Evolution of the Outdoor Experience

The moments that change your perspective

By Chris Viel

Humans have a complex relationship with nature. It seems strange that a fulfilling day fishing and hunting should be marked by ending a creature’s journey in return. I can remember myself at a young age, eager to get to a local lake or stream, full of excitement on what events may lie ahead. Although many of my childhood memories involve small panfish and creek chub, there would be the odd time I would hook a species of a larger size. These moments seemed insurmountable, as if I would never have this opportunity again. For these reasons, I’d usually look to my dad for confirmation because we both knew who would be responsible for cooking and cleaning this fish. Fast-forward over twenty years and I still get this urge once and a while.

The moment when you have put yourself in a position to take home game or fish as reward for your hard work is something difficult to describe. I’m not sure what factors feed this inner desire. Is it a need to show people what you have accomplished? Is it the final stage of a triumphant celebration to prove you have outsmarted another creature? Or was it like my childhood self who thought that the opportunity may not come again for some time? Whatever the reason, it is something I consider extremely fascinating, and an area that I feel I have began to evolve from.

The idea of releasing fish and passing on game is something we hear of on occasion, but may never fully consider. Some individuals release fish to carry on the genetics of the species, while others simply pass on some game species because they are not big enough to fulfill their goals. Personally, I noticed that when I started spending more time outdoors in the presence of these animals and fish that I began thinking of them in a different light.

It began with steelhead fishing in Southern Ontario, where I grew up. One of my favorite rivers was two hours away, so it was easy to feel the weight of disappointment after four hours of round trip travel with nothing to show for it. As I grew older and began staying for longer periods of time on this river, I started to realize that although I got enjoyment from the table fair, there was something about the experiences that made the journey more special.

Now, while most would think that these growth periods might affect someone on a larger scale, it was surprising to notice how quickly the feeling of ‘taking something with you’ became important again as I began hunting.

Hours and days would pass with nothing more than a whisper when sitting in the deer stand. I thought it was going to be easy, the more time you put in the more game you will see. What I hadn’t considered was the keen senses of the whitetailed deer, and how much preparation and persistence is really required to be successful.

Instead of problem solving, I became anxious, thinking I should have bought a doe tag just in case a deer were to show up. I figured I may only get one chance at success, and would be angry with failure. As fate would have it, school got in the way of my hunting time, and the season quickly drew to a close. It was around this time I started to realize that hunting and fishing are a privilege, not a right.

Interestingly, much like angling, the more time I spent in the tree with the deer, the more I came to realize that there is so much more to the story than the kill. As I sat in my blind last fall, I was reminded of how satisfying being the spectator can be. The unseasonably warm temperatures had dozens of creatures out roaming, trying to soak up the last bit of heat before winter set in. As fate would have it, two does and a fawn came out. With both an antlered and antlerless tag in my pocket, I could have filled the freezer that evening.

Instead, I took a step back and didn’t pick up my bow. It is in these moments you learn more about the game you are pursuing than at any other time. An important aspect that is not discussed here is the honest collection of both game and fish. As a strong supporter of fishing and hunting, I too enjoy the fruits of our labour with fresh meat for the table.

The point of my writing is not to shed negative light on consuming wild game and fish, but to share an experience that I think about quite regularly. The goal of any outing should be to connect with your surroundings; anything on top of that is a bonus.