Preventive Maintenance Pays Dividends

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

The early waterfowl seasons will be here in less than a month and the archery season for deer opens a couple of weeks later. Depending how serious you are about hunting, preparation begins long before opening day. If you’re a waterfowl hunter, your favorite shotgun should be clean and mechanically sound. Hopefully you didn’t put it in a case leaning against the freezer in your garage when the season ended. For example, having a rusty choke tube can be a big problem. All other equipment should be checked and ready to go. A boat that won’t start, a trailer with no lights, decoys without lines and weights, can turn opening day into a disaster. The same applies to the deer hunter. Bows and crossbows need maintenance, sights need to be checked, and tree stands ready to hang. It takes a lot to prepare for trouble-free times on the water, in the field, or in the woods. Of course, shooting a round or two of sporting clays never hurt anyone’s wing shooting ability, and prudent archery hunters practice regularly.

Although most hunters take the time to prepare equipment, get hunting permission, and preseason scout, they ignore the most important element needed for a successful season, their body. To the younger crowd, being physically ready to handle the rigors of hunting isn’t an issue. Unfortunately, as the body ages it starts letting you down. When does this change begin? It’s hard to say. It’s a gradual process. You might start noticing that you walk a slight bit slower and get tired faster. Walking up that hill or climbing a tree stand might take more effort. Your shotgun might feel heavier or your bow harder to pull. Regardless, one day you discover that your body isn’t functioning like it used to. Hopefully, you heed the warning signs of age and do something about them. Your body is no different than your boat. It’s easy to spoil a hunt when you can’t get started or quit running half-way through the day.

I was in my early 50s when my body let me know it wasn’t in very good shape. I was overweight, smoked too much, and had a sedentary job. My back was bad and my ticker started giving me problems. Fortunately, the issues were corrected before my hunting career ended for good. That was 25 years ago. Today, if I don’t want to hunt for whatever reasons, that’s okay. I just don’t want to stop hunting because I can’t physically do it anymore. Consequently, I need to work at preventive maintenance on my body, and at this stage of the game, that’s a challenge. For example, I’m noticing that balance is an issue. There are exercises to help this symptom, but walking is probably the best medicine. I like to go 2.5 to 3 miles at a crack and keep my pace at a minimum of three miles an hour. If I can work that up to 3.6 or 3.7 mph, I would be extremely satisfied.

My nephew gave me a 10 gauge BPS last year to entice me to hunt more often. This year, I plan to spend more time in the field. Unfortunately, this shotgun weighs a ton, 14 pounds plus to be exact. At the moment, I can pick it up and shoulder it without much effort. Swinging it quickly enough to catch a bird riding the wind is another matter. Unless I start lifting and swinging that hand cannon, I’ll be eating hamburgers all winter. Walking is fine, strength training is just as important. I really have no excuse for not doing both. If the weather is bad, I have access to a gym. Treadmills and weight machines do a wonderful job.

Keeping your body functioning is a challenge, and it doesn’t get better with age. It’s a choice and not an easy one. The way I figure, if I can still keep moving, anyone can, assuming something major hasn’t already kicked your fanny. Before you start any type of exercise program, it’s necessary to check in with your doctor. If you haven’t visited one recently or just rely on urgent care or the emergency room when necessary, getting a physical might turn up something that needs addressed. It’s better to know the problem and deal with it than discovering it at the wrong time and place. Once the doctor clears your exercise regimen, the rest is up to you. I’m pushing 80, had a quadruple bypass, need to lose 15 pounds, smoke an occasional cigar, sip a pinch of bourbon to help the sun go down, eat fairly well, watch my sugar, take my meds, and try to stay out of my recliner. I also try to keep my mind sharp and even pray once in a while. Your body is the most important piece of equipment you have. Make an effort to keep it working.