The Year Ahead

By Nick Simonson

The new year brings with it countless resolutions by those looking to improve their lives through the achievement of mindfulness, the loss of a few pounds, or to educate themselves in some new area.  The same can be said for those in the outdoors.  Whether it’s fishing or hunting or a skill related to either, the turn of the calendar provides an opportunity to reflect on past accomplishments, set new goals for the next 12 months, and push the boundaries of what we know and want to know. Getting from where we were to where we are to where we want to be comes with a plan, and there are many tools to help hunters and anglers along that learning curve.

Where You Been?

From the first splashdown of a red-and-white bobber over a school of bluegills as a kid, to last summer’s personal best walleye, the history of where you’ve been as an angler helps set the stage for where you will go.  Taking stock of all the great catches, the amazing memories, the waters big and small, the stories and the people who were there with you will prepare you for wherever you want to end up.  Make a list of every species you’ve caught in a life list and identify, if you can recall, the biggest of each.  With that, your fishing life list is complete.

But the adventure is far from over.  From there, you can plan next year’s journeys.  Are there opportunities to catch a bigger largemouth bass?  Is there a lake you’ve been looking at as a prime place to hook your first muskie? Is there a blank space you’d like to fill with a species you haven’t connected with?  Make it a point to set those opportunities up and put plans in motion to accomplish those experiences in 2022.  Through scouting, online and field research, and maybe a little bit of luck, adding to that list or upping the standard is possible in the next few months.

Write That Down

Whether in pursuit of those objectives for the coming year, or just enjoying time on the water or in the field, keeping track of it all provides a great way to catalog the memories.  Better yet, beginning an outdoors journal helps record those successful trips and put the conditions, locations, presentations and approaches in perspective to build better plans for the future.  When things come together, note what worked and theories as to why.  What was the moon phase when the fishing was good?  What way was the wind coming from when walking that favorite stretch of pheasant grass?  What spring food plot planting paid off for a successful deer hunt in the fall?

Answering those questions and more, and keeping tabs on the seasonal changes, adjustments in techniques and the failures and the successes that result will add up in each season’s journal and in those compiled in the years to come.  Whether they are just an anthology of adventure or end up detailing those secret lures on the water and successful spots tucked away on a favorite stretch of land, they’ll be a bit like that adage about planting a tree – the best time to start one was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.

Push Your Boundaries

Finally, a new year offers up 365 opportunities to try something new, and the outdoors provides at least that many ways to catch fish, hunt birds, chase game and sharpen the skills that make all those things happen, and to do so with greater success. Whether it’s making the leap from a standard spinning reel to the fly rod, abandoning the tree stand for spot-and-stalk deer hunting, target shooting with the shotgun, rifle or bow, or taking aim at coyote hunting, there are many means to successful ends for those fish and game you’re familiar with, and those that you might not be as knowledgeable about. 

Take the things you’ve learned in your other pursuits and apply them to new methods of hunting and angling.  Talk to experienced outdoors enthusiasts in these new niches via social media or face to face to learn more and then apply their wisdom on the water or in the field.  Learn from every experience, and as discussed above, write down those things that worked, those that didn’t and what happened from start to finish which may have influenced those results.  With each step and every cast, change happens, growth occurs, and the year becomes fuller. Don’t miss out on the opportunities all twelve collections of blank boxes provide to stretch and explore, to push on and put down on paper those things that change your perceptions of nature and the quarries you pursue and the way you pursue them.

Make this year the one where you take stock of all the wonder you’ve experienced and that you’d like to see.  Along the way, share what you know with others who are looking to start their adventures, overcome hurdles and find their biggest and best experiences across the wide and varied landscape and waters big and small.

Nick Simonson is the lead writer and editor of Dakota Edge Outdoors. His goal for 2022 is to run a marathon, and to catch 26.2 new species of fish.

Featured Photo: Always Adding.  This year, the author added brook trout to his life list.  Trips to new waters can help expand an angler’s understanding of the aquatic world and explore new ways to catch fish and new species. Simonson Photo.

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