When it comes to spending time in nature, patience prevails

Remember when you were a kid? Your parents were always telling you to have patience. They were right. The key to almost everything is patience. When I was growing up, our family raised a lot of birds. I quickly learned the Arnold Glasow quote: “You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” Hunting, trapping and fishing are ruled by patience and perseverance.

I remember some lessons learned in the hard school of outdoors. When I was a teenager, this old guy (maybe fifty…), asked me if I would take a hike with him into the Talkeetna Mountains. He was a rockhound and knew of a spot where there were some nice agates. He was looking for a strong back with lots of energy to help him pack some out. He told me that the trip would be a short day hike.

We left the road at daylight.

“This old dude can barely move,” I remember thinking.

A couple of hours into the walk I was resting while waiting for this guy, Ray Gatts. He comes trucking up with his slow steady pace and cruises right by me.

“No big steps”, he says, “just one foot in front of the other.” Of course, I jump up and go like crazy.

Sometime, just before dark that day, I remember struggling along with my pack, doing my darndest to salvage the remnants of my pride and keep up with Ray. That lesson has stayed with me. This fall, a friend and I packed a caribou out, that we shot a little over a mile from the boat. It was near dark and we picked a lousy route out with the first pack. In my younger days, I would have taken the back half and struggled all of the way to the boat.


However, age and experience aids in teaching patience. I took the two hinds (without the backbone), and managed that. It wasn’t easy. Instead of going back for the next trip in the dark, and trying to run the jetboat up the Maclaren in the dark, the wise decision was made to head for home, and get a decent rest before getting the rest of the animal out of the woods. The next day was pleasant. We found an easier route and my daughter was able to come along to pack out the antlers.

Fishing, especially ice fishing, requires us to have the utmost in patience — and perseverance. Remember that while fishing through the ice, the fish have to come to you. Predator fish tend to swim around around looking for targets. Some folks tell me they swim around lakes and underwater structures counter clockwise. No matter. When fishing open water, the fishermen can go to the fish. Ice fishing, the majority of the time; the fish must come to you.

You can look for fish by trying different locations. That is wise. You should not leave a particular, non-productive spot, without trying different water depths. A winter ago, another family and ours went ice fishing on a new lake. I like small lakes. It doesn’t take fish so long to swim all of the way around a small lake. We fished. No fish, no bites. We moved … more than once. The kids slid and played on the ice. They checked their poles once in a great while. The moms visited. The other dad and I fished.

I will credit the kids with the final success. We were ready to call it an empty day after three non-productive hours. I asked the kids, “Ready to go, or do you want to try another location?”

“Oh no, keep trying!” was the response. We moved and drilled a couple new holes. Immediately we began to catch fish. Just as quickly we had kids wanting more holes. Soon we had enough fish for dinner and the day was deemed a success.

Trapping requires more patience than anything else. Unless you have a real good marten line, the vast majority of traps will be empty. A heavy snow or a windstorm will mean that the trapper must run the entire line and reset most of the traps. In the world atmosphere of today, a trapper might need unending patience in waiting for the now non-existent fur market to rebound.

Hunting is also all about watching and waiting. I see hunters today rushing around on ATVs hoping that something crosses their path that they might get a quick shot. A fair number of illegal animals are taken each hunting season by those who don’t take the time to really look at what they are shooting.

Experience teaches us; we undo ourselves by impatience. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.”

John Schandelmeier

Outdoor opinion columnist John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.