Let’s face it, getting old stinks when it comes to hunting. You want to go out there and go for it the way you used to but your body doesn’t work that way anymore.
I started going to the duck blind with my dad in kindergarten and I was bird hunting by third grade. Where we lived there was virtually no big game hunting but that changed when I went to college.
Whether big game or bird hunting, I was fortunate to not have to really think about the physical issues that might be associated with a hunt. I just went hunting for as long and hard as I could afford.
Yes, that’s changed quite a bit in the last few years. I’m 65 now and any hunt that might be considered takes an honest look to see if I can handle it physically on my own or if I can keep up with the people I’m with.
The last week of goose season for 2017/18 I was setting up some decoys on an ice shelf along the river close to my home. The ice and I had a little disagreement and let’s just say it won. I tore my rotator cuff and damaged the labrum in my left shoulder. I probably should have just gone home but there were two friends with me so we finished the hunt. I had my shoulder surgically repaired on the 7th of June. I asked the doc several times if I could bird hunt this fall and his response wasn’t as optimistic as I’d hoped.
The rehab process with shoulders is slow. I’m not always the best patient but did not ever want the surgery again so I committed to be better and more careful from here forward.
I lived in my shoulder brace for 4-6 weeks after surgery with not kind of shoulder activity except passive arm hanging types of exercises with physical therapy. I really wanted to put my arm over my head and stretch but knew that wouldn’t end well, back to being a better patient.
About 6 weeks in they let me get out of the brace for short periods and changed my exercise a bit. I tried to hold my shotgun up in a shooting position at about 7-8 weeks and couldn’t do it. Talk about discouraging but I used that to motivate me to fully commit to rehab.
I’m only about a week out from opening day of duck season and I can hold my shotgun up but things are still dicey and it’s going to be slow going for a while yet but I’m excited by the progress I’ve made and looking forward to actually hunting this fall.
The point of all this is to understand the limitations placed on us as we age but to also accept injury for what it is, a setback. Not the end of a passion, just a setback that needs to be overcome. There was a very real possibility that I’d miss the entire 2018 season but thankfully that is not going to happen.
Taking care of our bodies as we age and paying attention to physical limitations will keep us aging hunters in the field instead of wishing we were. Be careful out there and remember the story of the young bull and the old bull… with age comes wisdom, use it!