Heilman: Fair Pursuit May Be Compromised By Improvements In Technology | local sports

While paddling the canoe across the lake earlier this week, a moment of serenity settled in nicely and took me by surprise.

The breeze perfectly cut the bow. The splash of small waves under the hull and the trickle of water from my oar were the only sounds to be heard. The sensation of gliding was so easy that it was equivalent to weightlessness.

At such a moment, I felt that I was almost one with the canoe and the water. Everything else in life faded away.

I was struck by how simple, yet rare, it is to experience that kind of feeling, with the noise and distractions of our “advanced” modern life.

Then I went back to shore.

There were text messages from my dad. He had sent the last notable rear-camera images of him, this time a bear in daylight.

They were pretty good shots of the bear, but my appreciation was marred by the jarring juxtaposition of different ways of experiencing the natural world.

It seems like there really is nowhere a person can go to escape the technologies we’ve developed to enhance our outdoor experience. From trail cameras to cutting-edge materials and over-engineered lures, there’s no shortage of innovation designed to create efficiencies and help us get better “bottom line.”

As a tech-savvy person, I feel well positioned to look at how spending a few hundred (or thousands) of dollars can be the fastest way to ruin a person’s outdoor exploits, not to mention leave behind notions of fair pursuit.

Take, for example, those long-range shooting courses that are all the rage. All you need to do is buy your expensive rifle and scope, and learn how to use it. You can then tap into animals that previously would have required some risk from the hunter.

Gone is the notion of stalking a deer or elk. Little to no chance of being out of breath, seen or heard. When there is no persecution, the measures of justice seem smaller and smaller to me.

I can’t say that I would feel any accomplishment or satisfaction in that.

The shooters shoot; hunters hunt.

One thing I have noticed is that it is difficult to define in law what is fair between man and beast. I’m not sure if any states have thought to address long-range shooting in their regulations, but some are taking a hard look at trail cameras.

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Some have moved away from those with the ability to send photo and video data over cellular networks to one’s phone. They have determined that fair pursuit is on the low-tech side of that divide.

From what I understand, Montana, Utah, and a few others do not allow such use for hunting purposes.

Earlier this year, Arizona banned all tracking cameras for hunting, even those that require one to walk around and retrieve footage.

Some scoff and say that the limits of morality change at state lines. But clearly there is great potential for trail camera abuse.

A person could easily walk out of the righteous realm, perhaps without even trying.

Personally, I have no problem following the house rules, no matter how they are read. And I feel good about living in a state that holds the line on many of the taking methods that other states allow.

The fact that “they do it there” does not make it more correct or less objectionable.

Wisconsin can keep two fishing rods, for example; I don’t have double the fun when I’m fishing there.

One thing that fishermen (and fishery managers) everywhere are concerned about, however, is side-scan sonar. Apparently looking directly at the water wasn’t enough for some.

Having the ability to look sideways underwater is now irresistible to those who can stomach that price.

I have heard many concerns about this, especially when fishermen intend to keep the fish they catch. The possibility of removing unreasonable amounts of fish from a given system is the logical conclusion, if you follow the marketing messages.

Someone I know who is deeply involved with the professional/business side of the fishing industry has recognized me. In his words, “never before have so few been able to exert so much pressure on a resource.”

I agree.

It’s not hard to imagine how devastating that kind of efficiency could be for a lake. When there’s a good crop of crappies in our 100-acre slice of heaven (which there currently isn’t), for example, there aren’t many places to hide from that kind of advantage.

If word got out and people couldn’t contain themselves, it’s not unreasonable to think that a fishery that took the better part of a decade to build could be gone in a week.

Would that fish fry taste any sweeter? I can not imagine

If you’re wondering what my point is in all of this, I don’t blame you. Let’s see if I can make my way to him.

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Our outdoor culture has become obsessed with “success,” and our broader culture’s obsession with technology intersects naturally. Some technologies, like outboard motors and rifle scopes, are ancient history compared to the latest and greatest that comes out each model year.

But it’s all technology, and it’s all meant to improve something.

What will come next? It’s hard to say. Someone is always looking for a new way to earn money.

Will it end what we consider a righteous pursuit?

Maybe. It can be hard to discern after the fact, and laws always have to catch up.

Here’s what I do know: We are collectively losing sight of the outdoor experience, and technology is often more of a distracting force than an enhancing one.

Fair Pursuit is sometimes traded across devices for bragging rights and photos for social media. Intangibles like simplicity and contentment are too often left out.

With hunting seasons just around the corner and ice fishing not far away, this is a great time to take stock and think about what we’re really looking for when we load up and drive to our favorite destinations.

Is it camaraderie, meat or antlers?

Do we want precious time with our children or fish to clean?

Do we need the wood time and exercise more than we want to flex our trigger fingers?

Sometimes we can tick all the boxes, and that’s a good thing.

But sometimes we don’t, and that’s just as good.

Let’s not lose sight of which boxes are simply the icing on the cake.

As for me, deer hunting this year will be about guiding my daughter through her first season. Success will be measured primarily in smiles.

Maybe a month after that I’ll hit the ice with my 22 year old inferior sonar. I will certainly take out my tip in the hope of some close combat.

Jiggle sticks can appear just for fun. I will probably go home without fish most of the time, but I will always carry with me a sense of tranquility and renewal.

I can’t think of anything more successful than that.

Roy Heilman is an outdoorsman, writer, musician, and ethnic Minnesotan. His adventures take him all over the map, but he’s always home at nevergoosechase.com.

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