Turning the big 7-0
By Luke Clayton
Apr 5, 2020
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I usually fill this space with an account of a recent creek fishing trip or wild hog hunt or something that I hope will entertain or enlighten you. But, it’s been a pretty dismal week in the outdoors; rainy and cold. Most of my time has been spent indoors putting fresh line on my reels and sorting through my turkey hunting gear in preparation for the spring season and, assembling my tackle for an upcoming white bass fishing trip.  On the one ‘dry’ day we had, I fired up the campfire and made a batch of fresh baked bread in my trusty old Dutch kettle.

One of the highlights of my week was the fact that I turned SEVENTY years old, that’s right the big 7-0! I’ve been secretly dreading this milestone of life for some time. After all, it doesn’t take a statistician to understand the ramifications of spending seventy years on planet earth.  I found myself delving on questions such as, “OK, I’m ‘seventy’, how many years do I have left to enjoy the outdoors at the level I am accustomed to? Ten? Fifteen? If I’m fortunate to become a really ‘old’ sportsman at some point, Grandfather Time will naturally cause me to alter my lifestyle.  There is obviously no definitive answer to this question and thus, no need in really dwelling upon it!

When more closely examining my situation, it became crystal clear that I have lead and, continue to lead, a blessed life in many ways and especially when it comes to health. I have noticed a few changes in the last decade. When I turned sixty ten years ago, I had no problem jumping across small creeks or bending over in a squatting position when field dressing game. Today, I have learned that creek crossings are best done in shallow water or possibly across a ‘foot log’, my puddle jumping days are over! I am beginning to find it challenging to get back into a standing position after bending over field dressing a hog or deer, the old knees give me a fit.  But, I have adapted and learned ways to get things done in a manner that doesn’t send me to the drugstore for a bottle of Advil!

I’m fortunate to have a good friend that is 16 years my senior. When sloshing through a duck marsh or out of a muddy field where we were hunting geese, I recall him stopping and saying, “Go ahead, Luke. I’ll catch up with you. I can’t go as fast as I used to.” He would often conclude his statement with, “The good Lord willing, you will be here one day.”

I can still walk fast enough to keep up with most of the younger buddies I hunt and fish with. I’ve always been a fast walker, especially when covering ground in the woods heading to a distant stand to hunt.  A great friend I spend lots of time with also has long legs and one gear (HIGH) when traveling through the woods. He is about to turn sixty and I’ve found that I can stay up with him, but I sometimes have to shift into overdrive to do so. In a few more years, I’m sure I will have to say to him what my elder friend used to say to me, “You go on ahead, I’ll catch up!”  Knowing my younger friend, he’ll probably do as I always did and take this as a cue to simply slow down and match paces with his older friend.

But, aging as a sportsman does have its advantages and the biggest one is experience. I’m certainly no super hunter or angler but I have come to the realization that I do have a great deal to share and I consider it my duty to my younger friends to do so. I’ve found younger folks just naturally learn from (listen to) those of us that have ‘been there, done that’ than when folks their same age try to give advice of knowledge.  This is a natural thing, I was like that as a young man.

Occasionally I have the opportunity to speak to groups of outdoorsmen or outdoors ladies and without exception; the younger crowd always fills the front rows. They obviously are interested in learning a new way (from an old timer) to cook in a Dutch Kettle or set a jug line for catfish or, whatever the topic might be. When it comes to programming a modern day sonar on a boat, they are storehouses of knowledge but how to rig ‘set hooks’ for catfish along a creek bank is totally foreign to many of them. It’s only natural.  When I was a youngster, I readily gleaned information from my elders but seldom, probably because of pride, listened to informed buddies closer to my age.

This aging thing is certainly not unique to me; it’s something we all have to contend with. If you’re middleaged, take heed of what the ‘old timer’ told me, ‘Your time is coming’! The key is learning to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle to the max, at the present age one finds one’s self. Having good health in our Golden Years as sportsmen it truly a blessing and is the deciding factor as to what we can continue to do. But I have friends well into their eighties that thoroughly enjoy spending time in a deer or hog blind, they just need the assistance of one of us ‘whipper snappers’ to drive them to the blind and help retrieve game.

Outdoors folks can continue to enjoy the outdoors during their 'Golden Years'. Luke's longtime friend, Dubb Wallace, 16 years Luke's senior, stopped hunting with a compound bow and began shooting the crossbow in his late seventies.

So, if you’re a younger hunter or fisherman, take heed and assist and learn from some of those that are a bit ‘longer in the tooth’!  After sharing my thoughts on aging via this column, I am considering doing something I did 20 years ago such as float the Brazos River or possibly something entirely new like heading to the rugged Cedar Break Country of Knox county in quest of wary aoudad!

DUTCH KETTLE CAMP BREAD Is very simple and easy to make. Combine 3 cups self rising flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons dry yeast and 1.5 cups water and knead into a ball, allow to rise. Place in a greased Dutch Kettle with charcoal or campfire coals and bake about 45 minutes. I use about 13 briquettes to top and 7 or 8 below. The flavor of the fresh baked break goes well at camp with a variety of foods or, simply buttered and served hot!