I know a hunter/fisherman who always kept his hunting and fishing equipment neatly placed in his garage, everything with a clear order, all pristine and ready for use. I was impressed by this and was amazed that he was able to keep things that neat. It never mattered what time of year it was, it was always perfectly sorted and ready to go. After knowing this fella for some time I realized that most of the enjoyment he derived from hunting and fishing was the constant fussing over his stuff. He actually rarely went hunting or fishing.
Being that spring is upon us, it’s time to prepare for the next phase of hunting or fishing activity. For the rest of us this means sorting through the various piles of equipment we have dumped in a corner in our haste to get on with the next outdoor activity. And the truth is, at least for most of the hunters and fishermen I know, the getting ready part is as much a part of the activity as the actual doing of it. We fondly refer to the strewn mess as our “stuff.” We spend hours paging through the various outdoor equipment catalogs and it seems inevitable to order more stuff we probably don’t need. I’ve lost count of the number of times I order something and then later in the year find another identical item that I bought the year before.
In any event, as I start to prepare for the fishing season to come, I marvel at the tangle of gear I have to sort out. Every April, which is about the only month that allows some time away from hunting or fishing, I plan to arrange my tackle and keep it neat and orderly throughout the season. And I always start out great, separating gear in various tackle boxes destined for trout, grayling, salmon, halibut and rockfish. Inevitably as I go through the various piles I talk myself into running down to a local tackle shop for more tackle boxes so “this year” I’ll really keep things organized. I don’t know how many tackle boxes I have. I do know that if I have to look for something in all of them it takes more than one pot of coffee. I expect in my lifetime of fishing I have probably owned several hundred different receptacles for tackle. By now I recognize that there is never going to be a perfect system for the likes of me. No amount of compartments or trays or the like is going to change the fact that when I’m fishing, things go awry and end up a tangled mess. I really don’t know how the gear I have segregated at the start of the season strictly for bait ends up in the “no bait” tackle box… but it does. I don’t know why my grayling flies end up in the tackle box that is supposedly dedicated to halibut fishing… but they do. It is no small wonder I get odd looks from my fishing partner when she asks where the fly line dressing is and I respond, “Check the bait box.”
Hunting is no different. Preparation for each type of hunting is the same as with fishing gear except the pieces aren’t so small and they are a bit easier to find. Backpacks and daypacks are sorted out and prepped for their respective uses and of course, I routinely find items that I’ve already ordered to replace what I thought were lost. I have the best intentions for marking the receptacles that store the hand-loaded ammunition I create for specific tasks. Turns out, best intentions don’t really count unless you actually follow through with them. So I load some more and put the ones I didn’t mark in the “practice” bucket. My “practice” bucket has grown to a 50-quart cooler and the older I get the more I wonder when I’ll ever actually find time to shoot the contents.
Of course, there is camping gear to sort out. How my backpacking stove ended up in my ice-fishing tote is beyond me but that’s where I found it last year in preparation for spring backpack hunting. Who knows where I’ll find it this year. Oftentimes while looking for equipment I’ll be delighted to find items that I had long since given up for lost. I literally have topographic maps of the areas encompassing unit 7 and 15 etched in my mind. Forty-three years of pouring over these maps makes an impression, but it doesn’t keep me from going over them again; maybe I missed something. I have two of nearly every topographical map on the peninsula for the same reason I have duplicates of fishing tackle: I misplace them, go get another and eventually stumble across the original. This haphazard way of the maniacal, die-hard hunter or fisherman is, if nothing else, a great economic stimulator.
Readying boats requires yet another significant effort. No matter that when they were put up for the season they were just fine, it seems there is always something that isn’t fine by spring. So we have to fuss over them and find a multitude of justifications to purchase more “stuff.” One spring I went to start readying the boat and couldn’t find it. It surfaced when the buddy I loaned it to called and asked if he could just keep it for the summer. “Sure,” I said, “I’ll just go get another.”
By the end of each respective seasonal preparation there are always items that you are just not going to use. Things that are perfectly serviceable and useful but for one reason or another you just aren’t going to use them. They get thrown in a box and become part of the endless storage of stuff that outdoor folks seem incapable of avoiding. Here’s a suggestion: Instead of storing that stuff, how about finding a youngster who is eager to participate in what we love so much, and give that box of stuff to them. It’s a great way to keep useful items from ultimately becoming part of the landfill and it will no doubt bring a smile to that youngster’s face. In fact, maybe I’ll just find some young deserving kid, give it all away and just start over.