Want to see cool stuff? Get out there in it!

Want to see cool stuff? Get out there in it!
John C. Lorson

Falls colors should be hitting their prime this week. Be sure to make some time to get out there and take a look around!


As I told the story of a recent wildlife encounter to a friend of mine she said jokingly, “Why do YOU get to see all the cool stuff? I’ve never seen anything like that!”

I assured her that there wasn’t anything special about me — and maybe more importantly, there wasn’t anything wrong with her.

“It’s just that the odds are in my favor,” I said. “But I spend an awful lot of time working to make them so.”

Folks that hunt and fish know this as well as anyone. You’ve got to spend time out there in it if you’re ever going to come home with the prize. Skewing the odds has as much to do with managing time as anything else. The equation is simple: The more quality time you spend sitting in the tree stand, crouching in the duck blind, or casting from the bass boat the more likely it is that you will eventually find success.

This is not to suggest that preparation isn’t crucial. Study and practice are important in any endeavor, but all the knowledge and skill in the world doesn’t mean much if you never get any playing time.

In addition to the simple calculus of hours afield, you also tend to learn a little something with every outing. You watch patterns emerge in nature. You notice cues that things are lining up in just the right way. You develop a feel for a good day versus a day you might just as well have stayed in bed. The more time you spend in the natural world the more you learn to rely on your own senses and instincts. That’s exactly what I’m talking about when I say that I’m working to put the odds in my favor.

With all of that said, I’ll have to admit that a fair share of my most fantastical moments in the outdoors have come down to little more than dumb luck. What occurred on the trail last week was undoubtedly the greatest of these.

The morning was crisp and the dawn was coming on strong as I drove toward Fredericksburg with my bike in the back of my truck. A meeting back in town at the end of the day dictated that I skip the roadway portion of my bicycle commute in order to make it back to Orrville on time. Soon enough, however, I was rolling along on a trail wrapped on both sides by the growing glow of autumn in all its glory. A few miles into the ride, I did a quick pat on each of my jersey pockets — one for my phone and one for my camera and just like that the timing of my day took a crucial turn.

During photography workshops in the long-ago days before “a phone in every pocket,” I used to preach the importance of “always, always, always” carrying a camera with you (again, it’s all about skewing the odds in your favor). The ubiquitous use of smartphones has hushed my pleading toward many, but for folks who hope to grab high quality photos of frequently distant, swiftly moving and often less-than-cooperative wildlife a higher quality camera with a telephoto lens is still a must have.

I faced a dilemma: Do I turn around and ride back to the truck to grab my camera, or do I risk “just this one trip” without it? Still rolling toward work I took a good look around. In the chill of the morning a thin fog hugged the banks of Salt Creek and the golden glow of the sun’s early rays was working toward setting the hillsides aflame. I went back for the camera and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

By the time I’d arrived back at the spot where I’d made my decision I had pushed myself a full 15 minutes behind schedule and past sunrise. This may seem an insignificant slice of time, but in the world of crepuscular animals (those most active at dawn and dusk) it might be the difference between “running around” time and bedtime. I was kicking myself a bit for missing out on some great deer-spotting conditions and figured that the turkeys would be quickly dissolving into the woods as well. The squirrels, however, are presently working extended hours during the seasonal rush of acorns, hickory nuts and walnuts and were darn near thick enough to walk across if they’d have only stood still for a second.

With the constant scamper of furry-tailed varmints all around it might have been easy to dismiss the critters I was about to encounter on up the trail as just another scurry of squirrels— what a missed opportunity that would have been! (You’ll need to come back next week for my “big reveal.”)

Remember, if you have comments on this column or questions about the natural world please write The Rail Trail Naturalist, P.O. Box 170, Fredericksburg, OH 44627 or email John at jlorson@alonovus.com.

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