Outdoorsmen (and women, for that matter) can be jerks. There. I said it.
A recent trip through cyberspace reminded me of that fact, when I started reading discussions of “etiquette” on fly fishing waters. It turns out that many anglers fish too close to others, ask other anglers too many nosy questions and generally ruin a good time for anyone else within casting distance.
And it’s not just fisher-people who annoy us. Some hunters have been known to block woods roads with their trucks so nobody else can get in and moose hunt. Hikers sometimes spend their entire time on the trail yapping on their cellphones. I once knew a guy who wanted to put a “snorkel” kit on his four-wheel-drive truck so that he could drive through streambeds and mud holes (on land he didn’t own) and make a general nuisance of himself.
Man, I hate people like that.
And sometimes, I’ll reluctantly admit, I am one.
Several years back, some buddies and I headed to northern Quebec for some remote fishing. By “remote,” I mean “Drive 10 hours from Bangor, until you get to the middle of nowhere, then drive another five hours into the woods just to make sure nobody will bother you.” That kind of remote.
One day, our group headed to a river, parked (in an empty turnout) and hiked a path that traced the river’s path. Two of our fishermen stopped at a pretty spot and began casting lures from a ledge into the water 10 feet below. Three of us continued upriver a half-mile, where we found some water to wade.
A couple hours later, the three of us decided it was time to head back to camp for some lunch, so we headed back downriver toward the truck, figuring we’d pass our other buddies on the way and let them know the plan.
At the ledge, I saw our two pals tossing lures off the ledge, and snuck up behind them, taking a position on a rise. Then, to get their attention, I picked up a grapefruit-sized rock and lobbed it over their heads into the pool they were fishing. It was, I thought, a not-too-subtle “time to eat” message that they’d get a kick out of.
Laughing at my own prank, I watched as the two fishermen turned around and glared at me.
They were not my pals. They were complete strangers. And neither was too impressed.
Embarrassed beyond belief, I mumbled an apology and scuttled back toward the trucks before they returned fire with rocks of their own.
Ugly American? Yeah. That’s me. And my buddies have never let me hear the end of it.
All of which is offered to illustrate this: Sometimes, people are just natural jerks. But sometimes their jerkiness is accidental. To carry that thought a bit further, with a bit of proper training or the right hints, some of those jerks can be saved. Maybe. Hopefully.
Or, at the very least, some of the offenders might learn which acts aggravate the rest of us so much, and try to avoid those outdoor missteps in the future.
That, at least, is the hope.
So here’s what we’re asking: What kind of hunting, fishing or hiking behaviors tick you off? How much is too much? And perhaps most importantly, what kinds of things can we do to make our outdoor pursuits more civil?
I’m betting “For one thing, stop throwing rocks where others are fishing” will be among the top responses, and you’re right. I haven’t (knowingly) done anything remotely as jerky since then.
Leave comments below. I shouldn’t have to say this, especially considering the topic, but I hope you’ll be civil to your fellow commenters. Or feel free to send along an email, and I may share some of your responses in a future column.
Have fun out there this weekend. Be safe. And for heaven’s sake, be nice to each other.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” will be released by Islandport Press in October.
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