Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lost Outdoor Skills

When I was growing up all the men in my family had outdoor skills. I was taught to hunt, track, fish, process game and survive by my father, grandfathers and uncles. Each had skills to add to my training. Many had grown up on ranches or in rural areas and were accomplished outdoorsmen. It is amazing to me the loss of our traditional hunting and outdoor skills. In those days there were very few deer stands on stilts and next to no barrel feeders with timers to throw corn. I was taught to hunt deer trails and crossings, sometimes we hunted oat patches or natural food plots. If the acorns were good my dad would take me to an oak mott where the acorns were thick and the deer came to feed. We would sit on the ground and watch for hours without talking. A nod or a touch would let me know if a buck was coming. I can remember the bark of the old .257 Roberts and waiting a few moments before going to dress the buck. On a few occasions the buck would make it into thick brush. I can remember my father getting on his knees and teaching me how to follow the tracks and blood drops, also watching for blood spray on the brush at the buck's body height. I can only remember a couple of times in my life when we gave up and did not recover our game. Many times we were called in to help trail game for others.

There was an old man that lived on a place next to our family ranch in San Saba county. He was an outdoorsman deluxe but a borderline sportsman. I mean this as no disrespect as he lived off the land. Hunting seasons were for city folk as he only took what he needed to live. The old man taught me to set coon and fox traps for furs and meat for his hounds. I learned how to find the holes in the river to catch big yellow catfish and how to set trotlines in the bends in the river. We took squirrels from the pecan orchards and hunted coons and ringtails at night with his blue lacy dogs. We would hit the stock ponds at night and gig giant bullfrogs and sometimes some pretty good fish. I sat around a small campfire many nights listening to his hounds run and waiting for them to bark treed so we could go get what ever varmint they had put up a tree. I realise that times are different and game laws and regulations must be followed, but that was a different time and I learned so much while making lifetime memories.

If you have outdoor skills or woodsmanship pass it on. You can not imagine what it will mean to some Gameboy playing kid to learn how to blow a predator call or set a coon trap. If you have tracking skills teach them to a child, those skills might save a life some day. I hear people say all the time that they do not have a place to take a kid to do these things. You do not have to carry a gun to teach hunting or outdoor skills. I have taken my daughters predator calling in state parks and national refuges. Not long ago we spent a day calling bobcat, javelina and gators at the Aransas Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast. The skills are the same whether you shoot with a camera or a gun. Kids today think hunting is sitting in a stand and watching a feeder, teach them what hunting is really about. Someone took the time to teach you, Wild Ed

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