February 22, 2007 at 8:37 a.m.
In theory, that sounds pretty cool. There are, however, at least a couple of ways to look at an opportunity like this and each scenario carries with it some tangible advantages and disadvantages. Ron and I will participate in an all-inclusive hunt, which includes a two-night stay in the main lodge, three "hearty ranch-style" meals per day, transportation to and from the field, knowledgeable guides and dogs. The whole enchilada. They even throw in 25 rounds of shooting on their trap range. Like I said, those are some distinct advantages and they certainly sound pretty good so far.
Now that our dates have been set and the dust and excitement has somewhat settled, I've begun to rummage through my upland hunting gear to take stock of what I have on hand and (here's where the dollars come into play) what I'll need to purchase. When the lodge owner tells me that briar chaps or nylon-faced pants are essential and will prevent my legs from getting sliced to ribbons in the thickets, I know I'd better heed his wise counsel and have a set of chaps or a pair of upland pants with me on the trip. I have a serviceable pair of brush pants, but they fit me 20 years and 20 pounds ago. I suppose they'd fit me again if I stopped eating between now and March 9, but I do like my food. I don't need to go on and on and name each piece of equipment I'm lacking, but you get the idea. Pretty soon the balance sheet starts to get a little plump on the "don't currently have but must acquire in a hurry" side of the ledger.
I wouldn't think to make any serious comparisons between a guy like Ron Schara and myself, but I do recall a conversation I had with him over lunch one day. He mentioned something that made me chuckle at the time and now I can really appreciate what he meant when he said it. He told me, "My garage is filled with specialized equipment I picked up over the years to hunt for this or fish for that while taping our shows. A lot of it hasn't seen the light of day for years now, and most of it was only used a few times." I'm paraphrasing a bit, but that was the essence of what he said.
The few items I am lacking and need to purchase for this pheasant hunt will definitely see plenty of use in the future. I have big plans to get my boys out into the woods and fields to hunt grouse and pheasants when they're older. Besides, upland hunting gear really isn't what you'd call specialized. Essential, yes, but not specialized. With this South Dakota hunt drawing near, I can now understand a little better what Schara meant. It'd be foolish to show up at the lodge next month lacking necessary equipment. There are specific tools and apparel designed for specific outdoor pursuits and if you don't have it in the field or on the water, your trip could be far less than enjoyable. Or worse yet, cut short entirely.
I'm looking at this upcoming trip as an opportunity to demonstrate that I can do a write-up for a lodge and its services as well as the next outdoor columnist. The finished piece will go into my growing portfolio of completed work and could present me with future travel writing opportunities.
Maybe in 10 or 20 years I'll be lucky enough to see a bunch of specialized gear hanging in my garage. Stuff I had to pick up out of necessity to travel here and there to hunt for this or fish for that. I'd look at each piece of equipment or article of clothing and it would call to mind a pleasant memory of time spent afield or on the water. To my way of thinking, that would be pretty neat indeed.
Dan Brown's weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankie's Bait and Marine, in Chisago City, and St. Croix Outdoors, in St. Croix Falls, Wis.