October 21, 2010

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

All it takes is a short flight of stairs to remind me I'm in the worst physical condition of my 39+ years. I'll point to the growing number of gray hairs cropping up on my head and the splashes of white pigment that surface in the sparse splattering of red on my chin after a few days of refusing to waste my time shaving what I know will never ever be a real beard. Yes, I'm getting older, but I'm not saying that's an excuse for growing sedentary.

There I sat on the couch Sunday, enjoying my remote control's ability to seamlessly switch me back and forth between three different football games. My willpower was eyeing the clock, trying to point out to my stubborn behind, that it was getting close to time to head for the deer stand. It didn't help that it was nearly 70 degrees out.

Finally the willpower won out, for just the second time in 2010.

I tried to make myself realize that if I went bow hunting more often, that walk into the woods wouldn't leave me in need of an oxygen bottle. Now I'm not saying archery will ever replace P90X workouts, but it really isn't horrible exercise.

There is the afore mention walking. That doubles as weightlifting for me, since I pack so much gear back and forth to the vehicle. Then there is the ladder climb into the stand, and hoisting your bow up into the tree with you, working two different muscle groups.

If you have a hunt like mine Sunday evening, the biggest cardiovascular exercise occurs when the bucks arrive.

I suspect part of my problem was I was still hurting from all the previously mention exertion, so when not one, but two nice deer snuck in behind me, my heart tried to jump into overdrive not realizing I had already used much of my fuel reserves.

It always amazes me how much energy a simple 180-degree turn can consume. Sure, your body has gone into lockdown mode, as you fight the urge to simply flip your head over your shoulder to see what's making all that noise.

What's even more incredible is how the cement in your limbs used to control the slow-motion version can so rapidly turn to Jello as the big buck shakes set in instantaneously.

Now I've done a few aerobics routines in my life but the only thing missing from what had to have been the best calisthenics drill I've ever been a part of was some camouflage leotards. I had to resemble a leaf-covered jackhammer as I reached somewhere close to 7.0 on the Richter scale watching a mammoth 10-point buck sneaking towards my stand out of the cover of a warm-seasons grass field.

My shakes only worsened when I caught the sight of the second buck, traveling 20 or 30 feet behind the leader. He was a study in contrast. The point man featured a rack that was impressive for its width and uniformity. The rear guard wore horns that weren't much wider than his ears. However, he made up for that shortcoming with very impressive height and mass, as well as some extras here and there.

Never before in my archery outings have I been pressed with the possibility of such options. I knew from experience, that I would not be given the opportunity to chose which deer to harvest, but I was still shocked with the possibility I might be able to launch an arrow at either of the two.

I'm not sure the Lord didn't send these two monsters my direction simply to serve as my personal trainers. They lingered in the 80 to 100 yard window ensuring my heart and muscles continued to be maxed out by the blood flow tidal wave triggered by the adrenaline rush. No number of deep breaths was relieving the shakes that I was worried might turn into seizures as the lead deer pondered his next move.

I knew I had the wind in my favor, even with my frantic panting. I was more worried about visibility, as these two deer came in from the open, in a stand that is set up to hunt the timber, which borders roughly 80% of the setup.

Fortunately it's a pretty big tree, so when I backed up against it to steady myself, not only did the roots hold up under the vibrations from my body, it hid my outline from the eyes that peered up on a few occasions.

Okay, anyone who has ever read this column, already knows that I didn't get either of the two deer. Sorry, this was getting a little long, so I thought I would cut to the chase. The wide-racked deer turned right, instead of left, followed the timber line before circling back to patrol the grass.

The second buck came closer, entering the timber about 60 yards from my stand. He located an oak tree to feed under, teasing me occasionally with sounds of movement that I was forced to try to mentally decipher since he was hidden from eyesight. That torture went on until I ran out of light and forced me to stay put an extra 30 minutes.

That was readily acceptable for my body, which needed a cool-down period following the workout. All I know Is I can't wait to head back to the "gym" for some more exercise.

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