With the turn of the calendar to a new year, I like to look back on not only the previous seasons of hunting and fishing that I experienced, but also pick out the major successes, shortfalls and memories in the field and on the water, and compare it to previous years. When I was fresh out of school and a single man, I was once asked how I fit it all in and found so much success, and the explanation was pretty simple – I had the passion and the time. Now, as a family man with work, community and other demands, the passion is still there, but I have to make time afield count even more.
That’s what my learnings from the last year have helped me do: plan specific trips, focus on each experience, and keep a well-documented journal as I go along. That way, no matter how busy I am, or if I only get out for a couple quick fishing trips each week – as opposed to the five or six I averaged in my early twenties – each outing produces something memorable.
This is the time of year I like to lock down two or three specific weekends on the calendar, dedicated solely to the pursuit of fish and game. It gives me something to prepare for in terms of setting up tackle and gear, coordinating with friends, reviewing previous trips through photos, and looking forward to the next one by monitoring online reports and reading articles to help increase my success. Setting a date in near-stone provides a point in time to focus on and plan for a great experience, making it become a highlight moment in a season.
For those quick get-aways and local trips, I try to pick high-target environments – lakes that I know with the species I love to fish for: bass, walleye, panfish and pike, or areas where I’ve found success for birds before. Much like with trip planning, if I’m going to angle on new waters I put it some research. Stocking reports, lake maps and fishery surveys help with my reconnaissance and provide the information I need to help me select my tactics based on season, species and structure on the water body. The same goes for hunting. With all the maps available online, it’s easy to know the ins-and-outs of an area before even setting foot on a roadside approach.
Finally, what makes a season truly memorable is the fact that I’m able to remember it all! Keeping a well documented journal, whether hand-written, digital or photographic (or a combination of all three) will help you look back on previous adventures and recall the things you learned. But what’s more important, it will help you call out all of the fun times you’ve had throughout each season, providing a rear-view mirror of sorts on some great memories.
So no matter what your time demands are, making a memorable year in the outdoors is as simple as setting some trips on the calendar, making the most of more impromptu local fishing, and keeping a journal of all the action. As you set your New Year’s resolutions for 2016, keep these things in mind as you prepare for a fresh 365 days…in our outdoors.