Well, it’s that time of year when we look back at the past and forward to the future. You may wonder how this practice began. Believe it or not, the ancient Babylonians are the first recorded civilization to do so some 4,000 years ago.
The Babylonians were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the New Year. Their calendar didn’t begin in January as ours does, but in March when the crops were planted. This makes perfect sense to me since we are all slaves to our stomachs and a good harvest of the first order to any nation.
Since I have a tendency to make goals that are lofty and even praiseworthy, it’s been my sad experience that though I may start out well, I slack off as the year goes on. Exercise, better eating habits, self-improvement, saving more money and a thousand other resolutions seem to slowly wither on the vine. Such failure can cause feelings of vague guilt and anxiety possibly affecting happiness and feelings of self-worth. So, I have determined to be wise in my goals and set those which are attainable.
Of course, your goals may be important ones that must be tackled with the utmost determination, drive and support. If health or family are at stake, a good long look in the mirror and your utmost willpower must be called upon.
The single greatest lesson my father taught me was this: ask yourself why you did something and honestly answer the question. Far too many times we find arrogance, pride and selfishness to be the answer, not yours or another’s ultimate wellbeing. Any individual who can say they’re sorry and then do better is a greater, stronger individual than any popularly proclaimed celebrity and ultimately lives a happier and more fulfilled life.
But, back to my goals. Anyone who's read my articles or book, Soul of the Hunter, knows I love to hunt spring gobblers. Amazingly, my goal this year is to hunt them less. Yes, less! You see, I’ve discovered hunting two or more states seriously compromises the time available for trout fishing.
With spring gobbler seasons opening the second or third week of April in Missouri or Kentucky, this leaves only two weeks to fish New York and a day or two in Pennsylvania before leaving to chase long beards. Untimely rains, snow melt and high water always manage to rob me of days or even a week’s worth of fishing during this time of year. This deprivation has left a gap in my soul, an emptiness that cannot be filled by turkey hunting alone. Besides, turkey season runs all of May and an entire month of 4 a.m. risings is certainly enough for me I’ve discovered.
No, big gobblers have their place in my spring, but not to the exclusion of at least three to four weeks streamside when creeks are full of eager trout, the waters icy cold and the fish firm, fresh and full of fight.
What symphony can match the stirring hurry and bubbling laugh of a rushing stream mixed deliciously with the thrilling song of a red-winged blackbird perched high in a willow? No, these spring elixirs must be carefully savored, their health and rejuvenating qualities indulged in and cherished to gain their full, soul-satisfying effect.
Another goal I have in mind is to ride my bicycle much more regularly. At one time, I was in pretty decent shape and thought a 20-mile ride on fairly flat roads no big deal. Riding a bike is perhaps the greatest of exercises as it is so easy on feet, tendons and joints. Perhaps to encourage myself I’ll make a chart and expect myself to check off that I’m riding at least every other day with a note of the mileage covered. Once you get in shape your body begins to crave the exercise, the problem is having the discipline to get to that point. I need a partner, as having someone expecting you to show up is a big incentive.
Two other sports turkey hunting interferes with are crappie and walleye fishing. Both are at a peak during May and it’s pretty tough to get up in the morning, hunt hard and then head to Chautauqua Lake at my age. My spirit feels as if I’m 20 years old, but the body has a different view of the situation and insists on reminding me of my age with all sorts of pains, aches, fatigue and plain old, “I like sitting here in this comfortable chair by the fire!”
There are more than likely other goals I should set, but just thinking of them makes me nervous. Guess I’ll let them slide so they don’t upset my sleep. Goal setting certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. To the driven among us I’m sure goals will be set and met, while the rest of us have good intentions, but may struggle in the long run. However, I’m buoyed up by the thought of the upcoming trout season and a goal I certainly can come to grips with. Hopefully, you’ll be able to say the same.