A Bear Hunter’s Guide to Geo-Caching

By Gary Lewis

Gary Lewis Books and DVDs

I stayed out late the night before, eating fish fry and too much blackberry cobbler, so Little Sassy got to the morning paper before I did.

This time, instead of flipping straight to the funny pages, an item in the Sports section caught her eye.

"Pops," she said, "what is geo-caching?"

Now I know that a daughter’s trust is not a thing to trifle with. I learned long ago that every reasonable question deserves a reasonable answer and so I was ready.

"Well honey, what would you like it to be?"

She stomped her foot. "Just tell me and quit fooling around," she said.

It made me proud to see that for once she was interested in something other than what Mary Worth and Garfield were up to and I figured that the longer we kept up the conversation, the better it would be for her in the long run.

"Earth-hiding," I said. "That's what geo-caching means, but I don’t use the word cache anymore because it's a French word and..." She often doesn’t let me finish. Her mother is the same way.

"But what do they do – these geo-cachers?"

"They go around and hide a worthless toy and then they go back to their web sites and give the coordinates and tell other people where to find it. Then when the other people find the worthless toy, they take it and leave something else worthless in its place. It will never catch on, because no one shoots anything and, besides you don’t need specialized clothes."

"Specialized clothes?"

Now I knew I had her attention and some real father-daughter dialogue could take place. For some reason, the females in my house are more interested in the latest fashions than in what baits attract the biggest bears and what calibers and bullets are best suited to cross-canyon shots. My job as parent and spouse dictates that I am well-versed in the things the rest of my family is interested in. I take exception to Mary Worth, of course. Reading that comic strip would damage my brain. But clothes and fashion are topics in which I am well versed.

"When I was a wee lad growing up in the woods, it didn’t take much effort to dress like a hunter," I told Little Sassy. "You just took whatever you were wearing and added a gun and knife to it. Without gun and knife, you looked like a logger. In fact, everyone dressed like a logger. Muddy boots, flannel shirts, suspenders and a floppy red hat were all the rage. And the men didn’t dress much better."

"Says here that geo-caching is the fastest growing segment of the outdoor sports," she said. "What do you think about that?"

"Yesterday’s sportsman could tie an egg-loop knot, pot grouse with a 22, run a trap line, row a drift boat, rebuild a trolling motor, shoot a recurve bow and wash camp dishes. All while wearing the same flannel shirt. You can’t get by with that kind of attitude anymore. Today’s athletes and sportsmen are specialists."

"What does that have to do with geo-caching?" she asked. 

"The point is that today, you need special clothes to do anything. Take mountain bikers for instance. I used to be quite the mountain biker myself. Till they changed the clothing.

"30 years ago, a mountain biker was a fellow who checked his trap-line from the back of a motorcycle. He smelled like a coyote, wore a greasy denim jacket and wool gloves and kept a 22 pistol tucked into the front of his pants. You have to admit that you haven’t seen a lot of people like that lately."

"I think the real problem must have been that such men rarely reproduced and a new breed of mountain biker has taken their place," the offspring said.

"Don’t let your mother hear you talk that way," I told her. "Today’s mountain biker wears a helmet and Spandex shorts and a Patagonia jacket. If he’s brandishing artillery, it’ll look suspiciously like a bicycle tire pump." 

"I say we try earth-hiding," she said. "We can go find a cache or two and then we can make one of our own and post it on a web site."

I had to agree with my descendant for the sake of family unity, but, for the life of me I couldn't think of someplace marked in my GPS that I wanted other folks to know about. 

Generally, I try to keep non-hunters interested in doing things in town. The more that people recreate in the backcountry, the more likely it is that I’ll see them when I’m bear hunting. I don’t want to see other folks enjoying the out-of-doors, I want to see them indoors, reading books, watching television, going to movies, playing video games.

I decided to bring up the topic for discussion down at Charlie’s Fish & Chips. Perhaps the brain trust that is the Bear Mountain Gang would come up with the solution. 

T.Roy and Harlan Peebles were already arguing when I got there. T.Roy said he was going to have Tubbs build a three-quarter life-size mount out of his next trophy. "If I kill that big cinnamon bear I saw last month."

"Harvest," Peebles said. "We harvest bears, remember?"

"Have you guys ever been geo-caching," I asked. "Little Sassy said she thought we should make a geo-cache, but I can’t think of any place that would be appropriate."

"I’m going to post a geo-cache up at the head of Grouse Creek," T.Roy said.

"You can’t do that," Peebles said. "I’ve got a tree stand there."

"Do tell," T.Roy said.

O’Jambo had been listening. "There are a lot of mosquitoes this year. Set up a geo-cache in the swamp. It would give you a chance to try out your new camo with the built-in insect repellent."

"And make it a progressive cache. When the ‘cachers get there, they’ll find coordinates for that log with the family of skunks. I’d bet the young ones are half-growed by now." T.Roy said. 

"And then we could hang up a trail camera and get pictures of what happens when they find the prize."

I knew of a big yellowjacket nest at the base of a hollow tree. That could be the final stop. We would hide the cache in the tree, maybe with a Mary Worth comic strip for the reward. Of course, we would wear bee-proof gloves and headnets and that is specialized clothing. 

Geo-caching really is what you make of it. I think it might catch on after all.

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