Some years deserve a resounding "good riddance" on Dec. 31, but not 2002.
It was a year of controversy - and happy endings. Georgia's Legislature rejected efforts to legalize hunting over bait, and anglers frustrated with low water levels are watching our lakes refill - after three dry years.
Deer season included more weekends to hunt, fewer accidents and a wonderful new rule that half the bucks harvested must have at least four points on one side - a positive step toward trophy management.
But most of all, 2002 was another year of fascinating people - outdoors people - all bound together by their love for spending time outside.
Some of the folks we met in The Chronicle's outdoor columns were - admittedly - a little quirky. That's what makes them so much fun.
There was Carol Jackson, the "Bat Lady," whose love for bats inspired her to educate others; and Jim Halfpenny, whose 40-year fascination with animal droppings led him to author a book on the topic.
We traced 4,000 years of turkey call history through the National Wild Turkey Federation's fine museum in Edgefield, S.C. - and had the opportunity to meet legendary woodcarver Neil Cost before his death last year.
Who else did we meet in 2002? There isn't space to remember them all, but here are a dozen of my favorites:
Jerry Hayes, who has driven as far as Texas and Mississippi to listen to his trained hounds bay and apprehend wild boar - so he can tie up the swine and capture them alive.
Trey Nevils, who abandoned a 13-year career at a chemical plant to pursue his true love: crafting fur, fins and feathers into lifelike works of art for customers in his taxidermy studio.
John Rich, who has spent 22 years leading visitors through Congaree Swamp National Monument near Columbia, home to one of the last old-growth Southern forests on Earth.
Clay Ghann, who shared the story of an unusual family business, Ghann's Cricket Farm, founded a half-century ago by his father. Today, the six-acre bug factory in Martinez ships 200 million crickets a year.
Brandon Wear, a Tennessee wildlife biologist who shared the story of the re-introduction of elk into the Great Smoky Mountains more than a century after they vanished.
South Carolina Gov.-elect Mark Sanford, who's just as happy in a dove blind as he is presiding over the General Assembly.
Mike Bailey, a Clemson scientist who is devoting two years of study into the American shad - which spawn in the Savannah River and make a 2,800-mile, round-trip journey before repeating the process each spring.
Washington Redskins veteran Dave Butz, who joined dozens of other celebrities at last fall's Quail Unlimited Celebrity Dove Shoot.
Mark Komoroski, who shared the secrets of edible wild mushrooms and revealed an important lesson: The textbook definition of "edible" simply means "it won't kill you."
David Osborn, whose job at the Whitetail Deer Research Facility in Athens requires him to feed, tackle, test and otherwise interact with more than 60 deer on a daily basis.
Daryl Napier, who organizes Savannah River Site's amazing deer hunts - each involving 300 hunters and dog handlers and at least that many hounds.
Rusty Trump, who travels across the South trapping and banding one of nature's tiniest creatures: the hummingbird.
The list could go on and on, and doesn't even include the myriad wildlife professionals whose daily duties involve stewardship of our region's natural resources.
To all of them, and to many others, we say thanks for sharing your stories, and we look forward to more of them in the coming year.
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.