The past year is one I’ll never forget. I couldn’t if I wanted to. It delivered a wide range of ups and downs. Some of those downs were really tough. But the ups; the ups were remarkable. I didn’t travel to hunt and fish nearly as much as in years past, but staying close to home never felt so good. I’ll always look back on 2022 as a true turning point in my life.
I’ll spare you the downs, but I’ll share a few of the ups. My youngest daughter, Annabel, killed her first turkey. She took advantage of her last opportunity to hunt Missouri’s Youth Turkey Season. She was fortunate to take a bearded hen. I was fairly confident Annabel would never be a hunter. I couldn’t be happier to have been proven wrong.
A Gould’s turkey hunt in Chihuahua, Mexico ended my quest for the World Turkey Slam. I shot my first turkey in Montana 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve bagged gobblers from New York to the Yucatan Peninsula, collecting all six subspecies. I’m waiting on the Gould’s to be finished at the taxidermist. He’s the last of the complete slam I’ll add to my collection of full body mounted turkeys in my house.
I bought a new farm. It’s only 40-acres, but it’s the right 40-acres for deer hunting. I shot my biggest buck ever off the place in 2021, and this year, just after signing the closing papers, I followed up with another solid 8-pointer. This beautiful piece of dirt has me enthused about restoring a 20-acre prairie, building a 3-acre lake, and learning how to plant corn so I can leave it standing through the firearms season and into winter to feed the critters. This agricultural playground has my head spinning on how to create the best deer habitat possible on a small acreage.
As the New Year arrives, I’m looking forward to calmer waters and making the most of easier sailing. I like to know where my ship is headed, so resolutions have always appealed to me. But resolutions aren’t worth making if they’re not realistic. Make resolutions you can attain if you work hard enough. For me, I need 2023 to open up more travel opportunities than the previous year. I’ve fallen behind on my quest to hunt every state before turning 50, so the next 12 months are going to be a period of making up for lost time.
Therefore, I resolve to knock six states off my 50 in 50 by 50 list in 2023. This means I’m not going to be able to waste any time. I’ll get started in New Jersey with my good friend, and one of the most inspirational men I know, Will Jimeno. Will survived the World Trade Center collapse. He was pulled from the rubble, badly injured. We’ll be deer hunting Jersey’s late archery season.
An invite from a special friend to hunt sika deer in Maryland is planned in coordination with an accompanying hunt in Delaware. We haven’t decided what we’ll hunt yet, but I’m thinking sea duck hunt in Delaware Bay sounds pretty cool. Sticking with waterfowl, I’m planning a duck hunt in the Sacramento Valley of California next December and hope to drop a few of the pintails the Valley is famous for. A big game hunt in Idaho, Utah, Nevada or Washington is dependent on drawing a tag. I’m hopeful one of those lotteries will pay off. If not, small game and predators will become my prey. A ruffed grouse hunt in New England is another possibility, as is a river trip squirrel hunt in West Virginia.
Nothing is more enjoyable for me than hitting the road with a hunting or fishing trip waiting for me at the end of the line. I’m grateful for the time I had in 2022 to recenter my life, but now that the balance is in place, I plan to spend a lot of window time reflecting on where I’m going. Leaving the past in the rear view, right where some of it belongs.
See you down the trail…
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