This simple lesson has served me well, if only I would keep this in the front of my mind while I am out in the woods and on the water. When you take a moment to look around and stop charging to your destination you will realize that getting to your destination is only part of the experience. This is much more important when I am hiking or snowshoeing as with each step the crunch of the snow and ice beneath my feet is a lot louder than you would think. If you only focused on getting to your destination you could not possibly take in and enjoy everything that is going on around you.
One of the last days of ice fishing this past spring I hiked into my favorite pond. It is full of pickerel and is always very reliable in keeping me chasing flags. The weather was perfect for a day on the ice and the hike in was phenomenal. I made sure to take my time as the hike in is deceptive in how high you go. If you go charging up the hill you will be winded very quickly. Most of the time it is because I am so excited to get up there that I forget to regulate my breathing and I am left trying to recover and not paying attention to the world around me.
I am always excited when I head into this pond during the winter as the snow reveals the tracks left by the many animals that call this area home. A couple years ago I was snowshoeing this area and not fishing and I tracked a bobcat for miles. I never got a look at it, but at every stream crossing its paws got wet and left muddy prints on the snow for a short period of time only confirming that I was heading in the right direction. I also remember when the deer were more plentiful in this area. The first time I hiked into this area the snow was completely packed with deer tracks everywhere. You couldn’t turn around without being surrounded by tracks and droppings. I have seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of tracks every year, which coincides with an increase in coyote tracks that I see every year.
When on the pond there was no snow on the ice and that made walking that much quieter and I was being entertained by a couple barred owls calling to each other from across the pond. I never saw them, but they have a very distinct call so there is not mistaking them. Just think “Who cooks for you” as a way to identify their calls. Just google barred owl calls to listen for yourself. Or better yet take a hike in the woods to see if you can hear or see them firsthand. Be curious and take some time to enjoy the world around you.
I also struggle with not paying attention to what is going around me when I am driving to my next destination. When I am up north I am constantly on the lookout for moose along the road so that I do not get into an accident with them. This spring I was heading to the Roach River and along the road I didn’t see any moose, but when I drove by a side road I noticed a moose in a parking area for town plow trucks. I could have just kept driving, but I took the time to stop and investigate. It paid off for sure. This young moose was kneeling down to lick the salt that had fallen and collected on the ground. It did not care that I drove in and I got some nice footage of it getting its dose of salt for the year.
I have to continue to remind myself to stop, look and listen all of the time. When I am really busy I am laser focused on my next task and that takes away from the overall experience that I am in search of. As a guide we are always looking for ways to improve what we are doing and how we share those experiences with our clients. So stop, look and listen to get the whole experience.