Al Campbell, Field Editor

December 16th, 2002

A Matter of Choice
By Al Campbell

What is your life worth? Let me rephrase that. What are you willing to trade your life for? If not trade, how about risk? Are you willing to risk your life for a deer, a few fish or an extra mile on a snowmobile trail?

With the arrival of the Holiday Season, we can count on someone to risk their life for something as simple as a few fish, a deer or an extra mile on a trail in the cold woods. I say we can count on it because it happens every year. And, each year a few unlucky people pay the ultimate price for taking that risk.

I'll ask you again; what is your life worth?

Is it worth a couple of fish? Every year a few brave people venture out on ice that is one or two inches thick so they can be the first ice-fishermen to catch a few fish. I know; some people say an inch of good ice is all you need to support your body weight, but I don't buy that claim. I won't buy into the two-inch theory either. Four inches? Maybe, but I wouldn't trust the guys who say you can drive on that stuff; not even a snowmobile. Is it really worth the risk? My life is worth more to me than that.

Would you trade your life for a big buck? Risk it? Every year a few hunters do exactly that. Winter weather can sneak up on you if you aren't careful. Dressing improperly or getting lost are the two most common problems, but the root cause is deeper than that. The biggest problem is making poor choices.

I don't know about you, but I wonder about the guy who would hunt out of a tree stand without a safety harness. I don't know a single hunter who hopes to get some use out of his safety harness, but I know a few who are glad they were wearing one when they slipped out of their tree-stand. What choices do you make?

Do you drive around with a loaded rifle or shotgun in your vehicle? I know a few guys who do. Is that quick shot at a bird or deer worth the risk? We could discuss the legal issues, but enough people ignore those laws to put themselves and others around them at risk. Most hunters are sensible and careful. In their hands a firearm is a safe and efficient tool. Then there are the other guys. They make bad choices. Which are you?

Are you one of those macho guys who runs around the forest hunting deer in a light jacket and no gloves? Who needs survival gear anyway? Isn't that stuff for wimps? You might say that, but then again, most people would say that stuff is for survivors who want to see another day. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of things that can happen to you that would put your life at risk if you weren't prepared for them. All it takes is a turn in the weather, an injury or a vehicle breakdown to change the nature of a deer hunt or a fishing trip. Do you make the right choices?

Do you ride a snowmobile or an all terrain vehicle? Those things are fun, aren't they? I can't think of anything that runs on gasoline and gives you more access to remote country. Unfortunately, those things break down once in a while. Also unfortunate is the fact that some people take risks with their rides. That extra mile down a fog gripped road or that little jaunt off the road in rough country might be fun, but it might also be deadly. How much is that extra bit of adrenaline worth to you? Is it worth your life, or maybe an arm or leg?

When fly-fishing, do you try to wade as deep as possible to reach those fish? Do you wade on slippery rocks or in treacherous water without the use of a wading staff or the help of a friend if you fall? One slip in cold weather can turn a nice outing into a life-threatening situation when water, wading and hypothermia are the games.

The Holiday Season is a time to celebrate with friends and family, and a lot of people will be participating in outdoor activities. Some of these are traditions that date back for several generations. Others are games we decided it would be nice to try. No matter which reason fits you, I think it's fair to ask you to consider the risks and the choices you make. We want to see you back after the holidays.

I'm not trying to lecture anyone. I've made a bunch of bad choices in my life and lived to tell about them. I also learned a lot about being prepared and thinking ahead from those bad choices. I'm just asking you to think about what your life is worth to you. I mentioned a few possibilities; but the risks you take might be something else. Maybe you like skiing down uncharted slopes, dodging trees and other hazards.

Whatever your game is, I think it's a good idea to ask yourself once in a while if you're taking risks you aren't willing to pay the price for if things go wrong. Everyone takes a risk once in a while. Merely getting into an automobile and starting the engine is risky, but we all do it. While I'm thinking about that, do you wear a coat while riding in your car in the wintertime; or do you trust your vehicle and other drivers enough to make that short trip to the store without a coat? After all, it's only a matter of choice.

What is your life worth? ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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