I’ve told myself that I’m going to be much more reasonable about my New Year’s resolutions this year.
No more goals of catching a state-record bass, training my Labrador retriever to be a champ duck dog or starting a guide service.
Ain’t gonna happen.
Instead, I have set some more realistic goals that I think I could attain.
- VISITING MORE MISSOURI STATE PARKS: To me, visiting another state park is like discovering a new gem
I’ve been traveling to parks such as Bennett Spring and Roaring River for years for the traditional trout opener. I’ve hiked the beautiful trails at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park and I’ve climbed to Missouri’s highest elevation at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. I’ve explored caves at a couple of parks and I have floated beautiful rivers at several more.
But there is plenty more to see. I visited one of Missouri’s newest state parks, Echo Bluff, in December. And in the fall, I visited the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site – a fascinating place that once served as a retreat for Confederate soldiers and their families after the Civil War –that I had never seen before.
Now I want more. There are 57 state parks and 35 historic sites just waiting to be explored.
- FISHING THE MAJOR RESERVOIRS OF MISSOURI AND KANSAS: During my 36 years at The Kansas City Star, I made it a point to visit as many of the region’s major reservoirs as possible.
There are only a few spots left that I haven’t been to. In Missouri, I need to check off Lake Wappapello and Clearwater Lake in the southeast part of the state. In Kansas, Fall River and Elk City reservoirs, again in the southeast part of the state, are the only ones I haven’t fished.
Maybe this will be the year I can complete my list.
- EXPLORING WESTERN KANSAS: Like many people, I always pictured western Kansas as flat, boring and pretty nondescript.
But I changed my mind one fall day in 2015 when I attended an Outdoor Writers of Kansas meeting in Dodge City. I set up a fishing trip at Clark State Fishing Lake (shown here) and I was amazed at what I found.
The moment we took a road that descended off the stereotypical flat landscape of southwest Kansas, I set eyes on a sparkling jewel of a lake. Set in a deep canyon, Clark State Fishing Lake is surrounded by bluffs, rugged hillsides, prairies and an abundance of wildlife. It is on the small side – 300 acres – but it produces surprisingly good fishing for largemouth bass, walleyes, white bass and channel catfish.
Since that trip, I’ve wanted to explore more of the unique spots that break stereotypes in western Kansas. Scott State Park in the west-central region was listed by National Geographic Magazine as one of the nation’s 50 must-see state parks. It features deep canyons, bluffs, springs, a 100-acre lake, plenty of history and good opportunities for wildlife viewing.
I’ve never been there, but I’d like to change that.
I would also like to see some of the region’s geological formations that look like they belong in the West, not Kansas. I’ve seen photos of places such as Monument Rocks, the Arikaree Breaks and Castle Rock, and I’d love to see them up-close.
- TAKING MY GRANDKIDS CAMPING: My two granddaughters – Caty, 12, and Chloe, 9 – often talk about how much fun it would be to camp at the edge of a lake and go fishing and hiking during the day and build a campfire at night.
We have all the gear – good tents, sleeping bags, inflatable mattresses, coolers, and cook stoves – but life keeps getting in the way of making time for a camping trip.
This year I resolve to take time to make it happen.
- BROADENING MY HORIZONS: Yeah, I need to branch out. I’m pretty much a year-round fisherman, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s never too late to teach an old dog like me new tricks.
I need to become more proficient using a fly rod. The times I have gone fly fishing for bass or crappies, I had a great time. I’d like to do more of that.
I also need to take some shooting lessons from my friend, John Francis, who has offered, and do more hunting during October, November and December. I love being out in a duck blind or in a Kansas CRP field, but my shooting leaves a lot to be desired.
I’m also going to force myself to learn more about deep-water structure fishing. I purchased a sonar unit with down scan, side scan, GPS, and other functions on it last year, and it helped me locate and catch a lot more fish. I’d like to take that even further this year.
- KEEP WRITING: I still have a passion for telling the stories about the outdoors. To me, outdoors writing isn’t only about the how-to and where-to stuff. It’s about the people involved in those sports. I always loved Charles Kuralt’s approach, travelling the nation, telling stories about the average guy or woman.
I’m still writing for magazines, websites and public-relations businesses, and I hope to do even more in the coming year. If you have a good story that needs to be told, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.