There seem to be certain phases that fisherman and hunters go through as they spend time pursuing their passion in the great outdoors. In fact I can remember years ago, when I was a young buck myself, my dad tried to tell me about these stages, but I didn’t believe him. I told him that I wasn’t interested in any of this higher development and that all I wanted to do was kill as many ducks as possible. He told me I’d advance and, as usual, he was correct.
It is kind of neat that this life cycle is pretty much the same regardless of the game pursued. Below is a list of these stages as I see them:
Stage 1 is the introduction stage. This is when an angler or hunter is first introduced to the game. This is usually done through either watching a hunting show, reading a story, or talking with fellow outdoorsmen. Some how and some way, something happens that sparks an interest in the newbie. They begin to consider the hobby and will often daydream about becoming a hunter or fisher themselves. This is the stage where the spark is ignited.
Stage 2 is when they actually get to go on an adventure. This is a fun stage and I enjoy being a part of this with newbies. It is during this stage that the beginner simply wants to see a deer, or maybe to catch any kind of fish. At this level there is not a high standard set as far as the quality of the game harvested. Any duck, deer, or fish will do. The Stage 2 hunter simply wants to be in the field and enjoy some form of success. It is important that this happen in a relatively short time or most will become discouraged and leave the sport before they ever really get started. Many hunters and fisherman will tell you that they can remember that first fish or first animal that they harvested, and they have been hooked ever since.
Stage 3 is what I refer to as the “limit out” stage. The law of diminishing returns tells us that it won’t be long until that one little fish doesn’t seem to satisfy. It is during this stage that an outdoorsman seems to be greedy. They want to kill as many as the law allows. This is the stage of more is always better and the quality of the hunt seems to be judged solely on the number of animals killed. In other words, if you don’t catch or kill a limit, it wasn’t a good hunt. Many hunters see limiting out as some sort of quota. They use this number as a means of validating themselves as hunters or fisherman. I must admit that for whatever reason, many outdoorsman never get beyond this level. I am talking from experience because I personally spend decades with this mindset.
Stage 4: If a hunter or fisherman gets past Stage 3, they enter the “trophy phase.” This is a neat phase and it took me years to be able to understand those who were at this level. It is during this stage that the concern is not on the quantity of the animals but rather the quality. This is when fisherman target 10 pound bass, or 29 inch trout. This is when deer hunters start to pursue old mature bucks, and maybe a duck hunter only shoots mallards. Sometimes during this phase the method of harvesting the animal is equally important. An example would be a 150 inch buck with a bow or a 5 lb bass on a fly rod. For the first time ever, these outdoorsman are okay not limiting out. In fact, they can now have fun even if they don’t harvest. It has truly become about the hunt and not about the kill. This is usually an advanced outdoorsman who has been at the game for many years.
Stage 5: The final phase is one that I have recently entered myself and, to be honest, it is the most rewarding. This is the “give back” stage. It is at this point in an outdoorsman’ s journey that he or she realizes how blessed they have been to be able to do what they have done. They realize how much they have enjoyed the beauty of God’s creation and they want others to be able to experience the same. It is usually during this phase that they will often join an organization like the LSBA, Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, CCA, or NWTF. They will donate their time to make sure the sport continues to stay alive. Many will often donate money to help grow the sport that has meant so much to them. It is during this phase that they make sure to take young children hunting and fishing and often don’t even carry a weapon of their own on the hunt. This is truly the pass the torch stage. These outdoorsman have discovered that seeing someone kill a deer or catch a fish for the first time excites them more than taking one of their own. I believe that this stage is the one we should all try to reach.
Whatever stage you might find yourself in as an outdoors person, I encourage you to enjoy every moment. I also would encourage you to thank The Lord for allowing you to live in such a great country where we are free to pursue our outdoor passions. And always remember… if you get the chance… take a kid hunting or fishing. Y’all will both be glad you did.
Story by Brian Johnson