It occurred to me recently that outdoorsmen (and women) as a whole possess several maneuvers or moves that most people simply cannot pull off. Years of practice and hours upon hours of trial and error have honed these maneuvers into something of an art form. For those of you who have not yet experienced these moves, I would suggest getting out and practicing them. Flawlessly executing these is a dead giveaway of a true outdoorsman. So I present to you the first (of many) essential outdoor maneuvers.
The Improved Fall
Anyone who has spent enough time tromping through the woods, stepping over slippery rocks, or wandering around a wet boat deck knows that one simply doesn’t “fall”. Tripping and falling doesn’t come close to describing what the experienced outdoorsman does when he loses his footing. Let me set the scene for you:
You and a hunting buddy are quietly trying to sneak downhill through a creek bottom. The deer you are stalking have bedded on the ridge just on the other side of the creek and silence is absolutely necessary if you expect to get off a shot. Everything seems to be going according to plan when suddenly, it happens. A rogue briar wraps itself around your ankle mid-step and you suddenly lose your balance. This is the part that separates experienced outdoorsman from those who occasionally trip in the woods. The average person would realize they’ve lost their balance and fall over very anticlimactically.
The experienced outdoorsman, however, will execute the improved fall flawlessly. Upon realizing that the fall has begun, the hunter will attempt to catch himself to avoid falling and making noise. Since both hands are usually holding something worth slightly more than his life, balance is attempted to be regained through footwork alone. The resulting stumble will cover anywhere from a few yards to nearly a quarter mile, spawn powerful strings of expletives, and make enough noise to have every deer in the county think that an Abrams tank just lost control in the woods. Finally, after enough distance has been traveled in a futile attempt to regain balance, the hunter can finish the improved fall by actually falling down. It is important to note that even in the falling down process, the experienced outdoorsman will not drop whatever is in his hand. Rather, he will fall triumphantly while holding up the rifle or bow so that it doesn’t hit the ground. Sacrificing one’s body is the final step to finish off the improved fall.
I’ve witnessed several improved falls over my years in the outdoors. Slippery boat ramps are one of my favorite places to watch the improved fall. There’s something about watching a fisherman flailing wildly on a boat ramp that actually makes time slow. The experienced fisherman will execute the improved fall for hours before finally succumbing to gravity and either fall in the water or finish the fall with some Olympic gymnast move. The latter generally leads to an emergency room visit.
Rough seas provide the perfect setting to witness this particular maneuver. While on a Yellowfin trip one year, we found ourselves offshore in a 6-7ft chop. I say chop, rather than swells, because “swells” implies some sort of wave pattern…which this was not. The entire day was spent clinging onto gunnels, getting soaked by crashing waves, and generally just getting tossed about like rag dolls. However, none of us had actually displayed an improved fall. It wasn’t until a particularly rough series of waves hit the boat that everyone engaged in an improved fall simultaneously. From someone else’s perspective, I’m sure the situation looked odd. A boat full of men in 6-7 ft seas and everyone just casually walking around like nothing was wrong. No one was clinging on for dear life, or breaking rods while trying to catch themselves. It probably looked as though we were all just walking around on dry, solid ground. The truth of the matter was that we’d all completely lost any form of balance. The improved fall can play tricks on the eyes in rough seas. It wasn’t until we made it back to the marina that everyone fell flat on their faces when we stepped onto the dock.
Moves like the improved fall really can point out a seasoned outdoorsman. If you feel as though you need some practice in this particular outdoors skill, then look no further than some slimy river rocks, wet boat ramps, or cypress knees. If at first you find yourself merely falling over, don’t fret…it takes practice. Get back up and try it again. Mastering this particular move is just one step…or trip, rather…in becoming a true outdoorsman. There are many other maneuvers to master. Stay tuned!