Archive | January, 2010

Winning the lottery

January 29, 2010


Earlier this week, I was able to check on the lottery results in both Minnesota and Wisconsin for this year’s spring turkey hunt. As it turned out, I was successful in both lotteries.

This was not a surprise. In both cases, I applied for five-day seasons later in the spring. There are fewer applicants for these seasons, so the odds of getting picked are higher. In the case of the seasons I applied for, the odds were 100 percent. I know this because I checked on the internet and discovered surplus licenses for both of the seasons I applied for.

The results I achieved are part of the overall strategy involved in turkey hunting. Simply put, you can’t hunt if you don’t draw a license. That’s the problem with applying for the first few seasons — there are more applicants than available permits, so some people don’t get drawn.

I don’t like that idea, though I used to hunt early seasons and got a bird most of the time. It can be easier hunting in the earlier seasons, but I would rather hunt every year. There’s no substitute for time in the woods and, regardless of the outcome, you end up learning more about turkeys and their behavior in the spring.

As I have discovered, this is a huge advantage in the overall picture. Sure, late-season birds can be tougher to hunt — they are warier because of the hunting pressure. But, they can be had with the right techniques. I hunted late seasons in both Minnesota and Wisconsin last year (mid-May) and tagged a bird in each state. In fact, in both cases, I got birds on the second day.

Experience and skill are needed to hunt birds later in the spring and I have both as a result of chasing gobblers for more than two decades. I wouldn’t recommend late-season hunting to everyone, but it can provide great rewards for the right hunters.

Another key part of my hunt is calling landowners as soon as I find out I got picked. I called one landowner in Minnesota and two in Wisconsin, and got permission on all three properties. I have a few more calls to make, but I am off to a great start.

Good landowner relations is a very important part of hunting, but I think lots of hunters neglect this aspect. For me, it involves much more than just making one quick phone call every year, asking permission, then getting off the line. I take the time to chat with each landowner I call. Sometimes, we’ll  talk for 20 or 30 minutes before I get around to asking for permission to hunt.

There are a lot of very, very good people out there who own prime hunting land. They are well worth getting to know. I always make it a point to stop by in person and say hello — and thank you after the hunt. And, I also send gifts and even make food for them from the game I harvest on their land. In a couple of cases, I have had them over to my house for dinner.

So, I’m not just asking a favor, but building a relationship. The conversations are always enjoyable and the in-person visits always refreshing. The hunt itself is icing on the cake.

We live in a time when it’s getting harder and harder to find places to hunt, especially on private land. For various reasons, more hunters are getting turned down. I believe things like respect, courtesy, friendliness and gratefulness are helpful in being able to gain access to hunt on private land. If you give landowners a positive experience, they are far more likely to let you come back. And, in some cases, they invite you back before you even ask!

That’s about as good as it gets in terms of landowner relations. And, it can happen to those who invest the time to get to know landowners and develop relationships with them. It’s all part of the strategy for a successful hunt. Thus, my spring 2010 turkey hunt already has begun!

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Consolation meal

January 25, 2010


The blow of watching the Vikings lose to the Saints in the NFC championship game yesterday was softened by a great meal of grilled venison.

I fired up my charcoal grill before halftime and put the marinated steaks, along with some pork chops, on it. They were delicious and my family was enjoying them while the Vikings were attempting to prevail in a very close game.

The key ingredient was something called a Kalbi marinade, which I bought from Kowalski’s about two weeks ago. I had tried it a few weeks ago and the steaks were delicious, so I went back and got some more. I found out from someone in the meat department there that the marinade is reusable. This was the third time for this batch and the flavor was just as good as the first. The marinade features teriyaki, green onions and sesame seeds.

I have had great success using store-bought marinades. Another of my favorites is a teriyaki marinade made by Allegro. That is what we had been using until we tried the Kalbi. I should try them side by side sometime. Some people make their own marinade and I am interested in trying that sometime. But, the Kalbi is working so well, it’s hard to switch to something else.

Another tip is using a meat tenderizer. I bought one made by a company called Jaccard. It is hand held and it features 48 small, retractable blades in three rows. You go back and forth over each steak several times, so that the blades pierce the meat. You will notice many tiny holes in the meat and the steak will flatten a bit. But, every time, the meat comes off the grill so tender you can cut it with a butter knife.

I have yet to go wrong with the combination of a marinade and the meat tenderizer. I put the meat in the marinade the night before, then flip the steaks in it the next morning. By dinner time, they’re ready to go. One last tip is to be sure not to overcook the venison. Usually, I will cook them only about two minutes a side. Despite what some may think, that’s generally enough to fully cook the meat, depending on the thickness of the steaks. Sometimes, the meat is a little underdone, but all I have to do is throw it back on the grill for another minute or two.

We have lots of deer left in our freezer and I’m going to be going to Kowalski’s soon for more marinade. Too bad I won’t have the combination of grilled venison steaks and the Vikings playing the Colts in the Super Bowl. I think we’d have a good shot to win.

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Picture the Cathedral, we challenged, and boy did you!

January 22, 2010

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Head down Selby Avenue toward downtown St. Paul and the dome dominates your windshield.

Come from the east side as Tedesco turns into LaFayette and its magnificent architecture hovers over the businesses and factories of busy St. Paul like a watchful guardian angel.

Take I-494 from Woodbury toward MSP and as soon as you approach the Dakota Bridge over the Mississippi one man-made creation grabs your attention from its seat on the river bluff..

The Cathedral of St. Paul is a landmark that’s visible — and beautiful — from so many places and perspectives, we thought we’d invite folks to grab their cameras and capture that beauty for otehrs to appreciate. The Catholic Spirit’s “Picture the Cathedral” photo contest drew more than 260 entries, and dozens of them are just excellent. The Catholic Spirit staff photographers and editors who formed the judging crew were finally able to agree that two shots stood out above the many  great ones:

Jason Novotny's dramatic image of the Cathedral at night won one of the two top prizes in The Catholic Spirit's "Picture the Cathedral" photo contest, sponsored by West Photo.

Jason Novotny's dramatic image of the Cathedral at night won one of the two top prizes in The Catholic Spirit's "Picture the Cathedral" photo contest, sponsored by West Photo.

Liam Flahive captured the Cathedral facade at dusk to earn the other top prize.

Liam Flahive captured the Cathedral facade at dusk to earn the other top prize.

What the entries showed, to my delight, were the many places and angles from which people see our cathedral — and to my way of thinking the many different ways that copper dome and its exquisitely designed walls remind people of our Creator, raise our sights above the ordinary, and bring artistic beauty into life daily — no matter where you might see it.

Robert Schwartz grabbed this shot one afternoon from the State Capitol.

Robert Schwartz grabbed this shot one afternoon from the State Capitol.

Raymond Tuchner found this artsy rainy day reflection.

Raymond Tuchner found this artsy rainy day reflection.

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Back on track

January 20, 2010


Thanks to the January thaw, I’m running the streets of St. Paul once again. Lots of ice and bitter cold temperatures minimized my activity in late December and early January, but I have picked up the pace again.

Twice this week, including today, I ran my usual route of 3.2 miles. I ran slower, but I finished — and without any pain in either of my legs. I had battled painful muscle cramps in the calf muscles of both legs in October and November, but the layoff (walking only in December) seems to have allowed the legs to heal. To ensure the injuries don’t reoccur, I bought new running shoes in December that have extra support that is supposed to help prevent leg injuries.

I hope they work. I plan on getting back to my routine of alternating days between walking and running. The warmer temperatures of late have me thinking about spring, when I plan to be walking the hills of southeastern Minnesota and Wisconsin in search of wild turkeys. It’s a few months away, but I’m looking forward to it already. I hope to be in good shape by then. My legs are a little sore now, but I hope to get used to running in the next month.

Also, I tried snowshoeing on Friday, which I will be writing about in my next outdoors column in The Catholic Spirit. It will appear next week in the Jan. 28 edition. Be sure to look for it!

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A good book for fishing and hunting enthusiasts

January 13, 2010


I’m happy for the January thaw that arrived this week. It’s getting me thinking about spring and my upcoming wild turkey hunts in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Preparations already are underway.

In the meantime, I have cracked open a book that I have been wanting to read for a while. It’s written by Father Joe Classen, a priest from the Archdiocese of St. Louis who invited me down to go turkey hunting with him in April of 2007. The book is called, “Tracking Virtue, Conquering Vice: A Guide for Spiritual Survival” and is published by Our Sunday Visitor.

Father Joe sent me the book shortly after it went to press this last year. I enjoyed reading his other book about the outdoors, “Hunting for God, Fishing for the Lord,” and I have been looking forward to this one. I’m only a few pages into it, but I like it already. His writing style is easy to read and his passion for the outdoors and the faith leap from the pages.

In the first chapter, he makes reference to a master animal tracker, Tom Brown Jr. He has gained notoriety for being able to track animals in amazing ways and learn things from  their tracks that some might find hard to believe. From there, Father Joe moves smoothly to the question of whether God leaves “tracks” that enable us to find him and  track his movements. Of course, the answer is, yes.

I’m only into the first chapter, but, already, I’m hooked. One reason is that I know that on the pages that lie ahead, I will hear anecdotes from his many hunting and fishing trips. I get a few of them occasionally by e-mail, and I always like keeping abreast of what Father Joe is up to in the field and on the water. Winter is a good time for telling and hearing stories and reading Father Joe’s book will be a good way for me to get through this cold, snowy season that is packing quite a punch this year.

Note: To get a copy of the book and to look at other books published by Father Joe, visit Our Sunday Visitor 

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Real-world approach to find answers to life’s big questions

January 11, 2010


“Get Out of the Boat:

Discover the Meaning of Your Life!”

By Thomas J. Winninger


“Why do I exist?”

“What’s the purpose for my life?”

“What gifts do I have that I should act upon?”

These are the questions our hearts beg to be answered. Then life interrupts.

The need to reach other goals steals time from us. The need to be seen as successful traps us into living “on the surface,” as Deacon Thom Winninger puts it.

Winninger echoes the call of Jesus to the fishermen who would be his apostles, inviting readers to get out of the boat and find the answers to the core questions and to live deeper. He asks:

“When was the last time you looked into your inner mirror and asked yourself, ‘What should I be doing? What will make me truly satisfied with my life?’ Or, ‘Why aren’t things working for me? Why do I seem to make stupid decisions? Why don’t I ever get ahead? Why don’t my relationships work out the way I want?'”

Stepping out of our routine and taking up a new, more reflective, prayerful approach on a daily basis, one in which we walk with Jesus, is a way we will come to know the real purpose for our lives, Winninger advises. He gets us started by walking us through the first seven days of that journey.

Re-writing Ignatius of Loyola

What this one-time successful businessman has done is taken the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola and re-crafted them to be less intimidating. A permanent deacon serving St. Olaf parish in downtown Minneapolis, Winninger has simplified Ignatius’ daunting process, creating in its place one he calls “in-the-world-discernment.”

In an earlier career, Winninger was a motivational speaker and a good one, even producing a series of videos on salesmanship. In this 144-page Liguori paperback he taps that know-how with writing that is conversational, logical and especially persuasive. “Get Out of the Boat” is an easy-to-handle work thanks to simple declarative sentences and the sharing of wisdom from real-life experiences.

He invites us to ask great questions of ourselves: “What really makes me happy? What gives me true joy? What have I done in my life that makes me sad? What gifts do I have that for one reason or another seem to work better than anything else? How does God reveal himself to me in my daily activity?”

To get to answers for those core questions, Deacon Winninger’s revision of Ignatius recommends two exercises, one in the morning and one in the evening. The morning step involves a brief reading of Scripture and reflecting  on questions related to it, followed by some time to think about how you see God working in your life and then applying the answers to where you’ve been, where you are at, and where you think you need to be going.

The evening “examen” is time to look at how God made himself known to you that day. Winninger asks: “What part of your day did you feel any inklings or insights into your purpose? What expereineces drew you to an understanding you didn’t have before? What did you do in the world? How did you interact with the world?”

Similar to an examination of conscience, the examen can be summed up this way, Winninger notes: “It asks you where you moved close to Jesus and where you moved away after each day.”

Each step explained

Winninger takes readers through seven steps to simplify the morning reflection and similar ones for the evening portion. He explains each step, and throughout he keeps those important, tough-love questions coming:

“What has been most important to me today? What did I accomplish today that made me feel good about myself? Where did I feel like God instructed me? Who has shown me God’s love today? Who did I hurt?”

A unique, inviting feature of the book are the several instances in which Winninger takes up the voice of Jesus. In story form he recalls Gospel events, then speaks to readers as Jesus, as if Jesus reading our minds and analyzing our lives. Here’s an exerpt:

“You are very similar to my disciples. You have actually spent very little time with me. Yes, you attend Mass and pray once in a while, but your mind is frequently distracted by all the things that you need to get done, removing your focus from me at church and in prayer. Like my disciples, you too wonder if your time spent in prayer or at Mass is a waste because you fail to see the difference it makes in your life.”

Along the way on the seven starter days  — these seven “encounters with Christ,” as Winninger says — he tosses in practical advice, good ideas that are easy to follow. For example, in reflecting he suggests, imagine Jesus sitting next to you, speaking and listening to you. Can’t find time to reflect? Why not take five minutes in the parking lot at work before going in to the job?

Each day there’s a suggested prayer, too. Each day he takes a different tack, coming at the same questions from different perspectives. He makes it personal, and he makes it real.

Follow this pattern of building a relationship with Jesus, Deacon Winninger notes, and “eventually your heart will find peace in answers to life’s big questions, and you will find a deeper meaning to the purpose of your life.” — bz

P.S. —

You may order from Liguori Publications:
On the left menu, right under “Search BY AUTHOR” type in Winninger.
When that page pops up, click on the title of “Get Out of the Boat” and you’ll see how to add to a cart.
As with most online purchases, you’ll need to set up an account. It really isn’t too much of a hassle.
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