Gaining a Mid-Mountain Perspective
(Lynn Burkhead photo)
In the spring of 2001, I had to pinch myself a time or two. Why? Because I suddenly found myself among some of the most recognized men in the outdoor communications industry while interviewing for a job that I had never sought out. Funny how things work out, huh?
To my utter amazement, a few weeks later, I had a business card trumpeting to the world the fact that I was an Associate Editor for an Internet outdoor website. That I had such a card was a surprise to me since becoming a writer about the outdoors world wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I attended the University of North Texas and earned the sheepskin that my parents were paying for. But there I was in 2001 with a new card, a new job, and a brand new calling, the latter learning the fine art of telling the story of America’s great outdoors in a big and bold modern world.
Before I knew what had happened, there I was with the opportunity, and the privilege, to tell the tale of Kevin VanDam’s confetti filled triumph in New Orleans as KVD won his first ever Bassmaster Classic on the steaming Louisiana Delta. It was the outdoors world at its finest, or so I thought.
A few weeks later, I found myself in North Dakota telling the story of how the anglers of the Professional Walleye Tour would answer the challenge of President George W. Bush as he stood on a pile of smoldering rubble with a megaphone in his hand challenging Americans to find a way to continue on with their regular lives, going about their business and refusing to let the terrorists win following the deadly attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
True to the President’s call, the PWT Championship anglers in Bismarck mustered the resolve to have the tourney go on as planned. When all was said and done, Mike Gofron stood on stage with an American flag in one hand, the PWT championship trophy in the other and his name forever etched in time as a walleye fishing world champion.
Suddenly, I had a different understanding of what constituted the outdoors world at its finest. It wasn’t the triumphs, it wasn’t the tragedies, it wasn’t the great catches or the big trophies heading for the taxidermist’s shop. Instead, it was the peace and healing power of the outdoors, the resolve and can-do spirit of the American outdoorsman, and the privilege of watching a new day dawn from a treestand, a duck blind, or the front deck of a bass boat.
With that lesson firmly tucked away in my back pocket, I was blessed to spend the next few years learning this business, and the art of telling outdoor stories, from the ground up. More than a decade later, that calling continues, albeit with a few unexpected bumps in the road along the way.
And that brings me to the point of this column, the start of a regular feature on OutdoorChannel.com that will tell a few stories, with my views about hunting and fishing storylines, and report on all things outdoors in this great country that we get to live in.
If you, the reader will permit me, I hope to try and sit on a mid-mountain ridge in this American outdoors world with a good pair of glasses, a spotting scope, and a notebook. While hopefully making a sensible observation or two that will help provide a smile, a laugh, a bit of careful reflection, and maybe even some hard-won perspective. What I’ve learned along the way is that no other country on the planet is blessed with the amazing array of critters and outdoors resources that America has.
Sure, I hope to someday chase a Cape buffalo in Africa or to cast a dry fly for a brown trout in New Zealand and to catch a peacock bass on a wooden plug flung deep into the Brazilian Amazon. But if I never get those opportunities to make a few treks around the world, that’s okay because there’s more than enough to keep me busy here in my own backyard.
To be sure, we face some very real threats to hunting, fishing and the outdoors way of life in America – habitat loss, water issues, political squabbles, economic woes, etc. But perspective has also taught me that while the sky often seems to be falling that usually isn’t the case.
Hunters still glass every fall for big critters on Western mountain ridges, waterfowlers still reach for a Cocobolo call on the lanyard as the Lab whines and mallards wheel overhead above an icy marsh, and anglers try to finish a hastily tied knot as the first blush of a warm dawn appears over the water’s edge.
At last check, despite all of the threats to our way of life, the outdoors world, and the modern outdoorsperson remains very much alive and well in America. As do their outdoors stories, told around a late night campfire or an early morning rendezvous at a greasy spoon restaurant sitting near a body of fresh or salt water. Stories that are alive and well, some 365 days a year.