The Great Outdoors by Rafe Hembree
It's that time of year yet again where we can always appreciate some of our heightened senses. Personally for me, my olfactory zone seems to get overloaded in the turn of the fall and winter. Don't misunderstand; I can appreciate the smell of a Summer BBQ, a dewy morning, fresh melon, gardenias, margaritas, etc. But, something about the fall and winter really resonates with me. This time of year brings new life to my sense of sound as well. Some say that I have selective hearing although I think that's just ridiculous. Shortly following that accusation, the debate begins how I can hear a buck deer snort from a hundred yards away, yet can't hear a question posed to me from across the room.
Fortunately, we live in a state where there are many differences, regionally speaking, in terms of significant yet distinguishable smells and sounds. For example, South Texas gets the coastal gulf air and the squawking of seagulls to start and end the day. East Texas has the sharp smell of the piney woods as whip-poor-wills serenade the night. The dusty plains of West Texas have the burn off of oil/gas wells and feedlots. For us North/Central Texans, we get a little combination of it all depending on which way the wind is blowing. As often as I can, which is never often enough it seems, I like to get away from the rat race and head to the ranch. It sounds silly, but I look forward to the smell of West Texas and its red dirt. Every time I take in that smell; it puts me in that proverbial happy place.
A friend of mine who tragically lost his vision when we were elementary school kids swears he can see better than me. That's due in large part because his other senses have become so much sharper. He doesn't hunt for obvious reasons, but he'll go and listen to everything and sometimes "see" the game before me, which is sometimes comically frustrating. When I'm around him, my sense of smell and sound also become elevated. Learning from him has made me more aware of my immediate surroundings and how to greater appreciate their offerings.
Sometimes after a long day of trekking afield in search of pheasants or quail, our group congregates around the evening campfire and swaps stories. Of course most of them are inflated to a degree or two, but true nonetheless. The fire boasts of dried mesquite and scrub oak. Usually, there's a wet dog or two lying beside it absorbing its warmth while trying to dry. Some of the gentlemen sitting around in a half circle around the flame are often times sipping a whiskey of sort and some of them will always light a nice cigar. The aroma from of all the aforementioned may be offensive to some people in any setting. But, out in the open, under the evening starry sky, I'd bet the experience of these smells might change some hearts and minds. There's probably no other time one can claim a wet dog smell to be pleasant. It's moments like these that make a grown man say with conviction that emits warmth out into the open, "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world other than right here, right now."
To partner with the sense of smell, have you ever heard the coyotes howl in the evening or a Horned Owl waking at dusk? Both of these sounds are depicted as scary in some instances, but they are quite the opposite. The next time you go to your outdoor destination of choice, try and listen for sounds such as scolding squirrels high above, letting you know that they're aware of your presence. As you sit along a river or creek bank, listen for turkey hens scratching in the leaves in search of winter seeds. As you approach a lake or stock pond, there could be a group of Mallards quacking and splashing incessantly as the warm sun shines on their down. When hunting, fishing, hiking, or even camping try and listen to all that nature has to offer.
Every outdoor enthusiast always remembers and reflects on what they see. The beauty of a shaft of sunshine through a mesquite tree or the gentle landing of a Pintail drake on a stock pond is naturally and visually attractive. Next time your heart leads you on a path outside, try to take in the all the elements that are OUT of sight. Whatever your intent is for your venture, remember to use your other senses to enjoy your time and appreciate what the great outdoors has to offer. This is the wealth of the world and as outdoor men and women we are the wealthiest!
Southlake's Rafe Hembree is a born and raised Texan, husband and father of two. Rafe, a Texas Tech alumn, has been hunting and fishing since he was knee high to a praire dog. A true outdoorsman and conservationist, he travels the world in search of the best hunting and fishing locales, especially for his favorite activity - Saltwater Fly Fishing. A volunteer guide with Reel Recovery Rafe looks forward to sharing his experiences with family, friends and readers of Southlake Style.