The Washington Times - October 6, 2008, 07:09PM

You’re a hunter, a fisherman and capable of taking care of yourself in woods and waters.

Now imagine sitting in a bar or someone’s backyard, sipping a cool drink, when you hear about a fellow who’s the best all-around outdoorsman in all of North America. This guy is a better shooter, better bass angler, better fly fisherman, archer and top ATV handler than anyone else. It’s enough to tick you off and you want the world to know how good you are at those things. If only you had known about the contest.

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Well, don’t bet the rent on your outdoor skills just yet because the man from Marion, N.C., Paul Thompson, has shown that over the past three years he’s been impossible to beat.

Last month, Thompson, 33, a wildlife technician for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, was named the champion of the 2008 Field & Stream Total Outdoorsman Challenge for the third year in a row. The fifth annual event of this sort was held in Springfield, Mo., and it featured guys from across the land to determine who might be the best outdoorsman anywhere. O

ver a four-day period, said the magazine, “Thompson out-fished, out-shot and out-hustled 15 of the best sportsmen in the country to successfully defend his title and win his third consecutive title.” Actually, Thompson and other competitors were tested in seven outdoor disciplines: shotgun, .22 rifle, fly fishing, conventional bass fishing, archery, ATV handling and endurance. The North Carolinian didn’t win every category, but he placed high enough in most of them and won some events outright that the combined points that he earned got him the title.

“This was the hardest yet,” said Thompson. “The competition just keeps getting better every year. It feels amazing. It’s a dream come true.”

After the contest ended, Thompson returned home with a grand-prize package that included a year’s supply of pricey Mobil 1 motor oil, a Remington shotgun and rifle, a new Yamaha Grizzly 550 all-terrain vehicle, a Bass Pro Shops fishing rod and reel and a check for $25,000.

The competition consisted of 12 hunters and anglers who qualified for the Challenge. Local and regional qualifying events were held at 24 Bass Pro Shops throughout the country earlier this year. The cable TV channel Versus will is air a 5-part series of the event beginning November 7. Check www.FieldandStream.com/totaloutdoorsman for local listings, dates and times.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll head up to our target range and see if I can at least hit the 12-inch-square of paper that we’ve stapled to a large sheet of plywood. It’s only 70 yards away and I’ll be using a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with rifled slugs. The season begins shortly after Thanksgiving Day. By then I’ll strike the bulls eye inside the paper, but it doesn’t mean I’ll shoot a trophy buck. That’s a different story altogether.

As far as bass fishing is concerned, well, I’d love to take on Mr. Thompson if I could pick our own tidal Potomac River. As concerns the rest of the categories, I’ll readily cede those to this magnificent outdoorsman.