Jan 10, 2019
Special destination hunt helps bring rejuvenation and perspective into focus
By Tony Blando
Several months ago I was whining to my brother, Joe, about the crazy pace of life and how it was affecting my ability to hunt. I am usually, generally, normally, almost always a positive person, so it caught him off guard.
“I know what your problem is,” Joe said. “You work in politics and it’s campaign season. You are tired of all the negativity, and you are crabby because you sometimes go hunting, but you don’t often hunt. You need to go on a hunt.”
“Huh?” I said.
Joe replied, “What you and I mostly do is go hunting. Sometimes we go for the entire weekend. That’s called a hunt.
“But we usually get up at some God-awful hour, race out to our hunting land, sit for a few hours, and then race back to work or other life obligations. And while we are perched in our stands waiting to ambush unsuspecting whitetails, we are mostly on our phones, working. That’s called going hunting. We start in September and we end in January – usually exhausted and actually looking forward to putting away our gear and taking a break from the sport we love so much.”
Joe diagnosed my problem more quickly and precisely than any doctor could have. Merriam-Webster also diagnoses it well. That dictionary defines hunting as “the act of one that automatically controlled system to find a desired equilibrium condition.”
In search of a cure
Joe and Merriam-Webster are spot on. I wanted to just pursue game, but at that particular moment I felt like an “automatically controlled system” just going through the motions of life from one obligation or deadline to the next, struggling to maintain some semblance of physical, mental and spiritual balance, all while working in a traditionally negative culture called politics.
So I said to Joe, “All right, smarty-pants, you make some sense. Do you have any recommendations to cure this malady?”
“Yep,” he said. “Let’s go to Kentucky to hunt trophy whitetails. I know a guy named Mark Clifford who owns a company called Premiere Outfitters. He runs a fantastic operation with exceptional guides and great cooks. You may not put your tag on anything, but you will see lots of good bucks, and you will most certainly restore some of the balance you are looking for.”
“I hope you like yourself,” he said. “You will spend 12 hours per day alone in a tree for five days straight – in total, 60 hours. You will be hunting the entire time. We bring our phones to communicate with each other, but trust me, you will quickly run out of email to answer each day. You will have plenty of time to mentally and spiritually find your ‘desired equilibrium condition.’”
So, a few months later, after lots of planning and preparation, Joe and I, along with our dear friends Chris and Jon Golem, headed to Crofton, Ky. for our hunt.
Shortly after we arrived, we unpacked and then sighted in our bows. Then, just before a fantastic Southern dinner prepared by Phyllis Johnson and Steve Dawson, our guides, Thad Hopper, Luke Hopper, Clint Dulin and Chance Coates, called us all together for an introductory briefing. Although this meeting was full of great information, one of the most important things we heard was something Thad said at the end of his talk:
“I have to tell y’all that we don’t tolerate negative behavior in this camp. We will treat y’all with respect and we expect the same from you.”
Then Thad’s son, Luke, talked about the characteristics of the bucks we were hoping to harvest and the ones they wanted to let grow. We were looking for deer that not only would meet the requirements for entry into the Pope & Young record book, but that also would have a minimum score of 140 to 150 inches.
After Luke finished, he said, “And one other thing I forgot to mention. We love deer hunting. We also love our families and we love our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If any of y’all ever want to talk about that, just let me know.”
Thad talked about the dangers of negative behavior and asked us to treat each other with respect. Luke talked unabashedly about his faith and his love for the Lord. I couldn’t help but love these guys and we hadn’t yet set foot in the woods.
We were a very diverse group from different socioeconomic backgrounds representing Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and of course, Wisconsin. But we all shared a passion for bowhunting and harvesting a trophy buck.
There were several differences. We thought they talked funny and they thought we talked funny. They drank sweet tea and we drank beer. We peed in bottles in our stands because we think deer can smell it. They peed right out of their stands and think we are strange because, “Don’t y’all know that deer can’t tell the difference between our pee and their own?”
There were many other things we disagreed on, especially when the election results rolled in on the night of Nov. 6. And we talked about all those disagreements – respectfully.
I work in the U.S. Senate, a place where we don’t agree on much or discuss opposing views in a respectful manner. If I were king, I’d take every member of Congress to Kentucky for a five-day hunt at Premiere Outfitters. I’d have them listen to Thad’s speech about respect, tolerance and the joy-obliterating effects of negative and disrespectful behavior.
I’d have them listen to Luke unabashedly express his love for deer hunting, his family, and his Lord. I’d have them sit around in the evening drinking sweet tea or beer to discuss politics and other contentious or intellectually stimulating topics, like whether to, or not to, pee directly out of a tree stand.
No one in our party harvested a deer. We each saw several 2- and 3-year-olds in the 110 to 120-inch range, but none of us saw the 4- to 6-year-olds in the 140 and above range that we were actually hunting.
Nonetheless, everyone agreed it was a fantastic hunt and that we learned a lot about ourselves while sitting alone in a tree for 60 hours. We also learned a lot from the others who came from different places, different socioeconomic backgrounds, and different political parties.
Joe was right. This hunt was exactly what I needed. I came back from Kentucky re-energized and even more passionate about mastering the incredible sport of bowhunting. I also returned with a strong sense of physical, mental and spiritual balance, and I no longer felt like an automatically controlled system continuously attempting to find equilibrium in my life.
If you want to book a hunt with great people and great food, give Premiere Outfitters a look. You won’t be disappointed and you just might restore some equilibrium and balance in your own life, while hunting trophy bucks in a respectful environment guided by good folks who know and love their creator.
Tony Blando bio from other times …