One of the most fascinating things about being an outdoorswoman is the pursuit of new skills. They can be seemingly small skills, like learning to tie a knot with fishing line; or they can be more daunting, like becoming proficient with a firearm and shooting your first big game animal. What may be no big deal to someone who has grown up in this life may be the greatest of achievements for someone just learning – and what a beautiful thing that is!
Finding oneself in a bit of a rut in terms of education can be a strange place to sit. For myself, I grew up in the outdoors. Activities such as picking morels, harvesting berries and fishing for rainbow trout happened weekly. Post-secondary education led me to the world of natural resources and I spent many hours in classes and reading books on soils, plant identification and field skills. Moving out on my own allowed me to experiment more when it came to cooking and preserving wild caught and harvested foods – but none of this was a huge leap to make, as it had been engrained in my soul for so long.
There is, however, a lengthy list of things that did not come so naturally to me. A bit of a mental block, of sorts. Filleting fish always comes to mind; for years, I let someone else take the lead as I was terrified of screwing up the final product – I knew that my fillet job wouldn’t be as good as those around me. And you know what? There have been some incredibly ugly fillets that I have produced, but dang it, there are many more that I now proudly hold in my hands and show off because look at how closely I was able to follow the bones!
Skinning an animal was another task that I usually relegated to someone else. Years were spent observing and asking questions, but it was only within the most recent seasons that I now feel confident getting in there – volunteering a helping hand and feeling certain that I truly will be of assistance, more than a hindrance.
Surrounding oneself with friends and mentors who help encourage and guide you to that place of confidence is non-negotiable, particularly when you are just getting your feet under you. Just a couple of weeks ago, we got together with a close friend and finally learned how to boil up our deer skulls to make into European mounts at home. It’s something I have been eager to learn for many years, but I lacked the knowledge to tackle it on my own. Now, I am by no means an expert, but it is incredibly satisfying to know that I now have a good idea of what to do and that skill will be further honed each and every time we repeat it.
The dedication required to become a master at something is incredibly admiral. At this stage in my life, I just consider myself immensely lucky to dabble in many things, a Jack (or Jill, I suppose) of all trades. There is no shortage of skills to learn and there’s a lifetime to hone them.
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