Sports
The old man's shadow
By Luke Clayton
Nov 27, 2023
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Throughout our days here on planet Earth, we have what psychologists call our ‘inner man’ tagging along every step of the way, from the womb to the tomb, so to speak. I use the term ‘shadow’ in reference to the other ‘Luke’ that’s been on many outdoor adventures with me. I’ll set back this week, and allow my ‘shadow’ to pen this column.

When can a man call himself an “Old Man”? I’ve ‘shadowed’ the old guy we are about to learn about since he first used his little J.C. Higgins .22 loaded with ‘shorts’ at the age of 8 to bag dinner for his family. He’s certainly not as strong, fast or self confident as he was when in his twenties and thirties but what he lacks in physical attributes, he seems to have replaced with experience or what I like to call ‘woods savvy’.

I was with him when he took his first deer, caught his first northern pike up north, penned his first outdoor article, graduated boot camp and became a U.S. Marine.

I was right there with him when he fished in remote lakes in Japan and on many wilderness trips to Canada. I was present when he guided his first hunter to a successful hunt in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. He doesn’t field dress a deer quite as fast as a few years ago, remember I’ve always been right there watching, but he now takes his time and does a better job of the task.

He no longer worries about getting his ‘limit’ of fish or game on every outing but seems to enjoy hunting and fishing even more as he’s aged. He no longer targets only deer with trophy class anglers, he’s taken a lot of deer of several species with big antlers. Now he hunts older mature bucks, regardless the headgear they are adorned with and he especially likes to put a surplus doe or two in his freezer, the old man loves cooking and eating venison almost as much as hunting deer these days. But I’ve heard him say that any deer hunter that claims he’s not a trophy hunter is probably not telling the entire truth.

Luke describes hunting as an ‘old man’ as even more fun than in his younger years, these days it’s the total outdoor experience rather he enjoys.

Just last week, I tagged along on an evening hunt for wild hogs with the old man. The hunt was unsuccessful in regards to pork in the cooler but very rewarding in an introspective way. The old man parked his truck a bit closer to the spot where he was hunting then he would have twenty years ago, or ten years ago for that matter. He had learned through the years that his truck wouldn’t spook hogs after dark or during daylight hours for that matter. But his past experiences also informed him that after sitting in the night woods with his rifle and thermal scope, watching a corn feeder a shorter walk back to a warm truck would beat the half mile trek he would have taken just a few years ago. Besides, he was apt to be a bit ‘stiff’ after setting on a camp stool for several hours waiting for hogs to show up. I also noticed he had everything necessary to butcher a hog at night, lights, knives, gloves, rags to keep hands clean, everything was packed in the back of his truck. In his younger years, he would probably have forgotten half the items in his rush to go hunting!

En route to his hunting spot, he had to cross a small creek. Just ten years ago, he would have jumped the
little ditch, it was only about 4 feet across but instead, he walked parallel to the stream and found a shallow spot where he cautiously waded across. At age 73, he certainly didn’t want to ‘break anything’; he remembered ten years ago breaking a bone in his foot carrying a bag of corn back into the woods to a feeder. After that he’s been extremely cautions. These days, he fills a 5 gallon bucket about three-quarters full of corn and makes several trips to his remote corn feeders rather than packing 50 pounds on his back.

On this most recent hunt, the old man decided to hunt off the ground, ten feet from a 12 foot ladder stand where he bow hunts. Back a few years ago, he would have climbed the stand and hunted from the elevated position. After years of experience hunting hogs, he knew the steady wind blowing from the woods to the edge of the fence row he was hunting would carry his scent away, they would never smell him. Earlier that day, he used some limb loppers to cut a shooting lane through the low hanging cedar limbs in the fence row, leaving plenty of brush to hide behind. There was a full moon and he didn’t want hogs to spot him. A hog wire fence would make the perfect rifle rest and a folding camp stool with a
padded seat positioned next to the fence row would make the old man’s set much more comfortable
than being up in the tree stand.

On this cold evening, the hogs decided to enjoy their dinner back in the woods, probably feeding on the last of the acorn crop. The old man did think he heard hogs squealing back in the woods on a couple of occasions, but then his hearing is not quite as good as a few years ago. In a nearby oak tree, he heard a barred owl sound of and, using his AGM Global thermal spotter, watched the big bird perched 30 feet up in the oak. Thermal scopes and monocular register an animal’s heat signature. The old man watched a couple of rats feeding on the corn below the feeder. He then resumed watching the owl. He knew why the owl had chosen that particular vantage point and hoped to be quick enough to film him nabbing a rat through the monocular. He was not. When the owl made his move, he folded his winds and like a
rocket and dropped down on one of the hapless rats. The old man was able to capture the bird flying off with the rodent, the rat dangling from his talons.

After a couple hours sitting in the dark listening to a pack of hunting coyotes and reminiscing about past hunts, the old man loaded his gear, waded the same shallow spot in the creek and climbed into his warm truck. How many years he will be enjoying these hunts is anybody’s guess but from my observations, he’s still going strong for an old timer!

LAKE FORK CAMPFIRE EXPO Feb 10 - This promises to be a great event at Fisherman’s One Stop on Hwy
515 with booths, campfire of course, guest pro fishermen, guides and Luke and Larry Weishuhn, aka
“Mr. Whitetail. For more info call Donna Wooldridge at 469 552 1824. Contact Luke via email through
www.catfishradio.org