Opening Day Tom…

This past Monday was opening day of spring turkey hunting season here in Ohio and the only place I could be found was out in the woods. I made plans to hunt with a good buddy of mine who is a great hunter and all around outdoorsman.

I am fortunate enough to have access to 250 acres of prime Medina County farm land for all my hunting trips and that was where we decided to hunt. The land does not get very much pressure and is filled with all kinds of game.

We got set-up in the field at about 5:30AM with the stars still visible in the sky and about 1 hour or so before legal shooting light. It was a chilly 38 degrees with expected highs near 65 later in the day. Luckily, we got a day with no real breeze to speak of.

We set up in a pop-up blind on a field filled with corn stubble from the previous year’s harvest with a woodlot to our backs. We set up two hen decoys and a full-strut tom decoy in front of us at about 15 yards.

Around 6 o’clock we started hearing our first gobbles of the spring. What sounded like a couple of different birds a couple of hundred yards back in the woods started lighting up on the roost. However, once they flew down, they promptly shut up and we assumed they had paired up with hens.

Things were pretty quiet for a while until about 7:30 AM when my buddy saw a gobbler running in and a hen creep out of the treeline. We thought that gobbler wasn’t going to stop until he gave us a clean shot, but for some reason, he hung up back behind our blind. The hen did come out into the field and fed for awhile but soon disappeared back into the woods.

Around 8:30 AM was when the real action started. Birds started gobbling their heads off way back in the woods again. As far as we could tell, about three different birds were gobbling about 200 yards into the woods near a creek bottom.

My buddy started hitting the call about a half hour later and those birds were calling back hard. After a few minutes a group of jakes worked their way into the field but they wouldn’t commit to the decoys. They fed for a while while always seeming to keep looking back into the woods.

Then at about 9:45 AM, they vanished back into the woods. Then almost out of nowhere, a longbeard emerged from the treeline on my right. He was looking for a fight and walked straight up to the full-strut tom decoy. Before he could start attacking the decoy I made my shot. It was a clean kill right at 15 yards.

My first ever turkey and it was a beauty and on opening day nonetheless. He weighed in right at 23 pounds. His beard went 11″ and his spurs were right at an inch. That puts him right around three years old.

All in all it was a great hunt with a good friend made even better given the fortune of finally being able to fill a turkey tag. It was a fun morning in the spring woods and I already can’t wait to do it again next time.

In a previous post, I listed my outdoor goals for this year. Filling a turkey tag was one of them and I’m glad to say that I already met that goal. Only four more to go!

Here are a couple pictures:

62683_10201043705803609_1931732870_n photo photo-4photo-1

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I Bought a Farm…

Well, not really. However, I did recently buy a share of a local farm in my area. Let me explain.

Through a program known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), local farms offer shares in their farm for purchase. The amount of shares offered usually depends on the size of the farm and the amount of produce that they produce.

People who purchase a share then receive a basket of fresh fruits and vegetables once a week during the growing season. The basket is filled at the farmer’s discretion depending on what is in season that week and what is growing particularly well that year.

Now some people might balk at that and say, “Oh, well I would want to choose my own vegetables.” However, that is one of the reasons that I decided to purchase a CSA share this year. I relish the opportunity to be exposed to new fruits and vegetables that I would not otherwise purchase for myself.

There are many benefits to a CSA program for both the farmer and the consumer. One of the main benefits for the farmer is that the risk of farming becomes shared with a large group of people. When a person buys a share in a farm, they do so with the understanding that there is risk involved. If there was a drought, or a bad storm, or maybe a really wet growing season, then the consumer would obviously receive less produce every week.

The main benefit for the consumer is having the opportunity to get to know the farmer growing their food and obviously to enjoy fresh produce that is oftentimes organically grown.

So starting on May 9th and continuing until the last week in October, I will be making the short drive to Beriswell Farms in beautiful Valley City, Ohio to pick up my basket of produce. I believe that supporting our local farms is of incredible importance and having been raised in a family with several farming relatives, I truly understand the struggle that an agricultural life can sometimes be.

I have a couple goals with my participation in this program. I hope to create a healthier diet for myself, taste some new fruits and vegetables, and learn more about cooking and preserving a wider range of foods. I will also be blogging about my first year in this program as it progresses. It should definitely be a fun and interesting experience.

If you want to find out more information on Community Supported Agriculture or find a farm near you that offers a CSA, visit http://www.localharvest.org/csa/.

On Friendship…

As any outdoorsman (or outdoorswoman) can attest, the camaraderie of enjoying the outdoors with good friends only enhances the pleasures derived from the experiences. Yes, catching a trophy fish or watching the sunrise over a frozen corn field is a great experience in and of itself. However, when those same things are done with close friends they are exponentially better.

Now, I’m not saying that enjoying solitude in the great outdoors from time to time is an unpleasant experience; quite the opposite in fact. Those moments where you can reflect on life in private are invaluable. However, this post is about friendship so I’m going to focus on that today.

I’ve always been of the mindset that a person doesn’t need an extreme number of friendships in life. The thing that I find to be much more important is the quality of the friendships that you do maintain. Personally, I would say that I have about 5 friends that I consider to be close relationships and 1 person who I consider to be my best friend. Now, every person has their own definition of what a best friend is. To me, it is the friend that you would do anything for, can tell anything to without being judged, and the friend whose company is always enjoyed to its fullest. Funnily enough, that friend for me, the person I am closest to, (i.e. my best friend) is the one who lives the furthest away from me.

When I first met my best friend, we were about 520 miles driving distance apart. How the heck did we meet you might ask. No, it wasn’t in some strange chat room or something like that. No, it was actually an online college class that brought us together. Now, I have taken a ton of online college courses before and would be hard-pressed to name you even one other person from any of those classes. The only one is another one of the 5 close friends I mentioned above who I happened to also meet in the same class as my best friend. Anyways, for me, I always just did my work in online classes with any interaction limited to class discussions. However, for some reason, I felt a push to get to know this one person better.

There was a class project that gave students the option to work with a partner. I would usually have just done it myself and had that be the end of it. However, in this case, I emailed my now best friend and asked her to work on this project with me. That is totally out of character for me, but there was just something about the little information I did have about her that told me I had to get to know this person better.

To make an extremely long story short, we spent the rest of the summer (it was a summer class) chatting online just about every night, usually for several hours. We just immediately hit it off. I don’t think we even talked about the project for the entire first week! So our friendship grew faster than anything I had ever experienced before and we became best friends.

Having been best friends with her for somewhere around nine months now, I can honestly say that I have learned more about what true friendship really means in that time than in the rest of my 23 years combined. The paths that led both of us to take the same online class from two different states is tough to fathom, but I do believe that we were meant to meet and have the special friendship that we do.

Having a few close friends instead of many distant ones is just the much better choice in my opinion. That way you can put the effort into the friendship that it takes for that friendship to last and be fulfilling for both people.

When you then spend time doing outdoor activities with those close friends, the amount of fun had by all only increases. There is a certain amount of giving each other a hard time about missing a shot or losing a big fish, but that is all part of that outdoors camaraderie that I mentioned before. So in the end, here is my advice. Work hard to maintain some close friendships and get out into the woods or to the lake with those friends. One day, you’ll be thankful that you did.

Ol’ Boss Gobbler…

During the winter session offered at UMass last year, I took a creative writing class. It was really my first class of the sort and I truly did learn a lot. The class wound up mostly focusing on poetry and I could not be happier that it did. I discovered that it was something I enjoyed doing. Prior to the class, I don’t think I would have ever even tried my hand at it.

However, after seeing the reaction to my writing from both the professor and my fellow classmates, I decided to pursue. Not as a career but simply as a hobby. I have even entered several poetry contests. Not with an expectation to win, but just to feel like my work can be noticed in some small way.

With spring turkey hunting season fast approaching, I decided to share a poem I wrote for the class about an experience I had while turkey hunting last spring. So here goes nothing…

Ol’ Boss Gobbler

The wild turkey of

the deep forests and

sparse woods of North America

is the king of early spring.

They are a completely different

creature in those early months

that see the forest reborn

than they are the rest of

the year. Eyesight to rival

an eagle.

 

Any hunter who has

braved the predawn woods

with calling a gobbler in mind

can attest to that. Despite the needling of the

old-timers on the porch of Mumford’s

during the pre-hunt pit stop,

the hunter remains optimistic.

 

The old-timers chuckle at

That youthful exuberance they had

Lost to seasons long past.

Creaking sounds manifest from

Rocking chairs or joints. No one

Is quite sure anymore.

 

They roost

in trees; flight not impossible

and soar down at dawn in

an explosion of feathers.

They shatter the surrounding serenity

with a gobble that carries and

drifts through the still blooming

limbs to the ears of the eager

hunter.

 

The ol’ boss gobbler

that is the quarry of the hunter

is no easy prize to claim. That

bird is no spring chicken.

and is not fooled by much.

He’ll tease the hunter with his

brain rattling gobbles and

apparent approach only to

disappoint at the last moment,

to strut and parade for the resident

hens he aims to impress.

 

Sending the hunter home

with an unfilled tag but

a story to tell. Of the ol’ boss gobbler

at the old woodlot living to see

yet another sunrise from his throne

at the top of the sagging spruce

on the south ridgeline.

 

You haven’t

lived until you’ve heard a turkey

erupt in a gobble ten yards behind

you,

and catch not a glimpse.

Perspective…

If you have turned your TV to any news channel or sports channel or logged onto the internet in the past week or so, then you have undoubtedly heard about Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware. Ware suffered a broken leg while attempting to block the shot of an opposing player. The injury was horrific and gruesome. Some are even calling it the worst broken bone an athlete has ever suffered.

The entire incident was caught on camera as the game was being aired on national TV. However, I strongly advise you against seeking out the video which is undoubtedly still hosted somewhere online. That recommendation is very strong especially if you have a weak stomach or are negatively affected by seeing other people getting injured. I can tell you that it was a horrible injury and was very shocking to watch.

In the hours and days following the injury, there was non-stop news coverage by many different media outlets about Ware and his injured leg. This is where I start to have a problem. Now, I don’t mind that the story was covered. I mean it was a major event from an important basketball game in the insanely popular March Madness tournament. However, as I followed the story, it started to become very clear to me that this injury was being majorly over-hyped. There are stories about how he is such a tough young man, how he inspired his team to play their best and try to win the tournament for him, and how well he handled the situation.

I’m not trying to say that his injury is something to be scoffed at or downplayed. However, there is no excuse for the way the media has turned this story into something it’s not. They have contorted this story into making it seem like this basketball player is some sort of hero. In my opinion he is nothing of the sort. He is just an athlete that suffered a freak accident during a basketball game. That’s it. He didn’t risk his own life to save that of another. He didn’t sacrifice himself for the greater good. He hasn’t suffered through challenges his entire life with little hope for change. He simply broke his leg.

He had surgery to repair the injury and was allowed to leave the hospital two days later. He will be traveling to the Final Four portion of March Madness to watch his teammates play. He is a healthy young athlete who should have no problems working through rehab and recovering fully. I don’t see how he deserves to be heralded as some sort of great inspiration.

There are people in this world who struggle everyday of their lives in some way. Some of those people struggle with health issues that they cannot control. Some suffer with finding work or supporting their families. Some risk their lives every day to protect complete strangers from danger or persecution. Those people are the ones we should be thinking about and offering our prayers towards. Not Kevin Ware and his broken leg.

I realize that this post will probably be controversial. I should point this out though. I am not trying to disrespect this young man in any way. This post is more a criticism of the national media (I’m looking at you ESPN) and how they took a story and blew it completely beyond anything that it ever should have become. When I see Kevin Ware crying during an interview because his team won a game that he got injured during, I just think of all those people who would give anything to only have to deal with a broken leg and the recovery from that instead of the much worse situations that they find themselves in.

So what I ask of anyone who reads this blog post is to maintain perspective when reacting to news stories like this. Yes, he suffered a gruesome injury, but a wider perspective tells us that in the grand schemes of things what happened to Kevin Ware is really not that bad.

First Day of Spring…

Well, according to the calendar, today is the first day of spring. It just doesn’t really feel like it. It’s currently 30 degrees here in Ohio with flurries filling the air. So although spring has officially started, it may be a few more weeks before we really begin to notice the change.

However, I thought I would take this opportunity to outline my outdoor goals for the upcoming warm weather. I like to set a few goals every year just to give myself something to work towards as I enjoy some of my favorite hobbies. Here are this year’s goals:

  1. Fill a turkey tag– I have been addicted to turkey hunting ever since my first hunt for them three years ago. However, I have yet to fill a tag. I hope to change that this upcoming season. I plan to be in the woods more than I ever have been before in an attempt to finally get an elusive longbeard in my sights.
  2. Catch and weigh a largemouth bass over 3 pounds– This is a goal I have been chasing for several summers now. A three pound bass may not sound like much, but I have yet to catch one tipping the scales at that weight. Now that doesn’t mean I haven’t caught some big bass in the past. I caught one a couple years ago that had to be pushing 4 pounds, but I did not have a scale with me on that trip. Last year, I had what had to be at least a 5 pounder on the line before losing it near the bank of the pond I was fishing. So this year, I want to get a bass on the scale that cracks that 3 pound barrier this year.
  3. Catch a flathead catfish– A good buddy of mine is a very accomplished outdoorsman. We do a lot of fishing and hunting together and his level of skill far surpasses mine. He has a lot of experience fishing for and landing huge flathead catfish out of different reservoirs in Northern Ohio. He has invited me along to come out with him a few times this spring and it is my hope to hook into one of these monster fish. My buddy has some 40+ pound catches on his resume, but I’d be happy with just about anything. It will be a new species to add to my list of fish caught, not to mention a great fight with a giant fish.
  4. Take a great outdoor photo– Photography usually becomes a big part of every angler’s and hunter’s outdoor experiences. While capturing a photo of a big catch or a successful hunt are usually preferred, outdoorsman have the unique opportunity to witness some spectacular events simply due to the amount of time they spend outside. I have take several photos over the past couple of years that I’m really proud of (the one in my blog’s header being one of them) and I hope to accomplish that again this year.
  5. Fill a deer tag– Not being a huge fan of sitting out in the cold, I haven’t done much deer hunting in the past despite having access to a large amount of rural Ohio farmland filled with game. However, this year, a couple of changes to hunting seasons in Ohio and the gear I have access to will allow me to finally go after a whitetail deer. Archery season in Ohio starts in late September, which is usually still warm, and I have a friend who is going to let me borrow a crossbow. That will give me a chance to both try out a new weapon system and give deer hunting a shot, so to speak. There is also talk in Ohio of a short season in October for hunting with a muzzleloading rifle. I have been slowly rebuilding an old blackpowder rifle and this new season will be the last push I need to finally finish the project.

I don’t really expect to meet all of these goals this year and would be very surprised if I manage to accomplish all of them. However, that is not going to stop me from trying. I’ll be posting updates on my quest towards meeting these goals as they happen. Whether or not I achieve these goals, I will still have a great time trying.

Happy first day of spring.

The Tribe Does the Harlem Shake…

I’m sure that most of you have seen at least one Harlem Shake video over the past several months. Whether you wanted to see one or not. It was pretty hard to avoid them due to their insane popularity. It seemed like every group, business, company, and organization was doing their own version. There were a lot of bad ones, but also a couple great ones.

The surge in the popularity of the Harlem Shake videos is finally beginning to die down. However, that didn’t stop the Cleveland Indians from jumping on the train…even if they were jumping on the caboose. Nick Swisher, the Indians biggest free agency acquisition during this past off-season, came up with the idea and ran it by manager Terry Francona before going any further. Once he had the blessing of his manager, Swisher got many of his teammates to come to spring training one Monday morning dressed in a crazy costume.

Almost everybody got on board and was part of the video, including Francona who started the video off and then dressed up like a giant baby, including bonnet, to be in the video with his new players. Swisher was dressed as an Ohio State football player in the video which was fitting considering he was a Buckeye in college.

Even though their version of the Harlem Shake was a little late to the party, it was an amazing show of camaraderie between the old and new teammates alike. As a huge fan of the team, it gave me even more hope as we get ready for the 2013 seasons to start. Having a team full of players that all generally like each other and can do crazy stuff together is a great sign of that team being capable of great things. When the going gets tough during the grueling regular season, the players will have each other to lean on.

That is one reason that teams with extremely high payrolls often do not live up to expectations. There are too many big egos in the locker room for the team to ever really mesh.

So as the countdown to Opening Day continues, check out the Cleveland Indians version of the Harlem Shake.