What Defines Success in the Field?

February 19, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

Quality and success are two of the more difficult terms with which big game wildlife managers struggle. In fact, most every fish and wildlife manager would probably nod in agreement that defining quality and success is a fleeting task at best.

That’s because hunters and anglers each have their own version of what makes a quality outing or a successful hunting or fishing trip. Trying to meet those expectations is an ongoing responsibility for natural resource management agencies working on behalf of their constituents.

Webster’s defines success as a:) degree or measure of succeeding; or b:) favorable or desired outcome. Quality is a:) degree of excellence.

Since it’s getting toward the end of deer season, I’ll use deer hunting as an example. In a normal year, about 70-80 percent of North Dakota deer hunters bag a deer. That’s a lot of successful hunters, right?

True, but not everyone who gets a deer is completely satisfied or feels they had a quality hunt. On the other hand, some people who don’t get a deer have much more positive experiences than some people who are successful.

The bottom line is, simply filling a deer tag is not the only factor defining quality or success. It’s kind of like going to a restaurant. If your only expectation was to leave the place no longer feeling hungry, you’d be pretty easy to please. Wouldn’t matter if the food was cold, or you had to eat out of a pot with 10 other guys at the same table

However, if you wanted a choice of steak, chicken or seafood, with a side salad and a table by yourself, all with red carpet service, you’d go to a place where your expectations of quality would be a little higher. But no matter how red carpet the service, if the steak is medium instead of the rare you ordered, and the table by yourself is near a drafty window, you might leave feeling a bit miffed about the whole experience.

So it is with most types of hunting or fishing. Some people go fishing with hopes of catching two walleyes and if they catch three, they’re more than successful. One who expects a limit and only gets three might call the Game and Fish Department to complain about the lack of fish. Or, they might catch zero fish and call it the best outing of the year because the weather was great and they were out in it.

Odds are you’ve been a part of some conversations in which hunters or anglers air their thoughts on quality and satisfaction.

Keep this in mind through all of your endeavors. Only you are in control of your expectations and attitude. Some hunters would rather walk in several miles to a place isolated from vehicles, just so the potential for interaction with other hunters is limited.

Others prefer a two-track trail on which to drive to closer proximity of their hunting stand.

I’m one deer hunter who prefers to spend a few hours a couple of times a season walking a piece of public land trying to fill my doe tag. On the other hand, some hunters save vacation for deer season and will hunt until the final hour of the last day to just get a chance at a trophy buck. This might be a thick 5×5 or maybe it’s a smaller 3×3, depending on the hunter.

Expand these varying hunter preferences over all hunting and fishing seasons and you’ll better understand the all the circumstances wildlife managers must weigh while forging ahead with long-term policy and decisions shaping season frameworks.

Also remember that most natural resource managing agency employees also don camouflage and cast Zebcos. They face the same obstacles and also have varying degrees of definitions when the terms success and quality are thrown around both in business and pleasure circles.

Odds are if you asked three different hunters for their definition of quality and success, you’ll be hard pressed to find any consensus. And that includes big game managers too.

We’re fortunate in North Dakota to have enough wildlife and space so most hunters and anglers can have a reasonable chance for achieving their personal expectations. The challenge for managing agencies is to maintain that variety so most people – we’ll never please everyone – are satisfied with their outdoor experiences … most of the time.


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