ESCANABA - One of the things I've been able to do through the years is accumulate neat stuff. You know what I mean, neat things guys like me have to have. Some of them I've never used but they remain essential so when someone else talks about theirs, I can say, "Hey I've got one of those too!"
Guns are most important. Take shotguns for instance.
I've got a garden variety of models and gauges to choose from, with a mix of action. There aren't any semi-automatic models. That was done on purpose because a pump should work fast enough to rack in a second shot.
My double barrel is as fast as it gets. After that, the odds of hitting anything on the wing are greatly reduced. I'll wager it's helped me refrain from dumping entire clips of ammo and thus saved me tons of money, enabling the opportunity to buy other important stuff.
I used to be able to sneak in a new one here and there until I screwed up and wrote about it in my column. Now I catch my wife pausing as she periodically walks past the cabinet and takes a quick inventory. Alas, the rough old soft case will no longer serve as adequate cover when a firearm is being added on the sly.
See how this works?
Outfitting myself with other gear like clothing has been a challenge. When you invest in outdoor cover, it has to be of decent quality for vigorous use, the latest technology for protection from the elements, and absolutely blend with the environment (even though it most often has to be covered with a blaze orange vest).
However, I find a need to do some annual (or seasonal) replacement for two reasons I had not contemplated.
I never figured having two sons that I literally now look up to and seem to have the same shoe, sweatshirt and jacket size as the old man. Pants aren't an issue as they grew up, and I grew out.
Some of my other "stuff" priorities have changed over the years too.
For years I thought it absolutely essential to have all the outdoors periodicals I could find, especially every sequential volume and series of Deer and Deer Hunting magazine.
At one time they even sold special box holders so they could be stored in a reference library style, something for my den, a place for my retreat to smoke a good cigar and reflect on the universe.
That plan died on the vine as I'll most likely never get that den, smoking cigars is bad for my aging health, and my wife got sick and tired of all the magazines lying around. She developed a sneakier way of throwing them out that made my way of smuggling in a new gun pale in comparison.
I do have a considerable collection of books. These are kept in my office/studio where my writing and radio show production are done.
Some of them I've purchased, like the yearly Deer Hunter's Almanac (a volume series put out by the publishers of Deer and Deer Hunting magazine). Other's have been sent to me from companies promoting authors.
I've purchased and been given works by some well known writers like Richard P. Smith, who by the way has his newest piece, Michigan Deer Tales - Book 5, due for distribution later this month. Smith's work is the type that you can go back to year after year for reference and review.
I recently acquired a book that will be used for reference for the rest of my tenure as an outdoorsman. I will upgrade it, if and when it is upgraded. Titled "The Future of Hunting and the Shooting Sports - Research Based Recruitment and Retention Strategies, the literature is full of study data that covers the last two decades.
It was produced under a grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Grant Agreement CT-M-6-0 and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The lead research coordinator is Mark Damian Dudah, Executive Director of a research organization out of Virginia, Responsive Management.
Dudah recently toured the Michigan and made several public presentations regarding his work. In the UP he spoke before a group of conservation organization leaders and explained in great detail where our focus should be.
His study is a primary source of credible information that is being used when natural resource agencies formulate their respective plans toward hunter recruitment and retention as well as other resources issues.
There are nearly 100 discipline points of interest, with each having varying perspectives.
It not only looks at the issues of today's hunting and shooting sports from the eyes of the end users, it also conveys the image we convey to the non-participating general public and owners of the resources we are privileged to enjoy.
The information provides guidance on how we can remain respected as natural resource stewards, and beat back the anti-hunting and anti-shooting factions with a legacy of high ethics and intense conservation work.
I know that from this day forward, I'll readily be able to sight statistics from a real source of research, when comparing it to comments I often hear at meetings or when considering involvement with an organization dealing with conservation, game harvest and the shooting sports or any natural resource management agency.
I'm sure in time it will become dog-eared much like my copy of Smith's first book on deer hunting. This book, researching the future of hunting and the shooting sports, will remain a staple in my inventory of essential outdoors guy stuff as a tool, not an amenity.
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.