Archive | April, 2015

Friend’s first spring turkey hunt: three birds, two shots

April 24, 2015

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I was excited when I climbed out of bed at 4 a.m. today. The plan was to take my friend Mike out for a wild turkey hunt. We had set up the blind a few days ago, on the first day of Minnesota’s B Season, later in the afternoon. We hunted and did some calling, but Mike had to go after only about half an hour.

This time, we were going there at dawn to try and hear some toms gobbling on the roost. We got there nice and early, just as it was starting to get light. I had set up my blind on the edge of a picked corn field, where turkeys, deer and other wildlife like to hang out and feed.

We heard nary a gobble, but deer started filtering out into the corn field shortly after sunrise. A group of five got to within about 25 yards. Mike used his cell phone to shoot some video, which was fun.

But, no gobbles and no turkeys. Some different birds — geese — landed in the corn field and were making quite a racket with their honking.

That went on for at least an hour or so, with me doing some hen calls about every 15 minutes to try and lure in some gobblers. We were going to stay in the blind until 8, then get out and do some walking around and calling.

Before we reached the deadline, Mike spotted some movement about 100 yards away in some tall grass. Eventually, several turkey heads came into view. Three birds walked out into the field, but I couldn’t tell if they were males (legal in the spring) or females (not legal until fall).

I was kicking myself for not remembering to bring my binoculars. Just in case any of them were toms, I started doing some soft calling to lure them to our decoys.

It worked. The birds slowly started moving in our direction. Eventually, they got close enough to where I knew they were jakes. I could clearly see their red heads, and I saw a small beard on one of them. I pointed it out to Mike, and said he could shoot anytime.

He did, but the bird didn’t go down. He shot again, and the three birds went into the woods. He thought the bird he shot laid down, but we’re not sure. We got out of the blind and went over to check it out, but the birds ran off. We found blood, but the bird was gone.

We looked around for at least a half hour, but never found the bird. I was disappointed, but Mike got over it very quickly. He reminded me of all the wildlife we had seen that morning, and thus he considered the hunt a success.

I simply told him that if he enjoyed the outing and felt it was worthwhile, that was good enough for me.

It’s not always about tagging an animal, I have to remind myself. Mike takes joy in the simple pleasure of being in the outdoors. And, the best part is, he was able to bring his 8-year-old son along.

Little James got to witness some cool things, and I think we have a hunter in the making. After all, he got up at 4 to come with us. Mike said James barely slept that night.

Yes, indeed, I think James has a future in hunting. And, I hope his dad gets another chance at a tom next year!

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‘My Battle Against Hitler’

April 21, 2015

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My-Battle-Against-Hitler-Denied a professorship in Munich because of his stand against National Socialism, Dietrich von Hildebrand fled Germany when Adolf Hitler came to power. He was tipped that his arrest was imminent.

The Catholic philosopher subsequently narrowly escaped Vienna with a death threat over his head as the Nazis took over Austria. The SS missed him by four hours.

He went first to Switzerland and later to France, only to once again have to run for his life when German tanks rolled into France.

Considered by Hitler one of National Socialism’s greatest obstacles, von Hildebrand found his way to the United States in 1940 and taught for 20 years at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York City.

What he stood for and why he had to flee come to life some three-quarters of a century later in a translation of von Hildebrand’s memoir from those turbulent times, “My Battle Against Hitler.”

John Henry Crosby — with the assistance of his father, John F. Crosby — translated and edited the Image book, which is subtitled “Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich.”

By late 1921 von Hildebrand was already finding the political philosophy of National Socialism at odds with Catholicism — and earning the ire of some Germans, including German Catholic clergy, who saw it as a bulwark against communism.

By 1933, while Hitler was being appointed chancellor, the Reichstag being burned, the rule of law being disregarded by the government and Jews being arrested and hauled away, von Hildebrand was writing that one could not be both Catholic and a supporter of the Nazis.

“It was clear to me,” he wrote about that timeframe, “that I could no longer teach in a National Socialist country because I was convinced that I would be forced to make compromises, and that I would either have to keep silent about the injustices that would come or else risk the concentration camp.”

Compromise was something von Hildebrand couldn’t do when it came to what his Catholic faith taught. Nor could he be silent.

“His struggle against Hitler,” the authors note, “was above all carried out on the battlefield of conscience.”

Early on von Hildebrand warned those who thought Catholics could influence National Socialism for the better that that would not happen.

He warned Catholics, too, not to believe Hitler’s promises to respect Christian churches and to work with them, a warning that proved prescient when priests began being arrested and sent to concentration camps.

He railed against Catholics who put up with Nazi atrocities as long as the Catholic Church was not victimized.

Once safely in Vienna he launched a periodical that took on the Nazis from a Catholic intellectual perspective. It was a safety that was short-lived.

The last third of the book includes essays the von Hildebrand wrote for that Austrian journal he founded and led between 1934 and 1937, “Der christliche Standestaat” (“The Christian Corporate Standard”).

These are the persuasive writings of a philosopher who fought “at the level of first principles,” the authors explain. He argues for ethical choices and decisions, and goes point by point comparing the core principles of the Nazis against the teachings of Christ and the Church. In his writing:

• He calls nationalism the greatest heresy of the 18th and 19th centuries, justaposing it with patriotism, which he terms a love of one’s nation that acknowledges that every other nation is valuable and has rights, too.

• He lists Nazi sins, including racism, anti-semitism, the persecution and death of Jews, sterilization, regulating marriage, trumped up charges, “pharisaical trials,” defamation of individuals and murders, and warns against becoming “used to” or morally blind to them.

• Rather than politicizing Catholicism, “one must Catholicize politics,” he writes, and calls Catholics not to be silent or apolitical but to act, asking, “Are you for Christ or against him?”

In sum, von Hildebrand terms Nazism so unChristian and so unsound that it cannot be corrected or reformed, but must be destoyed.

His defense of the teachings of the Catholic faith is matched in this memoir only by his defense of Jewish people.

He defends Jews as a people of God, writing in 1937 with a Catholic heart in the very best sense:

“Above all, Catholics must all perceive the present-day attack against the Jews as something that directly threatens them. Did not Christ the Lord say, ‘What you have done to the least of my brothers, you have done to me?’

“Is not the defamation and degradation of the Jews a direct attack against the incarnate God, against human nature sanctified by the Incarnation? Indeed, what is happening today is not the special concern of a particular people. No, true for us all are the words, ‘Tua res agitur!’ — This concerns you!”

Bob Zyskowski writes the bobzbookreviews blog on
http://www.CatholicHotdish.com.

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My daughter’s first turkey hunt

April 17, 2015

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I have always said shooting a turkey is like hitting a knuckleball. A gobbler’s head dances around like the specialty pitch of Major League Baseball’s famous Niekro brothers.

How can a youth hit such a target? That was the question weighing heavily on my mind as I prepared to take my daughter Claire on her first wild turkey hunt. Opening day was Wednesday, and we hit the woods well before dawn on this beautiful spring morning. The hunt came one day after Claire’s 13th birthday.

I had done some scouting, and put up a blind in a good area. It was at the top of a ridge where a picked corn field and cow pasture meet, right on the edge of the woods. Back in the woods were some good trees for roosting.

I was hoping a lonesome tom or two would be there come Wednesday morning. I had taken Claire out to shoot the 20-gauge shotgun she would be using, and she hit the paper turkey target just like she was supposed to.

But, a real bird is a far cry from a stationary one. That was my biggest concern going into the hunt. I had a feeling she might get a shot opportunity. The question was: Would she connect?

I was about to find out. We got there extremely early, like about 5:15 a.m. because I thought birds might roost close by and I wanted to get there in the dark to avoid spooking them.

Turns out I was right on. Two gobblers were roosted no more than 50 yards away, maybe closer. They started gobbling hard, then I made some calls. They flew down pretty quickly and only had to go about 20 yards to be visible. I saw them through the trees to the left of the blind. They were going in and out of strut. I think they were between 25 ad 35 yards away. If I had been hunting, I would have dropped one of them easily.

But, Claire had trouble picking them up through the trees, and she couldn’t get a good sight picture. I thought they would keep coming our way and work toward the decoys we had set up in the corn field in front of us. Instead, they veered off and walked just inside the woods to our left. Claire got a better look, but the birds were now out of range, and they kept going away from us.

Eventually, they crossed the cow pasture and came into the corn field. They started working toward us, and then I heard a hen. She would whistle and then yelp. It was an odd sound. Then we saw more hens. I mimicked this hen, which I think was the boss, and she started coming toward me. Eventually, six more hens appeared and they all came into the decoys, which were only about 10 yards in front of us.

Perfect! The toms hung back, but eventually worked closer. I thought they were about 20-25 yards away, so I got Claire set up for the shot. One of the birds stopped and ran his head up. I asked Claire if she had a good sight picture and she said yes. So, I told her to shoot, and she did.

But, she missed and the birds took off. Later, we got out of the blind and I went to where I thought the birds were standing. I think it was more like 30 yards. That’s makable with the 20-gauge, but not an easy shot. I think the real problem was Claire was nervous and wasn’t holding the gun steady, even with the shooting sticks she was using. She said she felt pressure and was struggling with the shot. I told her it’s no big deal that she missed. At first, she thought I was disappointed with her, but I said I wasn’t at all.

We went over to an adjoining property after that and set up in a spot I thought would be good. Just after we set the decoys up, we heard gobbling close, and hustled to sit down. It went quiet for a while, then I yelped on my box call about 10 a.m. A bird gobbled right away farther away than the first ones.

Then, I heard what I’m pretty sure was a jake (young tom) yelping. It got closer, then we saw two birds step into the field. We had some brush in front of us, so I had trouble identifying them. One was a hen and I think the other was a jake. I also think there may have been more birds in the woods that didn’t come out. These birds milled around for about 20-30 minutes and never came close enough for a shot. Then, they went back into the woods. Claire wanted to be done at that point. She didn’t want to sit any more.

All in all, it was a great morning as far as action goes. I’m hoping I can talk Claire into going out one more time, but as of right now, she doesn’t think she wants to. She wanted to try it, but doesn’t seem to have interest in continuing to go out. We’ll see.

Of course, I wanted Claire to be able to get a bird, but in the end, I know turkey hunting is very hard and it’s common for young hunters to miss their first shot at a bird. I sure hope she’ll try again. I think if she sticks with it, she can hit a bird eventually. The nice thing is Minnesota changed the rules for youth, and now kids under 18 can hunt the entire season across the entire state. They no longer have to pick a five-day season and specific zone to hunt.

That opens up a lot more opportunities. I support this because it’s important to be able to have good opportunities to introduce youth to hunting. Stats suggest fewer kids are doing it, so we need to do what we can to get them out there.

It’s a tougher sell, as hunting competes with things like sports and video games. And, it’s much harder than things like that. My knuckleball theory was proved true once again on Wednesday.

And, that’s what keeps me coming back for more!

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Madonnas and memory

April 8, 2015

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Raphael's The Conestabile Madonna

Raphael’s The Conestabile Madonna

Lessons in history and humanity plus drama, unconditional love and insight into one of the most difficult to understand of all diseases — Alzheimer’s — make Debra Dean’s “The Madonnas of Leningrad” a superb, satisfying read.

There’s a sampling of an art appreciation class, too, and brief, maybe too brief snatches of modern family dynamics. But those glimpses into contemporary life form the perfect background to better contrast with the values of the Russians who survived — and even those who didn’t survive — the Nazi siege of Leningrad during World War II.

Da Vinci’s The Litta Madonna

With the war there is starvation and death and ruin, to be sure, but tremendous self sacrifice, too, and life, life so valued, life so amazing, captured so well in one scene, where women who have survived the siege learn that the story’s protagonist, Marina, is expecting and, after a winter of death, line up to touch her stomach and to feel the baby kick in her womb.

A tremendous sense of irony pours from the pages. In the godless Soviet Union the invaluable art collection of the Hermitage Museum, including precious images of the Blessed Virgin and the Christ Child, is crated and trucked away to be saved from ruin or confiscation by the approaching German army.

At the suggestion of another Hermitage tour guide, young Marina, who later in life cannot remember the names of her own family members, commits to memory of all these wonderful madonnas — the Rubens, the da Vinci, the van Dyck, the Rembrandt and more — storing in her “memory palace” not only the details of the works and the stories they tell but even where they hung on the walls of the czar’s former Winter Palace.

It’s an act of mutual benefit. Not only does Marina save the memory of the art to share with those who may never have the chance to see them, but doing so gives her a reason to live, to survive at a time when bombs, cold, starvation and illness take the lives of thousands during the siege.

van Dyck

van Dyck’s The Rest on the Flight into Egypt

And, while this isn’t an outwardly religious novel, as the situation worsens for those freezing, starving, cowering from the bombs and removing the corpses of those who die each day, even a strict non-believer decides a little prayer couldn’t hurt.

“The Madonnas of Leningrad” is not a new book. Published in 2006, it garnered a number of honors. But as timely as the topic of Alzheimer’s is, you would think someone would make a movie of this terrific story.

If you choose to read the book — and even if you don’t — you’ll find images of some of the famous works of art named within at this website, along with excerpts of how they were described in the book. Start googling the paintings and you could lose several hours of your day!

Dean also mentions the Jordan Staircase in her novel. Here’s why:

The Jordan Staircase in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

The Jordan Staircase in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

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Coming Home – a Holy Thursday Reflection

April 2, 2015

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Church

Photo ~ Justin Stroh

Coming Home

When I was in college I would take weekend trips home about every other month.  These trips included the usual dirty laundry to be washed and a chance for some good food and time with my parents and sisters. As great as these things were, their was always something more that I experienced when I would walk through those doors.  It was this overwhelming feeling of coming home.

Despite the strain of school or the drama of my peers or the nagging uncertainty of what the future held, when I walked through those doors I knew I had nothing more important to do than just be.

Maybe it was a feeling of unconditional love. Maybe it was the feeling that someone else was in charge and I didn’t have to worry. Maybe it was the feeling of being loved for who I am and not what I could achieve on my report card or on the sports field. I can’t really pinpoint what exactly that feeling was, but you know it when you feel it.

Twelve years ago I attended my first Holy Thursday Mass.  I had recently come back to my faith, or I should say discovered it for the first time.  It might be surprising that a cradle Catholic had never attended a Holy Thursday Mass, but I am sure I am not the only one who has missed this beautiful liturgy. After being hit by the Holy Spirit and hungry to learn more about this new found love, the church, my pastor encouraged me to attend the entire Triduum.

I was overcome by the Mass.  I can’t recall any one specific detail except that it felt like coming home.  It felt like being away at college and making that trip back home. Everything just seemed to fit.

As I left the Mass I spoke with the pastor about this feeling of coming back home. I can only wonder if he thought I was a crazy woman – comparing this liturgy to a weekend trip home from college but he seemed excited at my interest.  He eagerly shared with me an Encyclical I should read and said “I’ll see you tomorrow!”

The church is our home- the church belongs to all of us.  It is a place where we are loved unconditionally. It is a place where we can rely on God to be in charge.  It is a place where we can grow and be loved for who you are. It is our home.  It leads us to our eternal home and it is the closest we can get on this side of the veil.

If you haven’t been home for a while – Come home!

Holy Thursday is also a time where we celebrate the institution of the priesthood.   I always reflect on the priests who have helped me on my journey on this day.  After all, without them I may never had found my way home.

Today, say a prayer for the priests in your life that have been instrumental in your faith journey home.

 

Sharon also writes for WINE: Women in the New Evangelization. Find her at WINE:Women in The New Evangelization

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