Our Outdoors: Back to School

By Nick Simonson

While strolling the aisles of the nearby megamart it hit me like a ton of bricks, or a pile of spiral-bound notebooks, as it were.  The creeping metal twist through covers of blue and yellow binding college-ruled papers brought a slight feeling of melancholy. It was as if I had been transported back to eighth grade, and the sprawling world of lakes and rivers filled with bass and bluegills, frogs and crayfish and late star-filled summer nights around youthful attempts at shoreline campfires would quickly be replaced by the black-trimmed windows and brick walls of a junior high classroom. It took me a moment to break free of the memory and come back to the reality of being near 40 and 15 years clear of my last final exam.
In an attempt to shake the feeling, I pushed on to the sporting goods section and remembered that a new school of sorts lay ahead for me this fall, and just as quick, the PTSD of past summer-to-fall transitions was replaced with the excitement that rivals the feeling of spring’s arrival. As I plotted and planned my autumn adventures with each turn of the squeaky wheel on my cart and put the display of glue, and binders and pencils behind me, I realized that so much possibility lay ahead, I felt like running back and grabbing one of the 80-page notebooks, tearing out all the paper and sprinting out of the front doors of the superstore, while flinging it in the air like middle school confetti on the last day of classes.

A warming salmon bite, and a looming cool down triggering trout activity in the weeks ahead mean fishing will only continue to get better as the months move on. With a few extra hours here and there, I may even squeeze in some late season bass fishing until things cool off.  If there’s time, I’ll manage more crappies and maybe even some walleye fishing too.

Having drawn a buck tag for my firearms season in November, the pressure is off to harvest anything monstrous with a bow, and I can take any single doe that comes my way this season and record another first in the outdoors.  The early reports coming in anecdotally and through conversation, reveal booming broods for a recovering pheasant population, and while not anywhere near historic bests, or even high points in the last decade, rooster numbers should be better than they were last season, providing increased opportunities for my young lab. Together we’ll continue his learning process in studies of a different sort. Pencil in the supporting cast of doves and partridge, sharptailed and ruffed grouse and various jaunts around the region for those opportunities and the chances to meet up with friends and family for more outdoor adventures, and it’ll be another season of great learning and fun memories.

All along the way, through GPS waypoints, jotted down landowner phone numbers and a well-scrawled upon county atlas, we’ll take the teachings in stride, figuring out a new area of the world and all of the opportunities to be had.

With so much to look forward to, I returned home from the weekend shopping trip buoyed by the thoughts of what’s to come, set to work on a few more lures to finish out the summer season and cleaned up my shotgun to get ready for the fall.  Finding a few old binders of my own stashed in the drawers of the fishing desk in my office, I turned to the August tabs and reviewed the highlights from late-summers past and flipped ahead to September in order to recall what would be in store and glean hints on where to go for the approaching hunting seasons. In doing so, I smiled at the memories, made notes of what I had experienced last autumn, and without the blues that so often came at summer’s end, I prepared to head back to school…in our outdoors.

Featured Photo: School Colors. For those in the outdoors, the end of summer and a shift to fall isn’t as terrifying as when we were teenagers.

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