The older you get, the more often you make some important realizations.
First, life is way too short. And unpredictable. We need to count our blessings every single day and make the best of each one.
That’s why it is so important to spend whatever quality time you can with your loved ones while you’re still able to enjoy and appreciate the experience.
The most recent reminder of those truths came during a recent hunting outing to northern Maine.
There may not be any better way to enhance relationships, in this case the one between my older son William and me, than through pursuing outdoor adventures.
There’s admittedly some built-in pressure there. In May, I assumed the awesome responsibility of taking over for best friend, hunting and fishing buddy, and longtime BDN Outdoors columnist and editor John Holyoke.
In that role, I’m expected to know stuff when it comes to hunting, fishing and the Maine outdoors. There is an unwritten expectation that I ought to be able to track a big woods buck, catch salmon fly fishing at East Outlet and have an encyclopedic knowledge of dry flies and firearms — among myriad other subjects.
Admittedly, I have a great deal to learn. What knowledge I do have, I have been eager to impart to Will, who in recent years has been delving more into fishing and hunting. Fortunately, he is an avid reader who takes the time to do research on those subjects, so pick up good information from him, too.
Last week, our travels took us to Jackman (thanks for the hospitality, Emily Anderson), where hundreds of moose hunters and a fair number of grouse gunners fanned out across the vast wilderness.
The premise was simple. We would search and call in cuts, walk some woods trails and ride the roads to help our friends locate a moose — and maybe get a few partridge along the way.
We did our Sunday scouting trip and Monday ridealong with John. We shared numerous stories, many of which Will has undoubtedly heard a bunch of times, and gave it the old college try.
We didn’t see squat. But we had a great time.
John’s departure on Monday night, after 1 1/2 days and 200 miles of driving, left Will and I to share the rest of the trip together.
Our apparently marginal scouting skills notwithstanding, it was awesome. For two more days we rode. We searched. We walked. We talked.
Sometimes, for long stretches, we didn’t say anything at all. Well, Will didn’t. He’s not as chatty as his old man.
We just marveled at the gorgeous fall foliage, the rolling hills and the vast swaths of harvested woodland and choked down lots of road dust.
We scanned the roadside and the countryside, but never saw a moose.
Will did spot a barred owl perched high in a tree one evening, but that was about it. It really didn’t matter.
Along the way, I realized how special it was to share the experience with him.
It reminded me of the countless hours spent trolling for salmon on Sebago Lake with my dad. I gleaned lots of knowledge from him on our trips, which often included a transistor radio tuned to a Red Sox game.
Looking back, I know his stories about previous outings on the lake were his subtle way of helping to foster a connection between us and to our family fishing heritage.
The two of us never got out hunting, something that in retrospect I know we would have enjoyed doing together. But that is an opportunity long since lost.
Moving forward, I’ll have a renewed focus on getting out and enjoying the outdoors, hopefully with a family member or a good friend.
The fresh air, the beautiful scenery, the peaceful silence and the occasional adrenaline rush that come with hunting and fishing are best shared. They are experiences that enhance our relationships and our lives.