Ryan Richard Nych

Ryan Richard Nych is an outdoorsman, educator, hobby farmer, husband, and father. He is a member of POWA, SRW, and advocates land ethic. More about Ryan can be found at his site http://ryanrnychwrites.wix.com/rrnych-author.

I Saw My First Coyote

By Ryan Richard Nych

I was inexperienced-A flint-lock was not my first choice.
An early-season youth hunt, I was to stand guard.
I was yearning to be learning the skills of all my fathers.
The soft sun beamed in the neighbor’s woodlot toward evening.

I was inexperienced-I had already spent much time in woods and waters,
but all creation eluded me while in season, while armed.
Here was my chance at glory upon the hill to get my kill and father’s handshake,
or at least dry his timeless deer jerky I could finally call all mine.

I was inexperienced-All movement demanded strict attention
including my own as I stood there alone by my oak near the thick pines.
Before I was stone under the vines, I cleared debris of dried leaves.
Silence all ‘round my shooting lanes while I watched for the herd to come through.

I was inexperienced-I had never killed anything very large; groundhogs, rabbits.
My boots fell soft and quiet; I stood still and silent; my only duty-shoot straight.
My heart was Seneca, Apache, Crockett, Boone.
I was ready; hands, heart, breath held steady. I powdered the pan perfectly.

I was inexperienced-Glossy pictures from magazines and books
are not the same as the luster of fur.
Television images lack dimension and birdsong adds to ambience;
Screens are not the same when viewing life, game, breathing, plant, bird, and being.

I was inexperienced-I should have been aware. Peaceful as breeze
and quick as shadow, the wood-dog appeared in my view not even ten yards away.
To profile he rose when betrayed by his nose, the coyote stood still as granite.
We both took a breath knowing that death likes to ride November.
We each had to make our choices.

I was inexperienced-My finger touched cold flint and hammer.
My musket I raised but onward I gazed at the rusty grey coat and canine smile.
He sniffed at the air and down to the earth, never looking my direction, but
something well beyond the pines or horizon seemed to hold his attention.

I was inexperienced- but I knew moments do not last.
Outward it darted, dark coat mixed well with autumn, into the darkening pines.
And still being a child I tasted the wild in a farmstead woodlot near home.

I was inexperienced-my father told me when he heard about my tale.
“They are good for nothing and destroy all the hunting,”
he warned me as we left the field.
He continued to lecture about my adventure until the sun
abandoned the day and the moonlight conquered the horizon.

I was inexperienced-but no longer believe it is so.
No acrid dog meat to taste or spoil childish wonder.
No need for the pelt to remind what I felt when killing would have been
such a waste. There is nothing to regret with my decision that day.

*********

Wonders

To the outdoorsman, every season has splendor. Winter has a solemn, silent beauty. The lifeforms are respected as survivors; the world has brittle features, but we admire the landscape as natural wind chimes and stained-glass cathedrals. Haunted we become by the reminders of ends. ryan-nych-wonders-1Spring has the easiest aesthetics with the world awakening and bursting forth with blooms, colors, and life. The returning of migratory birds, the awakening of hibernating mammals, and the buzzing of the hordes of pollinators and pests help us shake off the cabin fever as we feel the thawing earth. Our new life shows that “this too shall pass.” Summer is the season of extended comfort; the seeds have been sown and Spring’s life sustains, develops, deepens. Summer is our proverbial prime. But for us, Autumn may be the most alluring.

The home smells of gun oil, string wax, clothes from a basket of last year’s autumn, and the house lingers with a single, accidental whiff of doe estrus. Depending on the homestead, the truck and car no longer fits in the garage as muddy waders, plastic ducks and geese, blinds, and necklaces of calls cluster in a heap of organized chaos ready for an early morning trip to the swamps and fields. Some have their waders close to their flyrod, ready for a trip to the Erie tributaries for a fall run of steelhead. Others have their gnarled foam blocks, segmented deer targets, and a day pack full of scent, rattle racks, and broadheads. Others still, usually the youth, prepare the .22s and shotguns ready for the long days of small game.

No matter into which categories of clutter we fall, the fires of the autumn landscape ignite our imagination and excitement. The bare fields expose a world of gleanings. The last of every tree’s fruit falling calls forth critters to store their cache for the harshness ahead. ryan-nych-wonders-2The woods, winds, and waters become a hurried rush. Feeding, fighting, fleeting, fleeing, breeding, brooding, rooting, and scooting; every creature busy in their cycle of the year. The eventful activities present us with a paradise of opportunity.

But this opportunity is not without frustration. How are we to know whether we should wingshoot, flyfish, bring the bow, throw out top-water plugs into the lily pads, scout without gear, or bring the dog? It seems that every time I prepare for one, I am reminded of the other. The forest floor is alive with squirrels when I carry my bow, but if I grab the .22 or .17hmr, I am certain to see the long lost flock of turkey or the elusive 10-point in my back orchard.

The great diversity of this season is a blessing, so the frustration quickly subsides. The game animals are not the only busy lives either. Song birds are no longer disguised and cloaked in summer thicks. Owls and predators take advantage of the smaller scurries without cover. The lush greenery our eyes became accustomed to over the months adapt and evolve leaving the familiar somehow different upon each new arrival. Proverbially, this is the age of wisdom and experience. Perhaps I should invest in a fancy camera, the only way to be fully prepared in the Pennsylvanian wilds in autumn.

By Ryan Richard Nych

Ryan Richard Nych is an outdoorsman, educator, hobby farmer, husband, and father. He is a member of POWA, SRW, and advocates land ethic. More about Ryan can be found at his site http://ryanrnychwrites.wix.com/rrnych-author.

A Fisherman Reflects Upon His Catch

By Ryan Richard Nych
(attempt of Shakespearian style sonnet)

The fish within the rushing waters call.
I must escape to find my peace within
their realm of gills, of truth, of silver fin
to gain myself at last before I fall.
Tranquility and God, myself so small;
yet here we meet under the sun again.
My tools, my trade, my wits, my life begin
with that first cast at dawn. I give my all.
Poor fish, our fight, your fear, please understand
intent was pure, my friend, forgive deceit,
my lure you grabbed betrayed your sense of man.
Your life, now gone, is flesh for me to eat.
My thanks to you, to God, and Nature’s praise.
This joy will stay in mind for all my days.

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Treats

When I was a child, my goal in life was to spend every day fishing. I recently found an old paper of mine from the fourth grade on the topic of future careers. “I dream of being a naturalist. I will live in the woods by a lake and a river and fish and study nature.” I knew this term from a book on our shelf that had activities for an “Everyday Junior Naturalist.” To this day, I’m not quite sure what that term truly entails, but back then my paper went on to describe something more like a child’s idea for bug-out mentality, drifters, hobos, and hermits. I guess I wanted to be a bearded sage of the big-woods. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a naturalist, or wise, but I can always fall back on my dreams of being a hermit.

The oddest part of my childhood plan is there is no real career plan, no thought of making money. I guess I thought I’d live of the fat of the land. I would hunt, gather, and fish my way through this life, but at that age I was a young, catch-and-release fisherman who was too young to hunt, too weak to help with the farm, and too picky to tend Dad’s garden- why would I help create onions, beans, tomatoes, peppers, and peas when I don’t want to eat them? Too picky to eat most of natural bounty. But, as always, ideals do not concern themselves with pragmatics. On I dreamed that a naturalist needs only nature to live.

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My father was a hunter. He fished on occasion, but hunting was his true passion. When fishing with Dad, you hunt fish. Dad targets walleye and walleye only, and to a young bass-fisherman, trolling the depths was tedious and boring. I would hold my rod and sigh as I stared at the shoreline with overhanging trees, mouths of creeks, and lily pad coves. But we were able to catch walleye, even on our first big trips. Dad would leave thrilled with our cooler full of flesh. He then always went through his grocery store arithmetic figuring out how many more walleye we needed to have all expenses paid. My brothers and I were young enough to not need a permit, so he included his license cost, gas prices, boat registration, lures, ice, and sometimes the fine of a .25 inch short of the limit walleye had to be included. Dad always insisted that the fish commission didn’t know how to measure fish. I witnessed Dad being excited about fish fillets with the same gusto as grouse or venison.

The spring we first went for walleye was also the summer I was able to fish our ponds without parental supervision. “Nych’s Ditches” were fed by “Bethel Creek” and at that time was part of the approved trout waters. Every year strangers would line the banks of our small stream and our ponds and become crazed by trout. I saw in them the same bloodthirsty passion I witness in Dad for walleye. I mentioned I was a picky eater; I didn’t like to eat the fish. I just loved the fight and the mystery of the depths.

A hot mid-June day beckoned my brothers and I to the ponds. We packed quart bags with snacks and headed out. I was casting a spinner near a downed pine and I caught a late season rainbow trout. I quickly swallowed down my PB (and no J, I told you I was picky) sandwich and folded over my new trophy inside my makeshift plastic creel. I thought Dad would be so pleased, what a treat a trout must be when people have stopped fishing for them months ago. I thought the drive for trout meat was the same as walleye. Fish is fish, right?

Wrong!

Dad was not pleased. He didn’t want “that boney thing.” I didn’t either. Maybe I could finally help with the garden, use it as fertilizer like Squanto in school? Mom didn’t save me. Mom and Dad unknowingly taught me a valuable lesson that day about my responsibility in the food chain. “You caught it. You killed it. So you fillet it, and you eat it.” I dreaded every aspect of it. Dad tried to show me how to fillet the fish. I remember the sound of the pings, rib bones clipped by the blade. Fine fish scales sticking to my hands and the fillets like glitter of a demented art project. The rest of the family enjoyed hamburgers and French fries. I tried to stomach a warm-water trout, meat bittered by summer sun, plastic bag, and pond water. Many times my gums felt the touché of the pin bones, the stab of a rogue rib. I remember making the infamous sound, like a cat struggling with hairballs, when one made it past my teeth.

For many years, I was catch-and-release fisherman. Since then, my taste buds matured, my knife skills improved, my understandings deepened. This accidental lesson was never forgotten. A lesson in natural laws, ethical code, a lesson that I hold dear as an outdoorsman and “naturalist.” We are always responsible for the lives we take.