I mentioned in a previous post that it was somewhat heartbreaking to say goodbye to summer. The reason for that was, I had nothing look forward to. My sons and I would always head North to “The Tar-Paper Shack” in summer to begin preparations for the upcoming deer season. Chopping wood, repairing ground blinds, adjusting tree stands, tending to bait (when legal) and various other chores like cutting shooting lanes and scouting. This exercise kept the year moving full speed ahead, and we loved every second of our time together in the woods. We would work hard and play harder. I never laughed so hard in my life as I did at that little cabin in the woods. We had 60 acres and a private lake at our disposal. Deer, turkey, grouse, fish, everything…inches from the door. That was a wonderful time and is deeply cherished by all of us. When our youngest son (Jordan) was diagnosed with cancer, life for this group stopped. He fought three long hard years. I haven’t been hunting since his diagnosis. We always hunted together. I thought that was done forever when we lost him. Then, after six years, someone threw me a rope.

Two days before deer season, my dear friend John Bates called and said: “C’mon, let’s go hunting together.” He had made arrangements to hunt the woodlots & farm of a friend of his. We spent the day together scouting and setting up our ground blinds. We went back to his home and made magnificent food together and enjoyed a few adult beverages along with his beautiful Malamute, “Juno.” (She doesn’t drink) It was days before the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival, so I made the meal I was preparing for my seminars, just to make sure I had mastered it. Seared duck breast with butternut squash and Michigan apple hash. We also made a big pot of venison chili for lunches in the days ahead. For the first time in a long time, I was excited to be alive. It was exhilarating to be in the woods and share the experience with someone I admire. I didn’t get out as much as I would have liked and my tags are not filled. No matter. Shotgun hunting is a little more challenging than I expected but I am incredibly grateful for the experience and the chance to get to know a man that I worked with for years, a little bit better. He is a better friend than I. I hope that when he reads this, he will understand what it meant to me. Even I didn’t realize how much I missed being “Out There.” Thank you, John!

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