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Siren Songs of Hope

Sitting in my tree stand on a dark early morning, I received a text message from a friend who hunts neighboring land. He was at home. Checking his phone because he heard that ubiquitous buzz alerting him to an important incoming communication. The message he received came from his trail camera. The message he sent me was a video of a nice buck a few hundred yards away, possibly heading in my direction. Pretty cool to see the video and I watched the woods a little more intensely for the next couple hours. The buck never came.

This got me thinking about how much hunting and fishing has changed over the decades. Innovations galore. Hard and soft technology, gadgets, apps, digital this and that, and so it goes on and on. The catalogues on my table are filled with so much stuff it’s overwhelming. It makes me wonder how we ever got along without these modern miracles of predatory efficiency. Magazine articles show rugged, stylishly adorned hunters in a deep stare. Fishermen on elaborate watercraft searching for their leviathan with gear rivaling the Cousteaus.

Reviews deliver the supporting evidence with tributes to the latest greatest whatever. They tell me what to wear, how to look, what to use, and with a hint of promise, what I need. Mostly an elaborate peddling of dreams and false hope.

Now, I’m nobody’s fool. I like my breathable waders and waterproof clothing. My phone apps are useful tools. Trail cams are, if nothing else, fun. Modern shotguns are impressive, although I still miss shots. I once owned a robo-duck and I was happy the day I threw it away. I love my compound bow and related accoutrements. I’ll not use a crossbow until the day comes when I can no longer pull a string, but they are incredible, accurate, and give hunters another a leg up.

And that, in fact, is the question. How many legs up does a person need? How efficient does the human predator need to be while pursuing the prey nature has provided?

I don’t begrudge any hunter or angler for wanting an edge. I understand that many people’s lives are busy and they want their time afield to be productive. I understand the fascination and novelty of gadgets and nouveau accessories. But there is a certain absurdity to much of it. Lured by the siren song of social media influencers, too many folks head to the woods or waters with expectations that do not align well with their knowledge, skill, timing, the weather, or just simple luck.

And the best parts of the experience can be lost in this fog. The learning, preparation, journey, arrival and departure. Matching knowledge and skill to the challenge of pursuit and luck. Out-thinking, out-maneuvering. Success and lots and lots of failure. And the memories. Camps and traditions, storytelling, food and drink, laughter, and remembering when.

Simplicity has been replaced by batteries and mostly unneeded complexity. I don’t think this is good for the future of hunting, fishing or conservation. On the other hand, I might be wrong. So, while I await the deployment of four-inch magnum waterfowl loads, holographic decoy spreads and a portable Klingon cloaking device for my duck boat, I’ll find a way to be satisfied with my jerk-cord and simple wooden layout boat. I have a lot more to say on this topic but I have to stop now. My phone buzzed. I got a text saying my annual master hunting catalogue just arrived in the mail. I’m sure there’s something I need.

Originally Published, Driftwood Outdoors, September 21, 2021

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