Roll up your sleeves

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” 
– Teddy Roosevelt

The mountain was steep. Pictures do not do this country justice. I was tired. My legs hurt. I was contemplating giving up and going home. The photographer in this picture would tell the trail “goodbye” at the end of this day. We were spent. Second wind was on its 7th leg during this picture.

People are tough. Dealing with people is even worse. If you look at the constant bickering on social media, the news and pretty much everywhere; folks are the worse. Especially those that disagree with us and even more so those that are adamantly opposed to our core beliefs. Right?

Back of this, my wife and I were having dinner with some friends at their home. While we were eating the topic came up of “dealing with people”, as with any topic, opinions were voiced. My friend is a pastor, hes one of my pastors, and one of the finest folks I know. I was voicing my concern over certain folks and their behavior and he said something that shook me and caused me to reflect. He said “Its easy for folks to sit on the sidelines and judge or hate. Its hard to roll up your sleeves and jump in with folks and show them Christ love.” I left that evening and that statement, that truth, was on my mind that evening and the following few days. The conviction I felt was one that there is no guessing or evaluating what it means; you know exactly how you are to respond. And it is not easy. Remotely.

See, I have always been what some may deem as “mouthy” or “unable to keep my opinion to myself” or “confrontational”. I guess sub-consciously I thought this was how I made my name? How I showed that I was someone to be reckoned with? Don’t know. All I do know, is that I have done way more damage than good with it. I have ostracized folks, belittled those I don’t agree with and ultimately driven a wedge between myself and others. And here’s the thing; its not just with folks who disagree with hunting. Its not just with folks who disagree with me on conservation issues and topics such as forestry and sustainable silvicultural practices. Its with folks who also hunt, also fish, also care. My abrasiveness and the need to be “right” has cost so much, that I have no way to measure it. I can assume what that cost came to, and I honestly think I am underestimating it. The truth is, there are a lot of road blocks and stumbling blocks that I have experienced, and the overwhelming majority is self-induced.

It is easy to sit and disagree. I am a Carolina fan. I LOVE bashing Duke University in any way shape or form. It is fun, and the argument could be made that it is also “divine”. Seriously though, bashing a sports team is a stretch from what I am attempting to address, but the concept and example are easy to see. How much fun is it to hate on SEC Football teams? Its a somewhat uniting and develops a sense of belonging with folks who think and act like you. Its natural, and I get it. I am overly guilty of it. “Its easy for folks to sit on the sideline and judge and hate”, changes things if we added “fun and” right before “easy”…

Over the past few months I have been wrestling with working with or dealing with folks that I am against, or they are against me.. I would find myself finding ways to justify not liking them and not pursuing engaging with them at all. But then I kept hearing the statement Johnathan made at dinner that night. It’s hard to roll up your sleeves. It’s hard to get in there.  But, I had fine examples of how to do this. How to make it work. How to get in, regardless of how difficult something may be, or that people will be opposed to me and my ideas. There were and still are many folks who have poured into me and taken the time to show me what that lookalike. One of the finest men I have ever known, does it quite a bit. The gentlemens name is David. He represents hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiast with many folks who would love nothing more than hunting to cease to exist, as well as many other facets of our life. After one meeting I attended with David, I left very frustrated as we were yet again disregarded and looked over when it came time for us to talk in these little break out groups. David listened to me and when I said “I don’t know David. Why do we keep doing this? No one listens, and if you make a suggestion they do not agree with, they accuse you of all sorts off stuff.” he responded with “That table we just left has a lot of seats. We will not agree on everything.. But they have a seat and so do we. Its on us if something goes wrong. We have just as much right to that seat as they do. If we don’t advocate for wildlife and those of us who pursue them, who will?” I chalked that up as a “that’s his opinion, that’s what he wants to do, not mine” David continues to stay the course. He also continued to pour in and model what I needed to see and how I needed to be. Eventually I saw the errors in my ignorance and starting stepping in the footsteps he and others laid out. I often wonder how much further we would be on some of our stuff if I hadn’t been so headstrong? Not in the sense of my opinion being something to sway many things, but how I portrayed myself and how that reflected to others?

I then began to look at examples in the Bible of how to put rolling up our sleeves into action. I don’t know if you are a believer, but I am here to tell you; If you want to look at examples of getting amongst it and working with others, that’s a fine place to start. It’s actually the best place to start. Been easy if the Man from Galilee just sat with others and judged. Been easy to condemn and disenfranchise and elevate Himself in the circles of folks who knew the Scripture like he did. But He didn’t. He rolled up His sleeves, in the ultimate way. And how do I honor Him by sitting on the sidelines ridiculing and keeping barriers? I don’t.  

Glad I didn’t give up. Glad we stayed the course. Our first archery elk hunt on public land. 

So, I am working on and will continue to work on keeping my sleeves rolled up. That means I’ll keep going to the table. Ill do my best to be the change I wish to see. I’ll do my absolute best to sit and hear your views and thoughts. I’ll do my part to have discourse and discussion in order to figure out the best way to take care of our resource.. Are we going to agree on everything? Negative. Do I expect you to do as I do on the issues? No. Does that mean we cannot have discourse and discussion? No. How else are we going to address or fix anything if we just stay in our own echo chambers?

It is my belief that if I want anything to change, or my views to be represented, or my voice to be heard; it is on me to make that happen. The only way to do that, is rolling up my sleeves and sitting at the table. It is going to be hard, it is going to be tough, it is going to feel like more defeats than victories. It is probably not going to get any recognition. It is probably going to be disregarded by many of the talking heads. It will probably alienate you politically. But, my hope is it will make it better for those that follow. To the vast majority of folks who have shown me this, I appreciate it.

I know this will probably be viewed as some form of concession or some crazy Xennial rant. And that’s ok. Maybe it is odd and weird and different. And it will be viewed as a “koomxbya, feel good, everybody get along” spill.Thats cool, you can think that all day. A vast majority of the US population still thinks that a political party has their best interest in mind….. so I’m in good company.

Get in the Arena, and have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The elusive “Cull Buck”

We have all said it. We have all heard it. “Deer here just have bad genetics”….”That’s just a cull buck”….”I better shoot him before the neighbors do!” First off, I am no purist or great hunter. I’m a Flunky that likes to eat deer and wild game. In the realm of whitetail, I have only killed does and a button Buck. My harvest will be part of another blog on here that more or less let’s you know more about me and “My Story”, but my point is, hunt how you want. But don’t use TV lies to justify your kill. 

I am writing this from a tree stand in some game lands down from the house. Dove hunters are letting the lead fly and chucking shells all around me. I am looking at my buddies deer from last night. An absolute STUD!!! I will be doing another post about it and other WNC deer, kind of a second part to this one. But what got me to this point, this post, this blog, this rant is what I have noticed. Jordan killed a BRUTE because he has practiced letting them age. 

Contrary to popular belief, cull bucks don’t exist in many places in the natural world. In fact, unless you have managed a property for 25+ years intensively, then you will probably never see a “cull buck”. I know what your thinking, “This guy/gal in Instagram says otherwise” or “I just watched this show where the host Possum Trot Leg-Swarp swears there are areas with bad genes and tons of culls!!” Fair enough, let’s take a look at what those “cull bucks” have in common shall we? Usually, they have 2-6 horns, are very skinny and their legs seem very long for their bodies. I have asked people about these alleged “cull bucks” they have killed and one dudes response was “They always have really flat backs and just look kind of awkward” I responded with “Like teenagers?” He nodded his head and said “Just like em! Like they never grew up!”  I didn’t remind the man that after his harvest they could in fact, never grow up. After a stroll through social media today, I noticed how many people where teeming deer as “culls” or talking about inferior genetics. Hence this post. 

All the afore mentioned similarities to these “cull bucks” also bear an uncanny resemblance to another group of deer: the young bucks. Ages 1.5-2.5. The 13-18 year old awards teenage boys of the natural world. According to the QDMA the common traits that I have mentioned are also common for young deer. So, according to them, “Cull Bucks” are few and very far between and in a lot of areas, do not exist. So why is this all over social media? Why is this still a thing? I recall congratulating a young man in his teens on harvesting a beautiful 110 inch 7 point white tail buck. The hunt he recounted in his post was so awesome and inspiring but then he ended it with “Got another cull out of the herd!!” I congratulated him on the deer and then just suggested that the deer was in fact not a cull, just a young deer. Never brow beat him, never beat the deer down, just a thought. All of a sudden he had recruited his buddy to “teach me a lesson” in this. The buddy began with the rhetoric of “This gene pool has some deer that get decent antlers and mast, but their bodies indicate they are genetically inferior to our dominant bucks in the area” Full disclosure, I engaged. I shouldn’t have, I should have been the adult, but I engaged. 

What happened next was a whirlwind. I addressed the young mans friend with questions on how they determined it’s inferiorness? What’s the jaw bone look like? Have they worked with a biologist on their private ranch they hunted? The responses reminded me why I miss spankings in school and then also reminded me I share the same generation. Can’t blame the kids though, they are just a product of their up bringing. Which was re affirmed when I started this morning. I saw picture after picture of 1.5 year old deer laying on the ground with “#cullbuck” and “Had to get him out of the gene pool” in the descriptions. Look, I am not knocking how people hunt, if it’s legal and you wanna mow down every single 1.5 year old buck in your area, have at it! Just don’t come back and say “Took all these culls out of the herd!!” And you know what? You could be right! They could in fact be the elusive “cull buck” I have apparently missed all these years. But a jawbone is the only truth to the matter. If the age shows different, I’ll agree. But I like my odds that the jawbone will in fact show it’s a young deer. 

My preference for whitetail is obvious. I want to let him go so he can grow. That’s my choice. But my choice doesn’t need justifying…. does yours? If it does, is it really about the hunt? Is it really about the filling of the freezer? Why not shoot a doe? I think the primary culprit is outdoor television. Shows needed footage to get the kills on camera. Needed to show how their sponsor who made the super duper scent free bio degradable toilet paper how their product helped produce results. Be skeptical folks. Talk to a biologist. Join a conservation organization. At least have the facts. 

However, if you are in Texas, a cull buck to them, would be a Euro Mount on my wall. And it’s also the home of the good Al Brothers. So they can say a few things differently. 

Happy hunting. And don’t hashtag the word cull. Please. For the love of God.