A friend told me the other day he was depressed about the cold winter. Already he had stoked himself with Vitamin D and even yogurt and nuts, he said, all the trendy stuff.
But the needle on his mood-o-meter hadn’t budged.
Now he was fiddling with the idea of a good intestinal cleansing, an Internet bargain, he thought, at $149.95 paid over six months, interest-free.
“I might even get inked up,” he reported, though he acknowledged “chicks could interpret as a downer” a half-dozen teardrop tattoos emblazoned on his chest, beneath his heart.
“Among your problems,” I said, “is that you don’t hunt or fish. If you did, you’d be too busy worrying or planning to be depressed about something as inconsequential as winter.”
Which was true.
Hunters and anglers can survive long, cold winters and other complications — not because catching a fish or outsmarting a cagey whitetail enhances their outlook sufficiently enough to ward off the rigors of cold days and even colder nights.
Instead, hunters and anglers nowadays must pay such close attention to politics, among other wild cards affecting the rise and fall of wildlife populations, that they have no time for lesser concerns.
“Also, if you hunt or fish, you have to be planning year-round for the next season,” I said.
Consider ducks and pheasants, the hunting of which won’t begin until fall.
Before then, as necessary, a hunter will want to purchase and train a puppy, or finely tune an older dog.
And between now and fall, Congress might pass a farm bill, in the process creating or destroying tens of thousands of acres of upland and wetland habitat in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Montana and the Dakotas.
“Unless you want to be staring at a freezer devoid of birds next winter, you’ve got to know this stuff,” I said.
Also in the next few months, the Legislature will convene and adjourn, in the process perhaps finally approving a bill that puts teeth in state laws requiring roadsides to be cropped only for hay.
As it is now, thousands of acres of corn are illegally planted each year in these public rights-of-way, enriching farmers but robbing all manner of wildlife, not least ducks and pheasants, of one of the state’s few remaining places they can nest and hide.
Perhaps legislators will even stand up to the state’s ag lobby, I said, and demand that rivers and streams and ditches be buffered with grass and other cover to reduce farmland runoff.
Then again: Not likely.
“And don’t even get me started on the planning required for fishing,” I said.
By now, anglers should be contemplating the May opener. Where will they fish? And with whom?”
Perhaps a new boat will be needed.
If so, the Boat Show opens next week at the Minneapolis Convention Center, where all manner of craft can be compared under one roof, some powered by four-stroke outboards, others by two-strokes.
“Once you decide that, you have to decide if the boat will be aluminum or fiberglass,” I said.
Or perhaps it’s a canoe that’s preferred for fishing and paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
If so, consideration will have to be given — sooner or later — to the future of the BWCA. Which in turn will require boning up on the prospect of precious metals mining near the wilderness, and what it might mean for the area and its fish, if anything.
My friend went silent for a long moment.
Then he said, “So if you and your buddies worry about this stuff just to hunt and fish, why aren’t you as depressed about it as I am about winter?”
“Because,” I said, “launching a boat or paddling a canoe or following a good dog into thick cover is for many people who do it life-defining.
“You study up. You plan. Then you lay your cards on the table in an honest attempt to see how you fare on a lake, in a field, wherever. A shrink might say you’re self-actualizing, or attempting to reach your full potential.
“As you do, over time you value the experience so much you try to preserve it, especially for your kids.”
“Makes worrying about winter seem trivial,” my friend said.