#OperationThunderChicken — Part 1

I survived my first hunting trip!

Trip seems a little over adventurous of a term.  This wasn’t a big epic back packing trip into the mystical, mountain backcountry.  I spent a couple days hanging out in a field about 45 minutes from the house I grew up in.  I maybe was harboring delusions of grandeur about what my first hunt about be like.  It wasn’t nearly as glamorous as I had imagined, nor was it the smashing success that I had hoped for.

The Engineer used some connections and lined up permission to hunt some private farm land.  We arrived out at the farm around noon on Saturday and initially set up on the North edge of his hay field next to several fallen turkey feathers…..everything was seeming very promising.  After receiving a real time location tip off on the turkeys from the farmer, The Engineer and I decided to pack up and move to the southeast corner of the farm’s property.  We were using a small blind we borrowed from The Engineer’s Dad, and we had a couple turkey decoys from one of his hunting friends, so moving camp was a little bit of work, but overall not that bad.

It’s maybe about 1:30, perfectly nice, slightly warm fall day…..and disaster struck.  The Engineer wanted me to practice drawing my bow in the blind so I could make sure I had enough room to move without bumping the blind.  Everything was fine until I tried to release my bow.  Before you jump to conclusions….I didn’t dry fire my bow.  I didn’t have an arrow nocked, but it is possible to just slowing release a draw back.  That’s the effect I was striving to have.  What ended up happening was that my string popped off the bottom cam of my bow.  So now……we are sitting in a field, calling for turkeys, and I don’t have a bow that would be good for anything except maybe throwing at a turkey in the hopes of knocking one unconscious.

So for the second time in maybe….an hour…..The Engineer and I were forced to pack everything back up and schlep it back up out of the pasture to the truck.  Bows can’t be restrung without a press to release the tension, so we had to drive into town and head to the sporting goods store.  I haven’t always had the best experiences at the shop in town, mostly because I think they thought I was just a stupid girl buying a bow she wasn’t going to use.  I was surprised at their willingness to get my bow back in shape and help me get back out into the field.  They didn’t even charge me, and in the time it took me to walk back out to the truck to get my wallet they had it all put back together!  After a couple practice shots at the range to make sure everything was still tuned in the way it was supposed to be, The Engineer and I headed back out to the farm.

We once again hauled everything out, for the third time that day, and set up underneath the same tree.  We could hear turkeys, they would answer back almost every time we would call, however we never saw any.  So, there we sat.  The Engineer scrolled through his phone while I fidgeted around like a small child, until almost dark.  At this point I was a bit cold and wanted to actually do some moving around.  I convinced The Engineer that maybe we had missed the turkeys crossing back over in the North tree line……so we went on a bit of a hike back towards our initial set-up location.  Still no sign of the elusive flock we were told resided on the property, but it was nice to move around a little bit and warm up.  The 30 minute shooting window after sundown closed, and we packed up and headed back to Momma Jules house.

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That’s a direct quote from The Engineer about what’s standard practice while hunting!  He’s super serious in a blind….but at least he shared the snacks!

 

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If by share you of course mean giving me the tough pieces.  Couple of glamorous jerky models we are though!

The part of hunting I have always dreaded and used as a perpetual reason to not participate in hunting adventures….is that premium hunting always seems to occur at the absolute earliest possible butt crack of dawn.  I am really not at all a morning bunny, but apparently the prospect of shooting my first turkey is all it takes to get me out of bed and dressed at 5:30 in the morning when it’s 23 degrees outside!  On the dark drive back to the farm we decided that we would try the North tree line we had originally set up on the day before.  Of course you have to get there early, so there we sat, mostly frozen, almost half an hour before shooting time…..which is already half an hour before sunrise!

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Couples who freeze together stay together!

We sat in the blind and called turkeys and watched the cows and calves meander around the pasture till about 10 with still no sign of a turkey in sight.  Even though I didn’t end up with a turkey, I will say that listening to them all do their morning round up calls shortly after the sun came up was the high point of the weekend.  To hear the change from silence to everything around you getting up and start moving around is something you just don’t really get to hear and appreciate when you live in town.  From a purely hunting perspective, it was proof that the flock was indeed close, and hopefully they were hopping down out of roosting trees near us!

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I almost actually kinda look like I know what I’m doing……

I had already stolen a pack of hot hands from The Engineer’s hunting bag, and we were both getting hungrier than peanut butter crackers and jerky was going to fix.  Before we headed back to town for lunch and a thawing, we thought maybe we would walk the tree line and see if we could find out exactly where the turkeys were hanging out.  This was our last day to hunt, and a day only lasts so long after all…..crunch time was looming!!

We did eventually find the turkeys……across the county road from the field we had permission to hunt.  We found them because we……probably mostly me…..were making too much noise as we neared where the tree line we were walking met the road.  The line of trees extended across the road to a cut corn field.  I’m sure the flock was hanging out over there because the eating prospects were easier.  No need to contend with the cattle herd, and cut field means corn on the ground for easy snacking.  Not that this does me any good, I needed them to move North across the road onto the land we had permission to hunt.  We were operating under the assumption that if our farmer knew the owner of the field South of him and if it would have been okay for us to follow the flock over there……he would have told us the first day when he said he saw the flock.  Since he didn’t, we were forced to assume that was a no-go zone.  We packed up and headed back to town for some food and heat, and hoped that something would happen to drive the flock back north across the road.

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Headed back out to the farm for one last shot at a Thanksgiving turkey!

We set up for a final time on the edge of the tree line, as close to the road as you’d probably want to be.  To get to this spot, we parked the truck on a little access path between the farmer’s pasture land and the neighboring corn field.  We then hiked in, past were we had set up the night before and climbed up out of the creek bed and crossed into the farmer’s cut hay field.  It’s important to note that the path we took was clear….on the way in.

The decoys were set up in full view of the flock…..who still hadn’t motivated to cross the road.  We hoped that calling and being able to see the decoys would be enough to pull them across.  We had been researching and googling all weekend that fall turkeys are notoriously hard to move because they are set up in family flocks and not breeding, but all we could do was try.  It was about 2pm when we got back out, so we had about 3.5 hours to try and persuade them across…..even if we just got one stupid one…..that would have been enough!

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You can’t see them in the picture, but there’s the road….and the flock is just around the curve of the tree line on the left side of the picture!

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Our excellent bait turkeys…..or so we thought!  For reference the road is just skimming the left side of the picture.  They didn’t even have to motivate that far!

It became apparent around 4:45 or 5 that we were not going to get a turkey.  Especially if they were roosting in the trees on the South side of the road.  By this time they would slowly be waddling back towards the safety of their roosts before night fall.  Around this time we started to hear some crunching from the pasture behind us, but we obviously knew there were cows wandering around so we didn’t think too terribly much of it.

Feeling a bit sad and defeated, we packed up the gear for the last time.  Our inventory becomes important so I’ll give you a quick recap of what we are hauling back to the truck.

The Engineer-

  • The blind

Me-

  • My bow
  • Two camping chairs
  • Bag with the two decoys

Nothing that either of us was carrying was heavy……just a bit cumbersome and a tad hard to wrangle.  We both also had backpacks on, and I had the slight added struggle of trying to not bang my bow around too much on the various trees and brush we were trudging through.  We were slowly making our way back down to the creek bed when we ran into a sort of wall of evergreen trees.  They weren’t tall, but they were a bit dense and while we could have been pushed through, we decided to go around.  We headed left to skirt the heavier brush when we had to stop short because The Engineer saw cows.  I’m not sure if he saw exactly what they were, or if he just heard them….but in any case we turned around.  We headed back up the hill a bit and back South towards the road.  We weren’t on any beaten cattle trails, but I sorta just picked a path and went.  We ended up between two much taller evergreen trees that you could sorta duck underneath because the lowest branches were about shoulder height.

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Hindsight being 20/20…..we should have just skirted this tree line on the outside of the fence down to the road……..

This seemed like a good way down the hill, until I got the bottom near the creek, stood up and turned to come up almost face to face with a bull who was not at all happy to see me near his creek!!  Now I grew up with grandparents who raised cattle, so it’s not that I’m totally unfamiliar with their behavior, but we also weren’t allowed to be around and in the pastures and such when the bulls were out.  We turned south and sorta jogged off behind a fallen tree and looked back to see him loping and bucking in our direction.  He wasn’t really running…..he certainly would have been able to out run us, but he could have started at anytime.  I got a swift push to the shoulder and two words from The Engineer…..”Go, run!”  So we ran back up the hill….crashing through the thick trees and bushes…..hauling all our stuff!  We then had to jump back across the barbed wire fence which essentially put us 20 yards south of where we had been set up hunting!  It’s moments like that I’m glad I work out.  It’s nice to be able to count on your body when you need it, although again my hill sprints have nothing on charging bull pace had he actually been interested in following us.

So there we stand…….a bit out of breath…..basically on the highway.  I’m sure we were a sight trudging down the side of the road like hitchhikers.  The distance to the truck was probably shorter this way, and definitely easier to travel, but it’s probably not great form to be looking like total delinquents on the side of a country road as the sun is setting and it’s getting dark.  We had just sort of started to regroup and trudge when a badger comes scurrying across the road and stops at probably 15 yards from us and turns to face us.  Having not packed in his hand gun, our only “badger defense” was my bow, so The Engineer took the decoys from me and had me nock an arrow.  The badger didn’t end up causing us any trouble, but he would occasionally turn to look at us while we all walked in the same direction.  Trudging the country road with an arrow nocked on your bow probably doesn’t look great either, but ya know……..ya gotta do what you gotta do!

By the time we turned down the field access road and were headed back North to where we had left the truck, it was clear that we had ended up taking the only acceptable path out of the field.  I’m honestly not sure why we didn’t just walk the road back to begin with, but I’m sure The Engineer had his reasons…..I mostly just did what I was told.  The whole herd……mommas, calves, and a few more bulls…….had moved South into the corner of the field we had hunted the night before.  Even if we had managed to get across the creek without being chased out by the bull we would have climbed up out of the creek bed to face the whole herd.  Getting out of that situation would have been much harder, and it probably would have called for more evasive maneuvers than just running back up a hill.

So I guess all is well that ends well, and even though I didn’t get a turkey to cook for Thanksgiving next week, I’m glad we took the weekend and tried to fill the tag.  The Engineer was a bit sad I didn’t get to shoot any arrows all weekend except at the range and suggested I should have shot the badger.  Technically, they are nuisance animals and therefore can be shot on my license.  I don’t really have a use of a badger and would have only shot the animal if it had messed with us.  Badgers are known to be a bit feisty and are not afraid of taking on something much bigger than themselves.  The Engineer does have a coworker who really wants a taxidermy badger…..for whatever reason, but I’m fine having not shot anything.

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I think pretty much everything makes a badger angry…..beware the angry badger!

It’s called hunting not shooting after all, and to expect to go shooting your very first weekend out hunting is a stroke of luck that mother nature doesn’t allow everyone to have.  Probably, having my first hunting trip be an exercise in actually hunting and not shooting was helpful, after all…..if I wanted to just fling arrows all day I could have just headed to the archery range.

Dull Week and Some Firsts

It’s been a weird week.  Busy at work, crappy weather, and just general winter blah.  I’ve got a few “exciting things in the pipelines” as they would say at work, so this week is a bit of a dud.

So, about those firsts I mentioned.  Well, there was a first date…..which lead to the second first…..getting my car stuck in a snow bank.  I guess that’s the risk one takes going out on a first date in the middle of a blizzard with only a front wheel drive SUV.  The date went well, and I eventually managed to get my car dug out and moved so I guess that all counts as a win.

I also got to have my first drink in a limo!  We finally had our work Christmas party which involved a limo ride between dinner and our escape room fun.  So, squished into and sweating to death in a limo which was supposed to “comfortably” seat all of us, I had a Bud Light tall boy.  Honestly, that’s probably the largest amount of Bud Light I’ve ever had, but the experience was good.  We’ve had a lot of shake up and change at work, but we’ve finally starting to settle in and it’s becoming more fun again.  If nothing else, sometimes just having the right people around to bitch with is everything.

My limo photo skills might leave something to be desired, but ya know….you get the picture!  We were all maybe being way too amped to be drinking in a moving vehicle.  These things are generally frowned upon you know.

New Year, New Things!

Happy New Year!!

I hope everyone had a safe, festive, and fun New Year’s Eve last night!! I’m waking up hangover free, which I think finally means I’ve learned the correct amount of fun and water that’s required for me to survive the night! Which is saying quite a lot because we started much earlier than I normally would have last night!!

I rang in my last year as a twenty something……it’s a bit strange to think about, but hopefully good things will happen this year!! Lucky 29 is a thing right!?!

It’s a little sore and sensitive, but I’ve officially closed the chapter of my life with the Main Squeeze. Looking back on where I woke up last year at this moment is a little sad to think about, but things seem pretty good from where I’m waking up now!

Normally, I spend New Years in the hills…..this year I decided to spend it in the frozen north with my cousins! The family that schooners together stays together!?

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Choose Your Own Series of Unfortunate Events

Several events recently have forced me to wonder how much say we actually have in our own lives.  I know that everyone always says, “You’re in charge of what happens to you!” and “Your future is always in your own hands!”……but is it really?!  Lately, it feels like lots of things get decided for me, and I just have to react to them.  That isn’t to mean I don’t have a choice, it just seems like the choices we’re given in life are usually slightly unfavorable.

For example…..health insurance……any way you slice it, it’s expensive and frankly not that great.  Either you have to pay a million dollars a month in premiums, or pay a million dollar fine if you choose not to carry coverage.  Technically, you have a choice, but the options aren’t great.  It can be even worse if your insurance dictates what doctors you can and can’t see.  That’s what happened in my state because the two large hospitals are in charge of the insurance.  They decided they couldn’t find a “favorable” choice with each other, so they decided to pass the crappiness on to the general population.  But!!!  A big wig at one of the hospitals was interviewed by a news channel and was quick to remind us that we have several amazing choices!

  • We can switch doctors so that we can pay in-network amounts……
  • We can pay out of network prices to keep our physicians who used to be covered under the insurance plans……..OR and the “option we obviously don’t prefer”
  • We can try and find insurance through someone else

I get that these are technically all options, and that I do have a choice….but someone needs to explain to me how any of these are good options for me, because I’m just not seeing it.  I was so excited this year to not have to tinker with my insurance, but that’s all gone down the drain now!

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When you feel like you’re finally starting to get a handle on life.  You can hold your head up, you’re styling, and your ducks are finally in a row….

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….and suddenly things go drastically downhill, you no longer have any idea what’s happening to you, and your ducks start wandering around in confused circles of crazy.

These are baby pictures of me…..illustrating that some of us get on the struggle bus sooner than others, but I think once you’re there you can’t get off.  It’s a bit like the Hotel California that way I suppose, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave!”  I made it 12.5 weeks before I got on the bus, still riding strong today!

Another example……my HOA dues…..  If the board doesn’t receive a unanimous YES vote to changing the by-laws, dues will have to skyrocket.  It’s a bit involved so I won’t bore you with the details, but my ability to comfortably afford to continue living in my house now rests in the hands of the 142 other votes the board needs for approval.  What election in the history of ever has had 100% voter turnout…..and then that 100% turnout all voting the same way?!?!  The odds don’t feel like they are running much in my favor.  Again thought, I suppose I have options……sell my house and move, or drastically adjust the way I live my life.

Why are all the options we are given as adults crappy?!?

Although, to be fair, little kids have there share of crappy options too…..we as a adults just have a hard time rationalizing then as shitty.

Case in point, last night we had a large, extended family pizza party.  My cousin’s little toddler of a son was slightly annoyed cuz he had been too busy to nap…..option 1.  He was given the chance to nap, but why nap and miss out on things when you can stay up and maybe just be a lil bit annoyed.

At some point previously he had bitten his cheek which was only being aggravated by the pizza sauce, you know that feeling…..it’s unpleasant at best!  When given the option of ice cream instead of pizza, he got quite upset because he didn’t want the ice cream….he wanted pizza.  Now, as an adult….pizza or ice cream (frankly both) would be equally acceptable dinner time options.  The tiny nugget however, didn’t realize that ice cream was a perfectly acceptable dinner time selection and instead insisted on trying to suffer through pizza.  He had options, he just didn’t view any of them as great and had to suffer through what in his little mind was the better choice…..even if that meant extreme mouth owies with every bite.

Maybe when you boil it down and get right down to the nitty gritty, life is just a choose your own adventure book, only that the adventure usually is a series of unfortunate events.  Sure the events change and morph as we get older, and your unfortunate event might be someone else’s dream…I get all that.  But, unfortunate events are in the eye of the beholder, so I guess we will all just keep having to making choices, flipping ahead to the assigned page, and fingers crossed that we don’t regret our decisions.

The Thing You’re Maybe Not Supposed to Talk About….but I’m Going To!

Since Monday the 10th was World Mental Health Day, I thought I’d talk about something that you maybe aren’t supposed to broadcast to the world……

I, like a ton of people I know, struggle with my mental health.

I don’t mean that I struggle in that…..things don’t always go my way and it makes me sad.

I mean I struggled to the point that it started effecting my ability to function in my everyday life.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know that my family and I have been through our share of struggles.  Beyond the struggles I’ve written about, there are other struggles I’ve dealt with that I’m choosing to keep private for the time being.  As my Momma said the other day, in reference to someone else’s blog, “You don’t have to broadcast everything.”

I know that this is an issue that many people would keep private.  I’m choosing to share because talking to other people is what finally convinced me that the way I was feeling wasn’t normal, it wasn’t ok, and I didn’t have to keep doing it.  If I hadn’t opened up, or had someone tell me I could do something about it, I don’t really know what would have happened.  I don’t mean that cryptically, I just needed some reassurance to take the steps I needed to to help myself feel ‘normal’.

The people who know me best would probably describe me as high strung.  I tend to operate best under a slight veil of panic, sometimes of my own creation because of laziness, but other times because it helps me focus.  My panic/anxiety used to be a tool I used to get things done.  It was what allowed me to power through all night study sessions and essay writing nights in college.  It helped me focus when times got stressful, and I was always the girl you could count on to be standing tough no matter what was happening around me.  I remember my ex being almost stunned when I sat through my father’s funeral dry eyed and stoic.

It’s just how I was…..I wore my panic like a badge of pride.  No matter what was going on around me or how I felt inside I could focus my anxiety into something and that felt like it made everything ok.

Eventually, and slowly, the panic and anxiety started to become something different.  It started to become something that made me fixate on problems and grind away at solutions that were never going to be found.  It made me irritable, and even the smallest inconveniences or issues became the causes of explosive fights or full on melt downs.  I had had phases like this before, so I didn’t think much of it, and just waited for things to get better.  They always had before, so it made sense to wait and that they would again.

Except that this time, they didn’t get better, they got worse.

My panic and anxiety got so bad that it was literally every once of my mental strength everyday to get through the work day without screaming or curling up in a ball and crying. Most of my time spent at home was spent being totally exhausted and drained, and it got to the point that I was having at least one full blown panic attack a day.  I would often cry so hard I would hyperventilate and pass out.  I usually woke up with poor, little Scout standing next to me or licking me, looking very concerned that her momma was being a huge pile of snot and tears all the time.

Food sounded disgusting, so I basically quit eating, or ate very little.  This isn’t at all normal for me….I LOVE ME SOME FOOD!  My rational self knew I needed to eat, but a couple bites of something was all I could stomach at a time.  I kept working out…..at a manic pace…..because that’s what they tell you to do when you have anxiety.  Workout, release the good endorphins, channel your stress into lifting…….we’ve all heard this sort of advice, and generally I’m a bit fan.  Sometimes though, that isn’t enough.

I finally went to my family practice doctor after several conversations with the Chemistry Bestie about my symptoms and the way I had been feeling.  Apparently, my symptoms were classic panic and anxiety….which can be brought on by a number of things.  In my case, they don’t really know why…..and that’s ok.  I was checked for thyroid issues, which can sometimes be the cause of anxiety and weight loss, but everything came back normal.  Apparently, panic and anxiety disorders can reach their apex when people are in their mid to late twenties…..it’s just a thing that can happen to people.

I was put on a low dose of Lexapro, and I have to say that I’m feeling much better.  I feel more like myself, only maybe a better version of myself.  Things don’t stress me out they way they would have before.  I don’t mean that I’m wandering around like a drugged up zombie…..I still have feelings.  I still get sad, happy, angry, frustrated, ecstatic…..everything you want to feel, and somethings you don’t want to feel, about life….I still feel.  I just feel like my lows don’t take me as low, and I feel like I recover from things faster.  When I get annoyed or frustrated with something I still feel it, but it doesn’t ruin my whole day.  Also, because I’m a bit calmer in general, I’m better able to respond to the things that make me frustrated.  I work through challenges better because I’m not always so worked up.

The moral of this story is that admitting you need help, and then getting that help don’t make you a failure as a person nor does it make you any less yourself!  You don’t need to feel like you have to just suffer through things.  You might be surprised who around you is working through their own struggles with mental health, and how much talking about these things can help you.  There’s no reason to hide your feelings.  Who knows, maybe you’ll discover that talking out your feelings and issues is enough, and if it’s not….always remember there are other options to get you back to feeling like yourself!

Chapter 12: The Things You Learn

Since we’ve already covered the fact that I’m an upper twenty something with absurd dating stories….obviously, I’ve dated some winners.  I am however, a firm believer that everything you go through in life molds you into the person you currently are.  You can either become weighed down with your failures, or use them as opportunities to grow.  I choose to grow!  Part of growing means you must dig through the crap trying to find helpful nuggets to truth.  This can be especially difficult after a break up.  Give yourself some time, enjoy some of Ben and Jerry’s fine creations, and when you’re ready, begin the digging.

From every relationship I’ve tried to learn something.  Sometimes they are stupid, sometimes they help other people more than they help me, but there always has to be a good thing.  Some of the relationships were serious, some were not, doesn’t mean you can’t learn.

  • The OG Time really does heal even the deepest of wounds and betrayals.  It’s taken more the a decade, but the OG and I are back on friend terms…..we even occasionally get together for drinks!
  • The Drummer – Your Momma is always right.  I know you don’t want to admit this, but it’s true….just accept it and move on.
  • Tonka Truck Driver – There is a clear, and sometimes not so present difference between Mr. Good Enough for Now and Mr. Right.  Don’t ever think you need to settle, and be grateful for the bullets you dodge in life!
  • The Pot Head – Apparently, you can make pot brownies without actual leaves in your batter?? The things you learn when chemistry and chemical dependence meet.
  • The Ginger – Country boys and city girls don’t mix…….this is wrong. Don’t let other people’s opinions weigh on your relationship.  Especially when those opinions come from the girl your man had previously wanted to date.  Jealousy is a for real thing kids!  If nothing else, remember city girls and country jerks don’t mix!
  • ADD 3Spicy Ramen packets! I don’t eat them, but they became a favorite lunchtime treat for one of my UBS girls!
  • Naked Burrito Guy – You can make eggs in the microwave! I never knew….turns out guys who can’t cook do have some useful kitchen skills.  Making breakfast burritos has never been so quick and easy!
  • The Pole Jumper – Enchiladas…..he’ll make them better than you, but it’s something to work towards!  Trial and error can be delicious…..a slightly sub par enchilada is better than no enchilada at all!
  • The Cliffdiver – Sometimes, giving someone a second chance just isn’t worth the effort.  It doesn’t make you a bad person to say no to people.
  • The Asshole Tinder Cowboy – Cowboys know they are sexy, and they know every girl finds them sexy…..AVOID AT ALL COSTS! 
  • The Frat Boy – It’s always ok to take risks and go after what you want.  You know you tried, even if it doesn’t work out.