For me, it seems like with each passing year, holidays, birthdays, etc. come around at a heightened pace. I think that’s natural as we progress in age.

I think Sigmund Freud had it right when he said: “Growth is a given, but emotional development is not.”

All of us, humans as well as four-legged animals, start out small. That’s when people say “aren’t they the cutest thing ever!” But in a few short years we start to become longer in the tooth and wider in stature. I think he called it the infant, adolescent and old person stages or something like that. The old person stage can also be synonymous with the cranky or forgetful stage. You know when you’ve reached this phase because servers and convenience store clerks start calling you honey or sweetie.

Then there is emotional development. Freud spent a considerable amount of his life studying emotional growth and how it defines our behavior.

I wish I could say Sigmund and I have a lot in common but in reality we don’t. I do believe we both have a deep understanding of some things, his much deeper than mine.

You can read about Freud’s understanding of emotional development in a vast array of medical journals and other books full of long words. Alternatively, you can read about almost everything I know in this weekly column.

So what about emotional development among those of us who hunt and fish? It seems like when the weather turns warm we go fishing, when it’s cold we go hunting.

I think most of us who enjoy our consumptive outdoor resources are pretty much like-minded, simple folks. So lets talk about our emotional development.

In the beginning stage, when we are young, we seek numbers. We want to catch as many fish or fill every tag we can and full bag limits are the goal. Then the years begin to add up.

Without really knowing it, we begin to move into the quality stage. We no longer are concerned with numbers. Instead, we pay more attention to size. We seek the biggest fish or largest buck and filling bag limits begins to wane in importance compared to size.

The next phase goes hand-in-hand with increasing the challenge of our outdoor pursuits. We self-induce our own handicaps like using lighter weight rods, lesser firearms or traditional bows over compounds. It becomes more about the adventure of the outing itself and believe the harder we make it the sweeter the rewards.

And then we hit what I call the “old person” stage. Pursuits become all about the outing itself. We strive to share them with others. Watching a child catch his first bass or collecting their first deer means more than taking one yourself and becomes a trophy in your emotions.

But this development does not follow a progression in everyone. Some get hung up in the numbers or quality level which is sad because that may be as far as they ever get. Too often some people get stuck. That’s OK too. When it comes to hunting and fishing, we are free to enjoy them at the level we want as long as remaining ethical and legal. No matter what, don’t let huge racks or limits of fish take precedent over fellowships, scenery and the overall experience.

So maybe Sig and I do have something in common when breaking down emotional development and how it affects our behavior. Maybe as we grow in age and observe we finally begin to understand.

With the holiday season now upon us, I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and the best New Year ever.