Itís not at all unusual for someone to approach me and then say something like, ďI donít fish or hunt, but I always read your column.Ē
Believe me, comments like those are extremely good for my self-esteem, and Iíll never tire of taking a few minutes to talk to the people who make them.
While thereís nothing wrong with being content to enjoy the outdoors vicariously, I wonder how many people either secretly or openly wish they could do more than read about the outdoors, watch the outdoors on TV or hear about the outdoors.
What these folks need first is for somebody to open the door to the outdoors for them, so they can become participants instead of observers.
Thatís often easier said than done, and, there are no hard and fast rules governing the subject. I probably should write a book about it.
Hereís a thumbnail sketch of a few guiding principles that have worked for me.
Children.† You wouldnít think there would be any need to tell an outdoorsman to open the door to the outdoors to his or her own children. Such is not the case. A perceived lack of time is most often the culprit.
For example, when my son, Aaron, was most eager to try the outdoors, I had a high stress job that kept me away from home a lot, and I relaxed by fishing bass tournaments.
Where was I supposed to find time to take a 7-year-old outdoors? That question was answered, when my partner for a club bass tournament bailed out at the last minute, and I asked Aaron to fill in. It was by far most fun tournament of my competitive fishing career. We still reminisce about it.
In addition to making what turned out to be anything but a sacrifice of my precious time, the key to our success was we were doing what Aaron wanted to do. He was in heaven ricocheting spinnerbaits off the roofs of boat docks and trading stories with the men at weigh-in time. Another child might have detested the same experience.
But what if you donít have or donít want to have† personal outdoor experiences, but youíre the parent, grandparent or guardian of children who would like to sample fishing, hunting or other outdoor activities?
Talk to people whose judgment you trust at work, church, social clubs or wherever you interact with people. The chances are youíll find plenty of fishermen and hunters who would love to partner up with your kids.
Friends. Almost all men and many women have a small circle of friends they prefer to spend their leisure time with, and more often than not, one of those friends is the first one called when the urge to be outdoors strikes.
In my case, that friend is Mike Jenkins. Weíve been each otherís ďgo-toĒ fishing and hunting partner for many years, and thereís no reason that should change.
Mike and I didnít share a bassinet in the maternity ward. We met when he and my daughter both had roles in Liberty Centerís production of ďThe Fiddler on the Roof.Ē
In other words, there was a first time I decided to take a chance on spending a day outdoors with a near novice, and he decided to trust his life to an albeit large canoe.
Inviting a new or old friend on a fishing or hunting trip doesnít always work out quite that well, but neither does it have to.
Iím learning to enjoy ó and to benefit from ó opening the door to the outdoors to an ever-increasing pool of people.
Sometimes you donít know how well you and your invitee will get along until your day together is well under way. Thatís OK.
The worst-case scenario is that youíll spend one less-than-perfect, never-to-be-repeated day outdoors. Even then, the peek into the outdoor world you provided might spark a lifetime interest despite any personality conflicts.
Relatives. Now hereís a subject thatís fraught with peril no matter what the parameters of the discussion, so I might as well take the plunge and begin with close relatives.
I introduced my wife to fishing and reintroduced my father to the sport. In both cases, I did everything I could to insure that the first few trips would produce plenty of action. After all, fishing isnít fun; catching fish is fun. To say things worked out the way I hoped is an understatement.
My mother was already a fisherman long before I arrived on the scene, and weíve been fishing together ever since. After Dad started fishing, the three of us spent many happy days on the water together.
After he died, my mother married a fine man who allowed himself to be introduced to fishing, so he could spend time with my mother and me.
I expect youíve noticed that I havenít mentioned hunting. Neither my wife nor my mother have any desire to try hunting or shooting in any form, including as an observer. My dad used to drive the vehicle around the section of land my grandfather, uncle and I were pheasant hunting, so we wouldnít have to cover the same ground twice, but I canít remember him ever carrying a gun.
My stepfather did all the hunting he cared to do while serving with General Patton in World War II, but he enjoys going along on rabbit and deer hunts as an observer.
The point to that last paragraph is that trying to force a close relative to experience parts of the outdoors he or she has no interest in is worse than foolish. All youíll reap is resentment.
As for more distant relatives, my advice is to use the same criteria youíd use for non-relatives. In other words, invite them or respond to their requests exactly as you see fit.