What constitutes a memory? How can we determine the worth of an experience? Good or bad? Happy or sad? Words can be great, even songs trigger emotions, but a picture…. With the single snap of the shutter a thousand words, as the old saying goes, are frozen in time to be experienced over generations to come.
Pictures are timeless. Polaroids are now hipster and black and white is “artsy.” Styles adapt, technology advances, but we still cling hopelessly to light captured from important moments in our lives, for they are memories, always fleeting, at risk of loss.
As outdoorsmen, we work hard for the next morning. We pursue the next pile. Our end is always the next trip out. We adapt, we overcome, and we never quit. As seasons come and go, the photo album on the coffee table at deer camp or the instagram archive from the previous waterfowl season tells a story of firsts, successes, funny moments, failures, and if you're like my friends, maybe some photobombing too.
These timeless tales remind us that a memory far surpasses the meat in the freezer. That tattered picture of you and grandpa with a single mallard on his old tailgate is worth way more than the meat from that bird and the gear used to complete the hunt. The treasure of the trip is in the time we spend together. Refuse to get trapped by the next feed or the newest gear. Remember that the purpose of pursuit is the time we spend with our loved ones.
Take tons of images and let them remind you why we get out each morning. Memories are simply a moment if you do not take time to capture them.
I want to leave you with a personal story from the 2018 waterfowl season. It was a late season loafing pond hunt that we were pretty sure would be a one pass show. We had been scouting this pond for three weeks and every day at 11:30 a group of about 100 huge corn-fed Canadas would clear the tree line and bomb this pond without even second guessing. This hunt began at 6:00 a.m. in town at the donut store. I will never forget “sleeping in” after a long, and tough, season. We met and ordered our donuts and joked with the local farmers about the hunters with their trailer at the donut shop while all the “real hunters” had been in their decoy spread for two hours by this point. We smiled, topped off our coffee cups and headed for what would either be an awesome show or the joke of the season.
We pulled up to the pond and put out our spread (kind of nice to do this by the light of the sun rather than headlamps for once) and tucked into the blinds at 10:30. While sending each other the funniest gifs we could find and laughing about how dumb our idea was to show up to hunt at 11, we heard that first honk from our guests of honor. We dropped our phones and hammered the calls, I reached to my right and where my camera had sat during every hunt this season I felt bare ground. For the first time in a very long time, I had forgotten my camera case. Not in the truck, but at home on the charger my memory machine rested. A few moments later, one of the greatest pictures of our 2018 season evaded my gallery as 110 huge honkers dumped in like they had been flying for days and needed a break. Just before their feet hit the water we screamed ‘KILL EM’ in unison. The shotguns blared in victory as our plan came together. This hunt is only documented by a quick cell phone video and Instagram story. No fancy camera, no Lightroom or filters, just raw cell phone footage.
I say this to encourage you, document your memories however you can and share them with those you love. This memory is as vivid to me as any other hunt and I laugh at my misfortune each time my friends send the “cell phone tailgate picture of 2018.”
Remember why we do it.
See you in the blind.