Outdoor writing is a dangerous business.
I don’t mean because of crossing barbed wire fences with loaded guns or racing across the lake at 72 miles an hour in a boat rated to go about 50. Or falling out of a boat or getting a leak in your waders while breaking ice in the flooded duck woods. Or even walking through a dark thicket and suddenly coming face to face with a 300-pound wild sow hog with her litter of eight piglets. This list could go on forever.
But what I’m talking about is writing about the outdoor life. Putting it down on paper. For everyone to see and comment on.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. The benefits far outweigh the dangers, but just so you know, it isn’t all wine and roses.
I had a friend who used to work at a paint store, and every once in a while he’d get a little too much SW7520 color in a mix of light brown paint and it wouldn’t match just right. No problem. He’d just mix up another batch. Only he and the painter would know.
But if an outdoor writer writes something and it comes out in print, it’s there for all to see for all of eternity. Heaven forbid something is spelled wrong or the duck is given the wrong ID or you called a black & grape widget runner crappie bait a dark gray and purple runner widget. Those are unforgivable sins of the pen (or keyboard as it may be). But not as bad as putting out a “they’re biting” fishing report and then somebody can’t catch any fish… you’ve made an enemy for life.
One day many ice chests full of fish ago, my dad and I were fishing for big old slab crappie. We had fished half the morning and were having a pretty good trip. We stopped for a gourmet lunch of Vienna sausage, hoop cheese, soda crackers and a Dr. Pepper. Two other gents fished up within a couple of boat lengths and we struck up a conversation.
“Might as well eat because the fish sure aren’t biting,” the lead man said.
After a few meaningless comments about the weather and how good those weenies were, the back-seat angler chimed in.
“That guy that writes the fishing report for the local newspaper sure doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He said the white perch were tearing it up here, but we haven’t got a bite.”
I lapped up my last Vienna sausage and eased our boat over right beside theirs, lifted the lid on the ice chest and showed them the contents. There were about 30 big old crappie stacked almost to the top.
“Not bad considering they aren’t biting,” Dad said after biting his lip for a few minutes as they talked bad about his oldest son. I got my start writing weekly fishing reports in the newspaper.
About that time, the fisherman up front recognized me and said something like, “Wait, you’re that guy that writes the fishing report.” I just smiled, advised that they might try dipping their shiners about 18 inches deeper and we eased on off.
Bad news doves
You can get in trouble in search of a good story, too. One of my hunting buddies and I were on a wildlife management area one Saturday to scout areas to hunt ducks in during the upcoming season. It also just happened to be the opening day of dove season. One of his work buddies told him that he knew where a levee full of goat weed was holding hundreds of doves down there. So we decided to double up looking for ducks and shooting doves.
We found a couple of potential duck spots and stopped for an early lunch waiting on the legal noon shooting hour. If you see a “lunch” theme here, it’s true. Outdoor writers may not shoot or catch anything, but we seldom if ever go home hungry.
We found the magic levee. Sure enough, doves were flying everywhere. We limited out in less than an hour.
It was busy back at the landing where two boatloads of game wardens were in kind of a rush to launch, so everybody made way for them. They headed north toward where we had been hunting just 30 minutes before. We just loaded up and headed home. We didn’t even get to show off our doves.
The next Monday morning I was making a regular weekly run by the local wildlife and fisheries office to see what was going on and we were chatting about the weekend. I told the District Chief about our good luck dove hunting and he just laughed.
“I know you are kidding because the Boeuf Area didn’t open for dove hunting this year,” he said.
“Yep, I’m just kidding,” I said. “You know you can’t believe anything an outdoor writer says.”
Yikes. I am a stickler for knowing the laws and trying my best to follow them, and even though that was an honest mistake, it was a big one. I found out later those game wardens were in a rush to get up to where all that shooting was going on.
I told you this was dangerous. And by the way, if the statute of limitations hasn’t run out on that, I want to go on record that I’m just kidding. You know you can’t believe anything an outdoor writer says.
There have been much more harrowing (although not with as much potential expense) over the years. We’ve camped through tornadoes, had to build fires on the levee to keep from freezing while duck hunting, been rescued by the Sheriff’s Office when our boat broke loose and floated off from the duck blind and left us stranded. Again, the list could go on forever.
This kind of stuff happens to most sportsmen. Fortunately for them, they keep it to themselves, if for no other reason than to keep their wives from finding out. But when you are an outdoor writer, you feel compelled to tell it all. And every once in a while, just to follow the outdoor writer code of ethics, you add a little bit to it, too.
The post “The thrilling and not-widely known secret dangers of outdoor writing” first appeared on LouisianaSportsman.com.