By Mike Tomano
© 2019 Fossil Entertainment Group
There is something magical about the sunrise. As the world comes to life, the misty dawn conjures renewed energy for a new day, new opportunity, new adventure. Sharing the sunset with a loved one offers solace and reflection.
The Sun Rises. The Sun Sets. It's what we pack in-between that counts.
At the nearly-ripe age of 51, maximization of time is paramount. Daily activities must be prioritized and carried out. Balancing hard work with hard play is the key to success, happiness and fulfillment.
My wife and daughter are the cornerstone of my existence. Each day, I connect with them through love, conversation and shared responsibility of being a productive family. I am thankful.
Keeping up on a teenage daughter’s hectic schedule can be a daunting task. Allowing her to grow into her own pains the heart a bit; but the duty of imparting the decision-making skills to do so is the foundation of my parenting. My lovely bride and I both pursue demanding careers, so our together-time consists of taking care of family matters, nurturing our commitment and ample snugglin’.
Each morning, I have the privilege of broadcasting my show on the top-rated station in the market to thousands of listeners. I connect with them through humor, conversation, and shared love of the music. It's a daily communal experience that I cherish. When I was 10 years old, I decided that I wanted to be funny morning DJ. I spent my youth, teen and young adult years honing my skills and pursuing my dream. Today, I live it. I am thankful.
My wife, Denise, is a nurse. A career much nobler than mine and very demanding. I am in awe of her commitment and salute all in her field.
Whether you're spinnin' tunes and crackin' jokes, helping the sick, protecting our streets, teaching a class, hanging drywall, fightin' fires, fixin' cars or drivin' a truck, the daily grind will wear you down. A simple walk through nature can recharge the batteries. Hiking through a state park provides a wonderful calm outside the chaos. Nothing reinvigorates like kayaking around a lake or riding your bike down nature trails.
Birdsong has always been soothing for me; bird-watching a meditative practice. I fill the bird-feeders around my home often. Hummingbirds are my favorite. I often pull into my driveway and catch them sippin’ nectar. Recently, in one of those quiet moments, one flew into the passenger window of my truck and hovered before my face a few seconds before flying off. Mesmerizing.
Life is all about the connections we make, the impact we have on others and the way people encourage and influence us. Fortunately, my life has been enriched and shaped by wonderful people. A family that provides unconditional love and friends who epitomize loyalty are the foundations of a happy life.
November of 2018 found me driving to eastern Texas to make a long overdue visit with a friend, immerse into nature and unwind on a sprawling ranch. That trip was a life-changer. Surrounded by wildlife in an expansive nature setting, enchanted by awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets, and sharing good conservation and meals with Salt-of-the-Earth folks refreshed my overworked brain and cleansed my ever-searching soul. Rusty Kimbrell and his lovely wife, Martha, treated me like family from the moment I stepped out of my truck until our farewell hugs.
Rusty and I have been "internet friends" for over a decade. We've communicated on conservation legislation, politics, The Great Outdoors, landowner rights, The Second Amendment, Libertarian issues and many other topics. By the time we met face-to-face, I felt like I knew him. When we did meet, he was even more than I'd imagined.
Sometimes we meet people who seem to have it all together...have it all figured out. Rusty and Martha are such people; as are their wonderful "next-door neighbors", The Johnsons. (In Texas, I learned that "next-door" means a half-hour drive over hills, rocky terrain and creek bottoms.)
Hunting feral hogs, whitetail deer and varmints, taking hundreds of photographs of whitetail deer, African exotics, llamas, birds, and porcupines, hand-feeding a herd of bison and viewing the sunrise with a peacock all made memories that are etched forever in the book of my life. Each meal was complimented by conversations that mattered. Good stuff. Important stuff. Nourishment for the heart and mind.
Rusty and Martha are living a dream; one they worked hard for, envisioned and brought to life. They inspire me. God bless 'em.
In the early winter, I took my nephew Eric and my niece Kim's husband, Rick, on a pheasant hunt. Eric hunted a bit in his teens, but hadn't been in years. We both lamented the fact we hadn't connected on a hunt sooner. Rick is a great cook who makes his own meat-rubs. He is Master of the Barbecue and expressed interest after hearing my hunting stories and enjoying venison I provided. We were joined by my childhood friends, Mike and Chris, and my hunting buddy and bird-dog man extraordinaire, Joe Cook. Joe's Munsterlander, Jager, is a hunter's dream dog; tireless and dedicated to the hunt. There's no doubt that The Tomano Family Pheasant Hunt will become an annual event...hopefully more than once a year.
Priorities. Connections. Memories.
I also spent more time in the Illinois woods than I have in years. My deer season goal was to take a whitetail while stalking...with traditional archery equipment...on public land. A goal that proved to be challenging and rewarding, as excerpts from my Deer Diary illustrate:
October 17, 2018 ·
Did some public land hunting today. Hiked a mile and a half into tangles and thickets and propped next to a downfall surrounded by two intersecting trails and acres of tall grass. After two hours, a plump yearling doe came straight toward me. I froze, mentally talking myself into a calm state as she bobbed her head and twitched her ears. She browsed, still facing me, occasionally springing her head up in my direction. When she got inside of ten yards the wind swirled and, catching my scent, she bolted into the tall grass. Moments later a seven-point buck appeared down the same trail. I could see his antlers through the trees. I slowly rose to my feet and positioned my bow. He took the same route as the doe and ended up facing me at ten yards. He momentarily turned his head and I came to full draw. He turned and began sauntering back down the trail from which he came, disappearing behind a section of heavy foliage. I let out a "mmmuuurrrp!" and he stopped, still obscured by the brush. I waited for him to come out in front of me but, alas, he, like the doe, winded me and ripped off with a loud snort and leap into the field. As I was unfamiliar with this area, I decided that, next time, I'll move a ground blind to the brushline and face diagonally toward a bend in the trail; facilitating a better shooting opportunity for this set-up.Having deer come in this close made me proud of my ability to stay statue-still. Years of trial-and-error have honed my skills. I felt good. As the sun set, a big red squirrel hopped on to the downfall. I swear the lil' booger was snickering at me. Another magical day in The Great Outdoors.
October 24, 2018 ·
Another glorious day in The Great Outdoors. The rut is starting to kick-in! Heading into the woods around 3:30, I noticed movement down the road. I snuck into the tall grass and got my binoculars out of my pack. A four-point buck was making his way toward me, at around 300 yards. I stayed in the grass for ten minutes, then peaked out to see his progress. At a football field length, he mosied into the brush. I proceeded to hike the trail far into the expanse, finding my way into a thicket, setting up off a well-worn deer trail. I get carried away exploring woods, and the distance to my truck was a concern. If I shoot a deer, that's a long haul back. Nonetheless, I settled in, absorbing the sights and sounds of the forest. 5:50 sunset meant I had a half-hour to seal the deal. I decided to still-hunt my way back to my truck. I wasn't 100 feet from the road when I heard commotion in the field next to me. I saw antlers above the grass and bush. I stopped and brought my bow up. I saw the grass sway and fall, and, in a flash, I had a buck standing less than ten yards from me, walking onto the trail. I came to full draw. Quickly, I counted four tall tines on his left and three on his right. I held my anchor, waiting for him to make the clearing, broadside. Alas, his direction changed and he exited the grass heading straight toward me. I froze and he came so close I could touch him. Less than a foot away! We faced each other, feeling each other's breath, staring into one another's wide eyes! He swirled, almost knocking me over, and headed into the grass. He ran a bit, turning to make eye contact once again, before disappearing into the brush. Whoa!
October 28, 2018 at 6:18 PM
Spent the afternoon at Strictly Archery tuning up my bow, adjusting brace height and breaking in new strings. 45# recurve, 400 carbon arrows, 125 gr. tips, 15 yards. Become The Arrow.
Alas, I did not kill a deer with my bow last season, but I did have some of my greatest hunts and I learned a lot. That's why I hunt. And, to be honest, I will be returning to the comforts of my compound bow this season, and occasionally grabbing the ol' stickbow, too.
I have shared numerous wild game feasts with family and friends from last season's harvest. Duck, geese, wild hog, pheasant, quail, chukar and assorted fish have provided delicious feasts. Each meal was procured by my own hard work. I connected to each sustenance-giving animal on a primal and spiritual level. Each meal a connection to our primal roots, the land we cherish, the people we love.
Looking back on last season, and forward to this one, I once again have that excitement running through my veins. It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't done it; impossible for those who tragically anthropomorphize animals into cartoon characters. Cecil The Lion, indeed.
As an outdoorsman, I have had the privilege to be mentored by some great men and women. My father, of course, instilled in me a love for The Great Outdoors. Over the years, I've gleaned great knowledge from conversations with master outdoorsmen and women like Ted Nugent, Babe Winkelman, Al Lindner, Fred & Michelle Eichler, Bob Foulkrod, Travis "T-Bone" Turner, Paul Wilson, Mark Lapen, Mike Collaro and many others. Each of them sharing deep insight into what we do and better ways to do it.
The connections I've made with fellow outdoor enthusiasts have forged some of my best friendships. The camaraderie 'round campfires over the years have enriched my life beyond measure.
Our 9th Annual Troutdog Outdoor Family Adventure Camp is scheduled for Saturday, September 14th. Once again, my family, our dedicated volunteer staff and numerous families will convene at the beautiful South Wilmington Sportsman Club in Essex, Illinois. The mystique and magic of The Great Outdoors will cast a spell over many people; and I can't help but believe we are doing God's work. Kids from the inner-city alongside those who live in rural communities will connect with activities and opportunities offered in the woods and on the water. Lives will be changed.
Connect with yourself. Connect with others. Connect with Nature.