Wednesday, July 7, 2010

getting older

I just got back from a scouting and dog training hike. A couple of things happened today to remind me that I am getting older. Nothing bad, but just reminders to me that before this hunting year is over I will be starting my seventh decade on earth.
First thing happened right out of the truck. Within 15 minutes I noticed that the hill seemed steeper. I've hiked this particular hill probably fifty times but it seemed steeper today. I thought to myself, " I might not be hunting as far this year as I have in the past." But before long I was as far up the mountain as I had ever been. Somewhere along the trip I had gotten my second wind and was hitting the mountain just as usual. That first half hour or so is a warm up period for us older folks. It takes a lot longer to get the mechanism lubed for the hunt. But the good news is, once lubed it works as good as ever. In fact I walk further now on a trip than I did when I was thirty or forty. Once I get over that first hump I feel like I could go on all day. So to steal a phrase from the cowboys, us older chukar hunters need to CHUKAR UP for that first hour or so. It gets better after that.
Just before the end of the trip, Riley, my shorthair, let out a war hoop like he was having a confrontation with something. Of course I start thinking the worst. Coyote, porcupine, snake, cougar. All of which I have seen in this area before. I yell and whistle for Riley as I head in his direction. He meets me half way. Looking him over, I find nothing different about him. No bite marks, scratches, or sign of a fight. We get to the area where it happened and Riley runs around looking through all of the rock crevices like he is looking for the culprit. The only thing I can imagine that happened is he got bit by a rock chuck. There are a lot of them in this area and I assumed he tried to grab one and it got him on the lip instead. This little episode made me realize how age has slowed me down. Years ago I would have been on the sprint to Riley. Today I was lucky to be at a jogging pace. At thirty or forty years old I always felt that whatever I encountered I could kick it's tail. Daniel Boone, who killed a bear with a bowie knife, was no tougher and quicker than me. Now, I'd be lucky to move out of the bears way. The quickness and agility is gone. Times when you would trip on the hill going down and do a gainer but still land on your feet our gone. Now I just get to the ground as fast as I can knowing the farther I go the more it's gonna hurt.
Age has it's price. The price is lack of mobility to make the shot or stop a bruise making fall. You have to suffer a little more when you start up the hill waiting for all your joints to start working correctly. Your reflexes have slowed so that bird that takes off behind you won't be getting any lead flying it's way. Your wife laughs at you when you try to roll out of your truck at the end of a long day of hunting. She criticizes you for not acting your age because it takes five minutes to straighten up after your two hour drive home.
But age also has it's rewards. You've been up these hills enough times to know the best route. Let the young guy slip and fall on all those rocky canyons. You already know the rewards that await you once you've got past that lubing in process. Reflexes aren't as important as they use to be. You've trained plenty of good dogs in the past and you know they will show you where the birds are. Those that the dog doesn't point don't deserve the cost of the lead shot. If you play it right, you might be able to work a back rub out of the spouse. Most of all, at the end of the day, you sit on your recliner, dog at your side, cold drink in your hand, and reminisce the great day you had. If your really lucky, you and your canine partner can start planning on tomorrows hunt while your wife is calling you an old fool.


Pete said...

"At thirty or forty years old I always felt that whatever I encountered I could kick it's tail." Larry, I know the feeling. I'm now just past my 'mid-forties' and starting to realize I have to be a little more cautious in the hills, especially when hunting solo. The epiphany came last year about this time when I dislocated my ankle playing racquetball with some (younger) colleagues. I'd played thousands of RB games with no real injuries as a younger guy, but this one required surgery. Thankfully I recovered but it cost me 1/2 the chukar season (first missed opener in about 20 years), and also gave me a reality check with a real punch in the gut. But I am just as excited about the upcoming season as I was in my 20s....

larry szurgot said...

Oh ya, that excitement is still there. That punch in the gut makes you slow down a little when you start trying to cross that rocky ledge. You start realizing how long it takes to recover from an injury as you get older.

Anonymous said...

This one cracks me up since at near 70 you still hunt harder than most 20-30 year olds. Karl

larry szurgot said...

Karl, I appreciate that but don't age me too quickly. I'm gonna be just 60.