January 25, 2016
January 25, 2016

Nature Calls

I t isn’t easy working in an office of people who, with a handful of exceptions, are unfamiliar with hunting, fishing, or anything else related even marginally to the outdoors.

They’re bright and successful people, well-meaning and even open-minded; but they just don’t understand nature because they are so totally, almost permanently, disconnected from it.

Out of respect for the world’s natural resources, I don’t ignore opportunities—and even create them when necessary—to educate. And, in reciprocity, I listen closely to their thoughts on the management and future of those resources.

I actually once overheard a woman talking excitedly to a co-worker about an upcoming hike with her family, They’d be on their feet for hours, she explained, She’d packed snacks and water for all, made sure each had comfortable shoes, and planned to slather everyone in sunscreen.

Turns out, they’d also be meeting another family to put in some outdoor miles—at the zoo.

Teachable moment:

“Here’s an idea,” I offered, “Why don’t you guys ditch the zoo and go to Brazos Bend State Park?”

“And do what?” she asked, genuinely not having a clue.

“Walk around and look at animals in their natural habitat,” I proposed.

“But what if we don’t see any?” she wondered.

“Then maybe you should pull your head out of…” (I didn’t really say that, but I thought it a little.)

In an audible voice, I explained that the park has manicured and boldly marked trails, miles and miles of them, She and her family could walk quietly, and early or late in the day, probably see at least half a dozen species of mammals from raccoons to opossums to white-tailed deer and wild hogs—more if their eyes were tuned to see rodents darting quickly across those trails. There would be dozens of birds and a few different turtles—and the place is loaded with alligators.

Nope, They were going to the zoo, “to teach the kids about nature.” Aaaagh!

And more often than this audience might imagine, I get approached by adults who never have caught a fish, but think it’s high time they did.

“Can you recommend a good guide to help me get started in fishing?” the conversation often starts.

I tell them, “No.” I could hand off two dozen phone numbers and email addresses, actually, but I will not recommend a professional guide to get a grown man or woman started in fishing, That’s as much for my guide friends as for the newcomers, too.

Instead, I encourage anyone who was smart enough to earn a driver’s license to teach themselves the fundamentals of fishing. I’ll teach them an improved clinch knot, and the rest they can learn either on their own or maybe with a friend who fishes a little.

Even if they’re too uppity to start with a cane pole (which I highly recommend for its centuries-long combination of simplicity and efficiency), any grownup can figure out how to cast a push-button rig,

Put down your ego, and pick up a Zebco 202 outfit, Small cork, small hook, and a small bait cast anywhere near submerged structure, Add those things up, and it almost always equals a small fish,

A “first” fish, Catch that one on your own, I tell them, and you’ll feel rightfully proud of yourself, Now go fish with a guide, and skip a bunch of steps toward getting better faster.

Another class of questions I get often has to do with the things that bite, sting or otherwise might ruin a day outside.

My quick counter is that there are fire ant mounds all over Texas, and stepping in one can really make you hurt, but I don’t know anyone who’s so scared of fire ants that they won’t leave the house.

Instead, you just do what you do and watch out for ant mounds—same with snakes and spiders and sharks and scorpions. You enjoy the outdoors, all the while keeping a respectful eye out for things that might get you, but not letting them get to you.

We have talks about carrying capacity, about overfishing, about conservation, about the roles of hunters and fishermen in safeguarding the nation’s resources. We talk about stewardship, and about how they also have tremendous stakes in what’s to come.

Not everyone in the office is ready to ditch his shiny shoes or her heels for snake boots, or to swap their suits for camo jackets, but they do listen. Then they talk, and I listen,

It’s not my opinion or theirs, ultimately, that will make a hill-of-beans difference moving forward. What matters is our exchange of ideas, our better understanding of each other’s outlooks.

I still prefer a walk through the woods to a day at the zoo, but in the end, they’re both outdoor activities (except for the snake house, which is really cool). I won’t get to see a giraffe, but neither will I step on some kid’s dropped cotton candy.


Email Doug Pike at

[email protected]


Email Doug Pike at [email protected]


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