Editor’s Note: Off the beaten path.

Don’t be in a rush this fall, otherwise you might miss the simple beauty waiting around almost every corner of the Dakotas, especially in areas off the beaten path. Getty Images

— By Andrew Johnson

I have an older brother and an older sister, and while we were growing up my mother had a unique way of describing the three of us by telling people how and when we’d show up to an event, be it church, an appointment, school or what have you. She’d tell people my brother would be 20 minutes early, my sister would be right on time and her youngest (me) would show up eventually.

Today, those who know me and my penchant for being late would probably find it hard to argue with my mother’s description. No matter how hard I try, it seems “the hurrier I go the behinder I get,” and even my best-laid plans somehow backfire and make me even later than if I’m flying by the seat of my pants, which is a majority of the time.

While I admit I struggle with timeliness for most things, that all changes once hunting season rolls around. If we’re going duck hunting at 4 a.m., you can bet I’ll be ready 15 minutes early, and when it’s time to hit the field for South Dakota’s noon pheasant opener, I’ll be ready by 11:30 a.m., counting down the seconds until legal shooting time arrives.

Ironically, I’m easily perturbed if a hunting partner is late or a hunt is somehow delayed. It’s hypocritical, to be sure, but I can’t help it. It’s simply how I’m built.

While the fact I’m early for hunting trips is a miracle in and of itself, what makes it more astounding is that I rarely, if ever, take a direct route to the field. During hunting season, I have an aversion to the interstate and state highways. If a backroad oil is an option, you can bet I’ll take it, and gravel roads have long been some of my best friends. Unexpected detours, usually the bane of my late-arriving existence, are welcome during the fall.

For me, a hunt doesn’t start when I’m in the field. It starts long before — sometimes days or weeks — I ever step into a deer blind or duck marsh. This includes the drive to the hunt, when I simply feel no rush to get where I’m going and choose to find my way off the beaten path.

The radio is seldom on, the cell phone is muted and I’m often left in comfortable silence, save for the anxious whine of my yellow Lab, to collect my thoughts, savor the anticipation of what the day will bring and give thanks for being lucky enough to pursue my passion for the outdoors.

Don’t be in a rush this fall, otherwise you might miss the simple beauty waiting around almost every corner of the Dakotas, especially in areas off the beaten path.
Getty Images

It’s no secret that many people flock to the outdoors as an escape from how busy life is at times, and I’m no exception. It’s how I recharge my batteries, and if you’re like me, I bet it does the same for you.

With another fall upon us, I’d encourage you to slow down and take the winding road. It might take a bit longer to get where you’re going, but I’d argue that some quality windshield time, even if it’s spent commiserating with old friends in the dusty interior of a pickup, is worth as much as the hunt is itself.

While you’re at it, stop in to see some of the local businesses who help bring you each issue of the Outdoor Forum. In every issue we publish there are special town pages where local businesses team up to advertise what their community offers hunters, anglers and campers.

Even if they’re a ways off the beaten path, you can bet these people and businesses who support Outdoor Forum also want to help you experience everything a day in the Dakota outdoors has to offer.

Going Forward

This issue will be the last Outdoor Forum published this year. Going forward, Outdoor Forum will publish two super issues each year — the spring fishing issue in April and the fall hunting issue in October.

While we may not publish printed issues as often, Outdoor Forum’s website, www.theoutdoorforum.net, will still be updated weekly with fresh, free content that relates directly to the Dakota outdoors.

In addition, all of Outdoor Forum’s social-media channels will still be up and running as your go-to sources for hunting, fishing and conservation in the Dakotas:

  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/odfmag
  • Twitter: @OutdoorForumMag
  • Instagram: @outdoorforum

Whether you’re reading Outdoor Forum for the first time or have been a subscriber since its inception in May 2012, we thank you for reading and hope this fall is your best one yet. We’ll talk again next spring …