Sunday, May 19, 2024

Doug Leier: Changing technology and the outdoors

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Twenty years ago I wrote a column about technology. It was inspired by a walk through an early spring hunting and fishing expo. What I wrote then and what I’m thinking about today with forward-facing sonar and even more evolution really hasn’t changed much at all has it?

Think back to your last trip outdoors with friends. Chances are, somebody brought along a cellphone. Another buddy may have packed hand-held radios, and it wouldn’t be surprising if someone had a GPS unit mounted on the pickup dash or stored in a tackle box or backpack.

As recently as 10 years ago, the chance of all three of these devices accompanying a hunting, fishing or camping trip was slim. Fast-forward to the present, and for many outdoors people, handheld devices rate next to the license and rod or gun in terms of importance.

After perusing the latest innovations for 2004 at sports shows, I left with the questions: Where is all this technology going? And will it ever stop?

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We enjoy the outdoors in our own way, doing whatever it is that puts a smile on our face. There is no defined standard, as long as the activity falls within the constraints of the law.

While strolling through one outdoors show I scratched my head in wonder as I looked at the latest and greatest innovations. Ice fishing has come a long way from sitting on a 5-gallon pail and using your pickup as a windbreak.

Take portable ice shacks, for instance. These trailer-mounted houses, complete with insulated floors, televisions and stoves, could even help me persuade my wife to spend a few hours fishing over hard water. It’s the comforts of home conveniently situated in the wrath of nature.

And such comforts are not limited to ice fishing shelters. On another part of the sport show floor were what I call “ramblers on wheels,” the gigantic touring recreational vehicles.

After several hours I concluded that as technology advances, we seem to want more and more of the conveniences of home in the field. Or, at least that’s what the people who make such things are telling us.







Doug Leier




The last escape

The outdoors is a last escape for people to “get away from it all.” But what we used to get away from — telephones and television — we can now easily bring along.

No, I don’t live in a glass house. My cellphone seems to be surgically attached to my hip. And I drag my laptop along almost everywhere when I’m on the road. Not to say it’s all wrong or bad. A cellphone is more than just a convenience — it can save a life. To have this technology and choose to leave it at home is just plain ignorant. Turn the phone on silent mode, or even turn it off, but bring it along.

But where does it end? Is it really still camping when the “camper” has air conditioning, a big screen television and DVD player? Have we replaced “getting away from it all” with “how can we more conveniently enjoy modern comforts in remote places?”

I’ll freely admit it bothers me. Some argue these conveniences propel more people outdoors, but at what cost? The hum of a gasoline generator that provides electricity to a camper sure doesn’t sound like music as I’m snuggled next door trying to sleep in my tent.

But maybe that’s the point. While technological advances will continue, each of us enjoys the outdoors in a unique way, and we can choose to purchase and use the next great convenience, or choose to go without.

Either way, make sure that what you enjoy does not annoy someone else.

Doug Leier is a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

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