Know This. Finding what works and focusing on a species, a pattern or a pursuit and becoming knowledgeable about it is just one of the many rewards of hunting, fishing and related outdoor hobbies. Simonson Photo.
By Nick Simonson
I’m a dabbler. A jack of all trades. A fisher of multi-species. There’s so much in the outdoors to do that it’s impossible to do it all, but it’s sure fun to try, or at least think of trying. Some of my forays into various forms of hunting have now become passions, others have simply become passes. It didn’t take much for my first pheasant hunt to turn into a life-long pursuit. It didn’t take long for my first spring turkey hunt to end in the flicking of hundreds of wood ticks from my socks, pantlegs and shirt sleeves before plucking a dozen or so from my hair in the shower an hour later.
Some forms of fishing – and some species of fish – I’ve come to be a know-it-all at, while others I’ve learned just enough to be dangerous and get me into a predicament or two to make up a good column. No matter how these events, attempts, passions and pursuits have turned out, they have all for the most part been enjoyable in one form or another.
Certainly, they have provided opportunities to learn more about the world and about myself. The more I dabble, the more I realize and come to grips with all those things I don’t know in the outdoors, giving me the opportunity to learn more if I choose or to let a chosen activity, pursuit or particular species become a side street on my map through the wilderness. While I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on any of the pursuits I’m most knowledgeable about, there are a few that stand out.
I can pick a piece of smallmouth-holding structure on just about any stretch of flowing water that harbors bronzebacks. I know the ideal amount of flash to tie to a jig to trigger springtime slab crappies on my favorite north bay. I’ve developed a sixth sense about birdy looking habitat and just how to walk it to send a rooster into the air, unless he decides to run around my dog and I, then I don’t. Most of this heightened knowledge has come through experience, through trial-and-error and through dabbling-turned-into-deftness and has helped me find greater enjoyment of the outdoors, but also the realization that there’s always an unknown element needing to be learned.
Sometimes though, being an expert doesn’t matter. It’s knowing enough to get the job done. I can’t talk gun specifics, debate ammunition or recite ballistic charts from memory and I never could. I can’t say my gun collection fills more than half a safe. Nevertheless, I know my chosen model of .30-06 (brand withheld to prevent a debate in the comment section below) will kill a deer at 100 yards after a few sessions of sighting in, if and when my shaking hands settle the crosshairs of the factory issued scope a couple of inches behind the shoulder. That right there, is knowing just enough to bring an exciting end to a hunting season.
Then there are those areas where I realize I know nothing. I know only enough to start the adventure and where it goes from here is anybody’s guess, including my own. Take for example a recent bow purchase. Having run through a couple sets of strings, three foam block targets and a few dozen arrows being shot thousands of times over the past decade, I decided to get a little more serious about archery and bow hunting this year, trading in my entry-level model for something more powerful. With the help of the staff in the bow section and a stack of gift cards saved up over the past couple of years, I left with a fully tuned flagship model in my hand dressed to the nines in the highest recommended accessories.
Joining a couple social media groups and online forums, I realized just how hardcore the owners of the same brand were, and how little I understood the specifics of not only the bow I had purchased, but the mechanics of archery in general. As the posts poured into my feed, I figured my best bet was to sight it in first and worry about the rest from there and with 20 arrows in the bag at 20 yards that night I was off and running. Whether I become a gear-head like many of those on the forum tweaking poundages and adding dampeners, or still continue to see it as a ticket to an archery tag and a seat in a treestand each fall (albeit a faster and farther-shooting one) I’ll get to where I need to be.
Like all new things in hunting and fishing, sometimes realizing what you don’t know and what you need to know is the most important aspect of a new pursuit Everything else builds on the latter and as more and more knowledge is gained, the world of what you don’t know becomes smaller and smaller. While it’s nice to think that one day I’d know it all about insect hatches, confidence colors, ballistic charts and bow sights, it’s likely I won’t, but the pursuit of that knowledge and what I don’t know is what will keep me coming back each season.