Only one rule needed for outdoor etiquette

Dec. 01, 2012 @ 10:30 PM

We drove down the beach and I couldn’t wait to see what the point of Cape Lookout was like. Coastal points like Lookout and Hatteras change every day with thousands of tons of sand constantly shifting. Sometimes this is good for fishing, other times it is an impediment. As we gained sight of the end of the island, I saw only three vehicles on the point. This was good. When we got to the point, I saw the  three vehicles were all apparently one group and the point was covered with kids.
Cherie and I got out of the truck and she started looking at shells. I checked out the fishing possibilities. The senior guy in the group was about my age or a little younger, a pleasant man who informed me the kids were his grandkids. They were preparing to have a beachside fish fry. They’d caught fish all day but few were keepers.
I wanted to fish the point at sundown but I didn’t want to interfere with kids and family so Cherie and I set about the business of getting the camper ready for the night. Once we were finished, we baited up and fished just above the point as the kids filtered back to the camper and the enticing smells of fresh puppy drum and hush puppies. In a few minutes, all the kids were eating and we began fishing the point.
Unfortunately, there’s never been a book on outdoor etiquette similar to Emily Post’s book on social graces. I’m sure the book would have little real impact on the way outdoor folks act since Ms. Post’s book hardly eradicated rude behavior in the more urban circles she frequented. I’ve certainly observed all levels of etiquette in the outdoors and I’ve learned that people are capable of any kind of behavior, both good and bad.
While there are no guidelines for how to hold a fork or where to place one’s napkin when hunting and fishing, the most important, and really, the only required rule of etiquette is the Golden Rule. Loosely translated, it states, “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” If all humanity obeyed this simple rule, we’d live a wonderful life, indeed. Those that raised me made a point of teaching me that, just because someone doesn’t treat me right doesn’t give me the right to treat them or anyone else poorly. Unfortunately, I haven’t always abided by this information, and as I get older, I truly regret it.
In stretches of normal beach, it would be unforgivable to shoulder in to a group fishing together but points are a little different. There are about twenty miles of ordinary beach on South Core Banks but there is only one point and only one inlet. This makes those spots more public. Had the group on the point been all adults, I’d have had no qualms about walking into the group and making my cast. This wasn’t the case. Had there been a run, with fish coming in on every cast, I’d have joined into the group but this was a grandpa and his grandkids, catching a few small drum, and I felt I would have been intruding.
I know that, had I been in the same situation, I would have tolerated someone coming into our group but it would have been a bit of a distraction and made our day on the beach a little less special, therefore Cherie and I fished elsewhere until the kids were finished.
It always distresses me when I hear of outdoorsmen exhibiting unsportsmanlike behavior.  We all want to catch fish, shoot a big deer, or win the trophy at the match, but I think exhibiting real sportsmanlike behavior is more important. We are all representatives of who we are, where we’re from, and who raised us and I think this is a big responsibility. I think it’s a bigger deal than getting to make a couple more casts before the sun goes down. It’s even bigger than landing a really nice fish.
I don’t really believe in karma but I did catch a citation drum the next day. I do believe in the kindness of other people, though and, while Cherie and I were fishing, the grandpa, came out to the point. He was carrying an aluminum pan with a lid. “I have your supper ready, I know you probably want to keep fishing. Do you want me to put it in the truck for you?”
It turned out our benefactor, Mac Best, owned one of the ferry boats that shuttled vehicles across to the island. I don’t know if Cherie and I being considerate enough to not interfere with his grandkids fishing had anything to do with our free and delicious supper, but it sure didn’t hurt.
There are inconsiderate, bad apples in the outdoor crowd, but overall, I think we do a great job of sharing and being thoughtful and kind to strangers who share the same passions. Later that evening, Cherie and I heated up our donated supper and ate it in the camper while discussing just how nice outdoor folks are as a general rule. I love a good sunset, but a considerate act from a stranger is just as impressive and can happen at any time. Don’t forget to spread a little sunshine yourself next time you get a chance.