Like most people I have a regular job, one that has tendencies to keep me form the more important things in life, mainly hunting and fishing. In a moment of clarity I had decided that being an outdoor writer could possibly be the greatest job on earth. Where else is a person being paid to wander field and stream, valley to ridge top, carrying the latest gear sent factory direct to your door.

Although outdoor writers I believe are a select fraternity and the entrance exam wouldn’t get me into the out house.

There is one little catch to my theory. In reading thousands of articles I have come to the realization that there are basically two types of articles. These are the “sucess stories” and the “how to” articles. Now this is a double edged sword since you either need to know “how to” to be sucessful or be sucessful before you can say “how to”. This is one of those which came first the chicken or the egg kind of things, or possibly a conspiracy to confuse those who might wish to join the outdoor writers fraternity.

In discussing my dilema with a close friend he sugested a sound piece of advice, “write about what you know”. I thought long and hard about my years afield and realized I am a wealth of knowledge on “how not to”. The following are some examples.

As with every young hunter, I couldn’t wait to get off dads coat tails and do things on my own. (After all I knew it all, what kid doesn’t.) I can still clearly remember that cool foggy morning stepping from the truck, everyone was gathered around to recieve their assignments, then it came to me.

Dad looked down and said”just over the top of that ridge right along the timber line is a large stump, there is a deer trail 20 wards below it. Go sit on that stump and a buck is bound to wander by.” Of course the stump would be there, the trail would be there and the buck would wander by exactly as described the only thing missing was me. As soon as dad was out of sight my own plans for bagging a buck came into play.

These plans usually entailed slogging through streams, climbing verticle rock bluffs and doing personal battle with the likes of devils club, stinnging nettles and patches of vine maple. By comparison escapeing from Alcatraz would be a picnic. On a personal note these pieces of Northwest flora did as much to color my use of the english language as any thing else, and for all intense and purposes I did discover “how not to”.

On one particularly frosty morning carrying a recurve bow and a back quiver full of arrows I discovered how not to cross a pristine trout stream using a natural bridge. For those of you that are not aware of what a natural bridge is. it basically consists of a tree large enough to hold a person that extends from point A to boint B.

There are only a few reasons for these bridges to exsist. They may have been blown over in a heavy wind,the bank may not have been able to hold it’s mass, or a beaver could have felled the tree. Now beavers in their enginering marvel at building dams are all but ineffectual in building propper bridges. They apparently have no thought process when it comes to span, strength or grade.

At this point in my outdoor education it had not occured to me that a certian ammount of deliberation should go into choosing an acceptable natural bridge.

The bridge that I chose this particular morning was more than sufficient to hold my weight but it was completely devoid of bark, stiitng at approxamately a 30 degree angle with a beautiful white coat of morning frost. Reflecting back, at this point any good “how to” person would recognize that this natural bridge was subject to a great many flaws and continued on in search  of a safer place to cross. I on the other hand was detirmined to cross at this particular point for reasons that now escape me.

I had made it about a third of the way across the log when my feet betrayed me and lost traction. At one point I was filled with the false hope that the friction from my hastily moving feet would sufficiently dry the log so as to continue the journey, or at least hold me in a hover long enough to come up with another plan. Neither of these would come to fruition.

I can still remember as my feet left the log, how the dark brown boots contrasted nicely with the blue morning sky. Centrifugal force is a funny thing, it is possible to swing a bucket of water in a 360 circle without spilling a drop. I apparently didn’t come off of the log with enough force to either keep the arrows in the quiver or carry me around enough to land feet first. Lucky for me there was only about a foot of water in the stream and the rocks did a descent job of breaking the fall. In retrospect of this event I still believe if the log would have been angled down towards the other bank instead of up my chances for sucess would have been greatly improved.

Although it was some what painful it was still an education in “how not to”.

I at one point in time try my hand at bow building. hours of patient struggle with every power tool in my possesion turned out what appeared to be a beautiful yew wood long bow, or as my wife would say “an exceptionally thin fence post”. Wives have little to no consideration for the asthetics of long bows, or the fragile male ego for that matter.

Regardless with my new bow strung I decided to draw it for the first time. For future reference there are safer ways of doing this than standing on your back porch in a pair of shorts. And newbie bow builders if you own a hospital gown it may save precious time by putting it on before any accidents occur.(I own 3)  Psychotic emergency room nurses will also reduce any clothing to shreds unexceptable for even grease rags,they will even cut off socks if they thought an ingrown toenail lurked there.

Anyway my beautiful yew wood bow with a draw weight that I approximated near 80 pounds was about to be drawn for the first time. With eyes closed and teeth clenched I pulled on the bow string for all I was worth. At this point I can only assume that there was a catostrophic limb failure. I awoke surrounded by friends,(or at least doctors and nurses I had come to know well over the years) still holding the riser of my long bow. My clothes were in shreds but I was in a new hospital gown

Lucky for me, I do believe that the top limb gave away slightly sooner than the bottom limb rendering me unconcious. Its not all that bad, I can almost get both eyes to point forward at the same time now, and I do have a better seat in the church choir. (soprano section)

While the “How To” person can attain immediatepleasure and a certian ammount of smugness in accomplishing their tasks promptly and correctly the first time, they do miss an unavoidable number of life’s little nuances. Take reading a map for example, the “how to” person can tell exactly where you are regardless of your position and plot the most expedient way to your destination. While the “how not to” person throws caution to the wind and will take roads that turn to goat trails or possibly worse, discover seedy diners that require bill boards to announce their last fatality, or gas stations that haven’t had any for decades. Of course the last one only happens when you have never seen the gauge needle pointing that far towards the E before. All of these things will add a little demurrer to any road trip.

As I delve farther into the realms of “how not to”, I have come to the conclusion that my knowledge in this area is limitless, The world is so full of “how to” books that I might tap into an unseen and everlasting market of “how not to” books.

How Not TO…………Find Elk

                               Catch Fish

                               Survive the Wilderness

                                Fix the Car

                               Etc. Etc. Etc.