News Growing Older

When we get older, there are things we can do in the outdoors and some things we probably shouldn’t. Learning the difference can make our “Golden Years” much more enjoyable, for everyone concerned.

A topic we haven’t discussed in this column is the changes that naturally occurs as we as hunters or anglers age. My lifetime in the outdoors is probably as good as an example as any. When I was a young man, up until about my mid forties, I was game for just about any sort of activity in my pursuit of fish and game and… adventure!

I thought nothing of following big running bird dogs from dawn till dusk or dragging harvested game out of the woods through the thickest of cover. Uphill or down, it didn’t matter. I knew I was up to the task. Paddling a small boat several miles or a long float down a river was fun and I seldom broke a sweat if I took my time.   I was young, strong and when I did exert myself to the point of exhaustion on occasion, a little rest and I was good to go again. Then in my mid forties I noticed that I could still do almost everything I did as a younger man but when I became tired, it took longer to recuperate.  My muscles and joints began to get a little sore when I pushed myself.  

By my mid fifties, I was beginning to think of ways to make some of the hard work involved in the outdoor life easier. At about this stage, I purchased my first ATV and used it to do some of the heavy work and to get me closer to my hunting areas. Earlier in life, I thought nothing of throwing a 50 pound bag of corn on my back and heading through the brush several hundred yards to a feeder, and then going back for two or three more bags.  At 55, I found myself cutting saplings and brush to clear a path so that I could drive my ATV right up to the feeders! It was about this age/stage when I started carrying game bags, lightweight saws and butchering equipment in my hunting pack. Rather than drag a field dressed 140 pound boar several hundred yards back to a truck, I began taking my time and quartering the larger big game animals where they fell. It was much easier to transport several bags of meat out of the wood in smaller pieces that try to deal with all that weight.

And then came age sixty! I was guiding elk/bear hunts up in the Rockies and also occasionally helping a buddy guide overflow duck hunts. Both endeavors can be strenuous, especially guiding for elk. My pace was somewhat slower than it had been ten years earlier but I usually had no problem staying up with or out-walking many of my younger clients. I just turned 67 and have noted a major transformation during the past seven years! This wasn’t an instant change that occurred any particular year but rather gradually. 

I guided hunts in the mountains this past fall without too many problems. I did notice that my knees were giving me problems, especially when descending steep grades. My feet seemed to hurt more and I found myself more tired after a day on the mountain than in earlier years. After much, much deliberation and thought, I came to the conclusion that I am getting too old to be a 100% effective guide.  A mountain guide must be able to take care of not only himself but his charge or charges for the day. This task was beginning to take too much out of this then 66 year old body. An elk is a big animal. Imagine getting a horse size animal out of the black timber, even in pieces after dark in the mountains. A good friend and I outfit the hunts and we both came to the conclusion a couple of years ago that we needed to get some younger men involved in the guiding. Now, we have three guys onboard as guides. It’s their time to pick up the traces and do the hard work. I feel we will be doing them an injustice to do otherwise.

I’ve asked myself many times, “Is it a good idea to step down now or should I keep on guiding?” I believe my decision to quit before something breaks is a sound one. I’ll still be around to drive the ATV to guides/hunters with downed game and help with the retrieval. There is a lot to do to keep a high country camp running well. I think I’ll stay busy and productive.  I still feel absolutely comfortable hunting on my own and doing everything from packing out the meat to the day to day camp chores. But a guide, whether for hunting or fishing, needs to give 200% effort to his clients. To sum it up, that’s a job for a younger person.

So, you might be asking yourself, “When do I need to slow down and start doing things slower and easier?” Well, the answer is simple: Just listen to what your body is telling you and take the cue… before something breaks!

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Luke’s book, “Kill to Grill, the Ultimate guide to Wild Hog Hunting and cooking wild pork” is available through Amazon or www.catfishradio.com.