The other day, I took my little girl fishing down at Holliday Park Pond. Since they had just stocked it, I was expecting to haul them in right and left. Not so. As it turned out, the fishing was pretty slow. Ella got bored fast and started playing in the water and looking for frogs and turtles. On the drive home, I was telling her how bummed I was about the poor fishing trip. To my surprise, she told me what a fun trip it had been.

It reminded me of the first deer hunt with my oldest son. After a hard day of hunting, he missed an easy shot at the biggest buck I have ever seen in Grant County. I was inconsolable. I pouted for days. When I finally came to myself and started talking again, I was surprised to find out that he thought it had been a great day!

These moments of seeing the world through my kids’ eyes started me thinking about how we define success in the outdoors. We humans are pretty competitive by nature, and we love to quantify everything. That is why we talk about the number of fish we caught, or how long they were. Scoring systems like the Boone and Crockett Club and SCI allow us to compare our hunting prowess against each other. Now I believe that scoring systems have a good purpose, and I try as hard as I can to hunt and fish for the biggest specimens I can find. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, but is that how we should define whether or not we were successful that day?

Isn’t any day not grinding away at work, fixing the roof or stuck in Portland traffic a successful day? I love being outside, but I hate coming home and having everybody ask, “Did you get anything?” It is almost as if coming home empty handed means that the day was wasted. But is any day spent out in the natural world really wasted? Isn’t it a much better use of your day than painting the deck?

We all have a limited amount of time we can spend outside. Draw systems and season limits lend a sense of urgency to our pursuit. All too often we get caught up in accomplishing the goal we have set for ourselves, whether it be harvesting a big bull or catching a limit of fish, that we miss out on some great experiences. We are so focused that we miss the beauty of our surroundings, the quiet and peace of the woods or the companionship of the friends or family we are with.

I encourage you to hunt hard. But take the time to slow down and look around you. Appreciate where you are and, hopefully, who you are with. The majority of the people on this earth will never get to see what you see or do what you do. I would say that makes us the lucky ones, no matter how the day turns out.

We welcome your thoughts and ideas at shootingthebreezebme@gmail.com.

Rod Carpenter is a husband, father and hunting fool.

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