Sep 10, 2018

The Bow Hunting Motivation Factor


My brother, Joe, and I own some excellent bow hunting land near Neshkoro, Wis. Like many of you, we hunt from opening day in September through the first Sunday in January, when the late season closes.

The rest of the year we scout, cut trails, build and move stands, maintain food plots, and execute a plethora of other “work” tasks. The truth is, there is little else we’d rather do.

When we aren’t working on our land or otherwise preparing for the hunt, we spend a lot of time talking about working on the land and, of course, the hunt. Although these conversations are almost always positive, here is one conversation we had early this past summer that wasn’t:


Me: “I don’t think I’ll be able to hunt this year, bro.”

Joe: “What? Why not?”

Me: “My shoulders are in rough shape. I just returned from a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and the orthopedic surgeon told me that both of my rotator cuffs are essentially gone. He said that the damage caused by previous injuries and surgeries could be mitigated, but probably only with shoulder replacements.”

Joe: “Dang. How about using the crossbow?”

Me: “I thought about that, but I’m not even sure I can cock one, or carry it, for that matter. I’m having trouble with even the most basic daily tasks. I’ll go along, but I’m just not sure I can hunt this year.”

Joe: “Dude, can’t you just fix your shoulders the Army way?”


For those that may not know, the “Army way” is a tried and true method of curing pretty much any ailment. All you have to do is take 800 milligrams of Motrin three times a day and then wait for something else to hurt more than the current ailment you find yourself whining about.


Me: “I’ve been trying the Army way for the past year – I’ve even tried a few cortisone shots. I sure don’t want shoulder replacements, but I’ll do it if it means I can hunt.”

Joe: “Sorry to hear this, bro. Other than filling your tags for you, let me know if there is anything I can do to help.”


After my little pity party on the phone with Joe, I was having a glass of wine with the brains of the family, my lovely wife, Jeannie. She said, clearly having overheard my conversation, “Have you thought about getting back in the gym?”

Ouch. No man wants to hear his wife recommend he get his butt back in the gym. But in this case, I decided to hear her out since she had recently joined a local gym called Capitol Hill Sport and Health.

Jeannie was also in the Army for six years and was even a qualified paratrooper. She has always been fit and knows a thing or two about working out and what qualities make a good gym. After a brief discussion, I agreed I would give the gym a shot and Jeannie agreed to sign me up.


So I called my orthopedic surgeon the next day and said, “Doc, I know you said I need shoulder replacements, and I’m willing to do that as a last resort, but give me 90 days in the gym to see what I can do. I know I can’t grow new rotator cuffs, but do you think it is possible I can stabilize and strengthen my shoulders enough to allow me to bow hunt his fall?”

I expected him to say “no” because surgeons like to do surgeries, but he said, “Go for it. It will take a lot of work, and it is going to hurt, but if you work hard enough, you just might be strong enough to hunt this fall. Let’s set up another appointment in late August and reassess.”

So Jeannie set me up with a membership and unbeknownst to me at the time, hired a trainer. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of working with a trainer. As we walked to my first session, I asked, “Why do I need a trainer? I’ve been working out most of my life and never had a trainer before. I’m already paying a monthly fee to use the gym, and now you tell me I have to pay someone to show me how to use the equipment in the gym?”

She just smiled and said, “You want to be able to pull your bow, don’t you? Can you just give it a try?”

She probably wanted to say, “Well, since you retired from the Army, you haven’t spent much time in the gym, and it shows in your injuries and your waistline, so maybe you should just give it a try.”

So I acquiesced and soon thereafter was introduced to Julia, my new trainer. When we first met, I had trouble with daily tasks like reaching for a coffee cup, putting a belt on, washing my hair, turning the car’s steering wheel, and many other simple, routine tasks. There was no way I could climb a tree, pull a bow back, drag out a deer, or perform many other tasks required of all bow hunters.

Hiring Julia was one of my better decisions. She intuitively knew how to maximize every minute of every training session. I told her my only goal was to be able to hunt this fall, and she designed a plan focused more on mobility and stability than making me look buff – which would be impossible anyway. 


I believe bow hunting is a powerful motivator for anyone wanting to maintain a moderate or high level of health and physical fitness. However, since we can participate in this sport for 70 or more years, it is likely that we will all – at some point – face physical challenges that may threaten one or more of our hunting seasons.

You can be like the old Tony Blando and insist you can fix it yourself the Army way, or you can take my advice and get a trainer to help you resolve whatever ails you.

The great writer Henry David Thoreau, best known for his book “Walden,” a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, once said:

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