It’s official. I’m a resident of the Cowboy State. The long wait is over.
I celebrated by buying my first resident fishing license, saving about $80 off the price of a nonresident license. Soon I’ll be applying for hunting licenses.
It takes 365 days to become a Wyoming resident. I understand the reasons. I can’t say I didn’t complain, but even at the nonresident prices, hunting and fishing this great state is still a bargain.
This past season I caught many fine fish — including my first-ever Yellowstone cutthroat trout with a fly rod. I also caught numerous plants and articles of my clothing while attempting to learn the art form. I took a lesson or two. I still stink, but I’m not giving up.
I also hunted, but was limited to sage grouse, chukar and pheasant. It was the first year in many without harvesting deer. I was “unsuccessful” in drawing a nonresident deer tag this past fall. I considered going back to Nebraska or north to Montana, where nonresident tags are easier to procure, but I passed, thinking I should be patient.
I was wrong.
Hunting is my passion. I’ve spent a great deal of my adult life with a bow or gun in my hands. Yet it wasn’t until this past year of abstinence that I realized how important hunting is to my psyche.
By January, I was suffering. Days began to feel long and my usual zest for life was turning stale. By early spring, I was a mess. Grumpy wasn’t adequate to describe my attitude. It wasn’t until recently, when I scheduled several outdoor adventures, that I realized the importance of the outdoors to my soul.
Hiking in the Shoshone National Forest last week, I found myself alone in the deep woods for the first time since arriving in my new home state. The sound of nearby mountain chickadees grabbed my attention and I stopped trying to keep up with the group. I left the trail and headed toward the song.
In the pines, the courageous birds with their melodic songs darted in and out of view. A calm came over me as I stood silently in the shade.
I got to thinking how much time I normally spend in the woods. On an average year, I typically bow hunted at least 20 days a year. And I often rifle hunt another 10-12 days a year — sometimes more if I could get a tag in more than one state.
While sitting in a tree stand or walking through a thicket, I work out my angst. I get nervous around people. The more nervous I am, the more I talk.
After a day in the woods alone, I almost feel normal. Calm is not how most describe me, yet after having the time to clear my head and being able to get to that point in the hunt where all I have left to think about is the wonder of nature, I get quiet. I’m happier when I get those battery-recharging sessions. I’m literally a better person when I go outdoors.
And now that I am an official resident of Wyoming, I can afford more time afield. And this next year, the rest of you might find the chubby flatlander chatterbox giving you a chance to get in a word or two.