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Don't lose sight of little successes while 'keeping up'

Published: Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 9:58 p.m. CDT

As Americans, we sure like to try and keep up with the Joneses. Our idea of what it means to be successful in this country has evolved to a place that is measured by tangible things. Is our car as nice as our neighbor’s car? Do we have four wave runners? Is my house as nice as my friend’s house? The list seems to never end.

This idea of success has oozed its way into the outdoors. All of us have fallen victim to it. I remember when it seemed like every deer hunter in the nation had a nice buck on the wall but me. It almost became an obsession to find that “wall hanger.” My wife would probably argue that it was an obsession.

The same thing applies to fishing. We all want to catch that big fish that we can snap pictures of. Maybe we’ll even catch one that is so impressive we decide to have it mounted and placed proudly in our den. It happens all the time. We like to measure our success by the things that we can touch and see. When we do this though, we lose something very important — celebrating the small successes.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, my youngest son is fully obsessed with fishing. He nabs my magazines and takes them before I even know one has arrived in the mail. He questions me constantly about all aspects of fishing. How fast do you think that boat goes? What is a Carolina Rig? Where do bass go on the winter? Do you think today would be a good day to go fishing? He’s driving my wife crazy.

Just yesterday, this fishing nut was down on our dock using a jig. I quietly crept to the top of the stairs leading to the dock and watched him. He had no idea I was there. He was casting, retrieving and casting some more. Soon, he wanted to fish around a bush near the shore in front of him. To my surprise, he grabbed the jig in his left hand, started the rod swinging with his right hand, and expertly pitched the jig right under the bush. I clapped.

He swung around and asked me what I was clapping for. He proclaimed that the cast was a complete failure because he didn’t catch anything. I told him about what he just did; how he pitched that jig into a tight little space like a pro. He completely overlooked the small thing that was a big success. I was so proud of him.

Hunters fall into this quandary as well, especially new hunters. Success for those new to a sport is measured by what is brought home. No game equals no success. As hunters progress through the different stages of maturity though, soon they realize and recognize the small successes.

I remember the first time I read deer tracks correctly and determined which way the animal was walking. It doesn’t seem like a lot to be happy about, but I was thrilled. That is coming back from the woods a success. Another success for me happened after a lot of careful deliberation.

I was trying to decide where to hang a new stand. When you look at a vast stand of timber, this seemingly simple task is not so simple. I looked at trails, sign that deer where nearby, and natural land features. I found a spot and hung a stand.

The next time I hunted from that stand I was rewarded with many whitetails that walked past me. Since I was using a bow, none were quite close enough to take a shot at, but my success was recognized by the fact that I was seeing some action. That is a big moment for a deer hunter.

The list of small successes goes on and on. At the time, these moments may seem insignificant. Add them up, however, over the course of a lifetime and we can see that these little triumphs have molded us into the passionate and knowledgeable outdoorsman that we are today.

As we step into a new hunting season let each of us try to remember that at the end of the day we may or may not have be able to keep up with the Joneses. It is the little things that happen each and every time out though that truly defines who we are.

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