Archive | May, 2009

A bird for Bob

May 26, 2009


My father-in-law, Bob Guditis, came from his home in Great Falls, Mont. to Minnesota last week to visit his daughters who live here. When he first told me about his trip a couple of months ago, I suggested he buy a Wisconsin turkey license so he could hunt while he was here.

He gladly agreed and bought the tag online. The good news was, he was able to free up some time for turkey hunting. The bad news was, he didn’t have much time to spend in the woods — Thursday afternoon and Friday morning and that was it. Anyone who hunts turkeys long enough knows it can often take several days to pattern birds and get one to come in close enough for a shot.
We wouldn’t have that luxury. Not only that, he has limited mobility, so I would have to pick out a good spot and hope a bird would come in.
I chose a small farm that we hadn’t hunted yet this year and, to the best of my knowledge, neither had anyone else. So, that was a plus. I chose a spot along the edge of an alfalfa field Thursday afternoon and we waited until almost sundown for a bird to show. No birds came. We heard a hen yelping back in the woods and that was it.
But, we did see two nice whitetail bucks walk out into the field. Already, they had started some decent antler growth, which got Bob and I to thinking how fun it would be to come back in the fall.
We repositioned the blind before we left and hoped and prayed there would be some action Friday morning. We crawled into the blind at about 5:10 the next morning and waited for the turkeys to gobble on the roost. We heard one that was pretty far off, then another one that seemed closer. I felt it was close enough to hear my calling, so I shot out a few hen yelps.
The bird didn’t answer, but I didn’t lose hope. Sometimes, for reasons I may never understand, toms will come in to your calls without gobbling first. So, I held fast to my belief that a bird might appear.
About a half hour later, that’s exactly what happened. A yearling tom, called a jake, came walking out into the freshly planted crop field adjacent to the alfalfa field where we were set up. He was about 100 yards away at that point and didn’t appear interested in our decoys. So, I did some calling to try and change his mood.
It worked. He turned and came walking toward us and our decoys. I figured he might stop when he got to the edge of the alfalfa, which was about 50 yards away. That’s what he did, but then he kept on coming. When I thought he was about 40 yards away, I asked Bob how far the bird was from us. He said he thought it was 36 yards, so I told him to go ahead and shoot. He dropped the bird and we went out and paced the distance from the blind to the bird — 37 yards.
Bob is a civil engineer and he’s very good at judging distances. After snapping a few photos of his bird, I offered an invitation to come over for dinner on Sunday afternoon with his wife, Sharon. I said I would prepare his turkey using one of my top recipes — wild turkey/wild rice casserole. He agreed and we had a wonderful dinner that day.
I don’t think a lot of people know how delicious wild turkey can be. Older birds can be tough, but cooking them in a crock pot works for any kind of bird you have. The wild turkey/wild rice casserole never fails to be good and I never worry about the turkey being tough. One key thing is to use only the breast meat. The leg and thigh meat is tougher and might not work as well in the casserole. However, you can make soup stock from it, which a couple of my friends do. I was able to donate turkey legs to them.
All in all, it was a great spring for turkey hunting this year. I just read that Minnesota set another harvest record this year and it looks like the turkey population is in great shape. I tip my hat to the DNR in both Minnesota and Wisconsin for the great work they do in managing their respective flocks. Hunters like me have benefited greatly from their efforts. Can’t wait to get out in the woods again next year!
Next, I go to Lake of the Woods for a fishing trip this week. I’ve heard the fishing has been great up there so far and am hoping it will continue this week. The weather is supposed to be nice, so that will be a plus. Stay tuned for a fishing report!
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May 18, 2009


Day 2 of my Wisconsin turkey season on May 14 found me sitting in a blind with my 87-year-old father, Ray. It was windy and the birds were silent. So, at 8 a.m., I got out of the blind and walked around the property we were hunting to see if I could strike up a bird. Nothing.

I went back and asked my dad if he would mind if I went back to the property I had hunted the day before. He agreed and off I went. I got there about 9 a.m. and promptly dosed off in the blind I had set up there. At about 9:45, I woke up and did some calling. Minutes later, I heard a short gobble back in the woods. Then, another.
I waited and soon saw the red head of a gobbler bobbing through the trees. It stopped to take a look, then ran its head up in classic turkey fashion at about 35-40 yards. I shot and the bird started running. I missed for the second day in a row!
This time, instead of just watching the bird escape, I quickly drew a bead on it and took a second shot. To my surprise, he went down and stayed down. It seemed like a long shot and my measurement from where he was back to the blind confirmed it — 58 paces.
I was ecstatic and very thankful I was able to make the shot. It was a nice bird with a 10-inch beard that weighed 20 pounds. Not as big as my son’s bird, but I was happy nonetheless. Later, I realized that the reason I had missed the first shot was because a tree happened to be right in the path of my pellets and it absorbed most of them.
It didn’t bother me in the least that Joe’s bird ended up being the biggest of our spring hunt. I’m very happy that Joe got this bird because he had gone the last two seasons without getting one. He was starting to get down on turkey hunting, but this trophy gobbler got him very pumped up about it again.
All in all, it has been a great spring for turkey hunting. I came close to filling my bonus tag on Friday. I had a big gobbler strutting out in a field at about 50 yards for a group of six hens that came within 15 yards of my blind. When the hens started walking away, I figured they would pull the tom away from me, so I took the shot. The bird went down, but got back up and ran into the woods.
Oh well. That’s the way it goes. I’m happy about the birds I was able to harvest, but the season isn’t finished yet. My son, Andy, goes out at the end of this week for Wisconsin’s final season, as does his Grandpa Bob Guditis. Once again, I will serve as guide and be honored to do so. Fishing will have to wait one more week.
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What’s a Catholic to think about the book version of ‘Angels & Demons’?

May 14, 2009


“Angels & Demons,”
by Dan Brown

Okay, it’s taken me some time to get to “The DaVinci Code” pre-quel, but I figured I’d better read the book as well as see the movie if I want to have any credibility in talking or writing about the controversy that has some in the Catholic community feeling anxiety at the least and threatened at the most.

So, here on the day before the movie is released in the United States, let me say this about the book version of “Angels & Demons”: Potboiler.

Nothing special in the way of literature, writing or even a good mystery.

Clever use of the geography of Rome? Yep.

A compelling story? Nope.

A page-turner? Not really.

If you haven’t figured out half-way through the 700-plus pages where this puppy is going to end up, you need to read more paperback mysteries. If I tell you that the hero — the same guy who is the super sleuth in “The DaVinci Code” — gets the girl in the end, will you really be surprised?

The Catholic concern

So why do some in the Catholic community have their undies in a bunch about the movie “Angels & Demons?”

It’s not so much that the church is attacked by the plot. The action of some of the clergy and hierarchy might be something some would say clergy and hierarchy would never do, but nowadays with some of the news our priests and bishops make, that argument is specious at best.

What author Dan Brown does is continue an insidious train of thought about the Catholic Church that tends to drive Catholics crazy. It’s the matter-of-fact way of writing that makes statements about religion and about the church that have an anti-religion and anti-Catholic bias.

Some examples:
  • The theme behind the plot is that science is getting revenge on religion “after centuries of persecution” by the church. References to Galileo and Copernicus are one part of the evidence for that, but conveniently missing are references to the likes of Gregor Mendel, the Augustinian priest who is rightly called “the father of modern genetics,” or Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, “the father of modern chemistry,” a Catholic beheaded during the French Revolution.
  • There’s a tangential passage that takes hero Robert Langdon back recalling a Harvard University classroom scene in which he cleverly points to Catholic rituals as being unoriginal and borrowed from other cultures. Take the Eucharist: How the “god-eating” rite of the Aztecs were supposedly “borrowed” by Christianity seems to be quite a stretch, given that a man such as the evangelist Paul, writing in the 1st century, and the writers of the synoptic Gospels for that matter — pegged between 60 and 115 AD, aren’t likely to have even known of the existence of the Aztecs, the first reference to which appears in the 6th century.
  • One of the minor characters sees the church as “an innocuous entity…a place for fellowship and introspection…sometimes just a place to sing out loud without people staring at her.”

And then, of course, there is that hauling out of the tired demonization of the Catholic Church for its “wealth.” Looking down a hallway at the Vatican, one character “was sickened by the opulence,” author Brown writes. “The gold leaf in the ceiling alone probably could have funded a year’s worth of cancer research.”

Is it jealousy that makes others point at the church and say it should give away all the timeless works of art therein to end poverty? Maybe the Louvre should do the same? And while we’re at it, let’s sell the U.S. Supreme Court Building to the highest bidder and put the court in the rented space of a closed auto dealership. Who needs artistry, craftsmanship and beauty? — bz

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Turkey time!

May 14, 2009


I have been chomping at the bit for weeks — actually, months — to go turkey hunting and the day finally arrived on Sunday, May 10. The opening day of my Minnesota season was on Mother’s Day, and it could have produced some tension, except I celebrated the day with my wife, Julie, on Friday when we went out for dinner. So, that left Sunday morning free.

I went down to Goodhue County with my brother, Paul, that day. We heard gobbles and saw a hen, but no toms. Monday was more of the same, until about 5:45 p.m., when I had three gobblers come in. One swung around to my right and I didn’t see him until after he saw me move and gave an alarm putt. Too bad. He was only about 20 yards away. I wasn’t able to get a shot off before he escaped.
No matter. About 5 to 10 minutes later, up popped another one about 40 yards in front of me. This time, I was able to get a shot off and bring the bird down. It was a thrill.
This morning, I took my son, Joe, out for our opening day in Wisconsin. Even though it was cloudy and windy, the birds were active. He hunted one farm and I hunted another a few miles away. I took a shot at 6:45 a.m. and missed. He did the same about 8 a.m. Then, just minutes after he missed, another bird came in and he made the shot this time. It was a beautiful bird, with a thick, 10-inch beard, and it weighed 25 pounds.
I wish I had gotten a second chance. I had other birds come in, but not close enough for a shot. Tomorrow, I’m taking my Dad, Ray, out to the spot where Joe got his bird. I hope things work out as well for Dad as they did for Joe. Stay tuned for the next report!
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Capture of Holocaust mastermind a must-read story

May 9, 2009


“Hunting Eichmann,”
by Neal Bascomb

The story finally is told how Holocaust survivors and Israel’s spies found the mastermind of Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution,” the hideously well-organized plan that murdered six million Jews during World War II.

The subject of the quest, Adolf Eichmann, was the diabolical brain behind the extermination plan. It wasn’t until 15 years after the war ended that he was finally found and, after a lengthy trial that was front-page news around the world, hanged for his genocidal crimes.

It’s a helluva story, nonfiction that reads like a modern mystery with twists and turns, dead ends, near misses and tiny details that yield huge payoffs.

How Israel’s Mossad — helped by tips from survivors of the Nazi death camps — tracked Adolf Eichmann to Argentina and a miserable shack with no electricity or running water is nothing short of a miracle.

How Eichmann escaped Germany as World War II came to a crashing end around him could be seen as miraculous as well. How this wanted war criminal made his way to South America, however, includes a segment that will cause shame for members of the Catholic community.

Catholic collusion

Part of the network that helped Nazis escape, Bascomb’s research uncovered, included Bishop Alois Hudal, “an Austrian and a devotee of Hitler who proudly brandished his golden Nazi Party membership badge.”

Bishop Hudal personally wrote to Argentine dictator Juan Peron to request visa for 5,000 Germans and Austrians.

A string of monasteries and convents in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy served as refuge to hide and smuggle Nazis away from prosecution, and Eichmann took advantage, finally making his way across Europe to Genoa, Italy, and the Church of San Antonio. Franciscan Father Edoardo Domoter, a Hungarian sympathetic to fleeing Nazi’s, sheltered him in the rectory there while Eichmann secured a refugee’s passport from Red Cross officials and a visa from the Argentine consulate, and soon was on the passenger ship Giovanna C headed to South America with a number of other former Nazi bigwigs.

Bascomb notes that, while cardinals and priests were involved in helping war criminals escape prosecution, “Pope Pius XII did not officially approve of the Vatican’s involvement in the network, but he certainly turned a blind eye to it, primarily because of the church’s commitment to act as a bulwark against the spread of communism.”

Amazingly detailed research

The capture of Eichmann and especially the deception required to hide him and then spirit him out of Argentina to stand trial in Israel are as close to against-all-odds material as any fiction writer might dream up.

The fact that the Israelis were able to pull it off — find him, first of all, grab him off the street, secret him away for a number of days and whisk him off to Israel in the first El Al plane ever to visit Argentina — is terrific storytelling.

Pulling all the pieces of the story together through interviews and historical documents is truly the work of a gifted writer and team of researchers. The 327-page Houghton Mifflin Harcourt book includes an additional 27 pages of verifying footnotes and helpful bibliography and index. Photos taken with hidden suitcase cameras, maps of Eichmann’s Argentine neighborhood and even Eichmann’s Red Cross passport — using the alias Riccardo Klement — bring life and authenticity to the pages.

The world cannot forget

What Bascomb adds, though, as icing on the cake, is the reason that bringing Eichmann to trial on Israeli soil was so important for the Jewish people, especially for the younger generations of Israelis but even more importantly for the world. Bascomb writes in his epilogue:

“As for the rest of the world, the Eichmann affair rooted the Holocaust in the collective cultural consciousness. . . . The Holocaust was finally anchored in the world’s consciousness — never to be forgotten — by the outpouring of survivor memoirs, scholarly works, plays, novels, documentaries, paintings, museum exhibits, and films that followed in the wake of the trial and that still continues today. This consciousness, in Israel and throughout the world, is the enduring legacy of the operation to capture Adolf Eichmann.”

This is history every human should know. — bz

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Pinch-hitting for your dad, Catholic writer shares what your father wanted you to know about living

May 8, 2009

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“A Guy’s Guide to the Good Life: Virtues for Men,”
by Robert P. Lockwood

You could read “A Guy’s Guide to the Good Life” just for the volume and variety of quotations worth remembering, but Bob Lockwood’s sometimes hilarious, always thought-provoking guys tour through prudence, fortitude, temperance, justice, faith, hope and charity digs so much deeper than that.

Lockwood’s brief, 140-page Servant Books paperback might accurately be described as something your father would have written if your father had written down all the things he wanted to you to know and remember.

It’s a genuine service Lockwood performs, given that many fathers aren’t/weren’t the gifted writer this long-time columnist for Catholic publications is, and given that so many men tell anecdotally about how little their father ever verbally communicated — with them or anyone else.

Lockwood pinch hits for dad, passing on soothing-yet-challenging drops of wisdom through stories, most with a Catholic angle, many with a sports angle, often accompanied by a cold beer.

And Lockwood is anything if not a truly gifted storyteller.

A Catholic writer who quotes Meatloaf?

Along the way he quotes men whose words are worth recalling, mixing Charles Dickens, St. Paul, John Lennon, Benedict XVI, Dante (perhaps more than one might care) and John Paul II, among the names you’d recognize. Pop music plays in the background, with lyrics by the Beatles, Skeeter Davis, and Meatloaf helping make his point. Lockwood even manages to channel Cat Stevens.

It all works, though, to base his — well, it’s teaching, when you come right down to it — in a real world, a world in which Lockwood has lived some 60 years and thinks what he’s learned in that time is worth sharing for our benefit.

If there’s a goal, it is to make guys ask that crucial question: “What the hell am I doing with my life?”

Lockwood is a creative phrase maker who has penned quotes of his own worth pondering, including a definition of his topic that seems to stick: “The virtues are how we are meant to live. They are what we admire in others and hope to find in ourselves.”

Throughout he pesters guys with the thought we can be more — that a virtuous life isn’t too difficult to achieve.

Have an appetizer

Here are just a few tasters of Lockwood on the seven virtues:

“Prudence means living in the truth, not as a self-righteous jerk but as a guy who wants to look at himself in the mirror every morning without fearing that he’s sold out.”

“Fortitude borders on obstinacy, a willingness to hold steadfast to our principles when life is telling us not to bother.”

“Sometimes our priorities can get a little out of whack. There’s where temperance comes in.”

“Justice doesn’t always come searching for us in the way we like.”

“Faith is a pilgrimage, never an endpoint.”

“Hope is not mere wishing but the serene and full confidence that God will never abandon us.”

“We think of charity as giving out a little spare change.”

Now for full disclosure: I’ve known Bob Lockwood for better than 30 years now, watched him fight the personal and professional battles guys fight, and consider the wisdom he shares as valuable — and as fun to read and as thought provoking — as listening to his gravelly voice tell a story, with a cold beer, of course, and with a ball game on the tube. — bz
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Going green

May 4, 2009


I have spent a lot of time in the last week or so watching the trees. The barren-looking treelines of winter are slowing changing color. The bright green of new leaves is emerging.

That is one thing that makes spring so enjoyable for me. Lots of people like the warmer temperatures and the ability to do things outside again. As for me, I like the greening of the landscape.
The flowers will bloom eventually, adding even more color. But, I am perfectly content with the bright green of the leaves. In my unscientific opinion, the greens of May are the brightest and most vibrant of the year.
That’s certainly true in drought years, when the leaves lose their luster and can even turn brown in late July and early August. Once that happens, the colors usually stay faded until the leaves fall.
So, now’s the time to take a drive out of the cities and get a look at the fresh colors of spring. Once the buds start popping, the leaves push their way out pretty fast. By this weekend, we should have full foliage just about everywhere, especially if we get the rains that are predicted  to come in  the next few days.
And, don’t forget to bring your camera.
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The bearded lady

May 1, 2009


During the first part of the week, I was thinking a lot about Bishop Joe Charron of Des Moines and his wild turkey hunt. He had invited me to go down to Missouri and hunt with he and his friend, Joe Lane.

Unfortunately, I had to decline at the last minute, but I kept wondering how things were going in the woods for them. As it turned out, Bishop Charron scored on the first day (Monday), shooting a bird with an 8-inch beard.
Here’s the strange part — that bird was a female, or hen. Normally, only  the males (toms) have beards, which is why the laws in many states, including Missouri, allow only the shooting of turkeys with visible beards.
Bishop Charron and Lane walked up to the bird and thought it looked funny. Further investigation revealed the female gender of the turkey. Some people want to shoot only the males, but Bishop Charron was happy with his bird, which he was in the process of preparing when I called him on Wednesday. As it turned out, it was the only bird either of them saw during the trip. They were supposed to hunt for three days, but left after two due to low bird sightings and bad weather predicted for Wednesday.
Missouri is going through a tough time for turkeys. The state has had poor bird hatches the last two years and may have another this year. The problem has been rain and cold during the critical period after the turkeys hatch in May. Ask any wildlife biologist and he or she will tell you that this is the single most important factor in turkey survival.
Up here in Minnesota, we always equate turkey survival with the severity of winter, but it’s not as significant a factor as people think. Most of the time, turkeys do fine in winter, provided there’s enough food and the birds can get to it. In a lengthy conversation last year with a biologist, he told me the birds can handle the cold as long as they can get to food. It’s heavy, deep snow cover that can cause problems. Even then, they can make trails through the snow to get to food.
Bottom line — turkeys are doing just fine in Minnesota, especially in the southeast portion. That’s great news for me because that’s where I hunt. I have to wait just over a week before my season opens on May 10. I’m getting very antsy, thinking about my upcoming hunt while I lay in bed at night. I really enjoy walking out into the woods in the dark and hearing that first gobble at dawn.
For now, fishing will have to wait.
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