I always struggled to some degree when it came to the classic elementary school project – presenting on someone who inspires you. Most would choose a famous figure while a select few would choose someone close to them in their life. I never felt this question was fair as inspiration come in many forms. At 6, 8, or 10 – you really don’t know what inspiration is, much less who inspires you. Instead, you recognize traits that you admire or view as positive though you don’t fully comprehend how they all fit into the world.
Though it may sound cliché, my mom has always been the first person to pop into my mind when presented with this question. Admiring a parent is common among kids, but it has really only grown as I’ve matured and experienced more. My mom inspires me because she pushes me to be a better person, to stay true to myself, and to seek out true happiness. My mom inspires me because of who she is and the type of person she has taught me to be.
This is only one type of inspiration. Contrary to this elementary school project, the high school assignment I enjoyed was delving into concepts and words. I took five years of Latin and loved the opportunity to learn more about where words come from, what they mean, and how other cultures used them and framed sentences. Inspiration comes from the Latin verb inspiro, meaning to literally breathe in. It isn’t just about looking up to a person or appreciating them. In breaking down the word it is something that like air, you breathe in. One may argue that like oxygen, it’s life-giving.
I’ve found it several places, but most poignantly in the outdoor space. I never expected to be a shooter, much less a hunter. Many people believe that hunting is about the harvest. It isn’t. It’s about the experience. I’ve spent far more hours sitting in the woods waiting for deer than the few minutes I’ve spent with them in front of me. This spring I had the opportunity to hunt turkey with HuntingLife.com editor and founder Kevin Paulson. Over several uncharacteristically frigid Spring days in Nebraska, I had more than ample opportunity to think.
Turkey hunting was much different than deer hunting. I’d pursued turkey once before, four years ago and unsuccessfully. I’d never felt confident enough to go on my own or had land on which to do it. Kevin’s offer changed this for me. With his guidance and mentorship, I felt more comfortable turkey hunting than I ever had before.
I appreciated that turkeys didn’t have a strong sense of smell. Being able to wear the same outer clothes day after day and not worry about human scent made a difference, especially when I should have packed more layers. Neither of us anticipated late April snow.
Preparations for this hunt began early for me. It was my first big, out-of-state hunting adventure, a 14-hour drive from my native Ohio. I grabbed some gloves and extra base-layers last minute, but it wasn’t being warm that worried me. I have never thought twice about shots. When I started deer hunting, I was warned about buck fever and the uncontrollable shaking that comes along with having a game animal in your sights. From my first day hunting onward I’ve felt that excitement, but have drifted almost into a zone of complete concentration. Perhaps this is a carry-over from the countless days and hours I’ve spent managing rifle match nerves.
This time it was the sighting shot that got me. I’d never had the opportunity to fire my Remington 870 express before, a turkey shotgun awarded me as a part of the scholarship hunt, I first pursued turkey years earlier. I’d fired shotguns before, but mostly fancy ones with recoil systems and light target loads. Nothing could have prepared me for that first shot.
The thump nearly knocked me backwards, though I was already sitting on the ground. It cycled the Winchester Long Bead XR shell smoothly and the punch it packed ensured the demise of any turkey within its path. The tight, centered pattern on the target confirmed this.
For the majority of the hunt, I saw no turkeys. Some shadows far away, some birds and even a deer. I heard them though. Gobbling in the morning coming down from roost, answering our calls. Anytime they talked was exciting, but also alerted the overabundance of coyotes in the area to their presence. So many people call turkeys stupid. Any thunder chickens I’ve come in contact with have been smart, even the gobbler I harvested who only gave me a few moments to shoot as he made his way towards a tree. That day, I was faster.
As a writer I live on creativity. Many have asked me how I approach writing. I’m not an outlining type an or a person who color codes sticky notes, though my desk is covered in them for odds and ends reminders. Rather I am a person who writes from the heart and when inspired. Writer’s block is a real thing. Burn out is just as legitimate. I have often wondered why I write, doubted my abilities, and even my interests. Stepping out into nature, hearing a turkey gobble in the woods, shooting a competition, taking photos of flowers in the yard --- all of it provide me with a renewed sense of purpose and reason to continue. To me, that is true, natural inspiration.
I will admit there are levels and varieties. People who inspire because of what they do and who they are. There are certainly many people I admire and who motivate me. The key word here is motivate, which comes from the Latin movere, to move. So what’s the difference between inspiration and motivation?
To me, inspiration is something you breathe in, you feel in your soul, something that provides you with renewed fervor to continue in your path or to start a new one. Inspiration fills you with ideas, worth, and a sense of knowing you are where you are meant to be, doing what you are meant to do. Motivation is a step towards finding inspiration. Like the three sisters planting method, these two work together. Others may motivate you to find what inspires you.
What does this have to do with the outdoors? For me, it has everything to do with it. One may argue that inspiration from the natural world is the purest form. It overwhelms the mind and senses. A wave of calm seems to wash over me and I know that I’m where I meant to be. In a world filled with so much strife and opportunity for doubt, this is a rare thing.
It’s also what unites the outdoor industry. Sharing experiences about turkey gobbles that send your heart racing, fish that do and don’t get away, and teaching others to appreciate the same. What inspires and who motivates you?
About the Author
I started shooting in 8th grade, competing in monthly cast bullet silhouette matches at Tusco Rifle Club. I progressed to high power service rifle at age 16 and earned my Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge in 2019. I also hunt and compete in smallbore silhouette and airgun matches. I am proud to represent several companies: Sierra Bullets, Krieger Barrels, and Kelbly’s. I am very fortunate to work in the outdoor industry as an outdoor writer and have been published in many national magazines and well-known online publications. The pinnacle of my career thus far was my story and photo being featured on the cover of the January 2022 issue of America’s First Freedom.