SNYDER: Sportsmen should keep it simple, keep it affordable, keep it fun


It's that time of the year.

Opening my mailbox these days has turned into a risky, expensive business. While most of us are inundated with back-to-school sales, the mailman endlessly taunts me with stack after stack of hunting catalogs. I could go broke in an afternoon.

This is a dangerous time of the year to be a sportsman. But it's not a physical threat we need to steer clear of; it's a financial hazard. Open your mailbox, flip through your favorite magazine or turn on the television and it won't take long for you to realize exactly what I mean. There are all sorts of folks looking to separate you from your money, especially if you're a gear junkie.

Late summer is a particularly dicey season because there are all sorts of things going on in the world of hunting and fishing. There's some great fishing to be had as the water begins to cool — it's a perfect reason to buy a new rod and some fancy tackle.

Even better, hunting season gets underway in just a matter of days. It's a tempting time of the year to break out the credit card and go on a spending spree. Who doesn't need a new shotgun for dove season?

But anytime I get the urge to replace last year's must-have gadgetry with the latest and greatest gear, I turn to one of my most trustworthy remedies. It's a video on my computer's hard drive that proves money doesn't catch fish or put a trophy beneath your stand. Old-fashioned hard work and sound tactics are what really count.

The scene is simple. Three men are fishing in a boat. One is decked out in all the latest and greatest fly-fishing attire, swinging a heavy, expensive fly rod in hopes of enticing a yellowfin tuna to bite. He looks like he's straight out of a high-end catalog.

The other two men are working with much more primitive gear — a stiff length of bamboo and some stout line. Guess who lands the monster fish. In all, just 30 seconds went by from the time the 275-pound fish took the bait until it was flopping around on the deck.

These guys did what others spend countless dollars doing each year. Yet, their gear cost less than most of us spend on a single lure. They didn't have satellite shots of the water temperature. They didn't have fancy custom rods. They didn't even have a depth finder. It was the ultimate case of "keeping it simple."

There are plenty of similar stories in the hunting world. Instead of spending four hours shopping for the latest high-tech tree stand and dumping a week's pay on it, spend that time in the woods scouting and learning the daily patterns of the game you're after.

Instead of shelling out a month's salary for a new gun, hit the range and see just how accurate pap's old gun can be. Not only will it save you a pile of cash, you'll have a much better experience this season.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with a few "luxury" items here and there, but don't think any of it is absolutely necessary. Now, more than ever, sportsmen are backing away from our pastime because of the so-called expense. They feel without the latest and greatest accessories, they have no chance of success. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Keep it simple. Keep it affordable. And, most importantly, keep it fun.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at