*as written in 2009
I don’t mind saying that throughout and after my divorce in August of 2008 life has been interesting to put it best. I had a “good” divorce if there is such a thing after the end of a 14-year marriage with 3 kids. Also, some think its weird but I have dinner typically once a week with my ex (Michelle), her new husband, and my kids. I share joint custody of my kids and because of the flexibility of my job I take them to school, often get to eat lunches with them, pick them up from school, and get a lot of dinners, movie nights, beach time, and other quality time with my kids. Michelle, and I are close friends to the point we still blend our families together for birthdays and holidays.
But even easy divorces are not easy. We sold my 120-acre hunting parcel in 2009 and to be honest I hadn’t really felt like hunting much the past 2 seasons. Talking about hunting, planning about hunting, and of course working in the hunting industry…it all honestly seemed like more of a chore the past 2 seasons!
I think in 2008 I just wanted to get through the season, with my highlights being hunting with other people…close friends, my father, and of course all 3 of my kids. When I had opportunity to go alone, I typically did not.
A Time of Reflection
These past two seasons have taught me a lot…a lot about both myself, and hunting. My time with friends and family has been incredible the past 2 seasons! I have shot a lot of big, mature, whitetails throughout the years but looking back the most memorable hunts of my life, let alone the past 2 seasons, have occurred with someone else. A few years ago the largest buck I ever shot died within 20 yards of my treestand. However, it wasn’t the size of the buck that mattered but instead the reaction of my buddy Karl running 500 yards down the hollow, falling and breaking his quiver, just to give me a hug of congratulations. In fact, I sat at the base of the tree and didn’t go look at the buck until he got there. We walked up to him together and stood in both awe and respect of the “buck of a lifetime”. Other friends hunting about 20 miles away came to see him before he was taken out of the woods and we were able to get a round of pictures together.
This year Karl and I were able to get our first “double” together, scoring on a couple of WI giants during rifle season, and then being able to take pictures and get Karl to the airport with an hour to spare. The best part? My buck required a bit of a tracking job with Karl shadowing me about 20 yards behind. When he was finally recovered, Karl was there for the same congratulations that I was there for when doing the same with him just 2 weeks earlier during the bow season. Karl shot a beautiful 8 point buck I found with him and was able to help get out of the woods.
I’ve shared a couple highly memorable moments with another hunting buddy Joe Lasak standing right along side of him as he shot the largest buck of his lifetime…and then accidentally pulling an antler off as Joe’s expression turned from pure joy to shock! And then also being able to team up with another hunting friend to help find Joe’s 2009 bowshot buck after he had written it off as a loss after spending many hours searching. We found the buck, I again got to share in the pure joy of seeing Joe recover the new largest buck of his life…only this time I didn’t pull the antler off!
One of the largest bucks I ever shot in MI was with Autumn who was 5 at the time…all snuggled, beside me on the last minute of the last day of rifle season. She knew the buck, I knew he buck…and memories were made!
So that brings me to my best hunt ever and if you’ve stuck with the story this long maybe you too can appreciate it. Let me start by saying there was no huge buck, in fact there was no buck actually seen at all! So, if you came for antlers this is the wrong story. Instead, this story involved the wild anticipation of youth, imagination, and both the fear and excitement of the unknown.
It started on the Saturday after Thanksgiving when my 7-year-old son and I started out on his first actual hunting trip. I told him about the trip to PA a couple of weeks before and to say he was excited was not enough. Instead…”On cloud 9″, “about to explode”, “nervous with the unbridled anticipation of the pure happiness of youth”…come to mind!
What better way to end the first day of our travels than with a trip to Cabelas? A stuffed toy wolf and a cheap motel later and he was sleeping with a perma-grin in northern OH
On Sunday we made it to our parking spot in the woods of PA where I first hunted in 1993. We had plenty of time to make the 45 minute hike into “our spot”, find a good place to build a nest, and hike out. All that was left to do was find some pizza and a quiet place where he could shoot some pool (like daddy), get ready for the rifle season opener, find another cheap motel…and buy our license at the local Wal Mart. Also, for $2.70 guess who was able to wear his own back-tag in the woods, after signing his own name, with an actual buck tag that he could use IF he knew how to shoot a rifle?!? My son Jacob! He was so excited…I can’t even describe to you how he felt. We played 2 games of pool, had a couple of cokes….and “hit the hay”.
Well, we got to the blind and I proceeded to get some dry socks on under his new Cabelas $29 kid’s specials that to him might as well have been a new pair of $150 Lacrosse’s. Within a few minutes he and I were both “gore-texed up” and had about another 1/2-hour wait until shooting light. We were almost officially hunting!!
I had no idea how the day would go. I had food…my usual cheese, apples, peanut butter crackers, chocolate covered granola bars, dove dark chocolate bars (his favorite and mine), water, and a surprise for Jake. You see, Jake has a “thing” for energy drinks, and any adult would be insane to give him one in a normal “life” setting. But, this was a special time and when I pulled out his hunting day surprise his reaction was shocking. Jake was so happy and excited with that drink he didn’t even want to open it up! So, the drink sat the entire day as a shiny trophy in the corner of the blind as he “saved” it, for the ride home-lucky me!
Jake slept a total of around 3 hours throughout the day. maybe 5 separate naps? During 1 nap I woke him up to watch 2 does that were nervously walking in front of us. Another deer made them spook and that very well could have been “the buck”. Those were the only deer we saw but Jake stayed happy and excited until 4pm, the time at which I wanted to start walking to get out of the woods by dark.
During the day it rained, snowed, and we heard a couple of dozen shots in the distance. Jake asked many questions and made many comments. “Can I shoot a coyote?”, “Can we stay another day”, “Is that snow?”, “Can I shoot the buck?”, and……. “I love you daddy”.
Wow, what could I say? No deer, cold and rainy, a long walk in and out, rear ends sore from just sitting on the ground, chilled, damp, and Jake was still smiling, still excited, and had the warmth in his heart to tell me he loves me.
The ride home was great, the entire trip was great…and that one day with Jake in the woods was the most memorable and rewarding hunting experience of my life. A shot was never even fired.
I’ve been very fortunate that throughout all of the recent life changes I have been able to still build hunting memories to last a lifetime. Isn’t that what hunting is all about?
This year I’m heavily preparing for the upcoming management season and for the preparations of seasons to come. I love hunting mature bucks and will continue to do so. However, its not the adrenaline of the shot, the nice pictures and antlers that are my motivation…its the friends and family, the new faces of my career, and the memories to SHARE with someone that last a lifetime. Those are some of the things that have helped me to get through the recent changes in life. Too bad it took until almost the age of 40 and 24 seasons under my belt to realize it!