...haha.

Seriously though, I wish more people understood the ramifications of "hunting" versus "no hunting." I do not hunt, but am glad someone is willing to because, unless we want to reintroduce all natural predators, nature will be severely out of balance without hunting.

Glad you took the time to address this issue. Out of curiosity, did you ever tell the manager of the business your experience? Someone who is a bit less discerning than yourself would have just thought they were rude and left it at that. At least you understand a bit of the background even if you don't agree with it...

19" Clinch River Brown