Sep 10, 2016


What is the first name that pops into your head to the question, "Who is the smartest person you can think of?" I recently asked several people that question and almost all said, “Albert Einstein.” I thought the same thing and for good reason. Einstein published more than 450 scientific and nonscientific works and, in 1921, he received the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect, a pivotal step in the evolution of quantum theory. He is best known for his formula E=MC2 which has often been dubbed the world's most famous equation.

I have no idea what most of that means. I just know Albert was a really smart guy whose intellectual achievements made the name “Einstein” synonymous with the word “genius.” 

I took physics my senior year of high school during the fall semester. I don't remember why I did that, but I'm guessing someone thought I needed to learn about Einstein's quantum theory and other highly cerebral concepts. I recall that some of my classmates actually understood some of the stuff, but I didn't learn much about physics that fall. 

Now, I don't know the exact date we started school that year, but it was usually the day after Labor Day. This year, Labor Day is Sept. 5, so if I were in high school now, the first day of class would be Sept. 6, and I'd have exactly nine school days before Sept. 17. What is significant about Sept. 17? Well, next to the anniversaries of the birth of Jesus and His resurrection, the most important day this year is Sept. 17 — opening day of the deer archery season. 

I'll bet you're wondering what any of this has to do with Einstein or hunting. I'm getting there. 

Part of my daily workout regimen for bowhunting includes a rigorous one hour session in my recliner where I drink a few beers and intensely watch hunting shows on the outdoor channel. So I don't get bored, sometimes I mix it up and drink Jameson or Gentleman Jack instead. Recently, during one of these grueling sessions, this quote appeared on the screen: 

             "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."

I went to bed that night thinking about that quote. It might not mean that much to others, but to me it was very profound, and it justified, or at least provided me an excuse, for why I didn't do so well in physics and most every other course I took during my academic career. 

And I woke up thinking about the quote. After a few cups of coffee to clear my head of the fog from the previous night's training session, I searched the web to see who the wise person was who wrote it. As you've probably already guessed ... it was Albert Einstein.

In the classroom I was never an "Einstein." I earned decent grades in primary and secondary school but I don't recall ever learning all that much in most classes, especially during the fall semester. What I do recall was spending a lot of time staring out the window or at the clock counting down the minutes before my dad would pick my brother, Bill and me up to go hunting after school. And that was before Bill and I could drive ourselves. By the time we had our own car, a sweet little 1966 El Camino, we were often "looking deep into nature" instead of looking deep into the Pythagorean theorem and other important formulas and information we apparently needed to master to live a happy, successful life. 

College was even worse. In 1980 I headed to the University of Wisconsin — La Crosse for my freshman year. I was the first in my family to attend college, and I had visions of making my parents proud of my future academic achievements. But then I got permission to hunt and trap a couple-hundred-acre bluff that overlooked the La Crosse and Mississippi Rivers — and that is precisely where I spent the fall semester of my first year of college. After a 1.86 GPA that fall followed by a blistering 2.1 the next semester, I moved back home to attend the University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee, where I graduated in 1984. 

I don't think Albert's intent with the nature quote was to persuade guys like me to quit school and only hunt and fish instead. I assume he believed that a formal education could be greatly enhanced through nature. Personally, I am a MUCH better student in the outdoors, where my hunger for knowledge of every species of flora and fauna greatly transcends my desire for knowledge of physics, math or most any other traditional course of study. My favorite classrooms and laboratories — and where I learned the most, were the woods and waters of my beloved Wisconsin, where I gained a much deeper wisdom and understanding of the truly important life lessons.

And now, once again, I find myself alive and well during another spectacular month of September in Wisconsin. And like every other September, when I should be spending most of my time, thought, and effort on my job, wife and children, instead I find myself perpetually daydreaming about Sept. 17 and the archery deer season opener — just like I did all those years in school.

If you are in school and you bowhunt, you are probably thinking about little else. You aren't intensely focused on math and science and you aren't paying as much attention to your teachers as you should be. Just to be clear for our young readers, I am not at all recommending you abdicate your responsibilities in the classroom. You really should go to class, pay attention, read what your teachers tell you to read, and be the best possible student you can possibly be. Then listen to Mr. Einstein and go hunting so you can understand everything you were taught in the classroom better. 

If you are at work, your productivity is probably dropping as you daydream about opening morning on stand, visualizing a large bachelor group of trophy bucks sneaking through on a runway 15 yards from your perch in a well camouflaged tree stand. You probably aren't thinking about making another sales call or completing some silly memo or report that, even if you finish, probably won't actually be read by anyone. 

So people like us really ought to stand strong with our brother Albert who, we all agree, is a genius. He thinks we should augment our formal education system and crazy adult lives this fall in nature's classrooms and laboratories — to look deep into nature, so that we may understand everything better.

Einstein was way smarter than I'll ever be, so I'm going to listen to him. I vow to put forth my very best effort to hunt as much as possible this fall. I can hardly wait to see just how wise and understanding I become.