Friends of mine me will tell you that my favorite quotes is “everyday above ground is a good day” and I usually add my bit “and everyday spent outside is a great day”. Now, I always thought the quote was from a Clint Eastwood movie… you know, from one of his Sergio Leone “spaghetti westerns”, but when I actually looked it up, I found it is from Scarface (Harris Yulin’s character). How did I make that mistake? I was a little disappointed to learn that, but it is still a good quote and a good philosophy for life.
I grew up in the South, so I know that the sugar is supposed to go in the iced tea and not in the cornbread. My favorite memories are of hunting and fishing with my Grandfather and camping with my family. When I was young (10-12), my father also went hunting and fishing, but as I got older, especially after I could drive, it was just me and my Grandfather and sometimes one of his friends. One of my brothers had zero interest in hunting and fishing and the other would go only if he thought our Grandfather would not have too many chores for us beforehand. We still laugh at one of his saddest stories. We had to clean out a horse stall and spread the manure around the peach trees before the 12:00 noon dove season opener. And to make it worse, it was his birthday.
I was like most other small town kids and hung out with a small group of good friends that mostly played sports together. When we couldn’t get a game together for what ever reason, I went fishing or hunting or just hung out in the woods, usually by myself. Once in a while, someone else would go fishing with me, but nobody else had a rifle or shotgun, so nobody went hunting with me. Imagine a teenager that would give up a Saturday of hanging with friends to hang with his Grandfather instead. Damn, I still miss that old man!
I love living in the Intermountain West that I have called home since 1992. I love the access to public lands for hiking, camping, fishing and hunting. I hunt public lands with publicly available tags and hunt mostly with a muzzleloader since there still seem to be fewer hunters and I seem to be luckier with drawing muzzleloader tags. I usually hunt by myself as far from roads as possible.
Like Forrest Gump, I have worn lots of different shoes. I have taught Biology, Physiology, Anatomy or Ornithology at two Universities and at two Community Colleges. I sold both life insurance and cars and was co-owner of a horse breeding and training facility. I even lived in West Africa for a few years and built fish ponds. But the last 15 years have been spent as a “low level” wildlife biologist for a state wildlife agency here in the Intermountain West. I emphasize “low level” biologist because I quickly found out that once you are promoted, they will take you out of the field and turn you into an office jockey. If I wanted that life, I would have gone back to selling life insurance. Nothing wrong with that, just not my purpose in life.
I used to joke that my goal was to be the oldest living field tech in the country, well as long as the knees would hold out anyway. I didn’t quite make it, but the knees are still good enough. The Federal budget crisis (2011) has trickled down to all the States and specifically to each State Wildlife Agency. My Agency had foolishly become too dependent upon Federal money. So now, there is basically only enough money in the state budget for people to sit in the office. The next phase of my life begins now. Like my Grandfather told Field and Stream magazine upon his retirement in 1975 as he explained why he canceled his subscription… “I don’t have to read about it anymore”.
Technically, I am too young to retire, but have lived frugally and have saved some money so I don’t have to rush out and find another job right away. Not even going to sign up for unemployment. What I am going to do is spend more time hunting, fishing, camping and all the things I love about being outdoors. I am also going to try to learn some new outdoor skills as well… at least as long as the knees hold out and I am still above ground.
When I try to learn something new, I spend a tremendous amount of time and effort researching and trying to find out all that I can. I have been told that I am somewhat compulsive, but I believe that only people with some level of compulsiveness actually finish any thing.
Anyway, it has been suggested to me that I write some of this stuff down, all in one place and maybe some of you can benefit from this and help me along as well.
I do have a better half and she does make me better. She does not hunt (not yet – still working on changing that), but she does fish and also loves anything to do with the outdoors. She also worked as a wildlife technician for 13 years (That is how we met). When she makes a post of her own, I will have her write down a little something about herself.