The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


February 10, 2013

Don Steese's Outdoors column: Benefits outweigh the cost

HARRISBURG — Five thousand six hundred eighty-seven dollars and sixty-eight cents a pound.

That’s the going price for fresh fish and wild fowl. I know this because I keep records of these things and this is the time of year that most of us are going through last year’s income and expenses in preparation for the day the tax man cometh.

My accountant long ago warned me that the IRS gets a bit ticked if you try to claim expenses far in excess of what you actually earned writing an outdoor column. However, if they’d hold still for it I could claim about three times my annual outdoor writing income and actually be able to produce proof for Mr. Auditor.

Expenses involved in producing outdoor musings would include, in no particular order, gas, lodging, ammo, vet bills, dog food, cabin repairs and monthly expenses (we long ago figured out that we could stay in a pretty fancy hotel for what it costs us to keep a little house in the woods operating.) There are also expenses for dog training and shooting lessons, which I wouldn’t need if I had a lick of natural talent, which I don’t.

These all fall under the label of “ongoing expenses,” but then there are always a few one-time expenses. These would include several hundred to repair the stock on a vintage side-by-side shotgun caused by my tendency to fall a lot and about $1,500 in emergency vet bills because my young setter decided she liked the taste of the stuffing in the pad I had put in her crate.

I’m hoping that I’ve learned my lesson in these two areas and that they actually will be one-time expenses, but I tend to be a slow learner, so there are no guarantees.

For these expenses I ended up with about four pounds of dressed game birds and fish. They were delicious, but for that kind of money I could probably have been dining on the finest fare at the most exclusive restaurant on the planet, and gone home with change, just like at Mickey D’s. In the end though, meat on the table isn’t what this sport is all about. What did those dollars really buy me?

They bought me sunsets on the Canadian prairies, where the sunsets, like the land itself, go on forever.

They bought me my young dog’s first real solid, no-foolin’ point on a ruffed grouse and the wonderful good fortune to bring the bird to bag.

They bought me the warmth of a wood fire in the fireplace after a cold day in the field, even though you had to leave a window open so that the air in the cabin didn’t turn blue (that’s another thing we’ll probably spend a few bucks fixing).

It bought me a day of catching beautiful wild brook trout from a stream that we’d been wanting to try for some time and finally got around to.

I guess most of all it bought me time with cherished friends, some of whom, sad to say, might not be around that much longer. When you get to be my age there are some facts you have to face.

Those who cherish money above all else would have probably considered it money wasted — I consider it money well spent.

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