The Wild Side: Include the outdoors in New Year?s resolutions
We kick off 2013 the same way we kick off most new years-with resolutions. I think it is human nature to overreach on trying to improve ourselves, especially when we take our families into consideration. A couple years ago, I attempted to improve my family’s financial situation. I made some spending changes, liquidated some belongings on an online auction, but then my take-home pay was cut. Any footing I gained was quickly lost. In 2012, I set my goal low-to reduce coffee consumption to two cups a day. Success! It took a lot of work, and I have to give it conscious effort every single day, but I upheld my resolution.
Each year, some of the most common resolutions include getting exercise, quitting smoking, losing weight and something financial (cutting spending, better at paying bills, etc.) Statistics show that 25 percent of resolutions fail within a week, and almost half are broken within six months. My wife is associated with a non-profit weight loss organization. This time of year, her focus is on helping people set and achieve realistic resolutions. This got me thinking that I may be able to help you with your resolutions by demonstrating how hunting can fit into your resolution plan.
Getting exercise is an obvious starting point. When I go duck hunting, I routinely paddle my duck skiff, my fat dog and all my gear to my hunting spot. That is almost 500 pounds of resistance paddled one to two miles twice a week for eight weeks, a routine grueling enough for one of those weight loss TV shows.
Grouse hunting is a great way to get more low-impact exercise. I take my wife and boys for a Northwoods stroll, and they get fresh air and exercise. The walking speed is pretty slow, but the terrain is uneven, with changes in pitch and slope, and over three miles or more you can get a quality workout. Grouse hunting is open from September to the end of January, plenty of time to get some “reps” in.
Deer hunting can be good exercise, but the season is pretty short compared to small game seasons like grouse, rabbit or waterfowl. This exercise will help you with losing weight as well. In addition, wild game meats like turkey, grouse, duck and venison are heart healthy and very low in cholesterol.
Quitting smoking is another resolution. Hunting made me cut way back on cigar smoking, especially while small game hunting with a dog. I have her whistle trained, but while juggling a cigar and a whistle, I occasionally found myself puffing on the whistle and blowing on the cigar. I once tried having both in my mouth at the same time, and quickly discovered it left no room for breathing. If you are heading to higher altitudes to hunt elk or moose, you really need to make this resolution stick, because you will need all the air you can get.
Financially, hunting may seem like a toss-up. You need to buy licenses, and you need appropriate gear, firearm, fuel and shells. If you plan ahead and budget carefully, you can buy multi-endorsement licenses which cost less when bunched. Big game can provide a large amount of healthy protein at a reasonable cost, especially if you process it yourself. Small game costs are fairly low, depending on your aim, so the more you get out and harvest, the lower cost per pound of the meat. Careful budgeting is also crucial to buying new or replacement hunting gear. Just think, paying bills on time frees up all those late fee dollars to spend on shotgun shells and decoys!
Resolve to get outdoors more this year. Experience wildlife in some fashion, get to know the different public lands around you and take a break from technology. I predict you will feel better about yourself, regardless of your other resolutions.
Jeremy Holtz is a wildlife biologist with the Wisconsin DNR and writes a weekly column in the Star Journal. To contact him, call (715) 365-8999.