Humbling Happenings

I can still remember racing to the library during my study halls after I had finished my homework in middle school and high school. I always went through the door and directly to the magazine rack. I would pick up Outdoor Life or Field and Stream and flip through the pages to look at the awe-inspiring pictures. Then, I would filter through them to read about the adventures of people whose lives I dreamed about living.

The people in some of these stories were larger than life. They were the gods of the outdoor world. They knew everything about deer hunting, bird hunting, trout fishing and elk hunting, among many other outdoor activities. The writers had a way of weaving facts and fiction into many of their feature articles but never blurring the line between the two.

After finishing, I would walk back to the study hall and smile along the way. I never dreamed of being one of the people being featured in an article in a magazine of that caliber. Instead, I enjoyed reading about adventures that seemed all but impossible to me.

My father had brought me to the Wally Taber Show a few times at the high school, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him talk about his experiences in Africa, the North Pole and everywhere else around the world. When the lights went out and the film began to play, it became a movie to me. I watched a main character and a cast of others go from one adventure to the next. It was all fiction to me. I couldn’t comprehend any person actually doing those things. The adventures were, of course, unattainable in my eyes. Heck, that’s why my father brought me to see the show. It was enjoyable and a break from reality for him — and me.

Time Passes and I Become an Adult

After going to college, I basically forgot about those Wally Taber shows for a while. I was only a kid when Dad brought me to them, and I had let my ability to imagine great adventures dissipate while entering into adulthood.

Then, Dad looked at me one day and said, “What do you think about going to Colorado to hunt elk?”

Wide-eyed and holding back my excitement, I shyly replied, “I think I’d like that.”

Without missing a beat, Dad told me we were going to Colorado. Well, that was 30 years ago this year, and I have lived an incredibly adventurous life in the woods across the United States since Dad decided to take a chance for me — and himself.

Although we hunt primarily at home inside the blue line of the Adirondack Park that Teddy Roosevelt declared Forever Wild, we have been fortunate enough to experience many hunts in the states across the Midwest that I saw on TV when I dreamed of being like the people I read about in the magazines.

Over time, I learned a lot of things about whitetail deer, and I became a better hunter. I studied every action and reaction of the cautious four-legged critters, and I made conclusions after watching their interactions with people, predators and other animals in the forest.

Eventually, I gained enough knowledge to feel comfortable writing a book about the things I had learned. I hoped the book would help others save time learning things on their own. We all know how valuable time is, especially as we get older. Sometimes a page or two in a book can save a few moths of research on a computer. I wanted to give back to others, just as so many people had freely given to me along the way, including my parents.

After publishing a few books, a little notoriety found its way into my personal world. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of being in the spotlight, and I try to shy away from it as much as possible. Although I like to talk to people about my passion, I definitely would never consider myself any better than anyone else. Instead, I know there are many people far and wide who can teach me so much more about the things I enjoy, and I’m always willing to listen to a good mentor.

Finding My Way Into the Magazines

Somewhere along the line, Dan Ladd introduced me to Randy Flannery, and Randy introduced me to Scott Bestul. Scott interviewed me last year for an article he was doing for Field and Stream’s rut issue. I was honored but felt a little out of place with the legendary people who were also included in the article. After all, I’m just the little boy who used to go to the library to read stories about Myles Keller or Jim Zumbo. It was a humbling experience to see my name in print next to Mark Drury’s name, where both of us were being referred to as “experts.” I’d never call myself an expert, unless an expert is someone who has spent countless hours making mistakes to get a better understanding for the 20 seconds of success he gets to experience a few times each fall.

After my long-winded conversation with Scott last year, he shared my name with Brian Lovett, a writer from Field and Stream who contacted me last summer about an article he was doing about hunting on public land. I graciously accepted his invitation to talk with him, and we (or should I say I) rambled on and on about deer hunting. Although I’m notoriously quiet, when I start talking about deer hunting I can become excited and talk for hours on end. Well, that’s what happened. Brian was probably ready to hang up on me, but he seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. When I read the article he wrote for Field and Stream, I quickly realized one thing: I need to think more when I speak. I sound like a redneck when I’m quoted, and my speech skills do not reflect very good grammar. I’m kind of embarrassed at some of my quotes, but I guess most hunters won’t know the difference.

I think I sometimes take a lot of things for granted that Dad has taught me over the years. I have to remember that I have years of experience doing what I love to do: deer hunting. I’ve realized that no question is a dumb question. I used to be that starry-eyed kid in the library who had a gazillion dumb questions. Dad answered most of them with a sheepish smile, but I still needed to go to others for further advice. I still ask dumb questions, but the questions, no matter how big or small, help me educate myself and others. They make me mentally prepared for almost anything that can happen in the woods.

I’ve probably rambled long enough tonight, but I’m sitting here a week before Christmas and hunting season has closed where I hunt. As I look at the top of my desk and see a variety of books and magazines, I can’t help but stare at the Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines in which I’ve been mentioned. Then, looking at my computer and reading Brian’s on-line article in Field and Stream, I feel warm inside. I feel like Santa just sat down and ate his cookies with me. We talked a little about deer hunting, and he left as quickly as he had arrived, my eyes widening as he made his way up the chimney to the waiting reindeer.

Sometimes the gifts in life are small and people we don’t even know give them to us. While I know Dan and Randy, I can’t say that I personally know Scott and Brian, but I feel they both gave me a gift that I dreamed about as a child and teen. Dreams are not unreachable if you follow your passion. One day, you might open your eyes and realize you have followed a path that others can only imagine. You might just be Wally Taber to a child out there somewhere, or your mom or dad might bring you to a show in hopes of getting away from reality to entertain you, not knowing that the two of you may embark on your own adventures that could rival anything you ever saw at the show.

With everything going on in the world around us this year, I cherish the gifts I’ve been given throughout my life. I cherish the little things, including the gifts the givers never knew they gave. Many writers give hope and understanding to their readers, while other writers share their passion. I feel fortunate to have been able to help two writers share their passion with readers of all ages, races and walks of life. I’m just hoping there was one kid somewhere who went to the library and grabbed the magazine or read the on-line piece that I was featured in. That, my friends, would be a dream come true. I hope all of you have a happy holiday season. Here’s the article that Brian wrote this year for Field and Stream.

7 Responses to “Humbling Happenings”

  1. Bob Bultema says:

    Love the passion and sense of awe we share about the creation around us.
    Your humility shines through as well, no doubt taught you in part by the game you love to pursue. Waiting those hours for 20 seconds of action provides me with humiliation more than I care to admit! God I thank the whitetail deer for
    for doing it’s part in keeping my ego in check!
    Thanks again Todd. Hope to share more good stories to come!

  2. You deserve nothing but the very best my friend!! Proud and Honored to call you my friend!!

  3. admin says:

    Thanks, Randy. I’m glad we were able to meet and become friends. Sometimes life’s path takes us to places we were meat to find.

  4. admin says:

    Bob, I’m glad we were able to meet while doing what we both love. People who share the same interests have a way of relating to one another. I hope you have many more great adventures in your future.

  5. Nate viehmann says:

    Good read Todd, congrats on your story in field and stream,
    Need to meet up at the bow range again

  6. admin says:

    Thanks, Nate. I’ve been there often lately. It would be good to catch up. I hope you’re doing well and summiting many peaks.

  7. Tony McCutcheon says:

    Good reading. Enjoy the ride. Count our many blessings, ‘One by One’.

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