Cabela’s Turkey Classic: A gift card to conservation

I don’t know about you, but I L-O-V-E gift cards.

(Hint, hint … friends, family and charitable strangers.)

Some people think they’re an impersonal gift, a cop out if you will. I think they’re wonderful. Gift cards give you license to shop guilt free. You’re spending someone else’s dime, after all.

Dozens of new NWTF members are getting Cabela’s gift cards this spring for simply being at the right place at the right time.

Folks who come to 14 Cabela’s stores for the Turkey Classic events, either by accident or design, and signed up for a $35 NWTF annual membership receive a $25 gift card to the store.

What a bargain! What lucky sons of guns!

Just think about it. An unsuspecting person heads to Cabela’s to pick up a gadget for turkey season. A friendly NWTF volunteer stops them and asks them to join the greatest conservation group around. Then Sally or Sammy Shopper thinks to herself or himself, Gee, I love to hunt turkeys. I should really join the NWTF to do my part to ensure turkeys are around for my kids and grandkids to hunt.

He or she forks over $35. They get a membership with many privileges, including discounts, a super duper magazine and the knowledge they helped make a difference in conservation.

Voila! Mr. or Mrs. Shopper is now an NWTF supporter, and because they’re at one of the Cabela’s Turkey Classic events, they get $25 toward that gadget they were after.

What a win!

And you can win, too. Just go to one of the weekend in-store Cabela’s Turkey Classics:

WHEN                    WHERE                        
March 3-4               Buda, Texas
March 17-18           Fort Worth, Texas
March 17-18           Allen, Texas
March 24-25           Kansas City, Kan.
March 31-April 1     Hazelwood, Mo.
March 31-April 1     Rogers, Minn.
March 31-April 1     Hamburg, Pa.
March 31-April 1     Prairie du Chien, Wis.
March 31-April 1     Richfield, Wis.
March 31-April 1     La Vista, Neb.
March 31-April 1     Owatonna, Minn.
March 31-April 1     Dundee, Mich.
April 21-22              Triadelphia, W.Va.
April 28-29              Scarborough, Maine

Now that the commercial is over, here’s the real scoop.

According to Cindy Williams, NWTF marketing manager, Cabela’s donated 60 gift cards to each of the NWTF local chapters listed above to help them recruit more members. NWTF volunteers hang out in the stores to sign up members and raise public awareness of the great work the NWTF is doing to conserve upland habitat, creating more places to hunt and educating new hunters.

Each chapter that signs up 60 members gets a $500 Cabela’s gift card to use how they want, like to buy equipment for outreach events or auction items to raise money for the NWTF’s mission.

Again, a win! The NWTF gets more members, and Cabela’s gets more happy shoppers.

The commercial and reality are really one in the same. So stop by your local Cabela’s Turkey Classic, join the NWTF and get the gift card. You’ll be better for it (and so will the future of wildlife).

Check your guts here

We’re wrapping up editing/designing the May-June Turkey Country, and I have a headache.

I think it’s stress.

It’s our annual NWTF National Convention wrap-up issue, which I really enjoy piecing together, because we’re giving so many awesome volunteers their due credit. However, it’s this particular part of magazine production that puts me on edge. All these teeny-tiny loose ends just dangle above my head, waiting for me to do SOMETHING with them.

My mind splits into two voices. But instead of an angel telling me to do what’s right and a little devil telling me what I want to hear, I have a mini-Debbie Downer on one shoulder saying, You’ll never get it all done, and a pom-pom-toting cheerleader on the other chanting what’s inevitable: You can do it! You always do! Now make it happen!

Stupid cheerleader…

Just when I’m about to blow out the candles on the pity party cake I’ve made, a letter blips into my inbox. (Seems like this happens to me a lot.)

It’s from a mother in Jasper, Ga., wanting to tell someone at the NWTF what our national convention meant to her son, to her family.

The letter moved me so much that I edited down the others in the Fan Mail section to squeeze it in at the last minute. Here’s the full version:

If you ever wondered what a profound impact your national convention has on people, I think our story should clear up any questions.

Let me tell you about my child, Jeff. My husband and I adopted both our children from Georgia’s Department of Family and Children Services when Jeff was 3 and his sister was 5. They had been severely abused by their birth parents; Jeff was taken from them at 8 months. We were their seventh home due to Jeff’s severe behavior due to being starved, neglected and abused. But we decided that we were meant to be their parents, that this is what God intended.

Jeff Buckingham traveled a long, emotional road to meet his hunting idol, Michael Waddell.

Jeff, now 14, has had a lot of obstacles to overcome, with the greatest being post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a mental issue that has resulted in him not liking loud noises (like guns). He’s also restless and can’t stand being pushed or touched in large crowds.

Jeff grew to love us, especially my 80-year-old father, who due to his age is unable to hunt but passed that intense love down to Jeff. We wondered how Jeff would handle the being still and quiet, which is required for hunting, but he has thrived. He has hunted turkey, deer and coyotes.

Hunting led him to join our local shotgun team. He’s also discovered bow hunting and mowed grass all last summer to save money for his first bow.

Now let me tell what your organization’s convention meant to Jeff.

He went with his father, but was nervous about the large amount of people who would be there. We told him that he’s a teenager now, and he needs to cope with his issues so they don’t keep him from doing what he loves.

My husband said they had to leave the building several times the first day for Jeff to get fresh air because of the crowds. But Jeff would then look to him and say, “Let’s try it again.”

Then came the moment Jeff had been waiting for — meeting Michael Waddell. He said, “If I don’t get to do anything but see him, I will be happy.”

As you can expect, the line to see Michael Waddell was long, and the crowd was heavy. Jeff told his dad several times he thought he was getting sick. But he was so excited that he was able to work through the lines, fighting his desire to flee, to meet his hunting hero. It was a huge moment for Jeff.

So if your group has ever wondered what impact it has on young people, know that Jeff is now a member of Xtreme JAKES and plans on returning to your convention next year. Thank you, Traci Buckingham

This letter serves way more than a gut check; it’s a testament to what hunting does for the human spirit and how NWTF members perpetuate it.

God works through us, and most of the time we don’t even realize it. I mean, who in the convention exhibit hall would have seen Jeff as any different than the next teenage boy seeking an autograph from Michael Waddell? None of us would have never known of Jeff’s amazing story had his mother not felt lead to share what was on her heart.

The next time you’re setting up tables for a Hunting Heritage banquet, staking down directional signs for a shooting event, or in my case, finishing up an issue of Turkey Country, pause for a moment and offer up a small prayer in the name of your efforts.

You never know who God’s going to bless that day. It just may be you.

Grab your March-April issue and let’s go for a walk

Who’s gotten their March-April issue of Turkey Country yet? Who’s already read their copy? Of course, you all have…

Well, here’s the deal on my side of the desk.

By the time an issue of Turkey Country reaches your mailbox, it’s all but a distant memory to us on the magazine staff. We’re already halfway through producing the next one (May-June in this case), with the articles for the one after that (July-August) in the hopper, waiting for us to put our baddest ninja moves on them.

Spring won't have officially sprung until next week, but the season has arrived in Turkey Country!

So, when I make these why-I-love-the-current-issue-of-Turkey Country posts, it’s really a walk down Memory Lane. And that lane has a fork in it.

The happy prong of the fork, the one paved with candy, with friendly blue jays chirping in the trees, is the path where I am reminded of all the great information that goes in each issue.

That’s not simply a pat on the back of the magazine staff (though they deserve one). It’s more of a GO TEAM NWTF moment, when I realize how much good work we’re doing as an organization.

The other side of Memory Lane is the one where you trip over the gnarly roots of the mistake tree. Some genius once said, ”I do my best proofreading after I hit send.” Same goes for a magazine. Just goes to show we’re hard working, not perfect.

Let’s hop back over to the other path and chat about my favorite stuff in the March-April issue. There are so many articles that make me do a happy dance, I’ve grouped them in sections. Here goes:

STUFF THAT MAKES ME PROUD TO BE AN NWTF MEMBER/STAFFER

Even though it seems as if EVERYONE was talking about the Outdoor Legends Tour the last couple weeks, some folks might be a bit late to the game. In this issue’s On The Horizon (more affectionately known as CEO Notes), George Thornton sets up his trip to visit our troops overseas. Read his notes in the magazine to get the background, then send your cursor on a short trip to the right and click on George’s Outdoor Legends Tour link for seven days of diary entries from his experience.

Because of NWTF members, more than 77,000 people WEREN’T hungry last holiday season. The Turkey Hunters Care program, which started in 2001, has been a wonderful, effective community outreach effort for our chapters who donate frozen turkeys and fixin’s to families in need each year. A big high-five to the 167 chapters that participated in the most recent effort. Read about them in The Caller.

Love the wild turkey range map in the annual Turkey Country SPRING HUNT GUIDE? Wish you had a big honkin’ one to hang in your bedroom under your Jackie Chan poster? Buy one for only $9.99 at www.OutdoorDealHound.com.

Four words: I LOVE BRENDA VALENTINE. Her column, Hen Tracks, just makes me smile every time it pops into my e-mail inbox. The one she wrote for the March-April issue, “The best kind of insurance policy,” articulately explained why your NWTF membership is important, not just to you as an individual, but for the future of hunting. You rock, Ms. Brenda…

Did you read Randy Green’s Wheelin’ & Able column? It’ll be the first of many. The super dynamic volunteer from Illinois is now our Wheelin’ Sportsmen national coordinator. It’s so cool when an active volunteer joins the staff. And Randy is nothing short of exceptional. Y’all be sure to make him feel at home. Flood his e-mail with welcome notes. I’m sure he doesn’t have a lot to do, starting a new job, finding a house, relocating his family and all.

STUFF THAT MAKES ME PROUD TO BE A HUNTER

News Flash: Hunting safer than cheerleading! For real, you are 25 times more likely to get hurt building a pyramid for your home team than toting a gun to the woods in search of critters. GO! FIGHT! WIN! This victory goes to hunters, because you earned it. Read more about it in this issue’s Showcase.

Who doesn’t want to be associated with the cool guys? I know I do. And we just updated www.turkeycountrymagazine.com with interviews from a couple of the coolest guys in turkey calling — Chris Parrish and Mark Prudhomme. Bask in their hunting genius as they give you tips for taking on the woods this spring.

STUFF THAT REINFORCES THAT I JUST MIGHT NOT BE RIGHT IN THE HEAD

Page 52 – Cook Nook: I’m not grossed out by the thoughts of eating a turkey neck. However, my stomach turns just LOOKING at that dollop of mayonnaise. Yep, I’m that turned off by it.

Page 148 – Species Spotlight: Even though it destroys millions of ash trees that are valuable to wildlife, I have to admit the emerald ash borer is cute. But it must die…

Page 150 – Landowner Resources: I’m pretty pumped that purple has made its way into hunting, and not just in some marketing scheme to get more women to buy a product. Purple is the new “No Trespassing” in Illinois. Pretty awesome.

George’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 7

We started our final day in the Persian Gulf region at the ball field, with Ryan Klesko and Michael Waddell pitching for each side. Ryan knocked Michael off the mound with a line drive on the first pitch. The ball hit Michael everywhere but in the glove. He shook it off like a champ and kept on pitching. Most impressive play of the day: Ryan knocked the ball out of the park, setting an Arabian Gulf home run distance record for a ball that flew over the center field fence and through three concertina barriers. That one will stand in the record books for a while.

It is our last day in theatre and without a doubt our most interesting and enjoyable.

We started our final day in the Persian Gulf region at the ball field, with Ryan Klesko and Michael Waddell pitching for each side. Most impressive play of the day: Ryan knocked the ball out of the park, setting an Arabian Gulf home run distance record.

We visited a Patriot missile battery and received a briefing on the duties of the company charged with the defense of the base. The men and women were proud to demonstrate their skills and capabilities.

We received a brief on the camp’s mission from the commanding officer. The size of the responsibility, geography covered and assets deployed is incredible. The base supports on-the-ground activity in Afghanistan 24/7. The commander rolled out the red carpet for us. He had received reports from our visits to other camps and bases and was happy to have us with his troops.

After the briefing we visited a U2 operation where we saw how the pilots are suited up in space suits. We met the pilots and talked with them about their responsibilities and backgrounds. Several within the ranks are hunters.

We were given the opportunity to ride in the chase car that assists in the landing of these specialized aircraft. We chased the U2 at 90+ miles per hour, and the pilot driving the car talked the U2 down. Fascinating! The plane was returning from a 10-hour flight, and piloted by a professional young woman from Atlanta. I believe she is the first female U2 pilot. It’s hard to imagine the discipline and self-control required to do this job. The U2 mission is aerial surveillance over the entire region. By the way, the planes cost $250 million each. The plane itself is pretty basic. The avionics are most impressive.

The F-15 flight line was the next stop. The crew chief gave us a hands-on tour where we talked with young fighter pilots. Just like Top Gun, these are very confident and professional young men. Their mission is the air defense of our Arabian Gulf assets. They are the real deal, one-on-one warriors.

Next we toured an AWACS plane. (AWACS spelled out is Airborne Warning and Control System.) These are radar and communication centers in the sky. I asked the general about their capabilities. He said one AWACS alone could manage a small war. There were quite a few on the tarmac. Several are in the air at all times.

We then had the privilege of going into the Global Hawk hanger. The Global Hawk Drone is a remote-controlled, full-sized aircraft that can act as a communications relay, an offensive weapon or a spy in the sky.  Just standing beside one leaves you in awe of our technical capabilities.

We then returned to quarters and packed for the 30-hour trip home. After dinner, we headed back to the Rec Room for conversations with the troops. Many of the troops came back for a second night and to send us off.  I feel we made some friends whom we will see again. We made commitments to assist everyone interested in setting up hunts when they return. At 10:30 p.m. (2230 hours), it was loading time for the trip home.

I truly believe we achieved our mission of letting our troops know how much support they have back home. Their jobs are difficult, intense and sometimes very stressful and lonely. All of us who were fortunate enough to go on this tour want to thank Armed Forces Entertainment for making this trip possible.

We also want to thank Susan Korbel for escorting us and making the logistics appear to be effortless.

Mostly we want to thank the men and women of our Armed Forces for the jobs they do every day on behalf of everyone in the free world. These people are the real “1 percent” who need to recognized and appreciated.

We believe that Col. Lew Deal and another group of Outdoor Legends will make a similar trip later in the year. I hope they do and that they will share their experiences with us.

— George

Click here to read more about the Outdoor Legends Tour on NWTF Spokesman Michael Waddell’s blog.

George’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 6

We spent the majority of our sixth day moving to a new location on the Arabian Gulf Coast, once again a new country and a new city where not long ago there was a tribal kingdom. Compared to other places we’ve visited, the political situation differs greatly here, and it’s a much larger host country. Its cities are modern, with business infrastructure and beautiful housing. It is a strong ally.

We are the guests of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, and are running late because of an administrative mix-up between our host country and us. We have just enough time for a short visit to the Corp of Engineers work area where we are briefed on the construction history and future plans for the area. Maintaining adequate drinking water and public health is a major enterprise.

It was a long day, but we were energized by the personal warmth and energy in our reception by the airmen.

The commanding officer of the Fire Brigade is anxious for us to visit their 9-11 Monument. He was at Ground Zero on that fateful day and lost half his group there. The COE and Fire Protection personnel are extremely proud of their monument to fallen heroes, and for serving with a man who distinguished himself in the line of duty and suffered the loss of so many comrades.

It is getting late. We invite them to join us for a meet and greet after dinner.

We gathered in the Recreation Center to talk about hunting, fishing and home. The room is full when we arrive, much like the night before at the previous base.

The general introduces us and tells the group we are here to express the gratitude of their countrymen for their service. He then opens the evening to group discussions and a question-and-answer period, which goes on until 11 p.m. (That’s 2300 hours in military jargon.) The small group discussions and card games continue until after 1 a.m.

I am amazed at the interest in hearing stories from Jim Zumbo, Jerry Martin, Michael Waddell and Ryan Klesko. The questions range from favorite hunting gear and hunts to most dangerous experiences to how did they find employment in the hunting and outdoors industry. There was a lot of talk about first hunting experiences (theirs and ours) and people who influenced our lives.

One airmen commented that he couldn’t believe that a group of hunters had been sent out after all the comics and rap artists they have seen in the past.

The questions still remain: Did we have an impact on these men and women? Were we successful in our goal?

Here’s one instance when I know we made a difference:

As we met with the troops, Ryan and Michael talked about the role their parents played in their career choices. Ryan’s mother worked two jobs and destroyed her health, while encouraging him to pursue his baseball dreams with his talents. Michael talked about his father’s support, which resulted in him winning a turkey calling contest that changed his life.

The next morning, a young airman who took part in the discussion asked a chaplain to help him contact his father. The father and son had been estranged for years and had not talked at all during his deployment. We were told that with the chaplain’s assistance they spoke and have begun rebuilding their relationship.

That evening, we offered a baseball game with Ryan pitching. Schedules rapidly changed, and we were given access to the baseball diamond between 8:30 and 9:30 the following morning.

— George

Click here to read more about the Outdoor Legends Tour on NWTF Spokesman Michael Waddell’s blog.

Peek-a-boo! It’s me! Karen. Remember?

It’s just me, peeking into my blog. Just checking on you all. Hoping you’re doing well.

Those reports from George Thornton and the Outdoor Legends Tour have been pretty cool, right? What an amazing opportunity.

Well, I’m popping back in with a little post to get you prepared for the spring season. With all this overseas excitement, you didn’t forget about turkey season, did ya? I didn’t think so.

So, here’s a question for the ages: What’s better than finding out you’re good at something?

Answer: Finding out you totally stink at something (ranging turkeys in the field), then realizing there’s something you can do about it (use a rangefinder).

A couple coworkers and I did a little experiment. We stuck an Avian X decoy in various hunting scenarios — in an open field, across a creek bed, up a hill side — and did our best to guess the yardage.

Then we were gut-checked by a Leupold RX-1000i TBR rangefinder.

Nothing beats being told you’re stupid by a piece of gear that weighs less than 8 ounces.

Click here to read more. Then watch the video below.

You’ll see me totally blow my first attempt at guessing the distance to the decoy in an open field.

You’ll witness my superstar dance as I manage to somewhat accurately guess two out of three scenarios.

You’ll understand why I desperately need a rangefinder in the field.

In desperate need of therapy

This past weekend I realized I was in need of some therapy — massage therapy, that is.

I’ve just come off a rollercoaster two months, including the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, the NWTF National Convention in Nashville, finishing the info-packed March-April issue of Turkey Country (landing in your mailbox within the next two or three weeks), matched with family life, home life, church life, just life in general.

So I self-enlisted in some TLC at a local spa to detox from the last 8 or 10 weeks and recharge for spring.

I’m a firm believer that massage therapy will make anyone a better person, a more successful hunter even. No doubt you can sit in the woods longer if your chakras are aligned. And a relaxed state of being surely comes in handy when a gobbler approaches your setup. Am I right?

Don’t let the magical fingers of a massage therapist fool you. They can turn on you like gently bumped hornet’s nest. But, oh, is it worth every ounce of delightful pain…

OK, so that may be self-serving rationalization, but I did use the hunting argument to convince my husband to get a massage once.

CJ is an avid bowhunter and was dealing with tension in his right shoulder about the same time we were planning a weekend getaway to Ashville, N.C. The Grove Park Inn has a super-primo spa, and I wanted to go. So I booked the couple’s spa package, which includes a treatment for each of us.

“I’ll do it, but I don’t want a dude rubbing on me,” CJ said.

Not a problem. I made the arrangements and we parted ways for our hour-long immersion in relaxation.

When we met back up, CJ asked, “Did you set that up?”

I became a bit nervous, thinking something had changed at the last minute, and he’d been manhandled by “a dude” after all.

He went on to explain that the lady who performed his massage was a bowhunter also, so they spent the hour talking hunting. She knew just how to work out the kinks brought on by repeatedly drawing back a recurve.

“That’s awesome,” I said temporarily relieved. Then I asked, “Was she good looking?”

I had to know what I was up against. I’m not sure I could beat a bowhunting masseuse, especially a pretty one. Then I realized I have the ace in the hole. I’m the mother of his child. Boo-yah! Top that, archer lady!

I digress … back to last weekend …

I laid on the table listening to the gamut of music reserved for spas: the slow thumping of Native Indian-inspired chants, the Stanley Kubrick-esque space odyssey synthesizer tunes that are soothing and creepy at the same time and, my personal favorite, songs that use Medieval lyres and pan pipes of yore.

Suddenly, the sweet sounds of a dulcimer became distant, as the magical hands of my massage therapist turned pure evil as they hovered over my left shoulder blade.

“You hold your stress here?” she whispered in a question-statement, as she dug her ice pick fingers into my flesh.

“I guess so,” I said, trying not to whimper.

The other shoulder felt the same. Apparently, I really do put the weight of the world on my shoulders, and Little Miss Masseuse wasn’t going to let me leave with an ounce of it. Ouch.

I learned a few other things on the table that day.

I can harbor tension in the strangest places, like my kneecaps, the sides of my feet and even the little webby flaps of skin between my fingers.

I’m a confirmed Type A. I suspected it before, but I knew it to be true when I tensed up my muscles in response to her efforts to make them relax. That resulted in her taking my hands and feet and shaking my arms and legs into submission several times before she could move forward with the session.

And even though I used my hard-earned money to pay someone to help me relax, I still can’t turn my brain off. I actually wrote this blog post in my head during the session.

Perhaps I should investigate some other type of therapy.

Achoo and bless you

I’m writing this from the waiting room of my local medical clinic. It’s time for my weekly allergy shots. Notice I said shots with two S’s. I get four of ‘em every visit.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, more than half (54.6 percent, to be exact) of all U.S. citizens test positive to one or more allergens. I, however, am a freak of nature and am notably allergic to more than a dozen things, hence the need for four needles piercing my epidermis every five or so days.

I get choked up on everything from grasses and trees to cats and cockroaches (gross, I know). Basically, all of God’s creation has the potential to make me sneeze, wheeze and produce buckets of mucus at the drop of an acorn.

I'm bringing sexy back with Kleenex.

I’ve had problems with allergies as long as I can remember. I recall getting scolded by my mom for leaving wadded up tissues in my pockets as early as elementary school.

My first stint with allergy shots started during college, since the older-than-the-Parthenon freshman dorm I lived in was apparently built with bricks plastered together with mold and mildew. Yeah, I’m allergic to those too.

When I moved to South Carolina to work for the NWTF, my allergies seemed to magically disappear. I popped a Claritin or Zyrtec from time to time, but it was nothing compared to the way the Alabama elements wrecked my sinus cavities.

Then I had a tangle with a swarm of fire ants while turkey hunting in 2003. Nearly 40 of those blasted critters had words with my torso, neck and face, and I was left with a rapidly closing windpipe and swollen Mick Jagger lips. Thankfully, I had a couple Benadryl in my vest and fell asleep with my forehead pressed against one the truck’s AC vents.

I swept the incident under the rug, along with the dust mites (yeah, I’m allergic to those too), vowing to have a couple little pink tablets on me at all times.

Fast forward to 2010. My husband, toddler son and I were cruising through a dried up food plot on a hunting lease. We were chugging along on a UTV when wheat and rye grass particles started flying. Motherly instinct kicked in, as I shielded little Cooper’s face from the flurry of flakes of supplemental food.

I, however, caught an eyeful, and within 10 minutes one side of my face became red, puffy and beyond itchy. I looked like a Picasso or Sloth from The Goonies. Not cute. This time the effects didn’t go away for several days.

That’s why I am back on the shots. And now instead of just Benadryl, I tote an Epipen everywhere I go. I don’t want nature to get in the way of me enjoying nature, if you know what I mean.

Just so you know, the irony of me being an outdoors magazine editor who’s allergic to the outdoors is not lost. Thankfully, I’ve been spared from reactions to ink, paper and Apple computers, so I’ve remained gainfully employed.

But it’s the chance to be outside — to hunt all over the country, attend NWTF outreach events, simply enjoy a spring day … the experiences that I share with you through this blog and Turkey Country — that makes my job awesome. I can’t imagine surrendering to the elements. My life wouldn’t be same without a hefty dose of outdoor time.

That’s why I don’t really mind hanging out in this waiting room. Every shot I get is a chance to stick it to those allergies and keep doing what I enjoy.

Cooper’s tree stand

My son, Cooper, is almost 3 and at the age when he repeats what he hears. It’s amazing what his little noggin retains. He’ll pull some zingers from out of nowhere that make me believe he actually does have the ability to listen when it doesn’t pertain to bedtime.

His cranial regurgitations range from funny…

“Milkshakes make mommy’s bottom big.”

to sweet…

“Pop is in heaven now, not Alabama.”

And sometimes they just blow me away, like last weekend when we were visiting my sister. Cooper was drawing with crayons, held up the pad of paper and showed me this:

Remind me in several years to let Cooper hang my tree stands and not CJ, who would NEVER put his steps that close together.

“Look at my tree stand, Mommy,” he said.

Now here’s where we separate the parents from the nons. Those who never have had a child will ask, “Where’s the tree stand?” And those who’ve had a munchkin or two will simply nods their heads and blankly say, “That’s great!”

What really got me, however, was his follow-up statement:

“We’re going to need to move it sometime.”

Who knows how many times he’s heard his dad say he’s going to move a deer stand? Who knew Cooper was even paying attention?

I immediately forwarded the picture to CJ, who was on a work hunt in Ohio. Deer season is a busy time for him, meaning he’s gone from home quite a bit. Constant travel is hard on families, but you can’t complain when we both make a living doing what we love.

But moments like this one make what we do for a living, as well as who we are as people and parents, worth it. Our little Cooper may not choose to hunt when he gets older, but I feel pretty sure he’ll understand why we do.

I believe he already does.

The sweetest deer meat

I’m an occasional deer hunter. As in I’ll hunt deer on the occasion that someone scouts a spot, hangs a stand for me and volunteers to babysit my kid. I enjoy it but rarely make the time to do anything but pull the trigger.

My husband, CJ, on the other hand, is an avid deer hunter. And his most recent passion is traditional archery. It consumes his brain in the fall. If he’s not hunting some other state in the name of work, (CJ’s a PR guy for some notable companies in the industry.) he’s at one of his leases.

And before he gets on to me for making him sound like a deadbeat dad during deer season, he’s really good about sharing parenting and household responsibilities — before and after shooting light sets in.

Take this year, for instance, something clicked in him to start processing and cooking his quarry himself. Two does down already this season, and our kitchen-turned-butcher shop has seen more deer parts than the local taxidermist.

The best part of his recent camo culinary exploits is that he WANTS to cook dinner. We’ve had venison Sloppy Joes, deer roast, grilled backstrap and other carnivorous cuisine.

All I have to do is answer a few text messages about the crockpot during the day and tuck a napkin in my shirt collar when I get home from work.

So I say, hunt away, husband of mine! I’ll take care of the kid and the laundry.

And if any of you have venison recipes for CJ to try, send them to me. I’ll be sure to pass them along.