Well, I don't how we got here, but another new year is upon us.
Many of us get all sentimental about the old year, and even worse, some of us get up on the soapbox and podium and start telling how we are going to improve next year with a bunch of resolutions (most of which we have no intention of following).
Let's face it, folks, 2021 was no bowl of cherries and most of us were glad to see it go. Likewise, I hope you know your humble outdoors scribe would not preach to you how I am going to lose weight, join a yoga class and somehow become more handsome, all while taking on Mother Teresa-like qualities. Sorry, but it is just not going to happen.
I can, however, offer a few ideas that may improve and brighten 2022 for you outdoors men and women out there.
For heaven's sake, be the guy who is usually on time.
Few things are more aggravating than having to continually wait on the guy who can't be on time. Hunters know that success in the field often depends on being in the right place at the right time. If you are late for predawn meetings a lot, you may find yourself being left out of the mix. Usually getting there on time requires only that you get out of the rack 15 or 20 minutes earlier. Get up and get your feet on the floor, you are going huntin'! (Note: This is a do as I say, not do as I do bit of advice.)
Unless you are going to a barbecue, nobody likes a hog.
This one is as old as the bubonic plague. No one wants to be around the guy who constantly helps himself to the first shot, the best stand and front of the chow line. I have seen this surface quite a bit in the duck blind and the bird field. Don't be so quick on the draw all of the time. Take note as to how many birds, squirrels, doves or ducks the other members in your party have taken. Experienced hunters know sometimes just pausing for a second or two will allow the guy next to you in the blind the first shot. Be the guy who pauses and watches his buddy make (or miss) that shot. If it is a less experienced or younger hunter, by all means give them the shot — and if they down the bird, tell them that is one more you don't have to clean.
Plink your way to better marksmanship.
OK, think of the kid in your house — or the one you know who got the Daisy BB gun for Christmas; maybe someone got a new .22 rifle that he needs to practice with. Plinking is a great way to get out and practice marksmanship. (Who doesn't want to shoot better?) Going to the range or wherever it is safe to shoot for you is a great way for you to get outside and get tuned up with your firearms (and BB guns).
So what is plinking? If you are a shooter, you have probably been doing it for much of your life. It's simply informal target shooting for pleasure, using something as simple as tin cans (hence the plink sound). In contrast to shooting done at established target ranges, plinking is generally done at home, in an open field or other private land for no fee. (Back in the day we went to the local trash dump, but that is another story.) You are only limited by your imagination as to what you may use for targets in plinking. Clay birds from the shotgun sports, small plastic toy animals and even Necco candy wafers have all been used.
Whether you are at a public range or not, remember to clean up all of your litter when you leave. Also, if you are the mentor for young or new shooters, teaching and enforcing the gun safety rules is part of the job. Keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, keeping the trigger finger off the trigger unless you are on target and treating every gun as if it were loaded is just the beginning of the rules you need to instill in your students. But do it: Teach the safety rules every time you go out, and don't apologize for it.
Take a kid hunting.
A lot of these little tidbits I'm giving you seem to be obvious or self-evident, but I want to repeat this one — and, yes, you have heard me say it before. There is a kid out there, in your home, next door or down the road. This kid may have been hunting (or simply shooting) before, but the circumstances of where they live or their family situation may not allow them to go much, if at all. This boy or girl wants to go, to get out there in the woods and have at it. They don't care if it is a perfect day; they just want to go. (If you wait for perfect days, you will never go.) If there is any season in, go get this kid and go hunting. It doesn't matter if it is squirrel, deer, duck or mongoose season. (OK, I made that last one up.)
I hope you don't think all of this was too preachy. I'm just trying to get you tuned up for the new year. It's going to be a great one, folks.
Now go. Just go. Whenever you think it's too wet, or cold or the hills are too steep, get out there anyway.
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.