YAKIMA, Wash. — Wow, it’s 2020. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Back in the late 1970s, when I took my very first full-time job, I remember thinking that 2020 would be about the time I would be retiring. It seemed so far away.
Besides taking the advice of my financially conservative father about putting money away every month into a retirement account, I have never been much of a forward thinker. I couldn’t even fathom what the future might look like when I was a young man.
Of course, growing up watching the Jetsons, and Star Trek, along with the occasional time-traveling or futuristic movie, we got a bit of a look into what the future might hold. But I would have never guessed that we would actually have robot vacuum cleaners or personal communication devices that allowed us to see the person we were talking with.
And while there have been some amazing advancements in medicine and technology, the outdoor world has remained pretty much the same, relatively speaking.
I’m still using a fishing rod that my dad bought in the 1960s to fish for steelhead and salmon. And the old model 12 shotgun he handed down to me when I was a teenager still works just fine. Sure, there have been upgrades in fishing lines, and shotgun shells, but for the most part fishing is still fishing and hunting is still hunting.
It’s fun for me to be able to run up to one of my dad’s favorite fishing holes on the Naches River during a warm summer evening, and pitch a Rooster Tail spinner into the riffles and hook a trout or two, just as he and I did 50 years ago.
On Tuesday I took my pup down for a hunt on the Yakama reservation, trying for a rooster pheasant or two. Other than the fact that I was following a black Lab named Baily instead of a yellow Lab named Zeb, it is hunting the exact same way we did decades ago. Unfortunately, today there aren’t as many pheasants, or as many fields to hunt, but basically it is the same game now as it was in the late 1960s when I first started bird hunting.
And, plop a few decoys out onto a pond or wide spot in the river, blow a few sweet notes on a duck call and you have a good chance at bagging a duck or two. That’s the way we hunted in the 1960s and it is the way we hunt today.
Big game hunting, too, remains pretty much the same. Sure, the numbers of elk and deer in our area have been up and down over the decades, but a hunter still has to get out and chew up some boot leather to have a chance at success. That hasn’t changed.
What has changed is how urbanization and landowners closing their land to hunting has put more pressure on public lands. Today, competition for a place to hunt has made popular hunting areas crowded to the point that it can be unsafe, and not an enjoyable experience.
One of the few innovations that has come along to make hunting safer is the use of satellite GPS units. Hunters (and hikers and anglers) can now have with them a device that will tell them within a few feet exactly where they are in the world. And with a program available for a smart phone, or a hand-held GPS, we can know if the land we are hunting, or want to hunt, is public or private, and who owns the private land.
Fifty years ago, you just went hunting. There were a few places that had “No Hunting” signs, but for the most part, if the field wasn’t posted, you could hunt without concern. When I was a student at WSU in the late 1970s, we hunted all over the Palouse for pheasants and partridge. Farmers would just give you a wave if they saw you heading out to hunt. It’s way different today.
Along with the GPS technology, there have been some improvements in hunting attire. New fabrics and coatings keep the wearer warm and dry in any weather condition. The jury is still out with some old timers, however, as to if all of the new-fangled garments are actually better than a wool coat and pants.
Today there are many new fishing techniques and lures with which to fish, but again, many of the same lures and styles of fishing are as productive today as they were a half century ago. Steelhead anglers still drift fish with a Corky and a gob of eggs on the Klickitat River with good success. And trollers working for salmon in the Columbia or out in the Pacific catch plenty of fish with a plug-cut herring behind a flasher, just as they have for decades.
It is hard to believe we are 20 years into the 21st century. If we were to believe some of the futurists from the mid-20th century, we should be flying to work in our personal air craft and living in colonies on Mars.
We certainly have seen many great advancements that have improved our lives, but I am also quite happy that some of our outdoor traditions are still, in many ways, the same as hunters and anglers have enjoyed for generations.
• Rob Phillips is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer who has written the Northwest Sportsman column for over 25 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org