Improve your outdoors approach and abilities in 2018

A new year arrives Monday and it’s time to count our blessings and make improvements on our lives.

If you read my columns, you’ve probably figured out that I’m pretty conservative and happy with the last change in the White House. Of course, I don’t agree with President Trump on every issue and realize that he was not always conservative. In fact, there are times he is not very conservative at all.

I don’t see eye-to-eye with anyone on every issue, including my wife. Yet I live with her, deal with her and make the best of it. Most of the time, I enjoy her company and come to appreciate her unique point of view, which is formed by her upbringing, her personality (she’s an engineer; I’m a writer and creative thinker) and her femininity.

It’s great to see the economy soaring once again and joblessness at a 16-year low. Our retirement funds are growing and with the recent tax cut bill’s approval, some large companies are even giving their employees Christmas bonuses.

As a small businessman, I’ve been shocked at my tax assessments. Even on a few thousand bucks, the tax rate is around 47 percent, my CPA has advised me. I often find myself buying some computer or camera equipment as a necessary write-off for my concealed carry or freelance writing businesses.

It’s sad we live in such a seemingly free land where hard work is penalized and those who succeed pay their own bills, plus the freebies for many who choose not to work.

Sportsmen, landowners and wildlife lovers, too, need to assess their debits and credits and work to improve their shortcomings.

All of us could use a bit more target practice. We sight in our hunting rifles, bows and crossbows, but do we practice under field conditions? Do we learn to judge yardage, then check our guesses with a rangefinder? If we regularly shoot at running game, do we practice these shots with the help of a tire rolled down a hillside? Are we overbowed for our current physical strength and do we crank down the hunting bow when necessary? All of these could help us make cleaner kills.

Read up on tracking skills and go the extra mile to recover a wounded animal. Ask for a buddy’s help when you lose the blood trail. If you have heart or other issues, ask for help when dragging a deer out of the woods — if not for yourself, then for your kids and grandkids.

Landowners have a special role in the future of hunting. Most Wisconsin landowners have their own group of hunters and “manage” their land in the way they see fit, whether they prefer a Quality Deer Management philosophy or just love venison and shoot the first deer that come along.

Considering that deer nationwide are thriving and in many cases overpopulated, both approaches work. A few landowners don’t hunt and prefer to prohibit hunting on their land. That’s their choice, although not necessarily the best for the overall health of the herd.

What really irks me are those selfish, senseless landowners who refuse to allow hunters to retrieve their deer. A good friend hunts next to such a person and when he shoots a deer that makes it over the neighbor’s fence, he considers it gone. He’s been told there is little he can do to retrieve his game and this farmer claims the deer as his own.

I wonder how this person can sleep nights knowing he’s claimed a deer perhaps shot by a child (it’s happened at least once to my friend), or even hung a very nice buck in his front yard that was shot by my friend (my friend had the last laugh and shot an even larger one that afternoon).

I’m not sure if we need legislation to somehow fix this problem but how can someone who never fired a shot claim another hunter’s game? The bigger question is: Why would a human being be so heartless to treat others this way? Is a deer worth that much?

Duck hunters can learn to identify the various species with waterfowl booklets or online help. Shooting a hen mallard early in the day, for example, can cut your hunt short, so proper ID of ducks in flight can bolster your harvest.

Education in general can help hunters, anglers and trappers be more successful. Subscribe to magazines and outdoor newspapers and look online to sites like for great local and statewide pointers and news.

I’m old school and still love books. Half Price Books in Grand Chute is one of my favorites, and has great deals on new and used books. This chain store can also help you find rare, out-of-print outdoor classics and send them to you via the internet.

Become an informed activist for your sports. Some groups would love to see hunting and gun ownership end. Everyone should join the NRA, even if you don’t own a gun, but believe that the Second Amendment was not a mistake.

Stay safe and approach your 2018 outdoor adventures as an ethical, considerate sportsman with a sense of wonder and constant learning. After all, the non-hunting public is always watching our behavior and your actions could lead to positive or negative attitudes that affect us all.

Ross Bielema is a freelance writer from New London and owner of Wolf River Concealed Carry LLC. Contact him at