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The perils of outdoor decision making

By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
May 17, 2002
Part of the attraction that the outdoor life holds for us is the freedom. Freedom from the daily grind; freedom from telephones; freedom to do as we please for a while. Outdoor adventures also provide freedom of choice, usually choices we like to make; the good-better-best kind of choices. Like whether to cast by that stump or over in the shallows, or whether to take the high trail or the low one or stay where we are.
Though making the wrong choice now and then may be inevitable, a function perhaps of simple mathematical probabilities, it seems I have made an inordinate number of them. I am wondering if other outdoorsmen make the same blunders or is it just me.
Recent ventures brought this question to the forefront. Readers may recall the account of my brother's gobbler in this space on May 3 in which he continued a life-long run of exceptional luck (or brilliant decision making?) while I chose the wrong field in which to hunt. Well, just last week he sat in the same boat with me and caught 19 bass while I was landing only one! We were using the same lure and I have several years up on him catching bass. Did he make 19 good casting spot decisions to my one! Am I that bad at making choices?
The evidence
The evidence may be incriminating. I once heard a bull elk bugle as he came charging toward me through thick brush. I decided to squeal a weak bugle of an immature bull at him to encourage him to crash out into the open and provide me a shot. Instead he put on the brakes and tiptoed out of there pronto. All I had to do was just wait quietly for heaven's sake! Wrong decision.
I was south of Orlando fishing a lake that held monster bass. My goal was to land a 10 pounder, (which I have yet to accomplish). I had a string of two pounders when another angler brought his boat near mine, cast an identical six-inch plastic worm within 40 feet of my boat and brought out a monster bass. He weighed it on the spot. Ten pounds! Within a short cast of my boat mind you. Why hadn't I cast to that spot?
The antelope were eluding me by staying a half mile out in a giant flat, out of range of my hiding spots among the covers of surrounding rimrock
cliffs. I made a plan. One morning I hiked to the center of the desert flat well before daylight and lay flat in the sagebrush on a small rise overlooking the area where the big bucks liked to roam. By noon I had seen only does and a couple of immature bucks within range while watching a monster buck loafing around the rimrocks where I had been hiding the day before. My wrong decision got me a sunburn and an allergy from breathing sagebrush pollen.
Lost chance
On the first day of a moose hunt in Wyoming, a local cowboy offered to let me hunt with him while he looked for a trophy mule deer. He had lived most of his life in the area and knew the mountain we would hunt like he knew his cabin rooms. We stalked along together, peeking over ridge tops above aspen-covered benches and other promising spots. For some reason, I decided to branch off and watch a grassy meadow while he continued his searching.
Well, while I was watching the barren meadow, Wes walked up on two giant bull moose fighting in an opening. He rushed back for me and we ran (mostly I stumbled) the half mile to the scene. The bulls had moved into the thick timber and we followed the sounds of their guttural grunts as they ambled away to parts unknown. To this day I wonder what made me think I needed to do something other than stay at the elbow of a hunter who knew how to find game there a dozen times better than I did.
My list of outdoor goofs goes on and on. I feel better having written a few of them down. Confessing has been a little therapeutic. I may do some more of this and see if it might break my jinx.