The Extremes

November 1, 2010 by  

Our Outdoors: To The Extreme
By Nick Simonson

I know it’s going to get colder. But I’m ready for it. At least I think I am. While manning my post on an extended family member’s farm atop a four-legged stand tucked into the woods along an open grass pasture bordered by a meandering creek, I battled the coldest evening of the year all while thinking it was going to get worse, but it was going to be so worth it when the shot at a nice buck comes my way sometime this season.

Between the slight gusts of wind coming out of the southwest and the sun which had disappeared behind a bank of clouds well before the time it actually set, I felt the chill of late autumn creep over me. The occasional crackle of leaves thirty or forty yards into the pine stand also sent a shiver up my spine, and as I cautiously reached for my bow, I tried to control the shuddering of my torso and legs which rattled the very bolts holding my perch together. It was no surprise as the end of legal shooting hours approached that nine deer silently appeared in the field 100 yards to my west, providing me with only the opportunity to squint and size them up against the settling darkness before sneaking down from the stand and through the ravine on the scenic route back to the car in order to avoid spooking them.

Let me reiterate; five years ago you could have never convinced me I would be waiting well into nightfall to avoid alerting deer as I snuck away from my stand. You probably couldn’t have sold me on standing on an elevated platform for three hours, period. But there I was loving every minute of it, ignoring the cold which turned on my sinus faucet, and I silently wiped my nose every couple of minutes while hoping that my motion wouldn’t spook any nearby wildlife. My ability to outlast the elements, no matter how slight in comparison to what might come, was another victory in my first season of bow hunting, and it reminded me of what we as sportsmen go through in the field and on the water in pursuit of our passions.

As hunters and anglers we endure a great deal of cold, heat, wind, rain, and the worst that nature and can throw at us, all with the hope that our efforts, and maybe our stubbornness, will pay off when we set the hook into a lunker or wait out the most cautious deer. I can recall days staring down into Spiritwood Lake through two feet of ice while temperatures plummeted around my buddy’s portable shack into the negative twenties. But when those big pike would lazily roll through, sniffing our spoons and hooks baited with frozen herring, I warmed up instantly. I’ve ducked behind parked vehicles to dodge wind in search of crappies, and endured the flickering flame of my propane heater as it gasped its last breath, knowing the walleye bite would be white hot and worth busting the re-forming ice on top of my hole absent a heat source.

One rainy summer day, after slipping off the dock and breaking one rib and bruising another, I managed to shake off the pain and fish with my brother in the pouring rain for another two hours, landing 40 largemouth bass in the process. I don’t recommend doing what I did (maybe if the average sizes of the fish were bigger), but I do advise you seek medical help in a situation like that; not only for your battered body, but also psychological assistance as well.

Last week’s windstorm reminded me of a night after work several years back when a buddy and I decided to hunt pheasants in gale-force gusts. By the end of the first walk my eyes were caked with cattail fuzz, my lip was cracked and bleeding, and my cheeks, nose and chin were red and raw. Somehow though, I was warmed by the rooster tucked in my vest which I dropped with a Hail Mary as it reached warp speed in the gusting north winds. Success can be such sweet anesthesia.

I’ve fished walleyes in April cold fronts on Devils Lake until I couldn’t feel my hands. I’ve sat around mosquito-infested stock ponds in September awaiting the evening’s first flight of doves. Each year I have pushed the boundaries of what I think I can do, and I’ve never returned to those limits. There’s something about hunting and fishing that brings out the extreme in all of us, and makes us more than the sum of our parts. When tempered with basic safety and discretion, testing our limits makes the experiences of hunting and fishing all the more rewarding as we learn more about our quarry and what they require of us. Even if it’s just a few degrees colder or outlasting a little rain, we’re known to take it to the extreme…in our outdoors.


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