Freedom. It’s a simple but powerful word in our national vocabulary.

For reasons unknown to me, the word has been on my mind of late. Last week, while fishing the Back Country of the Florida Keys, my son-in-law unhooked a small shark from Diane’s fishing line. Heaving the toothy critter into the air off the starboard side, he cried,” Fly! Fly and be free!” Like most professional aviators, it was no doubt a sense of freedom that first attracted Jacques to flying many years ago.

Yesterday, during the annual rodeo in Homestead just before the playing of the National Anthem, the announcer reminded us that at that moment American men and women were putting their lives on the line in Godforsaken places so that we might be free. We owe them so much, these warriors from heartland America.

Notwithstanding the Great American Sacrifice, just how free are we? Are we, as early 21st century Americans, as free as we once were? Of course we are not! In my lifetime, I have witnessed a slow but steady and inexorable chipping away at our freedoms from within. Like the proverbial boiled frog that feels no pain, we seem to be clueless that we are being boiled figuratively — that our freedoms are dying a slow death.

If you have doubts about this or consider me an alarmist, I propose one undertaking for you. Build a new home and get involved in the day-to-day construction. You will be slackjawed to discover that there is a state or municipal code or ordinance that dictates every move you may make or may not make whether it be site work, electrical, plumbing, heating, or what have you. And woe be to anyone who does not conform.

At the national level, our loss of freedoms have become more readily apparent and egregious as we witness the dawn of nationalized health care and blatant abuse of certain political groups at the hands of the Internal Revenue Service.

What in the world, you may ask, does this all have to do with the outdoors?

Well, I, an outdoors person, learned something recently, and thought it worth sharing with anyone who hunts or cares about someone who hunts. It is the best answer I have yet found to the popular and oft-asked personal question: “Why do I hunt?”

Words from the late John Madson: “…one of the greatest urges impelling a hunter is his search for freedom, and the genuine personal adventure inherent in such freedom. Just as game species may be the truest indicators of quality natural environments, so hunting can be an indicator of quality natural freedom.”

I do believe that Mr. Madson nailed it. At least for me. Yes, there are other reasons that I never tire of the hunt. There is the country, the challenge, the critter, and the meat. But in the final analysis, I hunt to be free.

The freedom factor. Why have I not ever before consciously reckoned with this fact? It was there all the time just waiting to be discovered. If I am not alone, if others hunt to be free, than the American Hunting Heritage may not be an endangered tradition after all.

In fact, if we can keep the politicians from seizing our guns, a more oppressed and ordinance-bound American society may find that, as a pastime, hunting is a good way to cut temporarily those ties that bind and satisfy our natural yearning to be free.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”

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