In all my adult years, and even those of a boy venturing out into the woods each fall, Iíve never had so few footsteps afield. Not because Iíve lost my passion for it, rather this 53 year old body is starting to show itís age and not letting me out the door as often.
Last spring I began to notice a slight favoring and soreness in the right hip. I figured it was a pull or something, maybe from trudging through snow that was too deep or skiing too steep of a hill. I thought my body was protesting a little. But that dull ache persisted. No matter, there were fat bikes to ride and all spring I could cruise singletrack trails pain free.
But then again there comes a point when even men realize they may need to visit the doctor as walking became more painful and running became a gimpy half skip.
My doc was great and narrowed down my symptoms and snapped some x-rays, which gave us a look at the root of the problem-arthritis. Osteoarthritis had begun developing in the hip and was clearly visible in the image before me. Hmmm, I hadnít expected that. We settled on a plan of course for the time being - do what I can tolerate, take some pain relievers and weíll see what happens.
The summer arrived and I managed a great backpacking trip and could continue to ride and build trails, but as soon as my favorite season emerged, walking became more difficult. I surely didnít like this slowing down and not being able to spend time in the woods. Normally Iíd be scouting-setting bow stands, and breathing in as much as I could of the autumn air. Instead, I focused on a much easier routine of dog training in preparation of a North Dakota trip - by God, if I had to crawl through that pot hole-filled region, I was going to do that trip! As it turned out, duck hunting there was fairly easy, even if I did struggle toting decoy bags. Pheasant hunting was tougher on the uneven ground and hilly terrain, but if I could rest, it could be done and it all worked out as a successful hunt.
I knew Iíd have to face the inevitable at some point and visited a hip surgeon, who matter-of-factly stated Iíd need a new hip Ö period. There were two options, a full replacement or a resurfacing. Oh, that sounds easy, but is in fact more evasive and has a much longer recovery. On the up-side, since Iím so young (ha!) is there are no restrictions later - I could do everything I do now. That made it a no-brainer. I guess.
Six weeks on crutches would begin three days before the deer gun season and hopefully have me active again before the snow melted. Thatís my plan anyway. As the days progressed, any thought of putting this off was nixed-even at work, being on my feet all day was harder and harder.
Which leads me to the ďpre-op hunt.Ē Knowing this, this Ö thing, was going to happen soon, there is a sort of a countdown in my head of time running out and I wanted not to waste a minute. That sounds dramatic, but there is a lot of downtime ahead of me, and Iím quite sure itíll drive me crazy.
So Iíve taken one lame bow hunt stand, sat in a goose marsh and squeezed in one bird hunt in the ever shortening late afternoon. Molly and I came home empty handed, but a success it was - she put up three pheasants, I connected on one, (not squarely enough I discovered) and I watched the sun go down over a beautiful tall grass prairie. It was a tough walk at this point, but far easier than trying to maneuver a grouse tag alder swamp. I endured an hour and a half and Molly trotted alongside as we returned to the truck. Breaking the double and sliding the shells out, the remnant scent of gunpowder still drifted up as I cased the gun. Only hunters know how great that smell is and at this moment I appreciated it very much. Iíd be lucky to catch that fragrance again this last week before surgery.
ďGo afield with a good attitude, with respect for the wildlife you hunt and for the forest and fields in which you walk. Immerse yourself in the outdoor experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person.Ē
Ė Fred Bear
I hope in some small way I live the outdoors the way Bear speaks to. Having some adversity keeping me from the outdoors in my 53rd year may just make me treasure it all the more the next time I have an opportunity to ďGo afield with a good attitude ...Ē I know I will.
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Steve Meurett lives, works and plays in West Central Wisconsin and spends about every free moment outdoors where his passions lie. His outdoor interests take him on and off trail, pursuing mountain biking and skinny skiing, photography and hunting, while keeping an eye on wild mushrooms and the next fruit for craft wine. Steve is the Trail Director at The Levis Mound Trail System and member of the Clark County Trails Advisory Committee. He resides, teaches and is a photographer in Neillsville. Steve can be reached at email@example.com.