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Outdoors: No sounds that don't belong

Scott Rall

Daily Globe outdoors columnist 

You’ve got one, I’ve got one, and it seems today everybody’s got one. 

The one I am referring to is a cell phone. They come in all shapes and sizes and you can run a small county with the computing power that you can now hold in the palm of your hand. The computing power that used to fill an entire room can now be held in the pocket of your shirt.

I am about as far away from being technologically savvy as the Mars rover is from earth. I, for the several decades, used my phone for its original intended purpose.

I made calls with it and that was about it. Several years back I added the skill of text messaging and even got a phone with a camera in it. These camera phones have gone a long way to killing the careers of many celebrities who can’t seem to remember that there is always one around even if you can’t see it.

Cell phones have a place in the outdoors and I am learning a few new ways to use mine without killing the outdoor experience. If I could imagine my favorite place to be, I would describe it as being waist-deep in a field of native grass, the sun is 10 minutes from hitting the horizon and the gentle breeze is the only thing that disturbs the sound of the dogs as they uses their sniffers to find for me that college educated rooster others have failed to outsmart.

There is no better way to kill this perfect setting than listening to the sound of a distant hunting partner’s cell phone going off to the sound of some rapper. I liken that sound much the same as the horrible sound of the emergency broadcast system test tone that comes on during my favorite episode of “Law and Order.” Another similar sound is that of a garbage truck backing up with that intermittent beep, beep, beep.

I used to have a policy that my phone was left in the vehicle until I returned to it. This all changed about 10 years ago when I fell on a stick and ran it clean though my arm just below my armpit. I was within shouting distance of my hunting partners but if I had been all alone and if it would have stuck me in the chest or neck I might have needed that phone on my person to save my own life.

Phones have a place in the field for safety reasons, and I now carry one for just that purpose. The phone is on silent with the vibrate feature engaged. I flushed a rooster once and let it go for the guy next to me to take a shot. When the rooster flew away and no gun was fired I asked him what had happened, and when the “I was on the phone” response was recited I then came to a new conclusion. If you would like to share a day in the field with me and my dogs the phones get muted until the hunt is over, short of an outright emergency.

If my son called from Kuwait, that also qualifies as an answering event. He is home now and back in school learning to work on airplane engines.

I spent a day in the field with a guy whose wife was scheduled to deliver their second child at any moment. This is a great reason to carry a phone and keep it close. There are very few others situations that could also reach this level of consideration. The other reason to leave the phone tucked deep in an interior pocket is the time I have spent calling a phone over and over that was lost in the field. Backtracking and listening for a rapper ring tone of a lost phone is a form of outdoor experience — just not one of my favorites by a long shot.

So what other great reasons exist for a phone in your pocket while hunting other than the safety reasons? My brother McChyne is the king of phone apps and showed me a few last weekend. I used to carry the sunrise/sunset tables for about three different states in my truck under the drivers visor. Depending on where you were hunting, you could look up the time of sunrise or sunset to ensure that you started out quite at the proper time. You had to add or subtract a certain number of minutes to the table depending on where you were located in that state.

With the free sunrise/sunset app the phone uses your exact GPS location and determines both of these times for you to a very exact science. There is no more adding or subtracting, and it makes sure you are on the straight and narrow when it comes to being a law-abiding hunter. In addition, if you had the opportunity and the proper license you can use the varmint caller app to utilize your phone to call predators.

They are not very loud but a little squeak at the right time is better than nothing. The app list goes on and on, and having up-to-the-minute weather at your fingertips is also pretty nice. It can tell you whether you should pack up and head home or wait a few minutes for the rain to pass.

If you get really good, you can post all your big game and fish pictures to Facebook while still in the field or in the boat. My son Brandon does this at Upper Red Lake every year. Posting online is another few years away for me.

A phone for most of us has achieved the same status as a wallet or a purse. You actually have to turn around and go back home to get them if you forget them in the first place.

I am not much different. What I do think is very unfortunate is that with all the technology in our lives it makes it much harder to get away from it all and spend a few hours in place where there is no artificial sounds of any kind.

They asked a kid once where he would rather play, inside or outside. He responded inside, of course — that is where all the outlets are. We as adults need to help get ourselves and our kids outside and do so in a way that lets them hear the sights and sounds not created by electronics.

Technology might very well save my life if I happen to be hunting alone and fall on another stick. There is a place and a time for everything and in the field is a great place to deprive ourselves of everything electronic, and that includes a ringing phone.

I like to try to do it like our parents and grandparents did. In the old Star Trek series they always used to say “Scottie, beam me up.” In the field you really only need to hear the sounds of nature and occasionally that of wings, a cackle and the sound of a gun followed by, “Oh, boy, how did I miss that one?”

If you call me and hear, please leave a message and I will call you back. I am probably hunting.