With every new year, the calendar resets and gives us 365 more opportunities to be outside—hiking, hunting, fishing, camping or whatever it is we enjoy doing in our free time. If your calendar is like mine, most of those 365 days are already accounted for.
Between work obligations, family responsibilities and one or two unexpected home repair projects that demand attention, I estimate the average sportsman has approximately 21 good days to enjoy the outdoors. And that is if the weather decides to cooperate.
So, before my calendar is filled with commitments, I resolve to make a few of my own for 2015.
The first commitment is to exercise my dogs more often. The health and happiness of my two Labradors is directly related to how often I let them run until they are, pardon the pun, dog-tired. As it turns out, this is the key to my health and happiness, too.
I also promise to reacquaint myself with a stretch of Rapid Creek that runs west of Silver City. This is where I have measured myself as a fly fisherman every year since 1990. One day on this water is never enough, so this year I resolve to make it two.
I will talk to more farmers this year. As a sportsman who lives in Sioux Falls, I know that hunting on someone else’s land is a privilege—one that I never want to take for granted. It is important to understand how farmers earn a living and make important land-use decisions. The more I learn about crop prices, input costs and soil management practices, the more I can appreciate the habitat where I hunt.
I will fish with my father. In years past, this did not have to be a resolution. It was an absolute certainty we could both count on. If the calendar said it was Father’s Day, that meant dad and I would be in Pierre fishing for walleyes. As we get older, there is an unspoken understanding that our fishing trips will eventually come to an end. But not this year.
I will maintain my gear. Fishing line needs to be replaced. Shotguns need to be cleaned. Rifles need to be sighted in. If I only get a few days in the field or on the water, I want to be confident that everything is in working order. (This year, a fogging problem with my rife scope cost me an opening day buck.)
I will apply for an elk tag. Every hunter in South Dakota knows that drawing a Custer State Park elk tag is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Unfortunately, I have already waited a lifetime to start applying and accumulating preference points. If I apply this year, I just may be lucky enough to draw an elk tag before I turn 75.
I will take more photos. On the days I can’t be outside, it is reassuring—almost to the point of being therapeutic—to have photographs of a recent hunting or fishing trip stored on my phone or laptop. These images capture the apex of my favorite outdoor moments, whether it’s holding a 20-inch cutthroat trout just before being released or watching the evening sun sink below the horizon. Not surprisingly, these photos mean more to me whenever I am forced to spend time in an airport.
I will be more spontaneous. I have always believed that planning a trip is almost as rewarding as the trip itself. Anticipation is a fuel that never stops burning. However, I am learning to embrace the unexpected and turn left when the map says I should turn right. I don’t know where this philosophy will take me in 2015, but that is what makes it so exciting
I will discover a different part of South Dakota. Out state has a total land area of 77,121 square miles. First time visitors to the Mount Rushmore state assume all these miles look the same until they reach the Black Hills, but they are mistaken. The Badlands, the Grasslands and the glacial lakes of the Coteau are just as worthy of exploration. I have lived on both sides of the state for most of my life and I am still amazed by what I learn every time I get out of the car.
My last resolution is perhaps the most important. I will enjoy the moments I have been given. If I only get a handful of days to enjoy the year, I want to make the most of every minute. That means I’m not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. I am living in the now and appreciating what is right in front of me.
If I can just do that, 2015 is going to be a very good year.