The Weekend Warrior

My favorite grouse covert is three hours away. That same covert used to be eight miles from my driveway.While my career enabled me to move to Northern Michigan, have a drift boat parked in my driveway, and be able to afford to feed and train my two birds dogs; it is also the reason that I have moved from the area. I spent part of my twenties and early thirties trying to maintain my residence and state employment in Northwestern Michigan. As a side note, I had already tried this once and was relocated due to a facility closure about 7 years prior. It was almost an exact replay of the last relocation.I had recently divorced and as a result of that I was forced to sell my drift boat. Shortly after learning that I would be relocated, I would also find myself at the veterinarian’s office with a sick dog.That day I will not soon forget. It was September 2nd, 2009. My german shorthaired pointer had started to bloat, wouldn’t eat, and was acting completely out of character. I took him in for what I had hoped to be something routine (knowing in my heart that is was not). That day, I left the veterinarian’s office with a dog collar and memories of the first canine hunting partner I had owned as an adult. Kidney and liver dysfunction had taken him in an instant. He just turned seven years old a month earlier. Max was an example of what the breed should have looked like until just 24 hours prior to the vet visit. It was at this point that I sincerely thought that nothing could go right for me. I was divorced, had to sell my boat, and now my dog died. Looking back, I should have written a country song.As I trudged forward with the move back south, this is how I remember my life “Up North” ending. It was bitter. There was no sweet to go along with it at the time. I had been stung so hard at the end of my time there that I would head back south without looking back. Well, at least until I realized what had happened and that I was now living almost exactly where I had spent my adult life avoiding.

During the following three years I was in a great relationship with a woman that I love very much. Luckily for me, she loved me too or I feel that our time could have been cut short by my attitude for the next 36 months, or so. I was miserable living down state and spent every waking hour trying to figure out how I would get back north. While I did this, I was stagnated in my career due to the poor condition our agency was in and my wife was making moves upward and building a solid footing for herself in her career. I almost cringed at her success. It was like hearing the last of the nails being pounded in the coffin that contained my sporting life Up North.

Enter, 2012. I entrenched myself in a very demanding schedule that would have me finishing my bachelor’s degree in just over ten months. During those ten months I finished 33 credits (only one of which was an online class) with a 3.8 GPA. I was killing myself between work and school. I got up every morning at 4am to start my daily commute of 150 miles round trip, get home with just enough time to change and eat, wrap up any loose ends on my homework and head to class until 9pm (another 60 mile round trip for the day). I usually got home and went straight to bed. It was a brutal schedule, but I was motivated to finish my degree and it kept my mind off the fact that I did not want to live in Mid-Michigan.

About mid-way through my senior year (at 37 years old), my wife and I found a nice old farm house. It is on 16 acres and has 1000ft of frontage on a little nine hole golf course. It also has ten acres of woods to deer hunt and six acres to work bird dogs. This is when things took a turn in the right direction as far as I was concerned, but things had actually been going pretty well the whole time. I just didn’t take enough time thinking about the positives. With a great house, awesome pole barn, and a game rich piece of property, we have since settled in.

My wife and I spend a minimum of 15-18 full weekends in Northwestern Michigan. I now have the time and money to make trips north to hunt and fish for the first time in a long time. Our goals are set on a five year plan to buy a cottage in one of three counties. Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Benzie all have our interest piqued. They all have positive attributes and would make great places to weekend. Currently, the plan is to purchase an inexpensive recreational property that will provide an opportunity for profit in the future. Then, when it is time to retire, we would liquidate and build on the river. We’re not sure where “the river” is yet, but we have it narrowed to a few of the usual suspects. The Au Sable, Upper Manistee, Boardman, or Platte are on the radar right now, but we’ll see.

Looking back on my adult life and career so far, I have realized one thing is for sure; nothing is for sure. Even with all of the best plans things change. Had they not changed, I would not be with an amazing woman who shares a common goal with me. I would not have finished my degree and probably wouldn’t have an amazing place to call home.

When we focus on something so trivial as the geography of our situation it is far too easy to miss the great things that happen to us. In short, I have become what I used to be irritated by…the weekend warrior. I would bemoan the fact, that starting Friday afternoon until mid-day on Sunday there was a good possibility that there would be a non-local parked in one of my coverts. Or worse yet, some out-of-stater parked in my “secret” hex spot. The days of working 2nd shift and being able to grouse hunt mid-week without a crowd are gone. Now I’m just some poor sap that works a more conventional schedule that is near perfect, by the way. I work Monday through Thursday, 7am-5:30pm, with Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off every week. It couldn’t have worked out better for my situation.

I do feel sorry for that inevitable new kid Up North that is doing the same thing I was when I moved there to hunt and fish for the rest of my life. I just feel bad for him that I’ll be the weekend warrior parking in “his spot”…that used to be “my spot”.

1 Comment on The Weekend Warrior

  1. I just read “A young Pointers First Season” and “The Weekend Warrior.” Such great writing. Parts of it seemed like they were taken directly from my own experiences in the grouse woods. I too live “down south” and am a weekend warrior up “up north.” I also grew up up north. Be up there on the weekends in the fall is my absolute favorite thing to do. I consider bagging a mature grouse off a solid point one of the most challenging and rewarding trophies a hunter can get. Can’t wait to get back up there.

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