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January 18, 2021

11/18/2020 10:07:00 AM
Aging out of hunting; option or reality

Ron Kuecker
Outdoors Columnist

Sooner or later, even Tom Brady will age out of the life of an NFL quarterback. Brett Farve, the legendary quarterback of the Green Bay Packers realized it after a couple stints into retirement.
Hunters too must face such choices. Do they continue with their fairly rigorous sport, tone it down a bit or quit altogether based on the many physical challenges they face? Some of these have no choice, that's the reality older people face on occasion.
The first Saturday of this year's firearm deer season, I woke about five minutes before 5 a.m. Waking up for older adults is usually no problem due to their early bedtime. That being based many times on various aches and pains of the previous day.
But the sounding of the alarm five minutes later wasn't as loud as it was previously. The reason; my hearing aids were laying on the nightstand. When I rolled over to look at the radio alarm clock, the numbers were fuzzy. That indicated my cataract surgery planned for the next week was well advised.
As I sat up, my slightly arthritic back said, "Don't be in a hurry. Give me some time to warm up and I'll be okay. Maybe!" Standing up caused a popping in both knees, I'm sure if someone had been standing close by they could have heard it as well as I felt it.
Once on two feet, I felt an unsteadiness almost an imbalance. Should I really be doing this deer hunting thing, I wondered?
But then I heard my son and grandson stirring down the stairs and realized I could do it another year with them nearby.
A few years ago I had stopped wading in the six inches of sediment on the bottoms of our marshes and some shallow lakes. Pulling your foot out of that ooze was no easy task, could lead to serious imbalance and an obituary saying, "he drowned in a foot of water while duck hunting."
I also feared being moved to the front of the boat with a wet Labrador on the way out, under a pile of decoys, and a handful of dead ducks on the way back. I solved that by shortening up my push pole and using it as a wading stick for many years and hunting from the comforts of a land-based blind. But just how long would my hunting buddies allow me to do that I thought?
Goose, turkey easier
More recently I've turned to the slightly easier hunting sports of goose and turkey hunting. Sit in a ground blind, set out a few decoys on the firm ground, then sit back and wait for some action if you've chosen a good spot.
It's still a rigorous sport but maybe easier during our later years in life.
The DNR's of most states offer no or low fees for the myriad of stamps required to have with your license to hunt all the individual species. If they think it will retain more older hunters, they're most likely wrong.
A $10 to $20 savings on license costs is not helping that much to retain hunters. If they really want to help, get us a reduction on the purchase of Tylenol and Ibuprofen.
Then assign a kid to each of us to help set out decoys or drag out a deer from the woods for the privilege of having their own seasons at no cost.
I'm half kidding, half not.
Raising replacements
To a farmer, raising your own replacements meant taking from each year's reproduction and saving them to replace lost parents due to age. If we want to retain older hunters and recruit new, that is the only thing that will really work.
A dad, uncle or grandpa that hunts will always recruit better than some unknown assigned to them for a special hunt. That does not take away from what is being done in that effort.
I will always remember the late Carl Schneiders comment to me as we discussed the value of youth hunts. He said "that is something I have been doing for decades at my duck hunting shack" north of Windom. We've been including parents and kids as our hunting partners to first view, then participate in a duck hunt.
And, he was so prophetic as we have now watched so many of them grow into adulthood and continue to enjoy the sport. Recruitment and retention, the buzz words of a bureaucracy, was realized many years ago and put into practice by individuals many decades ago.
Helping our tribal elders
I've mentioned for many more years than I will admit, don't call me old, tribal elder will do just fine. It is the term our American Indians used when referring to the older amongst them. It had a "good feeling" connotation of respect, knowledge and wisdom.
On opening weekend of deer hunting this year a young eight-point buck walked close enough to my ground blind to present a good shot. The shotgun slug passed through his lungs and pulmonary artery resulting in a quick, clean death.
But not before going another 100 yards, reaching the bottom of a deep gully. If it wasn't for my own rearing of a son and grandson who love to hunt, I would have to "age out."

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