By GERRY SWANSON
As I was sitting watching my Denver Broncos getting pounded again, I was pondering what a good New Years resolution would be. One that wouldn’t be broken by March 1 or earlier.
Then it hit me to not repeat the valuable lessons I learned in the great outdoors.
Here is a good example. A beaver dam over which a 100-pound dog has just made a dozen perfectly safe trips will instantly collapse at the deepest part of the pond when a person weighing an ounce more than a feather attempts the same crossing. I have no clue how this happens. But the dam’s total disintegration at the pond’s deepest point is inevitable as is dropping your best shotgun into those same depths as you tumble into the water.
Or how about this next lesson? The instant you set the shotgun against a fence post in order to walk just a couple yards away to relieve some of the hot chocolate you have consumed on the way to your hunting area followed by miles of fruitless walking; that instant is when a giant pheasant rooster will explode directly from under your feet. While you may be hopping about like an Apache doing a rain dance and wetting your boots, don’t expect your hunting partner to bail you out because he will be rolling on the ground from laughing.
Here is another lesson to not do again. What seems to be a perfectly level pond or slough bottom always has holes deep enough to send cascades of icy water over the top of your waders when you step in one. And you will.
And how about this lesson? One should never assume that a half submerged tree spanning the creek you need to cross to get to your lab on the other side actually reaches to the opposite bank, and isn’t rotten. Neither of which will be apparent until you wind up waist deep in creek water that is just a degree or two below freezing.
Here is one very important lesson to remember. Never feed leftover goose and gravy to your lab if you’re staying in a small cabin with other hunters, and the dog must be inside because the temps outside is too cold for a dog. This should be a felony: i.e. attempted murder by methane. Along about midnight I became aware of someone violently coughing, retching and making strangling sounds. As I woke up I realized that person was me and my vision was also severely impaired by copious tears streaming down my face. Someone had lobbed a tear gas grenade into my bedroom. As I stumbled and staggered into the hallway to escape the cloud of toxic fumes, the dog followed, further adding to the heavy, slow-to-disperse sulfurous cloud. I slept in the truck, at 8 degrees.
Never carry lip balm tube in the same pocket as your 20 gauge shells. In the heat of the moment, like when a straggler quail or two takes off after you’ve emptied your gun on the covey rise, in your haste you load the lip balm into your over/under. It will slide halfway down the barrel. Then the next two hours is time spent trying to dislodge it.
We already covered the lesson about pre-hunting cuisine in a previous column.
My last lesson is also an important one. When hunting over really awful water, no matter how steady the dog has been, take the precaution of securing him to something solid.
We encountered mucky water on our way to our blind. It stunk so bad it made the hydrogen sulfide experiments in high school chemistry seemed like Chanel #5. You’d never put your finger in this water unless you had haz-mat gloves on. However it never dawned on me to tie Parker, my lab, to anything solid because he was rock steady.
When a large flock of mallards swung over the decoys and I rose up to take the shot, the dog catapulted toward the blind door like someone had lit his tail on fire. He hit me with his 115 pounds of pure power on his way to the exit. This occurred just when I was totally unbalanced at the end of the swing on the mallards and the impact drove me out of the blind face down in that nasty water. He then ran up my back and used my shoulders as a springboard to launch himself into the river,pushing deeper into that odious stew.
Dragging myself out of the muck I totally expected my face to fall off and disappear. However the toxic level wasn’t as high I thought. But my hunting partners and my dog would not come within 10 feet of me.
Bottom line: you have to experience the great outdoors to have great memories, good or bad. So on behalf of my outdoor family, We wish you have a great holiday season, and make a New Years resolution to enjoy the Great Outdoors.