Archive | November, 2007

A man of vision?

November 30, 2007

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I got an eye exam yesterday and made a startling discovery — my eyesight has gotten worse. I was suspicious of that fact during the hunting season this fall when I had trouble seeing sharply with binoculars and rifle scopes.

Amazingly, it didn’t seem to hurt my performance. I made two great shots on deer, a 285-yarder in Montana on a mule deer that went through both shoulders, both lungs and the heart, and a 50-yarder in Minnesota on a whitetail buck that went through the lungs and heart. The shot in Montana was my longest ever.

After I finished the exam and ordered new glasses, this thought hit me: How are my spiritual eyes? Is my faith vision clear? I think we should ask ourselves these question every day. I went to confession last Saturday and the priest recommended that I take at least 10 minutes of personal prayer a day. For me, that’s the key to keeping my spiritual vision clear. Otherwise, all kinds of things can distort my vision and fog my view of God.

So far, I’m doing pretty well on the personal prayer. I’ve started to re-read a book I read a number of years ago by a religious named Brother Lawrence. It’s called Practice of the Presence of God. It’s simple and I highly recommend it. Brother Lawrence lived in the 17th century and had an amazing gift for experiencing the presence of God in his daily life. I hope to have a similar experience.

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Montana hunt: Postscript

November 29, 2007

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I have stayed in touch with my father-in-law, Bob Guditis, of Great Falls, MT, since my family and I went there for an antelope hunt in late October. The deer and elk season opened while we were there and Bob and his daughter, Jessica Gray, and her husband, Jerry, continued to hunt after we left. They’ve been e-mailing pictures to me of their success. Jerry and Jessica each bagged a cow elk and Jerry also got a dandy mule deer buck. Bob also shot a nice whitetail buck.

I’m very happy to hear of their success. All three of them, plus Bob’s wife, Sharon, did so much to help my family and I have a great trip and a great hunt. I’m thrilled they could receive this kind of reward for their charity toward us. Not only that, they will have some great eating ahead. Elk is at the top when it comes to flavorful game meats, and they shot young cows, which may be the best eating of all. They already have tried some and said it’s fantastic.

They are capitalizing on an amazing phenomenon in Montana — too many elk. The state believes that more elk need to be shot, particularly, cows, and so it extended the season by two weeks. Hopefully, that will give Bob time to fill his tag. I found out that over-the-counter elk tags are not hard to get in Great Falls, so I may try for that next year. If it’s delicious meat you’re looking for, this is the ticket. Even the small cows Jerry and Jessica shot still weigh about 400 pounds each, which should yield more meat than even a big Minnesota whitetail buck.

I highly recommend a Montana elk hunt. You also can get a mule deer or whitetail tag to go with it and they even sell a combination deer and elk tag. I will warn you that the rules and regulations for Montana are complicated and detailed, so it pays to look at them before applying for a tag. Visit Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ web site at: http://www.fwp.mt.gov.

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Ice fishing season underway!

November 28, 2007

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The “hard water” season is underway in northern Minnesota. I talked on the phone with Steve Brasel of Bear Paw Guides on Upper Red Lake and he said there is enough ice for people to go fishing, about 4-5 inches. He lives on the lake and his son, Tyler, is a guide who fishes the lake year round.

One of Tyler’s specialties is northern pike, which the lake has in abundance. And, they are supersized. According to Steve, Tyler routinely catches pike of 40 inches and longer, which puts them in the 20-pound range. He targets them more earlier in the winter, but they can be caught all winter long. I have caught them in the summer and hope to get one of these ‘gators on the end of my line this winter.

In addition to the pike, there are lots of walleyes to be caught, plus huge, 1-pound and bigger crappies. A friend of mine used Bear Paw Guides twice last winter and did very well both times, catching lots of walleyes on the first trip and catching his limit of crappies on the second. Normally, crappies bite better later in the winter.

I am hoping to get out on the ice with Steve and Tyler this winter. Stay tuned! In the meantime, check out Bear Paw Guides’ web site at http://www.bearpawguides.com. Or, call Steve at 218-368-3755 for current ice conditions and fishing reports. He said he’s booking his ice houses fast on the weekends, but has plenty of availability on weekdays. I recommend going during the week. I went to Upper Red on weekdays twice last year. There are a lot fewer people and you feel like you have the lake all to yourself.

If you’ve got a hot spot or an ice fishing story to share, let me know!

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Thanksgiving feast

November 26, 2007

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I had an unusual Thanksgiving dinner this year — grilled Alaskan red salmon and venison tenderloins. The salmon came from my trip to Alaska in July to do a feature story on Archbishop Roger Schwietz, the archbishop of Anchorage who is a St. Paul native. He was generous enough to give me some salmon to take home.

The venison came from a doe my son Joe shot Nov. 10. Actually, our family was supposed to eat out on Thanksgiving, but the restaurant we had planned to go to was closed. Normally, we prepare a big Thanksgiving dinner, but our plans changed because we were celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary the day after Thanksgiving.

Because of all the prep work for that, I wanted to keep my wife out of the kitchen. We ended up scrambling to find something to eat at home when the restaurant plan fell through.

It ended up being one of the best Thanksgiving dinners I have ever had. The salmon was outstanding and the venision tenderloins melted in our mouths. We feasted on grilled venison again on Sunday, courtesy of the buck my brother Paul shot. I also prepared my specialty — beer-battered walleye. Both were delicious.

This begins the season of cooking and eating the bountiful fall harvest of fish and game. I like eating what I harvest about as much as the harvest itself. Let the feast begin!

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Welcome to my blog

November 15, 2007

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It’s been a busy fall in the outdoors for me and my family and friends and I’m looking forward to sharing these experiences with you via my monthly outdoors column and here in my new blog. I’m excited to use this way of connecting with people, including Catholics, who love the outdoors, whether it be fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, boating or taking pictures.

And, I want to hear from YOU! Please feel free to respond with your experiences, what you enjoy, where you’ve gone and how it went, whether it be catching a big fish, watching a spectacular sunrise or just experiencing God’s peace and the majesty of His creation. Did you hear Him speak while in the outdoors? Did you feel His presence? Did He work powerfully in your experience? Did He do something dramatic? Answer a prayer?

Let me know. I also hope this can be a forum in which people who enjoy the outdoors can express their opinions and exchange information that can help others. I look forward to hearing from you!

In the meantime, I’ll pass along a brief story about my Minnesota deer hunt this fall near Red Wing. It was a lesson in perseverance. I was trying to help my No. 2 son Andy get his first deer. On opening day, we saw one deer and Andy couldn’t get a clear shot. On the second day, we split up and neither of us saw one. In the meantime, my friend Bernie Schwab and his son, Dan, went to a different farm opening day and Dan got his first deer, a 10-point buck. They were going to go back the next day, but they hit a deer with their vehicle on the way down and didn’t make it.

I hunted this same farm a few days later and shot the buck in the above photo just minutes into legal shooting hours. I was very grateful for the success because it allowed me to visit my dying aunt one last time. As it turned out, it was the last good day for her and she died just a few days later. I am grateful that God helped things unfold as they did. I look forward to lots of meals of venison this winter.

Now, it’s your turn. Please tell me about your outdoor adventures this fall!

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Antelope hunt becomes lesson in virtue

November 7, 2007

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Clouds stretching across the Montana horizon glowed a deep crimson on a late-October morning.

I was taking a truck ride east of Great Falls with my two oldest sons, Joe and Andy, my father-in-law, Bob Guditis, and his son-in-law, Jerry Gray. We were headed to a large cattle ranch in search of pronghorn antelope.

It was the first day of our hunt and I considered the spectacular sun­rise to be our official welcome to Big Sky country.

The excitement had been building for several months as Bob guided us through the process of applying for antelope tags on the Internet and preparing for the hunt.

It’s about relationships

We needed the education. We knew next to nothing about pronghorns other than they are small, fast and have exceptional eyesight. They also are very skittish and usually run at the first sign of trouble. Some­times, they don’t stop until they have sprinted a mile or more.

On the surface, this hunt was about strategizing the most effective ways to fill our antelope tags. But, there was a deeper meaning to this experience that was as vast as the sprawling grasslands of the Judith Basin, where our hunt took place.

It had to do with relationships and the bonds between grandparents and grandchildren, and be­tween in-laws and adopted grandchildren and daughter-in-law.

In May of 1995, my first wife, Jennifer, died of colon cancer, leaving me a single father of two children, Joe and Andy. Two years later, I remarried. My new wife, Julie, and I had two more children, William and Claire.

All six of us made the 15-hour drive to Great Falls to spend MEA weekend with Jennifer’s parents, Bob and his wife, Sharon, who had lived in Kalispell, Mont., when Jennifer and I married in 1990. They stayed there until two years ago, when they moved to Great Falls.

Trying to figure out how to label all of the relationships in this group is complicated. But, that’s the only part that has been difficult over the last 10 years of my marriage with Julie. By God’s grace – and Bob and Sharon’s great love and generosity – the transition from Jennifer to Julie has been as seamless as the rolling, grassy terrain of the Great Falls region.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he says that there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free person; we are all one in Christ. That’s the way it has been in the Guditis family.

They show no preference for their biological grandchildren. They consider all four of our kids their grandchildren. And, they consider Julie their new daughter-in-law. In fact, Sharon views her more like a daughter than a daughter-in-law.

Truly, these four days were a chance to bask in the richness of God’s amazing grace as he brought all of us together for a special time of fellowship. It was simple, it was fun, it was holy.

And, not long after that beautiful sunrise, it also became very hard work.

More than a hunt

The pretty hills that looked so scenic from a distance loomed very large as we looked up from the truck at the base of them and spotted a dozen or so antelope that seemed like tiny specks as they grazed at the top of the highest point of land on the ranch.

Our task was to get within shooting range of those antelope. To that end, Grandpa Bob had provided some of the best tools available.

The day before the hunt, he handed each of us a high-powered rifle that he had sighted at a local gun range. He did it so that we could aim right on the front shoulder of the antelope for up to 300 yards without having to compensate for bullet drop. In other words, he made the aiming part dummy proof.

It all sounded good on paper, but it became an extremely difficult task in the high winds that plague the region at this time of year.

In the end, the boys got a good amount of shooting, but no antelope. I managed to bag a small male, plus a bonus mule deer that fell at a distance of 280 yards.

The boys felt some momentary disappointment over their failure to harvest an antelope, but it quickly turned to a deep satisfaction over a hunt that was about much more than bagging game.

It was about deepening the bonds with their Grandpa Bob and Grandma Sharon, with their Uncle Jerry and Aunt Jessica, who took turns hunting with us.

It also was about building character. For four days, we spent hour after hour driving and walking the hills of the ranch trying to find our quarry. Then, we would make stalks of a mile or more to get close.

Sometimes, the antelope would spook before we could get a shot. Other times, we would get one or more long shots that failed to find the mark, and then the pronghorns would bolt out of sight.

At times, it was very frustrating, both for the young shooters and their father, who really wanted to take a photo of their success. Thank goodness they had a grandpa who could always put things in the proper spiritual perspective.

Sharing a little wisdom

On the last day of the hunt, his encouragement was sorely needed. We had found a group of five antelope that were bedded down in a grain field on a farm next to the ranch. We got permission to hunt, then made a skillful stalk on the animals, getting within 200 yards, which would give the boys a makeable shot.

Joe and Andy shouldered their rifles as the antelope continued to lounge in the field. But, high winds in their faces made it impossible to steady their guns. They motioned for Jessica to bring shooting sticks.

Just as she got to them with the sticks, the antelope stood up and began to run. They took some shots in desperation, but the antelope disappeared over the next hill unscathed. The stalk was a thrill, but the result was disappointing.

That was our last close encounter with antelope. It also was an opportunity for Grandpa Bob to share his spiritual wisdom with the boys. I’m glad to say he is bold in taking advantage of situations like these.

“Perseverance is a Christian vir­tue,” he said. “You’ve got to keep trying. Quitting is the biggest reason for failing in life.”

He then proceeded to tell the boys that he flunked out of engineering school twice at the University of Notre Dame before successfully graduating in 1966. His G.P.A. fell below the minimum of 2.5, and he had to go to summer school to push it back up.

Life is full of challenges like these, he said, and the key is to keep trying.

This lesson was a backward way of inviting us to come back again. I don’t think there’s any doubt we will. Hiking the hills, stalking antelope and spending time with Grandpa Bob and Grandma Sharon is a great way for boys to become Christian men.

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