Case: Hunting and fishing memories keep us heading back outdoors

AP file photo by Keith Srakocic / The memories created by outdoors experiences are often powerful and unforgettable, writes "Guns & Cornbread" columnist Larry Case. Even when we take to the woods alone for a deer hunt, there's a good chance we're accompanied by recollections of past experiences with those who introduced us to the outdoors.

"Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it." — L.M. Montgomery

I have a theory that sportsmen, hunters and fishermen (remember, this means the girls, too) treasure the memories of days gone by more than any other segment of the population. I don't have any way to prove it, but I am going to stick with that statement.

Those of us who tramp the woods and float the rivers seem to go all out in our endeavors just for the sake of making memories. I don't see a thing wrong with that.

Now, you take your average deer hunter (if there is such a thing): This guy will spare no money, time or exertion to find where a big buck is living, try to get a handle on his daily activities and figure out a way to be in the same vicinity of this deer when hunting season comes around. Now, you may say this guy is just trying to kill a big deer so he can brag to his buddies. Well, that could be part of it, but I think it is a complicated mix of loving the hunt, being outdoors, divesting yourself of all the distractions and stresses of the modern world, and just plain ol' sitting out there and watching nature go by.

Now think about what happens if he does take his trophy deer. What is he almost surely going to do? That's right, that buck is going to be mounted and is going on the wall. Now why did he do that? Every time he passes that deer head, he will look at it and instantly be transported back to that day, that morning.

We relive how we heard the crunch of the leaves, and we remember everything that followed. We tensed up, grabbed the bow and almost dropped an arrow. We stood there on the stand and shivered. Was it because it was 19 degrees that morning or was it the anticipation (also known as buck fever)? We relaxed when a little doe appeared — or a squirrel — and then, boom! Out stepped the buck of our dreams.

So the hunter gets this deer mounted so he can be taken back there whenever he wants. The same goes for the big turkey mount, a monster bear or the biggest bass we have ever caught. You get the idea.

As I have expressed here before, I think this also goes for the guns and other gear we take to the field. Going to the woods with the A5 Browning shotgun or the Remington 700 rifle that belonged to our dad or granddad takes us back to the times when they were sitting right there with us. The gun itself doesn't really matter — it can be a Glenfield .22 that you guys used to plink squirrels with or the old Model 12 your granddad kept behind the kitchen door just in case. Either way, we are back in the deer stand or duck blind or turkey woods. We can sit and handle the gun and think back on all the days we had with our loved ones.

Good times, good memories, what could be better?

How could we even talk about all this and not think about our dogs? Hunting dogs for many of us have been the source of many of our memories — good and bad, but mostly good! The dogs that stand out in our memories are the crazy, remarkable ones that gave it their all every time the tailgate dropped. Every day was an adventure, and they were going to live it to the fullest. There is a lesson there somewhere.

Places, as in where we go to hunt or fish, figure into this as well. We can walk that ridge top where we have been dozens of times, and it would be impossible not to think about the dads, granddads, uncles and friends who have gone on before us. You will never stop at the top of this knob and not think about it being the place where he took you and you heard your first turkey gobble. Every time you pass the old, dilapidated tree stand, you will pause and think of all the mornings there, all of the bucks taken there, and you may even see him wave as you go on to your stand.

Folks, I know this thing I am talking about, having and keeping treasured memories, is nothing new. I am just saying it is a big part of our outdoors world.

We hunt and fish because we love it; we are usually not very good at expressing why we do, but we do. The world of hunting and fishing and living a little closer to the land is a good thing. Don't be ashamed of it, don't be afraid to defend it in this crazy mixed-up world we are living in these days.

Get out there, take those kids and let them make some of their own memories.

"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at