Mar 10, 2015

You Just Have To Move

I'm guessing that anyone reading Badger Sportsman has had many amazing outdoor experiences. Heck, some of you have an amazing experience every time you go outdoors. My buddy, Art, has an amazing experience every time he steps outside – even if he’s only taking out the garbage.  Perhaps that should be every Badger Sportsman’s goal. 

I had many amazing outdoor experiences this past year, but two of them are most memorable, as both happened while turkey hunting with my dad.

Last spring, we made our annual trip to Georgia to hunt spring gobblers.  On the second morning we decided to hunt a favorite river bottom.  Turkeys like to roost in the bottom’s large cypress trees, and although we didn't know if they were roosting there –at that point, we figured we'd give it a try.

Due to a previous ice storm that knocked down thousands of trees and limbs, we were forced to park a mile from the bottom we were going to hunt. After 30 minutes of negotiating the very dark woods and downed limbs, we stopped to listen for the early morning chatter of turkeys still on the roost.  I soon heard several birds gobble, but unfortunately they were still a quarter mile away.  As it was just beginning to break, we hustled to a spot that I guessed would put us within 100 yards. 

Just as we were arriving I heard a few turkeys fly down, so we quickly assembled some makeshift blinds and then sat quietly to let things simmer down.  Five minutes later, I hit the call, offering some soft yelps, clucks, and a few purrs for good measure. 

I then looked to the skies and said, quietly so as not to spook the turkeys, “Thank you, God.”  I felt blessed to be in these woods with my father on a beautiful spring morning. 

Two minutes later, I was pleasantly surprised to see a large gobbler strutting a mere 20 yards directly in front of my dad.  A few seconds later, he shot, and we had our first trophy on the ground. 

As we stood up to collect the bird, we heard several more gobbles and then watched as three more came in to stomp their recently deceased pal.  That was my subtle signal to expend the chambered turkey load from my Remington 870.  We now had our second gobbler. 

After our congratulatory back slaps and hug, we grabbed our birds and began the long trek back to the truck. As we walked, I couldn’t help but notice the smile on my dad’s face. I’m sure he noticed mine, too.  Doubling up on gobblers during a spring hunt is an amazing experience.  A father and son doubling up on gobblers made it even more so.

Six weeks later, Dad and I headed to our farm near Neshkoro to try our luck at some late season gobblers.  I decided to hunt a 2-acre field adjacent to a large stand of white pine where the turkeys regularly roost.   Dad decided to hunt the front half of our property, where we also regularly see birds.

At first light, I saw a hen land about 3 feet from my blind. I was on high alert as I heard two gobblers making a racket from the roost as she putted around so close I could have hit her with the gun. 

The two gobblers never came in and I never saw another bird until about two hours later.  It was then that I noticed a gobbler approaching my decoy.  From there my story goes like this:  I saw the bird.  I shot the bird.  He died.  A much more amazing experience was to unfold several hours later.

After I collected my turkey, we headed to our hunting shack for lunch and a nap.  An hour later, Dad awoke and began to gather his gear for the afternoon hunt.  He told me he planned to hunt a stand of oaks 200 yards from the field where I had just harvested my gobbler. Since I already had my bird, I decided to spend that time going through the hundreds of emails I’d been neglecting. Ten minutes after he left, a small voice told me those emails could just as easily be read from the hidden confines of my blind, so I grabbed my iPad and headed back to the field I was in that morning.

At approximately 2:35, I looked up from my emails and caught movement to my right.  Another gobbler had just entered the field, and for the next 20 minutes I watched him slowly feed toward the trail my dad had entered to get to his blind.  I was a bit saddened that Dad hadn’t chosen to sit in my blind because if he had, he would now be putting his tag on a beautiful gobbler. 

It was now 2:55, and Dad said he would be back at the shack at 3.  If he says he will be somewhere at a certain time, he will.  Given that, I was certain he would come walking out of the woods in the next minute and would be busted by the large gobbler feeding in the field. 

As I looked to the pines where my dad would be walking through just before entering the field, I noticed an unidentifiable critter moving quickly through the pines on all fours. At first I couldn’t figure out what it was since it clearly wasn’t a deer and was bigger than a coyote.  For a moment I thought I was about to discover a new species.  I grabbed my binoculars to determine what type of alien creature moved with such speed and grace and was shocked to discover it was my dad, Sam.  He had seen the turkey and was now stalking him.

After loping on all fours through the pines, he was now low-crawling in sniper-like fashion as he eased his way to within 10 yards of the field.  I watched with awe as he finally hunkered down into a prone firing position.  Five minutes later, the gobbler worked his way into range and my dad collected his first Wisconsin gobbler of the season.

I jumped up, raced across the field and yelled, “That was the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed!” Once again we stood there together, father and son, having just completed our second “double” of the 2014 turkey season.

Every now and then I have to remind myself that Sam Blando is 74 years old.  I have to remind myself because he hasn’t slowed down one bit.  As I witnessed during the Georgia hunt, and again on the Wisconsin hunt, he is able to do the same things I can do and, I would submit, the same things a 25-year-old can do.

As we were standing in the field, I said, “Dad, I sure hope I can do what you do when I’m 74.”  He said, “You will. You just have to keep moving. As you get older, don’t spend much time sitting around in a recliner.  If you do, you won’t be turkey hunting when you are 74.” 

That’s some pretty sage advice and timely since recently I’ve read a few reports about the dangers — you read that right, the dangers of sitting. 

One of those reports said, "Emerging research shows that sitting for long periods of time contributes to risk of metabolic syndrome, heart attack, stroke, and overall death risk, among others.  Those who sit a great deal also have lower life expectancies, larger bottoms and slower metabolisms."

The best medicine for this daunting health epidemic just might be turkey hunting.

I love my dad.  He’s been a great teacher, mentor, provider and all-around great father.  I love too that he introduced me to the outdoors and all the amazing things it has to offer.  He has inspired me to make changes in my life, or at a minimum, he’s awakened a subtle awareness that if I keep moving, I just might be able to have these same experiences with my daughters and future grandchildren when I’m 74.