Sooner or later, time catches up to all of us.
Hills we once climbed without drawing a hard breath now seem as insurmountable as Everest. Swift rivers we once waded fearlessly now scare the bejabbers out of us. Backpacks we once shouldered with ease now seem too heavy even to lift.
Yeah, I know. It’s called “getting old.”
Objectively, I know it happens to everyone. Problem is, part of my mind has this funny notion that the rest of me is still 25 years old and able to leap tall buildings at a single bound.
The sad truth is that I’m a 58-year-old with the aches and pains of a 75-year-old. My back, surgically repaired more than seven years ago, still gives me trouble. My hips and ankles ache. My shoulders, both of which have suffered separations, make grinding noises. Without a magnifying glass, I can’t see to tie a lure onto a leader.
So I’m learning to make concessions.
The first concession is that I’ve pretty much given up deer hunting.
Over the years, I’ve developed an allergy to deer dander, one so quick-acting and violent that my doctor fears I might someday lapse into anaphylactic shock. For the past several years, my field-dressing kit has contained shoulder-length plastic gloves, a dust mask, a pair of laboratory goggles and an injector filled with epinephrine.
Field-dressing deer while dressed in a jerry-rigged hazmat suit is an experience I’ve decided I can live without, so the deer of West Virginia have one fewer hunter to evade.
The second concession is to stop shooting my bow.
There are few better ways to relieve stress than to come home after a hard day’s work and take out one’s pent-up frustrations on a piece of cardboard attached to a hay bale. Sadly, even though I shoot a tiny bow set to an embarrassingly light draw weight, my shoulders are no longer up to that pleasurable pastime.
My third concession is to play a little closer to the road.
Sad as it makes me to admit, my back no longer allows me to hike a couple of miles over rugged terrain, spend an entire day hunting or fishing, and hike back out. Oh, I could probably do it, but I’d pay a terrible price for days afterward.
So now I have to pick my spots. I choose places to squirrel hunt and turkey hunt that don’t require a great deal of walking and climbing. I’m no longer willing to hike miles to reach a remote brook-trout stream.
I used to enjoy fishing what I call “big water” streams, rivers with deep runs, heavy currents and gigantic boulders. It was a thrill to wade in nearly chest-deep, throw a cast into a tight spot and pull out fish that other anglers wouldn’t even have cast to.
Not now, though. I do most of my fishing on creeks and small rivers where pools are seldom even thigh-deep and currents don’t threaten to sweep me off my feet.
My fourth concession is to stop trying to be Iron Man.
When I was 25, 35 or even 40 years old, I would arrive at a trout stream just after dawn and fish until dusk, stopping only to eat a sandwich or drink a bottle of water.
Now I seldom fish more than a couple of hours without taking a good long rest. Even if the fish are biting well, I walk more slowly and fish more deliberately than ever before.
Making concessions isn’t easy, but in the end they make my sporting adventures more pleasurable. And pleasure, after all, is what hunting and fishing are all about.