You … Might Be the Problem

Oct 3, 2023

In a feature last week entitled “Firearms and Fitness: You Are the Operating System” our friend Paul Markel explored the idea that the missing (and weakest) link between our firearms and our shooting results might be the operating system. In his piece, the “operating system” was his term for the physical condition of the person wielding the firearm.

He raised a great point. In all endeavors, whether shooting, hunting, hiking, or negotiating a business deal, the weakest link between desired outcomes versus end results may point out the fact we’re simply not in shape. The “shape” can refer to anything from your physical equipment to your mental preparation.

It’s nearly impossible to predict what will appeal to consumers in the future if you haven’t a clue what consumers are buying today. If you have a new product, but can’t quickly spell out two or more benefits in “Product XYZ” as a replacement for what they’re already buying, you might find yourself as they say in shooting “on the X” with the bosses.

Get off the X or get ready to get center-punched.

Knowledge is the fuel that drives everything from managing successful companies to catching a stringer full of panfish. And we’re entering the time of year when summer activities are winding down and cooler activities are getting underway.

With that in mind, have you begin cleaning up and maintenance on your summer gear?

Have you brought out and function checked your cold-weather equipment? If your duck-hunting gear’s been crammed in the bottom of your decoy bag since that last great hunt of 2022, your may be getting ready for a disappointing first outing in ’23.

And the lantern and space heaters what kept your ice shanty bearable won’t do diddly for you this year if your mantle’s shot, your manifold’s clogged and your fuel’s separated.

It’s the same story for the rifle, your boots and your knives. If they’re not zeroed, cleaned and sharpened, you may find yourself tramping the woods empty handed with cold feet to complete the misery montage.

Our Rose of Sharon bushes are starting to lose their blossoms, but this season’s hummingbirds (top) and bumblebees (below) still hard at work. Hopefully, they’ll start their long journeys to South America well in advance of colder weather.


FYI, this is advice I’m giving because I’ve just spent most of an otherwise beautiful day cleaning an RV in preparation for yet another trek to Elkhart, Indiana for -you guessed it- repairs. This year, there’s no doubt where the fault lies: it’s operator error. When working the checklist for last season’s winterization, someone (ahem) neglected to check that the hot water heater had been completely drained before adding water line antifreeze protection.

Consequently, a small piece of plastic cracked in our record-setting cold temperatures. Now, it’s failed -and the entire water system is shutdown. The only solution is a quick dry run to Elkhart for what is a relatively straightforward, but factory-required, repair.

Setting up a pseudo-camp in advance of fall camping (top) weather allows me to check everything for function. It also found the single point of failure after I failed to totally drain the water systems last winter. The cold weather (bottom) found the fault, now it’s time to remedy it.

The good news about this trip is it’s already starting to look and feel like fall in the Elkhart area. Last weekend’s trip to Boston made it pretty obvious that there’s going to be a really nice peeping season ahead.

For me, the first hint of fall is the changing of the maple leaves. They’re nothing like the amazing brilliance of the aspens in the west, but the change from brilliant greens to vibrant reds put me in the proper mindset to get out and enjoy the fall weather.

If you’re looking at getting in some peeping, now’s the time to get out there. Unfortunately, if you’ve not already thought about accommodations and travel, you are likely late to the party for the “usual” tourist hotspots.

For those of you looking to make those fall forays, here’s a link to the Farmer’s Almanac listing of the peak leaf viewing times across the country.

We’ll keep you posted.

—Jim Shepherd