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About once every 2 weeks I will ask my boys in a real excited voice, “Do you know what today is?!” They always say what day of the week it is and I reply, “No, it is one day closer to deer season!” and they just laugh and talk about how weird I can be. I am surprised they haven’t caught on yet because I have been doing it since the end of last deer season. In all honesty, it is one of my driving forces. I know that deer season is coming and I need to get things done so I have the time to deer hunt during the season.

There is also another lesson in that line of thinking though. If you get up everyday and ask yourself, “Do you know what today is?” one of the best answers you can come up with is, “This is the first day of the rest of my life!” I know this is a mantra that is spread around the self-improvement/self-motivation circles, but it is really true. If you are still looking down on the tulips (as opposed to their roots!) then today is a good day.

You see, when you get up each and every day you have a choice. You can choose to make today a great day or you can choose to wallow in the muck that is all around us. Yes, there is plenty of muck around us and there always will be. It is your choice on what you give your attention.

In light of the flooding that took place last weekend here in Nashville, we have a lot of muck (literally and figuratively) to deal with. We have a choice. Do we have a pity party for ourselves or do we roll up our sleeves and get to work clearing up the muck? I am glad to say that I see a lot of people rolling up their sleeves and the muck is already starting to go away.

The school that my sons attend was completely flooded throughout the first floor. When I was in the school 2 days after the flood, the watermark on the walls was up to my chest. That is approximately 4 feet of water in the school. Because of the help of hundreds of volunteers, a lot of the schools supplies were saved, but there was a lot lost as well. Our choice as a school community has been to use this as an opportunity to show God’s love through the many thousands of volunteer hours that it is going to take to get the school open in August.

What is the muck in your life? Is it a health problem? Family issue? Lost job? We all have them… no one’s is worse than any other. It is your choice where you put your focus.  An analogy I heard one time was about changing a baby’s diaper. It is your choice: do you focus on WHAT is in the diaper or WHO is in the diaper? It is still the same diaper, it is a matter of your focus. Change your focus and you can change your world!

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Friday March 26, 2010 was a sad day for me. I had to have my dog Baxter, put to sleep. He was 15 years old and had lived a good life. He became part of our family when we still lived in Atlanta. My wife and I had just bought our first house and it had a great fenced in back yard. I wanted to get a dog and I wanted a hunting breed. A wife of a friend of mine had a co-worker with a beagle pup he was giving away. We agreed on a place to meet and I picked up Baxter and our journey together began.

That was October of 1995 and through a bit of miscommunication, I thought Baxter was only 8 weeks old. If so, that would have been great timing because I was in the middle of deer season and didn’t have time to take him to the woods to train him how to hunt rabbits. God’s timing is always better than ours and instead of being 8 weeks old, Baxter was actually 8 months old. I say that God’s timing is always better because 2 weeks after I got Baxter I tore my ACL in my right knee and had to have surgery. Walking an 8 week old puppy trying to potty train him would have been extremely difficult on crutches! Because of the surgery and the loss of hunting time, Baxter quickly became a house pet.

He still enjoyed heading out to the woods with me though. Even though he had no idea what he was trailing, you could always tell when he got on the trail of another animal. The baying of a beagle in the woods is a wonderful sound and Baxter to could vocalize with the best of them! We spent many hours in the woods together.

He was such an easy going dog. With my graduation from chiropractic school, we decided to move to Nashville, TN and Baxter never missed a beat. No matter where we lived, Baxter always seemed to be happy. I think his favorite place to live was our house with the screened in back porch. He would sit out on the porch for hours. He had a dog door that would let him out to the yard whenever he wanted.

With the birth of our 2 sons, again Baxter showed how great a dog he was. We have a great picture of Jake sleeping in bed when he was only 6 weeks old and Baxter is laying right beside him sleeping as well. It is priceless! As many times as each of our boys tugged on his ears or pulled his tail, Baxter always sat there and let them do what they wanted. They loved him!

It is funny how an animal can become so much a part of our family. Baxter was a great dog and I did my share of crying on Friday. Do animals go to heaven? I don’t know, but I tend to think they do. Even if they don’t, I still have plenty of great memories to remind me of him. I will miss you Baxter! Thanks for being a great dog!

Last weekend we had a workday on our hunting property. I say “our” even though I do not own a single blade of grass there. You see, I was invited 3 years ago as a guest to hunt this farm. Last year I was invited back a few more times and then this year, I was granted my own key to the place (can you hear the angels singing?!?) This property is about 1,100 acres nestled in the hills of middle Tennessee. The only use of this farm is deer and turkey hunting. It has a cozy 4 bedroom farmhouse on it that is “guy cool.” What I mean by that is the sheets and bedspreads on the beds are camouflage, there are several mounts (deer, duck and one full body lynx) around the place, ATVs to use and a cedar paneled room to keep your hunting clothes in to mask your scent. It is every bit as nice as some of the places you see on the TV hunting shows.

Even with all of these amenities, the farm needs some maintainance to keep it producing quality deer and turkey. For various reasons, the farm has been slightly neglected over the past few years. Not completely, mind you… enough was being done to still use the facility, but it was not kept up to its premium operating status. As a group this past fall we decided to get the place back up to snuff. This past Saturday we got together and fired up the chain saws and went over the 1,100 acres on all the ATV trails and cleared all the trees that had fallen across the trails. We were going to get some of the food plots tilled over as well, but because of the neglect of the past few years, the tractor was not in proper working order so it is now in the shop being repaired. We will have several more workdays over the next few months to get the farm ready for this fall.

I have only been hunting on the farm for 3 years now and therefore have not seen it at its peak. The guys who have been there for years tell of great trips in the past and how certain food plots were known to draw deer from a certain direction and others were known for… well you get the idea.

The current status of the farm reminds me of how many people take care of their health. They do enough just to get by. They may each vegetables every once in a while, go to the gym and talk to all their friends (instead of working out) just to say that they “had a good workout today,” and even take a multivitamin because they know its good for them. Heaven forbid that they actually put a little effort into their health. I don’t want to pick on a hunting friend of mine, but this year as he and I were dragging a deer up a hill to load it onto the ATV, he asked for a short break to catch his breath. I stood there waiting on him and made the comment, “This is exactly why I work out 3 days a week. So I can enjoy the great outdoors.” He looked at me and between gasping for breath he said, “This is the very reason I take heart medication!” In other words, he didn’t want to put any effort into his health.

Here is the cool thing though. Even if you have not put much effort into your health over the past few years, just like it is going to take us a few workdays to get things going again on the farm, once you get a program started and make it part of your lifestyle, healthy habits do not take a whole lot of effort to maintain. Don’t fall for the quick fix though. Because most people don’t want to put any effort into their health, they try to short cut the process. They take diet pills or find the one exercise machine that “works out the whole body in 2 minutes.” (Ever seen ads like that?) Healthy habits should be part of your lifestyle. If you need help deciding what is right for you, send me a note and I would love to help.

As I come to the end of another deer season, I reflect back to what I learned from this year’s hunting adventures. It has been an eventful season albeit a slow season in the number of trips afield.

Archery season came and went with only one trip to the woods for an afternoon hunt. I had set my climbing stand on a tree about 45 yards inside the tree line. Out to my left was a very large food plot planted with corn and clover. This food plot, we call it the “big field” has always been productive in the past. As shooting light waned, my hunting partner texted me to see if I had shot anything yet. After I replied a disappointing “no” and was putting my phone back into my pocket, a deer just out of sight saw that movement and decided to vacate that area rather quickly. Lesson learned: even though texting is quieter than talking on the phone, it can still spook deer!

Four weeks later found my oldest son and I in an elevated box blind over the same “big field” for his first youth hunt. As 3 does meandered into the opposite end of the field, some 270 yards away, his first real case of buck fever began. When they closed the distance to 100 yards and showed no sign of coming any closer, he set up for his shot. Deep, slow breaths helped him calm the shakes, but he was still worried about the loud crack of the rifle hurting his ears. No matter how much prodding I gave him, he did not want to shoot without me covering his ears. So his first shot at a deer had me behind him with my hands over his ears. It turned out to be a clean miss. Lesson learned: buy some ear plugs so the shooter can lean into the scope without someone else’s hands over their ears!

First day of muzzleloader season and I am in the double tree stand with my youngest son for his first ever “hunt with dad.” We had practiced sitting still and whispering; the treestand even had camo netting hanging from it to cover most of his movements. Shortly after 7 in the morning, a doe busted us from behind but didn’t run off. After she decided that we were no threat and she went back to feeding, I was able to turn around and get my crosshairs on her. As she was about to step out into an opening where I could shoot her, my son suddenly stood up, uncovered his ears and said, “Daddy!” Somehow the doe knew he wasn’t talking to her because she didn’t stick around to find out what he wanted to say! Lesson learned: 6 year old boys can have the worst timing but we still love them anyway!

The next time he and I were in that same stand, as I trained my gun on another deer, he covered his ears and didn’t even lift up his head to watch. This particular deer did not like the way we looked up in that stand and did not present me with a clean shot. After she ran off and I put my gun down, my son is still sitting there with his ears covered.  I nudged him telling him it was ok to put his hands down and he said, “Did she run away? I didn’t even move this time!” Lesson learned: 6 Year olds are quick learners!

I have had several other deer in my cross hairs this season and still have 2 weeks left before the season officially ends. It has been a great season and certainly one that I will never forget.

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