Before I head out the door for the Thanksgiving holiday, let me share some thoughts with you. . . .
The holiday feast we are going to celebrate this week is one that is uniquely American. I will not bore you with all the old stories we learned in school, but it is our history, from the pilgrims to Presidents Washington, Lincoln and FDR this has been designated as a special day set aside for the celebration of harvest and a day of giving thanks. I am struck by the fact that over hundreds of years our celebrations today probably closely resemble the celebrations observed by those pilgrims and their native American friends. Even the menu most of us will savor on Thanksgiving Day will be one similar to what our pilgrim forefathers enjoyed.
Speaking of harvests, if you consider the wild game, fish and fowl, that graced the pilgrims table, we have the opportunity to take much of that game today. Believe me, I fully realize that habitat conditions and pheasant numbers are nothing like they used to be, I know our deer numbers are much lower than they were just a couple of years ago, and I know what a challenge the lack of water is to our state’s fisheries. But, I also know that I am able to experience many hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities now that are as good or better than what my grandfathers or great grandfathers had. Depending on the species of fish or game, we have some opportunities where we are experiencing “the good ole days” now.
I also will not bore you again now with the history of fish & game management on this continent, how it is different here, how the fish & game resources belong to us, belong to the people, and not to the aristocracy. This country was established on the wild ideas of freedom and independence; that is what brought those pilgrims here in the first place. The wild ideas of freedom and independence in the founding of our country were extended to the management and enjoyment of our fish, wildlife and natural resources.
Have you ever stopped to think about those concepts? Freedom? Independence? We take those for granted. How are we able to enjoy our freedom? What does that mean to you? When do you feel the most free? The most independent? As I have wandered around Nebraska’s fields and waters, an answer to those questions dawned on me: I feel the most free, the most independent, when I am on the water or in the field! I love to spend those times with family and friends, but there are still times when I am hunting, fishing, or trapping by myself, and even if I am fishing on one of the most heavily-fished public waters in the state or chasing turkeys on the “back 40” deep in some of Nebraska’s canyon country, I am free. We absolutely have rules and regulations that govern our behaviors in the field and on the water, and I hope you have a personal set of outdoor ethics that extends above and beyond what the hunting and fishing guides say, but while we are out there we very much are free to make our own decisions, to do what we want, go where we wish. In the middle of your outdoor pursuits, in your quest for the catch or harvest, stop and think about that sometime. We get so focused on the ultimate goal, the success, that we forget to enjoy the process. We have a lot to enjoy, a lot to be thankful for!