I saw an old friend in town the other day and he asked how I had done trapping last year. I told him I hadn’t set as many traps as I’d wanted and thus hadn’t caught as many coyotes as I had planned. I’ll never forget his reply; he told me “I was never a very good trapper. I had a friend that was very good, and I would set twice as many traps as him and I would catch twice as little!” I chuckled at his wording, but it got me to thinking. If I had thrown in the towel every time I hadn’t gotten a deer, or trapped as many coyotes as planned, or caught all the fish I’d wanted I would probably have ceased even going outdoors years ago.
There have been plenty of years when I haven’t harvested a deer or trapped as many critters as I’d wanted, but my biggest challenge has always been my fishing skills, or better yet my lack-thereof. Growing up in Ohio, we enjoyed Lake Erie and one of the many islands in Lake Erie is named Kelley’s Island. Our neighbor was pastor at one of the churches on Kelley’s Island and stayed there in the parsonage during the weekend, and lived next door to us during the week. Because of our friendship, if we went to Kelley’s Island on week days, he let us stay in the church parsonage, so each year we planned a short fishing trip there during the week. One of the fish Lake Erie is known for is the Yellow Perch. They are nothing like our invasive species White Perch here in Kansas and in my book rank just below Walleye as far as eating quality. In the fall the perch would be biting around Kelleys so we planned our trips around that. We sometimes fished from the ferry dock alongside native islanders. I always bought the same bait from the same bait shop as them and used the same fishing rigs as them, but sitting 3 feet away from them on the dock, they would catch 12 fish to my one.
Some years back when Joyce and I still had a boat, we went to Kannapolis fishing with another couple who were both avid fishermen, they in their boat and Joyce and I in ours. They had numerous brush piles in the lake marked on their GPS, so we anchored on each side of a long narrow brush pile. Joyce and I both rigged our rods exactly like theirs, and our boats were so close that at one point they tossed us the exact jig they were using. They caught crappies left and right and the only thing we caught was the rope anchoring the marker buoy.
My points here are, number one, I’m a lousy fisherman, seemingly almost cursed at times, but yet I still go when I can. Point number two is that although harvesting fish and game is usually the goal when in the field or on the lake, it is not all that’s gleaned there. On one particular deer hunt during my youth, I was standing in a pre-determined spot in a large woodlot awaiting other hunters walking toward me. I heard rustling in the leaves, and watched as a mother red fox and her family of half-grown kits ran past me just a few feet away. As I recall, I didn’t harvest a deer that year, but would have missed that once-in-a-lifetime-sight had I not been there anyway.
I could fill pages with other stories like that of bobcats that peered at us from a few feet away, or hawks that cruised past us mere feet above the ground and only a stones-throw away, or the beaver that swam beneath my feet under the ice of a frozen creek. The bottom line is that all that would have been missed had we not been there, successful harvest or not. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors (successful harvest or not!)
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]