As an American, I will do my best to –

Be clean in my outdoor manners.

Be careful with fire.

Be considerate in the outdoors.

Be conservation minded

Our Troop recites the Outdoor Code at every meeting. In fact, I’ve heard it said that you can’t have Scouting, without the outing. As Cubmaster, we try hard every year to have the Pack earn the Outdoor Activities Award. As a Troop, summer camp and outings like our canoe trip, winter freeze-out and Devil’s Lake really make up why the boys join Scouting.

On the inside of my trailer, I have hung a plastic literature rack – the kind of thing you might see in a waiting room – and I’ve been filling it with all kinds of cool things I pick up. Maps, identification guides, and useful little things like baggies, gloves and wooden pencils. Visiting the annual Sports Show down at State Fair Park, or trips in and out of family owned sporting goods stores, even a trip to some of the Scout shops tends to net these gems!

Why collect them? Take a group of Cubs out in the woods, and you will probably soon have some in trees, playing tag or even stripping the leaves off of branches. Cubs are observant and naturally curious – there will be a stick or a rock in almost every hole as you walk the trail! But they don’t have a lot of background in what they are looking at.

Most Boy Scouts I know aren’t all that much different, they’ve just become a lot more restrained. But give them something to focus on, and you’ll find some pretty amazing stuff as you’re out and about! One of my favorite hikes involved a group of Webelos, each one armed with a camera and challenged to find the “most amazing pictures ever.”

A camera lens causes the boys to stop and think about what they are seeing, and it gives them a chance to capture that image and learn more about it later. As adults, how often do we see amazing sights and wish that we had a camera to show someone else? And how often does someone say, “Oh look!” only to be answered with, “Sorry, I missed it.”

Most adults have learned to stop looking so closely. We miss the beauty and wonder in the natural world around us. A few lines in a guide telling us to “watch in early spring as the Sandhill Cranes stop in the marsh on their way North” is a great reminder to do exactly that.

From 2004 to 2008 the State of Wisconsin produced a series of Birding and Nature Trail Guides. There are 5 of them, representing the different species and terrain across our state. If you’re lucky, you might still find printed copies around! Even if you can’t find preprinted copies, all of the information is on a great website that is still kept up to date using Google Maps. The guides themselves are available under the News & Reports page, and are well worth a look.

A little extra knowledge can make your time outdoors a lot more pleasurable.