Here's how a crazy survival knife influenced my definition of outdoorsmanship.
But first things first.
The outdoorsman is one of the four roles of the Steward of Nature.
And the Steward of Nature is my framework for mastering hunting.
As I considered the outdoorsman's part in hunting, I realised there were conflicting aspects of this role.
On the one hand, it's about serious skills development.
On the other hand, it's about fun, adventure and preserving a sense of awe.
But why is it important to solve those conflicts, you might ask.
Because making sense of things is the path to getting better.
Splitting out the component parts will make it easier to understand them.And that, in turn, will help you master outdoorsmanship.
Which will ultimately make you a better hunter.
Looking back, the first hint of a definition of outdoorsmanship came to me at an unlikely time and an unlikely place.
I was around 10-12 years old and on holiday in Spain with my family.And my parents let me buy a souvenir.
Me being me, I avoided the usual tourist hot spots and found what I was looking for.
A knife shop in a quiet side street.
What I saw in the window gave me a revelation-like experience.
Sunrays through the clouds, trumpeting angels and the works.
In front of me was a piece of pure beauty.
The Jungle King 2 survival knife.
At that point, it was the only thing that mattered in my life.
I needed it.
I would not be complete without it.
And I started a persistent campaign of pestering my parents.
They had probably given up on me at that point.
So much for "healthy" interests like football, handball and badminton; Well, they tried.
So I managed to convince them the knife was an appropriate souvenir.
I didn't reflect directly on it at the time, but that knife taught me a foundational lesson about outdoorsmanship.
Here's what I learned.
Outdoorsmanship is a balance between logistics and adventure.
How did a knife teach me that?
Getting the Jungle King 2 was pure excitement, to being with.
But that excitement was soon tempered.
The knife was everything a boy growing up on Rambo II could ever dream of.
The belly of the blade curved outwards, and the spine was serrated. The grip was hollow, with a compass in the cap and a survival capsule inside it.
The scabbard was made from injection moulded green plastic, wrapped in paracord, and had a built-in slingshot.
It also came with an extra survival tool that could be used as a fishing spear tip.
Absolutely crazy. And I found it difficult to process it all.
But in all that excitement, one thing dawned on me.
Putting the knife and each individual feature to good use required both skill and knowledge.
I loved that knife, but there was always a slight sense of worry.
A feeling that maybe I was a little out of my depth.
That feeling fuelled a life long desire to learn these skills.
I no longer have the knife.
And I'm not sure it's one I would use anyway.
But it's with me in spirit, and it has helped me define outdoorsmanship.
As an outdoorsman, you take pride in developing your skill and knowledge. And you remember to appreciate nature and look for big and small adventures.
I'll talk about both sides of the outdoorsman in other posts. They are equally crucial to being a Steward of Nature.
Equally critical if you want to master hunting.
Here's a confession.
I love guns and gear.
And I love to get really nerdy about the details.
It gives me comfort that I have crossed the t's and dotted the i's. That I'm doing all I can to set myself up for success.
And it's good old fun.
My favourite source for that kind of detail is Joseph Von Benedikt's Backcountry Hunting podcast.
Joseph is an accomplished hunter and outdoorsman. And one of the great gun writers of his generation.
His podcasts are analysis of gear, guns or cartridges. To figure out the optimal choice for a given backcountry hunting situation.
He can spend significant time on the difference between a range of seemingly identical .300 magnums. And he has a catalogue of hunting stories to support his points of view.
I love it.
Despite going deep down the rabbit hole of gear, Joseph always steps back and reflects on nature;
How vast the mountains are.
Or the beauty of the spot of nature a particular anecdote revolves around.
That, to me, is an excellent example of outdoorsmanship.
A desire to master knowledge, skills and gear.
Balanced with a sense of awe or appreciation for the wild.
I think it's a balance you and I can learn from.
The outdoorsman plays a critical role for the Steward of Nature. For your success as a hunter.
It is easy to get tied up in the skills and the details because they are essential. And exciting.
But you need to balance it out with a sense of adventure. A feeling of awe.
The skills give you a logistical foundation for success.
And the sense of awe is, in my view, the best way to keep you grounded and connected with nature.
And hunting like a Steward of Nature.
There's lots more to say. This is a small part of the big picture. And I will talk about the specifics of the two sides of outdoorsmanship in other posts.
Thanks for reading. I hope you got food for thought or an idea to take with you.
Check out the backcountry hunting podcast here: