It offends me that many people think of outdoor types as slovenly, lazy louts, especially considering the time and effort some hunters and fishermen exert in pursuit of a quarry. Contrary to common belief, sportspeople often go to great lengths to accomplish a worthwhile goal.
There was a man I knew, for instance, who hunted one particular trophy-class whitetail buck for an entire season. This hunter scouted the big deer for weeks prior to opening day, patterned his movements and knew by heart all his daily comings and goings through his hardwood bottomland territory. The fellow was a superb woodsman, skilled and determined.
Even so, hunt after hunt, the hunter's trophy eluded him. No matter what he did, the deer always gave him the slip. The contest was tantalizingly and agonizingly close at times, but the results were always the same. No chance arose to take a shot at the big buck he so badly wanted to harvest.
Still, the man kept trying and kept adapting, finally determining his trouble lay in how he was entering and exiting his hunting grounds. The buck, he figured, had him patterned as well. This was no 1 -year-old four-pointer, and he hadn't become a trophy by being stupid.
So the hunter changed his tactics. He began arising an hour earlier to slip via canoe up a small creek which ran near his deer stand. Rain or shine, freezing cold, no matter the weather, my friend stuck to this new plan, difficulty and hardship notwithstanding.
Just three days before season's end it all came together. The dream buck fell to a well-placed .270 bullet and the man proudly floated his trophy downstream and home.
If that's lazy, I'm Ernest Hemingway.
Then there was the lady fly fisherman I observed on a north Georgia trophy-only trout stream, another admirable outdoorsperson with determined perseverance and no dread of hard work.
I watched from a secluded vantage point on the opposite bank as she spied a monstrous brown trout lurking beneath a rock outcrop in a deep, dark pool. Knowing this wary fish had no doubt been caught, released and cast at innumerable times, she had come prepared.
First, the woman removed a camouflage coverall from her day pack and put it on over her jeans and khaki shirt. Next, she pieced together her fly rod and carefully studied the contents of her fly box. Making her choice, she tied on her preferred offering and slowly moved away from the creek in a wide semicircle until she was in position to double back and approach the pool with the sun in her face. This to avoid spooking the fish by casting her shadow over the water. Finally, she slipped a mesh-net camo hood over her face, dropped prone, and crawled on her belly into casting range.
All this took roughly half an hour, after which she painstakingly fished the pool for about 15 minutes before resignedly giving up and moving on. The big trout never rose, not once. Despite that, I was left with the distinct impression she would return later to try again. I'm also convinced she caught and released that fish before season's end. At least I like to think so.
I'm sincerely inspired by such sights and stories. These brother and sister sportsmen make me proud to have logged so many hours and miles in the great outdoors. I'm also honored to chronicle their dedicated exploits for the benefit of the misinformed, who have obviously been watching outdoorsmen like me rather than the intrepid sportsmen they should be observing.
Me? I'm likely to decide to go deer hunting on the spur of the moment, shoot a nice fat doe from the edge of an easily accessed rye field, and drive home dreading the prospect of skinning and gutting. I'm also quite content to wade noisily up or down a trout stream, in my lime green "Nobody Believes I'm Elvis" T-shirt, catching five or six not-so-smart hatchery-bred rainbows. After both events, I'm apt to kick off my shoes, have a drink, loosen my belt and fall sound asleep on the sofa.
Hey, I never said there aren't a few slovenly, lazy louts among us.
Y'all just need to pay closer attention to the folks we're giving a bad name.