The masculine soul rarely gets fed in the modern workplace. My typical workday starts with court in the morning. That usually lasts an hour or so, then I’m back to the office to answer e-mails, return phone calls, counsel clients, and review or prepare documents. It’s all done wearing a suit, sitting in a comfortable chair, in a comfortable office, with everyone well-groomed and looking their best. But not last Wednesday.
Last Wednesday started in the typical manner: court in the morning, then back to the office. But after an hour or so at the office, I left. I went home, changed clothes, loaded my gear into my truck, and headed to the woods. I went to local Wildlife Management Area (WMA), a public hunting area with about 2,400 acres of timber and rolling hills, with a few open fields sprinkled in.
I was on the hunt for whitetails. When hunting public land, you give yourself a much better shot at success if you get away from the access points. The farther you get from a parking lot, the more likely you’ll find animals that aren’t being pressured by other hunters.
So I loaded up my Badlands 2200 backpack and set out to get as deep into the woods as I could. I started hiking a trail that I hadn’t yet explored. At about a half-mile in, I came across this little scenario right in the middle of the trail.
If you can’t tell, that’s a skull of an animal with incredibly sharp teeth with its jaws clenched around a squirrel, which is also dead and in a state of decay. The skull was attached to about 8-10 inches of a spinal column. One of my Twitter followers advised that it’s likely a young coyote or a fox (hat tip to @businessandbull).
I snapped a quick pic and kept on trucking. I reached the top edge of the WMA and circled back down to put a bit more distance between myself and the parking lot. About two miles deep into the woods, I set up shop. Most transportable tree stands are not allowed on WMAs in Kentucky, so I picked out a good tree that would provide cover from the ground while allowing clear shooting lanes. I put down my pack, took out my binos, grunt call, and water bottle, nocked an arrow, and started the wait.
I didn’t have to wait long. After about 30 minutes, I noticed some movement about 100 yards straight ahead along a ridgeline. I pulled up the binos and spied a big ole hen turkey feeding. I then saw another, and another, and another. Four hens were feeding slowly right in front of me.
As I leaned up against a tree at about 3:15 p.m., eating a Quest bar, and watching those turkeys feed along that ridgeline on one of the most beautiful days God has ever created, I very well may have been the most content man in the world. Over the course of the next couple of hours the turkeys would come and go. Their eyesight is amazing. I’d lift my hand to take a picture and they’d see me from 100 yards away and spook.
But they’d eventually come back and slowly feed closer and closer to my tree. A few more came up from behind my tree, then spooked and took off. At first they were all just feeding, then it got to where they started being vocal. Very vocal. You could hear all kinds of yelps and clucks and gobbles. At one point I saw 16 of them, on all sides of me, yelping, and shuffling through the leaves. And they were slowly getting closer.
Despite their amazing eyesight, I had good cover with my sprawling tree. As they started closing the distance, I hid behind, grabbed my bow, attached my release, and got ready. Five or six of them closed to within 25-30 yards, but I didn’t have a clean shot. Finally, one came up a hill right in front of me, about 15 yards away. I could see his head and neck, but not his body, as it was covered by the tall grass along the trail. Using the tree for cover, I came to a full draw on my bow and began to sight him. In the process, a couple of his friends must have seen me, and the entire group ran for the hills before I could fling an arrow. Still, it was way cool. Way cool.
I spent another couple of hours in the woods until shooting light ended. While I could have shot enough squirrels to feed a village, I never saw a whitetail. As darkness descended on the woods, I loaded my pack and made the walk back to the truck. Along the way, I heard all manner of creatures diving for cover into the brush as I walked by. I wondered what it would be like to make that same walk in grizzly country. It would have been much, much different. I hope to make that walk some day.
The next day at 3:15 p.m I was back in my office answering e-mails and preparing documents for clients. I had a comfortable seat, artificial light, a controlled climate, and four walls surrounding me. It was a stark difference from 24 hours earlier when I had been leaning against that tree watching those turkeys. While I have a fantastic job, it doesn’t take much pondering to know which of those days was better.
While our financial responsibilities may dictate that we spend a good portion of our days in an office, or a lab, or a cubicle, our souls require something more. And we won’t find it by going with the flow.
“Can a man live all his days to keep his fingernails clean and trim? Is that what a boy dreams of?” – John Eldredge, Wild at Heart
Human nature is to want everything to be easy, fast, comfortable, and convenient as possible. That nature works day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, to push society towards an easier, more comfortable, and more convenient existence. Entrepreneurs respond to this market by creating products and services that promote such an existence, racing to do so against their competitors who are pursuing the same ends. And we rush out to buy what they produce. And so it goes.
But there’s a trade-off to that type of living. It makes us soft. It makes us less competent. It makes us impatient. It makes us stressed. It makes us anxious. And those things together often make us unsatisfied, restless, discontent, and depressed. But it’s hard to break free.
Even a dead fish can go with the flow. Today, going with the flow often means a comfortable, safe existence that sucks the life out of your soul. It means too many days in an office and too many hours in traffic. Don’t settle for it. The only way to break free is to do so intentionally. Make a decision to live a life that feeds your soul. Plan for it and be spontaneous about it. Otherwise it won’t happen.
Seek out those places that you can’t control. Find discomfort. Challenge yourself. Refuse to accept the easy route. Get sweaty. Get tired. Get dirty. Find a life that is larger than your computer screen. Have more days like last Wednesday. This life makes your problems seem smaller, recharges your batteries, makes you more confident and capable of dealing with what life throws at you. This is the life that feeds your soul. This is the man’s life. Get out there and find it. And when you go, pack a pistol. There’s coyotes out there. Godspeed.
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