By Mike Tomano

© 2018 Fossil Entertainment Group

Human interaction. How we affect others often has ramifications far beyond our initial intent. Just as a passing word of encouragement can change someone’s path, a negative comment can deflate one’s self-esteem. Constructive criticism should always be applied in an uplifting manner; lest it be taken the wrong way. Protecting someone’s feelings ought never replace tough-love. We are wired to know when someone’s advice is coming from a place of love as opposed to envy.

Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed with having the right people enter my life at the right time. A mother who taught me unconditional love and the virtues of honesty. A father who showed me the benefits of hard-work and standing up for myself. As for my wife? Denise is a Godsend who has made me a better man. She showed up during the darkest days of my life and stayed the course through every battle. She taught me how to love and accept love.

The Great Outdoors has been a healing, exuberant and essential part of my soul’s fabric since I was a child. Catching snakes and frogs began my fascination with wildlife at a young age. As I grew to be an avid participant, through my hunting and fishing endeavors; my father taught me reverence for wild habitat and its critters. Our fishing excursions are etched in my mind. On Friday nights, as my friends and I played in the yard, My Old Man would give us the departure time for the next morning. Predawn, we’d load his Ford pickup with fishing and camping gear and head out for adventure.

Not a week goes by that one of my friends doesn’t relate a “Troutdog story.” The time I was using his custom rod, got hooked on rocks and broke it in half. The loud snap sounded like a gunshot. Everyone ducked. Pops said, “I should make you use that one for the rest of the trip.” His “one last cast” mantra that ended up being fifty. His marathon trips with a truck full of kids, vowing to “fish every damn lake or pond we see.” Recently, his “casting contests” came up in conversation. We lived on a city block in Chicago. Troutdog would set a bucket on our neighbor Helen’s lawn. We would cast rubber weights across the street in attempt to sink them into the bucket. That discipline has continued to this day with my casting, archery and firearm practices. The goal is being familiar enough with chosen equipment to become instinctive using it.

My father would study the movements of insects, minnows and small fish in the water. He would emulate those actions in his fly and lure presentations. Mayor Daley gave him a certificate of praise for his accomplishments as an angler. The Troutdog was a master fisherman and the lessons he taught me are golden.

I’m always striving to improve my skill-level. I learn techniques from friends every time out. I ask endless questions at my local pro-shops. Research never ends. The masterful Bob Foulkrod once took time out of a seminar he was conducting to show me an innovative way to grip and draw my bow. I have shot archery side-by-side with ultra-athlete Bo Jackson and adopted his follow-through technique. Hunting guide Paul Wilson, whom I’ve had the pleasure to hunt with for over twenty-five years, has shown me endless ways to predict animal movement and track them. I’ve learned fishing techniques from Al Lindner, Babe Winkelman and Spence Petros. Still, I always feel like I’m new, especially when a flock of geese is locking in, a buck appears out of thin air, a bass blows up in the lily pads or a pheasant is pointed and flushed.

In the mid-90s, I met Ted Nugent. Growing up, his music was the soundtrack to my life. When I first interviewed him on my radio show, we talked a bit off-the-air. He told me to keep in touch. And I did. Today, hardly a day goes by that we don’t call, text or e-mail. I’ve never met someone so alive. Over the years, our friendship has grown. I called him when I was going through a divorce. He called me heartbroken by the death of his cat, M. We have laughed around campfires. We’ve stalked hogs and blood-trailed bucks through Michigan swamps. I’ve witnessed his amazing live shows for years, and he and his band still bring it better than anyone else.

From Ted, I learned how to expand my passions into activism. We have fought side-by-side against anti-hunting legislation and inane gun control regulations that threaten our heritage and freedoms. No one has done more to recruit people into our lifestyle than Ted. He is a tireless, formidable force to be reckoned with and has a work ethic second-to-none. He has brought a positive message of The Great Outdoors and Second Amendment to the mainstream. His charitable efforts to benefit our military are staggering. His influence has pushed to me to seek upgrade in every aspect of my daily life. He has taught me to initiate and demand righteousness from elected officials; never waver my beliefs and never, never, never give up. It’s an ongoing fight, and Ted’s at the forefront. I always look forward to time with Ted.

I take great pride in my role as mentor. I am open, honest and encouraging to every child I meet. Too often, if a child’s talents are not met with praise, their growth will stagnate. I endeavor to be like my father and introduce every kid I can to the wondrous world of hunting & fishing and the shooting sports. I take it slow. A day shooting archery at the range. A hike checking out birds and squirrels with binoculars. An afternoon in a canoe, fishing for bluegills. Teaching them to shoot a gun safely and properly is fundamental for responsibility, accountability and accomplishment. Every time with a child in the woods or on the water is maximized for adventure.

I get ‘em “Hooked on The Great Outdoors”.

Mentors. They shape our lives. We soar on their wings.

Be a mentor.

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