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Nature Shuns the Slacker

Being in shape is not an option for sportspeople; it’s a necessity

      As I walked down a row of cornstalks a half mile long and firmly grasping the seven-pound shotgun in my arms, my breath in the 10-degree air was coming a little harder with each step. I slowed my pace to keep abreast of my two partners, and we continued to push out that last narrow growth of corn, all that remained of a crop that was in the final stage of harvest. We strongly suspected a bunch of big ringneck pheasants were moving just in front of us.
     I had been training for this for weeks, wading the Bay shallows in the evenings, casting for striped bass and tramping across fields behind a friend’s pack of beagles, ensuring that they, also, remained in shape. Some long evening walks along sand beaches also toughened my ankles and helped my balance.
      Being fit and in shape is not an option for sportspeople who expect to have success; it’s a necessity. My wife calls my annual sojourn out west for pheasant hunting my South Dakota Stress Test, and not completely in jest. It is not the only exercise I get, but it is often the most intense.
     The cornfield push that day culminated in an explosion of almost a dozen pheasants going off in every direction — except the ones we expected. Shooting in the 30-mile-per-hour wind that morning also made things as challenging as one could expect. But in the sporting field things are like that: long periods of physical exertion followed by intensely fast climaxes.
     If you’re slow to mount your gun, if your swing can’t match the speed of the bird or if you’re looking the wrong way or stumbling for balance when the action starts, things will not happen the way you want them to. Physical fitness is critical in the field.
     It’s not just the hunting field. The hundredth or the two hundredth cast of the day can be the one that entices the big fish you’ve been seeking. The quickness of your hook-set or the calmness of your nerves as the water explodes under your plug can mean the biggest moment of the day, even the season.
     The last quarter mile of your trek may reveal the prey you’ve been seeking, the species you’ve been striving to photograph or simply the panorama that has existed only in your imagination. Staying keen for hints of moving fish, game or hidden folds in the terrain is essential. Pushing your physical limit is key to much of the success of any outdoor endeavor.
     Anglers, wingshooters, big-game hunters, birdwatchers, canoeists, kayakers and nature photographers alike share in the benefits of the outdoor life. The views are fantastic, and the air is always freshest. Nature rewards effort and preparation. It also shuns the slacker.
      Exercise for bodily health benefits is eventually rewarded with a sense of well-being. Merely experiencing the short-term burst of endorphins harvested during intense workouts, the outdoor person’s rewards are immediate and far more long lasting. Their sense of the world is immense, boundlessly beautiful and spiritually overwhelming
     Not a bad result for merely enjoying yourself.
Fish Finder
       Rockfish season is closed on the Chesapeake and its tributaries but remains opens seaside. The limit there is two fish 28 to 38 inches or 44 inches and over. 
Hunting Seasons
Sika and whitetail deer, antlered and antlerless archery, thru Jan. 3
Sea ducks, limit 5, thru Jan. 11 
Ducks, thru Jan. 26
Canada geese, thru Feb. 2
Snow geese, thru Feb. 2
Squirrel, limit 6, thru Feb. 28
Rabbit, limit 4, thru Feb. 28