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Woodland Trails: Don't need all the gizmos and gadgets

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outdoors River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Here's hoping that you truly had a Merry Christmas and that the New Year will be one you will remember because of all of the goodness it brings you and yours!

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My Christmas was a good one because I got to spend it with my children, Josh and Erin. We exchanged gifts, had a great meal that included freshly smoked (Christmas) goose (it was the big hit), broiled salmon and creamed pheasant along with all the trimmings.

Now 2008 has opened a new door for us to walk through. I'm still having a bit of problem accepting the fact that we are in the 2000s. Being a child of the 1960s and '70s, it's a bit harder for me to move on. In fact, my entire generation has seemed to not move on in a lot of ways. We still are holding on to the old songs -- evidence the stations like KQRS that continually play our old songs and the old rock bands that just won't go away, evidence the return of Led Zeppelin and the massive crowds that flocked to the concert. I can see Keith Richards embalmed and standing next to Mick Jagger 10 years from now. He looks embalmed today!

So you might be asking what has this to do with the outdoors? In a recent article you may remember that I was giving out some gift ideas for outdoor types who have everything with my focus on ice fishing. As I was writing that, I was holding on tongue in cheek because as much as I like some of the new stuff out there -- I don't like a lot of the new stuff out there. I know others feel that way because I get e-mails from old friends and such who feel the same way I do.

Case in point is all the new gadgets that I wrote about. You see, I am an old dinosaur, not in age, but in tradition. When I take to the field I like to travel as light as possible. I believe in fair chase and feel a need to promote those ideas. But things change and so do we if we are to survive. I wear Smart Wool socks. I wear polypropylene or fleece long underwear, I have Thinsulate insulated boots. I have many articles made of 10X materials that are silent in the woods.

I want to head into the woods, swamps, lakes and rivers as close to the way our ancestors did as possible. I love hunting with a traditional muzzleloader. I love wool. I've not bought a robo duck. I refuse to hunt from a pop-up camouflaged tent. I walk instead of ride power machines in the woods. I could go on but I think you catch my meaning. I am not criticizing people who do any of the above either!

So many people just don't seem to understand that for everything we gain in technology and gadgets there's a cost to pay. Looking at the largest scale we can see how we have changed the entire climates through global warming by our wanton glut for conveniences and a so-called better life. We have polluted our air, water and lands with chemicals that promised us a better life through chemistry when I was a kid. Scientists had predicted a 20-hour work week back in the '60s because of technology. Instead we multitask and work longer hours just to make ends meet.

Far too many sportsmen today can't go into the woods without handheld GPS units. They have forgotten how to hunt because they sit in heated camouflaged tents or in heated shooting platforms. Mechanical ducks call in young birds like magnets early in the season. Fish TV shows you what's below the surface and you simply watch and set the hook instead of figure out with skill and thought. Modern flashers and liquid crystal fish locators can now zoom in on just about any location in the water column from surface to bottom, summer or winter!

We pay two prices because of science and chemistry, one to the environment and one to the skills that we are losing. It used to be that the skills of woodlands and waters were passed down from one generation to the next. Now it's just about going out and using technology to be successful. I know because I too use technology in many ways. We all do but we can still draw a line in the sand and refuse to step over it. Some will and unfortunately many won't.

Years ago when all the new-fangled fish finders were just coming out, a good friend and archery mentor Arnie Gresback told me that the day would come when fish populations would be depleted because of the new technology. I never forgot that short conversation and have watched over the years to see if his prognostication would hold true. It did. Look at fish bag limits that keep going down every year as proof!

It's all about choice. I have chosen over the years to use many of the modern tools. I was in my son's portable ice shack with his fish TV last week and it was fascinating to watch the fish under the ice. We caught more fish because of it. But we can still choose to release more. A good friend of mine took his little 10-year-old girl deer hunting this year and they sat warm dry in a pop-up tent. They had a ball!

It's all about choice. Doing what's right for the environment and keeping a rich heritage should always be the choice made first rather than having all of the gizmos and gadgets. That's the choice we all need to make more each and every new year!

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