The Greatest Gift

I don’t know about you, but for me, December is a time filled with reflection. Life slows down perceptibly for me as the big game seasons come to a close and open water fishing opportunities dwindle to a trickle. Soon, coyote hunting and ice fishing will be the dominant outdoor pursuits. While I do look forward to these upcoming seasons, I cannot resist the reverie of the previous hunting and fishing seasons as I ponder by the wood stove and watch the snow fall.

I think about clients who became new friends during guided trips. I remember their greatest successes and my companion failures – the very highs and lows of working as a guide in the Maine outdoors. I recall their triumphant smiles during the post-hunt photo taking sessions and likewise, the look of defeat when the line snaps and the biggest smallmouth of their fishing career dives for the rock pile.

Warming by the fire in my favorite chair, well-worn and cracked leather a hint of its long life of service, my gaze will inevitably fall on the Christmas tree, adorned with classic white lights and a modest supply of traditional ornaments. It is at this very moment I realize what the greatest gift of all is – appreciation.

I recollect the opening week of deer camp and the surprise gift presented to me by returning clients as they arrived in camp – a brand new Marlin model 1895GBL. The .45-70 Government big loop, lever-action rifle is purpose built for professional hunting guides; it has also been on my wish list for quite a few years.

I was stunned when these sports created a ruse in the clubhouse to present the guide gun to me – I was also completely humbled. They explained how much they appreciated the hard work I put in for them year after year and wanted to express their gratitude. I was floored. To me, the very thought of their profound appreciation was the true gift – the guide gun was just the tangible manifestation of it.

This holiday season, I want everyone involved in our entire outdoors community to know how much I appreciate them. For the clients and sports that make it possible for me to make a living doing what I love – thank you. To the elected officials and grassroots activists who never tire in fighting for sportsman’s rights – thank you. The snowmobile and ATV club volunteers, who put in countless hours so we may enjoy the trails, all deserve our gratitude. Professionals who dedicate their life’s work to the outdoors and wildlife have my deepest respect and appreciation – wildlife biologists, forest rangers, game wardens, search and rescue personnel and fellow guides.

Without the generosity of landowners, our outdoors experiences would pale in comparison – I appreciate your gift of access. Tagging station employees, game processing facilities, taxidermists, camp cooks, hunter safety course instructors, outdoors publishers, editors, writers and readers – the list of people who contribute to our outdoor community is a long one and I couldn’t possibly name you all, but know I appreciate you. Lastly, to the spouses and families of outdoors professionals and working guides who keep the home fires burning during the long work days of peak seasons, we truly appreciate you and couldn’t have done it without you. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Tucker Ridge!

Author: John Floyd

John Floyd is a Registered Maine Guide, an NRA Certified Instructor and is the owner of Tucker Ridge Outdoors in Webster Plantation, Maine. He is a member of the New England Outdoors Writers Association and can be reached at john@tuckerridge.me or on Facebook @tuckerridgeoutdoors

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