Korean War Series

“Funny thing is, I didn’t see any police where I was at.”

– Corporal Morris Kiefer. B Battery 955th Field Artillery Battalion.

My late Grandfather, Morris Kiefer, was a Korean War veteran. He was drafted and sent over to the peninsula to serve in a war that wasn’t declared a war and was instead called a “police action.” He would scoff at that and say, “Funny thing is I didn’t see any police where I was at.”

He didn’t speak much about his experience over there, and what he did share you could tell it troubled him. What stood out to me the most was what he said happened when he came home. He told me when he came back, people acted like he hadn’t been gone that long, (even though he was deployed for a year), and he was told to “get back to work”. This is a stark contrast to the ticker tape parades of the returning veterans of World War Two who returned home just five years prior to the start of the conflict in Korea.

There is an entire generation of veterans who now are disappearing, who’s stories are going to be lost. They are the veterans of a conflict that was stuck between the infamous battles of World War Two and the divisive aspects and implications of the Vietnam War. Go on Netflix or Amazon Prime and you can find a plethora of World War Two and Vietnam War films. Search any book seller and you will find the same. But a conflict that had its own heroics, that affected a generation no different than the war before or after it, is largely forgotten. No generation of veterans should ever be forgotten, but Korea had the moniker of being America’s “Forgotten War”. This should not be a thing, but sadly it is.

Given the ebb and flow of tension with North Korea making headlines recently, many people who will no doubt share their opinion online or on one of the various media outlets probably could not without the aid of Google tell you any of the major battles of the Korean War. They couldn’t tell you the nations involved in that conflict, or the leaders who sent them there. They couldn’t tell you how the nation of Korea came to be divided between a Communist North and Democratic South. More importantly, understanding the conflict and honoring those who served in a war that had global implications is necessary to ensure the veterans of this conflict get the honor and thank you long overdue. That is the plan with my upcoming series.

2020 will mark the 70 year anniversary of the start of the war. With this blog series, I will publish an “on this date” post covering significant events. I urge anyone who reads them to share it, and help spread the word of the conflict. My ultimate goal is to attract as much attention to it as possible, to try and get it on the same footing as World War Two or Vietnam. I need your help in doing so.

In order to get the message right, I must set the stage so to speak with the events that led up to the opening days of the Forgotten War.

Japanese Occupation of Korea

Following the signing of the treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, Russia had to accept that Japan had vested interest in Korea. On 22 August 1910, Japan officially annexed Korea as a protectorate of the Japanese Empire.

Japanese forces during their occupation of Korea. Picture Credit: HistoryCollection.com

Japanese migrants had moved to Korea to help ease overcrowding in Japan. The Japanese treated the Koreans as second rate citizens. They created a Feudal state in Korea, where Japanese citizens owned the land and the Koreans worked the fields and paid their landlords from these efforts. There were a few attempted uprisings by the Koreans against the Japanese, however these were harshly put down by the Japanese.

Following their manpower shortages during the massive buildup of the military, Japanese authorities first recruited and then conscripted Korean laborers to work in Japanese factories to support the war effort. In addition to working in Japanese factories, Korean civilians were forced to work in abhorrent conditions in Korean mines to support the Japanese war effort. Total Korean forced labor deaths during the occupation is estimated at between 270,000 and 810,000.

The Dividing of Korea

American soldiers disarm Japanese soldiers in Korea following the Japanese surrender. Picture Credit: HistoryCollection.com

Japanese occupation of Korea abruptly ended with the Japanese surrender following the dropping of the atomic bombs on mainland Japan in August 1945. On September 8th 1945 Lieutenant General John Hodge arrived in Korea and accepted the surrender of the Japanese forces there.

Soldiers of the Soviet Union’s 25th Army advancing into Northern Korea during their Manchuria Offensive in October 1945. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

Following an agreement among the Allies towards the end of the war, the Soviet Union took part in offensive operations against the Japanese. They invaded Korea from Manchuria and headquartered themselves in Pyongyang. US and Soviet leadership settled on a dividing line for their joint occupation of Korea, similar to what they did with Germany. The two sides settled on the 38th parallel as this dividing line.

As the two former allies began to enter what would be called the Cold War, Korea became two separate countries. The North, being aided and supported by the Soviets became a Communist country. The Soviets trained and supplied their military, to include creating an Air Force. In the South, the United States and other Western capitalist allies supported and supplied those Koreans. The peninsula, which had been under harsh Japanese rule, now was divided between two ideologies locked in a struggle to spread their own influence while restricting their opponent’s.

As the Cold War heated up, instead of a strictly administrative division between two allies with the ultimate goal of a reunification of the Korean peninsula, in 1948 each of the now “two Korea’s” declared themselves as seperate nations. In the South, the Republic of Korea (ROK) elects Syngman Rhee, a 70 year old Korean expatriate supported by the United States, as their first president. In the Soviet supported North, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is formed with Kim Il Sung at its head. Each of the two sides considered themselves as the head of a unified Korea, and did not recognize the government of the other side. They viewed the 38th parallel as a temporary issue.

Syngman Rhee, president of the newly formed Republic of Korea. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Syngman Rhee’s tenure as the president of the ROK would be tainted by corruption and abuses of power. He would use his fledgling military and police force during the first few years of power to violently put down protests and crack down on those he deemed a threat to South Korea.

Kim Il Sung, the Great Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Kim Il Sung fought against the Japanese in guerilla warfare during their occupation of Korea. This fact would give rise to the belief in North Korea, fueled by propaganda that he alone drove the Japanese from the peninsula. He was trained and cultivated by the Soviet Union who noticed him and his political alliance to the Communist party. He was selected by the Soviets to head the DPRK and he set about a path to reunify the peninsula under Communism.

There are a lot more smaller details during the lead up to the Korean War, but I feel this is a good start in laying the background of the Korean War. Since it is 2019, I will spend the rest of the year covering the events of 1949, the year before the war kicked off. Major changes in the region, most notably in China, would have MAJOR implications in Korea. I hope you enjoyed this blog and found it interesting. From this point forward, it will cover what happened “on this date.” I am excited to work on this and hope you enjoy reading it.

Father’s Day

Nothing in this world prepares you for being a father. There is no class you can take, book you can read, or experience you can call on to prepare yourself for it. For nine months you watch your wife carry around the child and understand that she will always share a bond with the child you will never know. Nor should you. However, when you hold that child for the first time, the weight of the responsibility you now are undertaking hits you. You are now responsible for the life of another person in a way so foreign it is hard to explain. Yet in the same moment, you seem to flash forward to all the memories you want to make with them. It’s as if you have seen it before, as if it had already happened. You embark on the challenges of fatherhood feeling nervous yet ready.

There are two things that fathers are responsible for, and one compliments the other. You have to raise your children in a way that will lead to them being good, successful, happy people, and you have to do so in a way that is kind, compassionate yet stern. One cannot happen without the other. It is a balancing act that I at times fail at. Mothers are naturals in the ways of raising children, fathers have to learn by their example. My two boys have taught me more in their short time here on Earth than I had learned leading up to their arrival. They are different people, have different needs and personalities that are unique to them. They have taught me patience in the ways only children can. They have taught me a different level of love I hadn’t even known existed. And they have taught me that the material things I have now do not matter, rather it is what I leave behind with them, memories and experiences with them that matter. It is the lessons I taught them of how to treat others that counts. It is the lessons I taught them of opening the doors for their mother, giving her flowers just because, that will hopefully make them loving and honorable spouses.

I hope that when they get to be my age and think of me on Father’s Day, they remember me in a way that makes them smile. I hope they remember me in a way that they say to themselves, dad did right by us, he helped shape who we are. That is the legacy I would like to leave behind. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.

Memorial Day

“We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.”

Unknown

A day set aside to honor the memory of those who paid the ultimate price for freedom, a vast majority of Americans don’t truly understand the significance of Memorial Day.

The last Monday in May was designated as the official date for Memorial Day in America. Modern society views that day as the unofficial start of summer, marked by cookouts, the start of camping season, opening of pools and other summer related festivities. However the true significance of of the day seems to have been lost or at least overlooked. That responsibility doesn’t just fall on those who haven’t served but also those who have.

The predecessor of Memorial Day was Decoration Day in 1868.

Decoration Day

The American Civil War claimed 620,000 lives, roughly 2% of the population at the time. To put that in perspective, if that percentage was applied to the American population today which is 328,830,848, the casualties would number over 6 million. There was not a family on either side who wasn’t impacted by the war. So much loss led to a movement to honor the dead. While various towns across the nation held their own services after the war ended in 1865, the Union Veterans organization called the Grand Army of the Republic pushed for a national day of remembrance. General John A Logan declared that May 30th should be the selected date, as across the country flowers would be in bloom. This day of honoring the dead would be called Decoration Day, because on that day the graves of those lost would be decorated.

It was first celebrated May 30 1868 in Arlington Virginia, and the graves of both Union and Confederate dead were decorated with flowers while the attendees, made up of war veterans, orphans of the war and other dignitaries sang hymns in honor of the dead. American Flags were placed on the graves as well, a practice that continues to today.

An unusual natural occurrence on the war torn battlefields of Europe, the poppy has become a symbol of remembrance.

The Poppy

Following America’s involvement in the First World War, the practice of honoring the nation’s dead shifted to anyone lost in one of America’s wars. Another symbol came to honor the dead from the ravaged battlefields of Western Europe; the poppy.

A battlefield surgeon, John McCrae, noticed that after the brutal Second Battle of Ypres, that the torn up battlefield began to bloom red under the growing poppies. Moved by this beautiful sight amid so much carnage, he wrote a poem “In Flanders Field” speaking as a fallen soldier buried in the field of poppies. This powerful poem would be used at countless memorial ceremonies honoring the fallen of the war.

A woman by the name of Moina Michael was so moved by the nature of the poem that during the course of her work with the YMCA, which at the time trained aid workers to work overseas, she vowed to wear a red poppy to honor the dead. After the war ended, she made silk poppies and sold them, raising money for returning veterans. In mid 1920, she convinced the Georgia chapter of the American Legion, a newly formed veterans organization, to adopt the poppy as it’s rememberance symbol. Shortly after that, the National American Legion made it the official National Symbol of Remembrance.

The American Legion sells poppies in the lead up to Memorial Day (you may have seen them at intersections asking for donations) and the money raised goes to help veterans. Keep some money in your car, and when you see them, get yourself a poppy.

Memorial Day as a National Holiday

As mentioned earlier, May 30th was designated as the date for Decoration Day and this was carried on for decades. Congress in 1968 passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which designated the last Monday in May as Memorial Day, and also made it a federal holiday. Across the nation, veterans organizations, schools, cities and towns put on parades honoring those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom. Veterans pay tribute to the fallen by placing flags at their graves and holding ceremonies honoring the nation’s war dead.

Our Duties as Americans

American Legion Post 192 firing a salute to the fallen during a Memorial Day ceremony at Marengo Community Cemetery. Photo credit: Your Photographic Memory.

American Legion Post 192 bowing their heads during a prayer for the nation’s fallen during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Marengo Community Cemetery. Photo Credit: Your Photographic Memory.

As Americans we take a lot of what we have for granted. We live in a nation where our freedom is the envy of the world. But the continuation of that freedom has come at a cost. Throughout our history, and right up to today, America’s finest have went forth and kept the wolf from our door. Some of them have paid the ultimate price, sacrificing their tomorrows for our future.

Most of the publicity that Memorial Day gets today is that it constitutes a three day weekend. It’s also looked at as the unofficial start to summer. Lost in all of this is the real meaning, the real purpose of the day, what General Logan sought during the first Decoration Day; honoring the memories of those who died in service to our country.

I have been acussed of being a “buzzkill” when it comes to Memorial Day weekend. I admittedly get annoyed by what I view as an overlook by our society as a whole in the true meaning of the day. I feel as though society should at least take a few hours and spend it at one of the countless ceremonies nationwide to honor those who died for our freedom.

But I had a fellow veteran tell me something that lessened my angst. He said,

“Look, those that died would want people to enjoy the freedom they have. They would want people to be with family, celebrate however they see fit. Let them enjoy the day. Remind them what it is for but don’t look down on them because of how they choose to celebrate.”

That’s a good perspective. Isn’t that what those who signed up to fight for the nation ultimately fought for? For society to live in freedom and enjoy life? Yes. That’s the point of it all.

All I ask is that if you can, go to the ceremonies and see it for yourself. If it doesn’t move you to see the aging veterans still marching, still firing their rifles in salute, still doing what they can to honor the memories of our nation’s heroes, well you don’t appreciate the blanket of freedom laid upon you. It is a three day weekend, and you can still have the camping trek, or cook out or open your pool for the season. But I bet if you look hard enough in your area, there is some sort of ceremony taking place on Monday. Take some time and go, pay your respects, give a little back for an hour or so.

Thank You for Your Service

I have always felt a bit uncomfortable when someone says “Thank you for your service.” It’s not that I am unappreciative for it, it’s just that I’m not one to feel the need to be thanked. However on Memorial Day I especially have a hard time with it, because the day is for those we have lost. It is a day to honor those who paid the price for freedom; it’s not a day for thanking those who serve or served. I try to be respectful and correct people when they say it, but it will always happen because people want to do something to show their gratitude. Some of it is due to the fact people don’t understand what the day means. It is our job as those who know to respectfully tell them. As veterans, we should accept the thanks but offer to explain the significance of the day so they have an understanding. It will help spread the knowledge.

Emblem of the American Legion.

The emblem of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The Decline of Veterans Organizations

Reading the title of this section you might be asking, what does that have to do with Memorial Day? Well a majority of the activities that take place on Memorial Day are done by organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. They are the ones that decorate the graves, march in the parades and conduct the ceremonies at the local cemeteries.

The bulk of the members are aging. When I was a kid, the World War Two veterans where the ones who slowly were disappearing. Now as an adult, Korean War veterans are hard to come by, and it is now the Vietnam era veterans who are aging. Many of the local chapters of the VFW and American Legion are shadows of their former glory days. Speaking for my Legion Post, they lost their Legion Hall and now hold meetings at the local park district building. This is due in large part to dwindling membership numbers, making it hard to meet the cost of their own building.

I urge my fellow veterans to join one of their local chapters. Due to the nature of my job, there is very little I can do schedule wise, but I do what I can when I can. If this current trend continues, many of these local organizations will cease to exist. Their membership is dwindling, as my generation of veterans seem to not take an interest in them. Even if you can’t take too active of a role, the least you can do is get a membership, which helps the local chapter.

Enjoy but Remember

I’ll close this long blog out by saying I hope everyone safely enjoys the coming weekend. I will also ask that if you can on Monday, check out one of the Memorial Day services taking place across this great nation. If that isn’t possible, take a moment and raise a glass, offer a toast in remembrance of those who died so you can enjoy your three day weekend. It’s a small token of appreciation for such a sacrifice.

The 2nd Amendment

‘They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. Benjamin Franklin.

Probably the most controversial amendment in our Bill of Rights, the second amendment has garnered both a vocal opposition and a passionate group of supporters.

We as Americans value our freedom to a point that borders on being a religious view. If you were to ask average Americans what they love about living here, it will usually have the word freedom in it; freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of unwarranted searches. These freedoms, and others that most people couldn’t name without the aid of Google, are enshrined in our Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments of the US Constitution.

The Bill of Rights, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, are not rights granted to us by the government; rather they are natural rights of our existence, protected from infringement by the government. If people read through them and apply them to their modern lives, they can appreciate their significance. In fact, a general consensus can be formed as to their importance. Well, for nine out of the ten anyway. One amendment is constantly questioned as to it’s role in modern times. No other amendment is continually debated and at some points infringed upon so regularly as the second amendment.

The often asked, fiercely debated question surrounding the purpose of the second amendment is one that pro-gun and anti-gun forces attack with equal passion. What does the amendment mean? What is it’s purpose? Well, all we have to do is look at the events that caused the American Revolution, and use that historical context to understand why the second amendment exists.

The opening fight in the American Revolution came as a result of a tyrannical government attempting to disarm the populace.

Our Founders decided that they had had enough overstepping in their lives by the British Empire. Years of warfare had accumulated a massive debt on the British Empire, as they fought to expand and control their colonies. In their American Colonies, it was decided to levy heavier and heavier taxes on the population to recover some of this debt. This was met with resistance, as the colonies felt that they were not properly represented given how much they were paying in taxes. The British countered this resistance by replacing those taxes with other duties and taxes, and in some instances sending troops. The rise in tyranny by the British is what led to a call for separation from England.

The American Revolution came about due in large part to a governmental system that held too much power over it’s populace. The Americans who helped form the nation remembered this after the Revolution when they began to flesh out a system of government. They were so fearful of a centralized government that they created the system we know today, which has three branches. One branch does not hold most of the power, it is (supposed to be) spread among the three branches of government. Each branch has the ability to challenge the other if they deem it necessary. This system is called checks and balances, and it allows for power to not be centralized.

Now I’m sure you are asking, ok why the history lesson? Well for one I’m a history buff so it is easy for me to ramble on and on. But in order to understand why changing our amendments is a delicate decision, you have to understand why the founders documented them in the first place. The Bill of Rights is the limits on government power, a list of what they can’t do. However, limiting government power in writing is one thing. If a government truly chooses the path of tyranny, no amount of writing on paper will truly protect someone’s rights.

That’s where the 2nd Amendment comes in.

It is the final check on governmental power, that when all other means of protecting liberty have been violated, an armed populace has the ability to protect itself from tyranny. The Founders had tried to petition the British government to stop infringing on their lives, and in response the British sought to disarm the populace as the tension escalated. They fully well knew what an armed populace meant to short stopping tyranny. An overbearing government would be less likely to step on their own people if those people were armed.

Now, whenever this argument comes up in the gun debate, those against guns say,

“What, do you think you with your guns can stand up to the most powerful military in the world?”

Uh yeah. Great Britain was the most powerful military in the world at the time of our Revolution. We fought them to a point where it was too costly for them to continue the fight.

In modern times, you have to look no further than our war in Afghanistan. Currently our government is negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban, the same people who we have been fighting for the last 18 years. We have the most powerful military in the world, and have been fighting guys armed with AK’s, RPG’s and IED’s, who we are now negotiating a peace deal with.

Third world religious zealots have fought the most powerful military in the world to the negotiating table after 18 years of combat, using some low tech but innovative ways to wage war.

If the government became tyrannical, how long do you honestly think they would wage a war against the populace? They would have to also use a force that wasn’t part of the American populace. I have a hard time believing that American forces could be convinced to wage a war against it’s own population. So yes, I believe an armed population could and would be able to defend itself against a tyrannical government. I also believe it is essential to liberty for that same reason.

In modern times, guns have become one of the most divisive and controversial topics. This is due in no small part to a variety of highly publicized mass shootings in the nation. No doubt tragic, these shootings strike at the heart of American society, as they generally take place in areas society considers “safe havens”; schools, religious buildings, malls etc. The American media, no longer a source of information, salivate at these types of horrible crimes as opportunities to push their narrative, be it from an anti-gun or pro-gun side. Images of crying scared children strike at the hearts of all Americans, no matter what side of the political or ideological fence one resides.

Anti-gun politicians do not hesitate to jump on any and all tragedies if they relate to guns. It is predictable that if any news headlines come from a shooting, the politicians that are anti-gun will be the loudest voices calling for gun control of all colors and sizes. It has become so predictable that their “concern for public safety” has lost it’s veneer. They are pushing their agenda, which is that law abiding citizens should not have access to firearms. They have reached a point where they no longer wait for the facts of the issue to come out before they begin their highly predictable preaching on the major news networks.

One narrative that they push is a call for “common sense gun laws”. This blanket statement can be and is used to push whatever gun control those wielding it choose. Common sense is a subjective term, and it’s meaning varies from person to person. What is considered common sense to one person may not be to another. So then, who decides what is truly “common sense”? Who are we willing to allow to determine the degree we can pursue a right? Those in office, who are protected 24/7 by armed men with guns? See what kind of lunacy that is? See how that flies in the face of what the founders intended when they developed the Bill of Rights? Allowing those in power, who are so out of touch with what it is like to live as an average American, to dictate and infringe on our rights is an outrage and an affront to the sacrifices made by our founders to prevent that EXACT thing from happening!

Another disingenuous tactic used by anti-gun politicians is the citing of the “startling” statistics of gun violence in America. They cite that there is an epidemic of mass shootings in America, that our lax gun laws (ask anyone who has tried to legally obtain a firearm how lax gun laws are) is causing this crisis of an increase in mass shootings to happen.

According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), in 2016 there were 33,594 total deaths by firearms in the United States. A shocking number when viewed on the surface. But if one takes the time to break those numbers down, (which anti-gun politicians and their media mouthpieces refuse to do) the reality actually shines through. Going beyond the shocking number that the media touts, of that 33,594 deaths by firearms, 22,938 were firearm deaths by suicide. While still tragic, it can be argued that no matter what, those people intended to kill themselves. Are any gun laws going to prevent someone intending to end their own life? Maybe by using a gun yes, but they have other ways to do it.

14,415 out of the 33,594 deaths by firearms were homicides. While that in of itself is truly tragic, the CDC further states that 80% of those were gang related. So following the gang lead as that is the major cause of homicides with firearms, according to a poll taken by the FBI in 2016 of inmates who had committed a crime with a firearm, 43% of those guns used came from “off the street”. That means that they were not purchased by conventional means, for example from a store, gun show etc. Meaning they were obtained illegally, which is breaking the law at the outset.

Lastly, in 2016 71 people were killed in the epidemic mass shooting touted by the media. Keep in mind that the threshold for a mass shooting classification is four or more people. While tragic, this number, when compared to the 22,938 self inflicted gun deaths, does not speak to a national crisis. Especially not to one requiring arbitrary “common sense gun laws”.

Which one of the two weapons shown above is a military style rifle? If you said both, you’d be right.

Then there comes the “military style” weapons argument. Once again, anti-gun politicians like to use subjective terms because they are able to apply them to whatever they want. Military style can mean any number of attributes that fit a narrative or even look like something people saw in an action flick. If it makes the populace imagine that only cold blooded killers use these weapons, then they can get buyin for banning them.

Well, when does the use of the term stop? Once all semiautomatic weapons are banned? What about bolt action “sniper style” rifles? What about “pump action” assault shotguns? What about the rapid fire lever action rifles that John Wayne terrorized his adversaries with?

Does this all seem a bit ridiculous? Can you see where this is going? Every firearm since the creation of gunpowder has been a military style weapon. From the matchlocks to the flintlocks, to the invention of the self contained cartridge, from breach loading to lever action, semiautomatic to full automatic, every weapon has had it’s formation as a weapon of war. So, to answer the anti-gun politicians’ rhetoric of “do weapons of war belong on our streets”? Well, every firearm at one point in it’s history WAS A WEAPON OF WAR. It’s a dangerous precedent to set to allow such a subjective term be used in limiting a right intended to keep the government in check.

I’ve heard the remark “The founders never would have envisioned the weapons we have today when they wrote the second amendment.”

The founders most certainly did not believe that the weapons they had at the time were as far advanced technologically speaking as weapons would ever get. They did not believe that what they had was the best that would ever be created in the history of mankind. We certainly do not believe that the technology we have today is the end of the line, that nothing else will ever be created again. Why would they feel that way either?

Two firearms of the day were the most technologically advanced and were exactly what the founders meant when they wrote the amendment. The Brown Bess musket was the mainstay infantry firearm of the day. Used by both the British and the Colonials, it was the premier firearm in military usage. Also, the long rifle, which was technologically speaking more advanced than the Brown Bess, as it had rifling in the barrel, as opposed to the smooth bore barrel of the Bess. This rifling placed a spin on the musket ball, adding a further shooting distance over the Brown Bess. It took longer to load, which is why at the time the long rifle was used mostly by hunters who didn’t need to reload as quickly as an infantryman in a fight. However, American Riflemen brought their long rifles into the fight for Independence, especially in the southern theater, which gave them an edge over their British opponents. This was exactly the idea the founders had when they wrote the second amendment.

American Rifleman of the Revolution. Painting done by the great Don Troiani.

Once touted as a place for free speech, Facebook has declared itself a moderator of content on it’s site. It seems though their algorithms bias a bit one way over the other.

Social media has become how a majority of Americans get their information. Like it or not (trust me I do not) that is a fact that is trending. The really scary part of that is that Facebook is a private enterprise. We all sign up and agree to their terms of use (which we never read) and as long as we follow their rules, we can post and share and like whatever our heart desires.

Except when the rules change. Except when the powers that be in Facebook or other social media sites decide they do not like a certain subject, or viewpoint, and decide that they will ban not only those subjects, but those who violate the rules regarding those subjects.

Case in point; guns. It used to be there were pages for buying, selling and trading guns, as long as it was withing the bounds of the law. Gun rights and pro gun pages were free to express themselves in any way they saw fit. Then came the political movements of the Moms Demand Action (or as I have heard them called Mom’s Demand Attention) putting pressure on Facebook and other social media companies to crack down on gun content. Overnight the gun selling pages were gone, the gun rights and pro-gun pages were getting shut down over violations of the new “rules”, and even pro-gun individuals were getting their accounts banned for liking too many pro-gun candidates or pages. I experienced it myself first hand when I couldn’t like, share or comment anything from my page. It was locked up.

Now, Facebook is a private company and we agreed to the rules to play by in participating. That being said, they and other social media outlets have become the place where a vast majority of Americans get their information, yet they are heavy handed with a certain portion of American society. If they were to crack down on LGBT, or vegans, or any other facet of society, how would that be received?

This leads me to the end of this long blog post. If you have made it this far, you have a clear idea of my opinion on this matter. I challenge anyone reading this who is either indifferent to or doesn’t like guns to do the following. Pick one of the other 10 amendments, and think about to what degree you would be willing to allow the government to restrict that right. Would you allow the government ot restrict how much you write or speak against it? Would you allow them to force you to pay a fee to have a social media page, that you had to pay every five or ten years following a back ground check? Would you be willing to allow the government to enter your home without a warrant because you are deemed dangerous? Or allow them hold you in prison indefinitely for public safety?

No other amendment in the Bill of Rights has been so willingly sacrificed and infringed upon as has the second. When the founders wrote it, they weren’t safeguarding guns for hunting purposes. That would be like saying they put in an amendment to ensure you could get groceries. They weren’t concerned with hunting, it was part of how people sustained themselves. Nor were they safeguarding your right to self defense. Self defense is a small part of our rights. They created this amendment to ensure we the people had the means to keep our government in line when all else fails. An armed populace safeguards it’s liberty by existing as such. Look no further than the injustice that has befallen Venezuela currently. The government there a few short years ago banned private ownership of firearms. Now the government is firing on protesters and running civilians over with armored vehicles, on top of other travesties.

We must be careful how we proceed. If we allow our rights that were hard fought to gain in the first place to be stripped away so easily now, we may never get them back. What we do now sets a precedent for future generations. Allowing the government to restrict rights in the name of “common sense” or “safety” is a dangerous path for us to go down. There may come a time that we need the second amendment as it was intended, and what we do now may shape how we are able to defend our liberty in the future. I for one, value our liberty above all else.

Constitutional Republic

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Alexis de Tocqueville.

Our founding document is something every American has benefited from, yet few have read and even fewer understand it’s true importance. Now there is a movement to change our form of government, with those calling for it not realizing the long lasting implications of such changes.

Social media is a great form of communication, where you can communicate with anyone about anything at any time. Everyone has a voice, whether you want to see it or not (blog posts are the same, trust me I understand the irony). Memes, GIFS, and other media have taken over the way in which we communicate. Instead of using critical thinking and research, our instant gratification society uses pictures with words on them to “get a point across”. Living in what is called the information age, people are actually less informed when it comes to important issues, including our how government works and the importance of our constitution.

This painting I feel captures the disappointment the founders would express now when viewing how we as a nation so willingly sacrifice the gift of liberty they bestowed upon us. Most of the time, a majority of our society ignores issues because researching facts can be “inconvienient“.

Our founding fathers created a form of government that held at it’s center the liberty and rights of every American. Following victory in the American Revolution, the founding fathers had to build a nation where there had not been one. There was a wide breadth of issues that had to be solved in creating a new nation, but at their forefront was how to limit the power of the government in the lives of the citizenry.

After much deliberation, the founders decided on establishing a document which listed not what the government could do, but rather what it was limited in doing. The first ten amendments in the American constitution would be called the Bill of Rights, which didn’t guarantee or permit these rights to the citizenry, rather they proteced these rights from the government.

The founders realized that elected representatives could just as easily become as tyrannical as any King or Parliament. If one takes the time to read and research this period in American history, the common theme is one of a distrust of centralized government. Hell, during the revolution, as America struggled to fight against the British Army, the various colonies refused to create a colonial army, fearful of what such an army could be used for. Even during the creation of the nation, the government limited the size of the army, and instead relied on the militia system for national defense.

The founders were extremely calculated in just what form of government they created. They created a Constitutional Republic, in which the people elected their representatives to be their voice in major decision making. They decided on using an electoral college system for elections, because they knew also that a purely democratic system could become a tool of tyrannical overreach. A pure democracy would result in 51 percent of the nation ruling over the 49 percent, no matter the issue. Our constitution and our electoral college system both guarantee that everyone is represented.

If we go to a purely popular vote style election as some states have begun to, the major population centers of states would hold the power at the expense of the “rest” of the state. Want an example of this? Look at the great state of Illinois. A majority of policies created within the state come from one place and only make sense to those whole live there; Chicago.

Illinois election map from the 2016 presidential election. Not only does this apply to the presidential election but if one is to look at voting in the state, it follows the same pattern represented here. One city politically controls the rest of the state.

Even though the city of Chicago and it’s outlying suburbs are highly populated, culturally Chicago and the rest of the state are vastly different. The values, beliefs and politics are vastly different, so how can it be justified to allow a purely popular vote, won by population numbers, be allowed to speak for the rest of the state? How is that a fair representation for the “others” in the state?

If we as a nation go to a purely popular vote and do away with the electoral college, we are doing the exact opposite of what the founders intended in regards to representation. No longer will the rural areas have a fair shake in elections. It will all be controlled by the high population centers of the major cities, which will always win in those types of elections just based on numbers alone. People running for office can negate the less populated areas and instead focus on issues that only benefit the major urban areas. How is that a fair representation for all Americans?

Those elected officials who are calling for a change in our government system were pretty silent about it prior to 2016. Now all of a sudden there is a major need to change the way we do things because they didn’t get the result they wanted from the system that has worked since our nation’s inception. Instead of advocating for a change to our system of government, which is designed to protect the rights of the people, maybe more people should read the documents from the founders to actually understand why it is designed the way it is. Instead of taking it at face value from social media memes and posts, people should stop being lazy and do their own research.

It is a dangerous precedent to set to make constitutional changes. It may not have dire affects in the short term, but you are setting future generations up for failure in the long term.

In my blog A Republic if You Can Keep It I harped on active participation by we the people. The rights outlined in the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments of the Constitution are NOT rights granted to us by the government. They are natural rights endowed by our Creator, or evolution or however you view how we came to be, that are safeguarded from the government. Allowing the government to alter those rights, infringe on those rights without a serious challenge is a serious error on our part. Once it is done it is hard for it to be undone. Once we the people grant the power for elected officials to change our rights, we have set that dangerous precedent.

Instead of changing the Constitution because you are unhappy with how things turned out, try reading the Federalist Papers, and other documents from our founders to gain an understanding of the why. Educate yourself first and then ask; do I really want to allow political careerists to make major changes to our rights? Understand the implications for allowing this, and ask how is it setting up the country in the long term. That is active participation.

We the people control the government, but that responsibility requires work on our part. In order to do right by the founders and the lives that have been sacrificed for our rights, we the people need to educate ourselves and take an interest in where we allow our nation to go. If we continue down the path we are on, slowly our rights will diminish to the point we are subjects instead of citizens. That should scare everyone who values their liberty.

Brotherhood

“Humans beings need three basic things in order to be content: They need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others. These values are considered ‘intrinsic’ to human happiness and far outweigh ‘extrinsic’ values such as beauty, money and status.” Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon Echo Company (or 4th Platoon, Fox Company depending on how you look at it) in al-Khalidiya Iraq during our 2008 deployment. Yes those are cowboy hats. Any question why our self-proclaimed moniker was “Squad Sex Machine”?

The bond that develops between men and their brothers in arms is something that few in our modern society can understand, unless of course you are among those who have lived that life. Law enforcement officers come close, but they generally are not living together for months at a time, sharing in the separation from home and family. I am by no means degrading or knocking the law enforcement lifestyle, rather, I’m just stating that the bond is different.

I have heard sports teams use the term “band of brothers” to describe their bond that develops during their experiences. To me, this is just another example of people overusing a term, much like hero, without really understanding what that term means.

Since I was a kid, I had always wanted to serve in the military. While most kids idolized sports stars or actors, my heroes could be found at the local VFW or American Legion. They were the stone faced old men with the veteran’s hats, the guys that handed out poppies around Memorial Day, or marched in parades. I wanted to be one of them, more than anything in the world. I joined the military as many young men do, idealistic as to what my life would be in the service of my country.

My reserve unit was activated in September of 2007 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, which by this time had been going on for almost five years. Many of the senior leadership in my platoon had deployed with the battalion during their 2004-2005 deployment and they had gained combat experience. I looked up to many of these guys, given what they had been through together and noticed the bond they had amongst themselves. It was something that seemed almost tangible; you could feel it when they interacted with each other. There was us new guys and then there was the vets. They had spent a year together, watching each other’s backs in seemingly constant combat in one of the worst parts of Iraq. As a junior Marine, I looked up to these guys and absorbed all that they had to teach us. I wanted what they had.

During our 2008 deployment, we lived in close quarters and daily conducted patrols in our Area of Operations (AO). Our deployment was marked not by combat, but by endless miles on patrol, talking to locals, collecting intelligence, keeping weapons and vehicles ready for combat if it was to ever come (it didn’t).

Countless miles spent patroling various types of terrain, from joint urban patrols with Iraqi police like this picture, to nighttime rural patrols in the farm fields and along roadways watching for bad guys burying IEDS.

My view on patrols; as a patrol leader it was my job to direct the route of the patrol and make sure everyone was accounted for and safe. Days like this we ate dust during a sandstorm.

We patrolled everywhere in our AO, mostly on foot but sometimes from a vehicle. We lived in a compound in town, adjacent to the Iraqi Police Station. We were twelve dudes living first in a tent that doubled as a classroom during the day for the Iraqi Police. We would leave the FOB (Forward Operating Base) on a Monday and foot patrol to the police station. Our week was spent sleeping in the tent/classroom, running two to three patrols a day, living as a rifle squad should. We would come back to the FOB on a Sunday, spend the day relaxing and refitting, then it was back to work Monday.

Patrol base life. Good buddy Humpich living life in an Iraq police station, sharing his lunch with some friends.

We had to be self sufficient to a certain degree; we were separated from our platoon, given a mission, and had to execute it. We had a great squad leader who treated us as MEN. We each had a specific job within that mission, and were expected to do that job and help with the other tasks if needed. The expectation was to hold up your end or face the consequences.

My favorite point man on patrol, Stumpy.

Having served during the 2004 deployment, Izzy was one of the seniors I looked up to.

It was in this environment, the constant working together, suffering together, living together, that created that bond. Another squad was moved out to the compound with us and we made it our home. All 24 of us shared that experience for the duration of the deployment, and the brotherhood expanded. However, to say they were family doesn’t do it justice either. It’s a bond that is it’s own entity. Guys that to this day I would fight for. Even given the distance of time and location, they are still my brothers.

Our company suffered two good men killed when their vehicle drove over an antitank mine. It was a loss as surprising as it was heart wrenching. Corporal Richard Nelson and Lance Corporal Dean Opicka will always have a special place in the hearts of everyone who served in Fox 2/24.

Corporal Richard Nelson.

Lance Corporal Dean Opicka.

That’s the brotherhood. The loss felt that day is something everyone who served there during that time shares. Two of the greatest, kindest and best Marines one could know, that were popular with everyone they came in contact with, were lost. No one wants to speak ill of the dead, but I don’t think there is a bad thing that could be said about them. My sons will know their names and their sacrifice.

Our platoon was called the “Battalion Bastards”, because while we were Echo Company 3rd platoon, we were stationed out of Chicago instead of Iowa with the rest of Echo Company. We had our own RUC (Reporting Unit Code) number, which was one of a kind for an infantry platoon. During my 2008 deployment we were attached to Fox Company as their 4th Platoon, but at heart we were truly still the Battalion Bastards. That term was coined by those that established the platoon in 1997. It is a sense of honor to be called a Bastard, ironic for those who don’t understand why.

Following our 2008 deployment we would have annual Christmas parties, where we could gather and enjoy each other’s company. It seemed like it was a way for us to hold onto that bond despite no longer being deployed.

One of our Christmas Parties of the past. Genuine smiles of guys who share a bond few will understand.

There are get-togethers here and there that take place, some of which I miss out on due to work. When I do get a chance to go, it is like old times. Some of the spouses were girlfriends or new brides during our deployment, so they share a common history in that regard. We all share stories, catch up on life, and generally enjoy each other’s company.

The platoon was disbanded following the reorganizing of the military in 2016. One of my greatest regrets as a veteran is that I didn’t go to the ceremony, to be a part of it and shake hands and hang out with Bastards from all points of the platoon’s history. Shirts were made with the slogan “You can’t disband a brotherhood.”

As we returned to our normal civilian lives, our careers took us all in different directions. Many of the guys I deployed with became members of law enforcement and it is in this regard that our shared experiences have changed. They have continued to live a life of service, and have varied experiences from it that define them today. My time of service ended, and with it the one thing that had defined our bond dissolved.

They and other guys I served with live near or in Chicago, whereas I reside a few hours from there. While it is close in relative terms, it takes a good amount of effort for everyone involved to meet up. That, coupled with life having taken us in different directions, work and family obligations pulling us one way or another, guys I had lived a year plus with, who I had grown close to and learned from, are now not a major part of my life as they once were.

And that bothers me.

I have struggled in my post military career to have something similar to what I had with those Bastards. It is something that comes and goes, but as I’ve gotten older and further and further removed, the longing for that sense of belonging has grown. I’ve tried to find it elsewhere but the truth is, it doesn’t exist anywhere else and it is something you can’t create, it just happens.

As time has passed, the meet ups have become less frequent. If it wasn’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t know the lives they live now. This bothers me but, such is life. It’s what happens, it’s what time and distance truly do to bonds that are unbreakable. Time has showed me that I will never be as cool as I was when I was in their company.

But no matter, they are Brothers; and if I was to see any of them today, it would be like we never parted. When I left the platoon in 2010, I had to give a speech, and I ended it with a hard truth. I said that while I have friends I have made at home, friends I have made at work, none of them compare to the brothers I made in the platoon. That is as true now as it was nine years ago at my parting. Semper Fidelis Bastards.

“A Republic if you can keep it.”

“You don’t have to take an interest in politics, but I guarantee politics has an interest in you.” Randy Newburg

Our Founding Fathers established this political system that is dependent on an informed, educated electorate. Modern times have shown we are neither.

Our form of government is the envy of those who live under any other type. We have a peaceful transition of power every four to eight years. We have a document that spells out the restrictions the government has in regulating the rights of its people. Our system of government allows us to pick representatives that will go forth and represent our interests on our behalf. And if they don’t live up to our standard? If they act against our interest? Well, we can vote them out. The power comes from “we the people.”

Well, we the people have shirked our responsibilities as of late. We have been asleep at the helm. We have surrendered our rights to what is becoming more and more a political elite class within our society. The two sides have continually fueled divisiveness and partisanship to the point that government shutdowns, executive orders and other centralized actions by the government have become so common that they barely register with a majority of Americans anymore.

The fact that government shutdowns, executive orders, emergency declarations and other overreaching actions are more and more common proves how ineffective our elected officials truly are at doing their jobs.

Our society is the most connected society in the history of mankind. We carry around little computers that are connected at the touch of an app to others and also to the world wide web, which holds endless amounts of information. Anything we wish to know is a short Google search away. We have the ability to access almost anything we want to know with such ease that fifty years ago it would have been science fiction.

When the founders established this nation and the way in which we elect our representatives, they envisioned an electorate that was well informed and engaged. In fact, the postal service was established to the degree of effectiveness it was to ensure that information was widespread. Foreigners that observed this in the early part of the 1800’s marvelled at how well informed even the farthest frontier American was.

With our ability to access information at the click of a button, it is shameful how uninformed a majority of Americans (including myself) are to politics, how our government and our political processes truly work. A vast majority of our time online is spent doing meaningless shit, with social media being our biggest time waster. (Chances are you are reading this from a social media account, ironic right?)

The biggest thing I hate when it comes to this is when I hear people say

“We are getting screwed over by the government. They are all corrupt.”

Now, I do agree with both of those statements but my follow up is,

“Have you contacted your elected representative and expressed this?” The response a majority of times is,

“No, I don’t even know who it is. They don’t care anyway.”

How can you say that they are screwing you over and are corrupt when you don’t even know who is representing you? You can sit and take Facebook quizzes, share memes, argue with strangers, shop and do all sorts of things but you can’t figure out who represents you? Are you bitching to bitch or are you actually looking for a solution? Our nation is in the condition it is right now because people are just bitching to bitch, because it is easier to be lazy and complain than to do some research and hold those you elect or those that represent you accountable.

Your duty as a citizen does not end after you cast your ballot. If you voted for someone and they won, it is your duty to hold them accountable for their actions. You do not have to excuse what they do because they are “your guy or girl”. Too often I see people excusing the behavior or rhetoric of someone they voted for despite how blatantly obvious it is that they are wrong in their actions. You can and more importantly, SHOULD be criticizing elected officials, whether you voted for them or not. Remember, they work for US.

Voting on election day and having that be your only participation in politics doesn’t excuse you from your duty as a citizen. A group of citizens asked Ben Franklin what kind of government he and the delegates had created after they left the Constitutional Convention. He replied with words that should resonate with every American

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

I imagine this is what Franklin looked like when he replied “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

This simple but direct reply highlights the responsibility of us as the citizenry to preserving our Republic. We the people must not only vote, but vote in an educated well thought out way and then continually hold those we voted for responsible for their actions. They must always be reminded that they work for us, not us for them. They should always be worried how their electorate views them. Those at the top nowadays definitely are not.

There is a segment of our society that wants to change our election process is the same segment that allows social media to dictate how they think politically. There should not be an emphasis on getting rid of the electoral college, rather, there should be an emphasis on how to look at information critically instead of falling for confirmation bias. Change how you get your information before you decide you want to change our political process.

We are a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy (This is a very important distinction that deserves it’s own blog post). People need to look at this nation in that light, the proper light. The founders knew what they were doing, and we better pay attention before we undo what they established and set about a course of our own destruction. Some argue we are already too far down that road to turn back. I argue that if people opened a book instead of an app, read the words of our founders, instead of the words of out of touch celebrities, we can right the ship. Time will tell.

Time for A Change

Back in July when I decide to use this blog as an outlet for my writing, I wanted to combine my two passions, writing and hunting. I thought the path I was going to take with it was going to be solely focused on hunting and all things outdoors. In the beginning it was easy and fun because it was new and I had so many thoughts and stories to share. An added bonus was how well received by everyone the content was, which furthered my drive.

But the more I wrote, the more I observed, and the more my passion for writing intensified, I realized I had hemmed my creativity in to just writing about hunting. While hunting is a huge part of my life, and it is part of my identity as a person, it is but one part of my life. I am also a father, a husband, a history buff; I have beliefs and values and my interests are varied. I have other writing projects I am working on that go beyond hunting and the outdoors. In short, there is a plethora of things I love to do and talk about, and ultimately I didn’t want to feel tied down to writing about just one topic.

Those of you reading this that enjoyed my hunting writing, do not fret. I will continue to write about hunting and all things outdoors. That isn’t going away. If anything, my writing will cover a variety of topics, covering as many of my interests as the mood strikes me. I feel this is the best avenue for me as a person and the ability to practice my craft and improve my writing.

Some of the topics will be controversial; and that is ok. I don’t ever expect nor want everyone to agree with me all the time. How boring would life and social interaction be if we all agreed on everything?

Some of the topics will be about my family, some will be about different experiences I have. For some people, some of the topics will be boring if they are of no interest. That’s ok. What I can guarantee is that the content will be 100% me. All of it will be from my heart, as when it comes to writing, I give it my all.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you to those who have supported, liked, commented and shared my blog in the past. I am excited for the direction it is going and the opportunities to express myself it gives me. Change is something that is necessary in life, in order to grow as an individual. I hope you will join me on this new endeavor.

My Archery Evolution

My Hoyt Rampage XT. Bought it from a buddy at work, first time buying a bow in over 15 years. Great bow for me to get back into the archery game.

I’ve been away from the blog for a bit, as the guys I hunt with and I wrapped up our unsuccessful 2018-2019 waterfowl season here in Northern Illinois. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, waterfowl hunting has become something I am passionate about and focus a lot of my energy and money on.

That being said, my early hunting life saw me being what Steve Rinella calls “a hunting generalist”. I dabbled in all types of hunting, from upland birds, waterfowl, to crows and coyotes. But one endeavor that I was extremely passionate about was archery deer hunting. Now my dad and I would shotgun deer hunt for the two seasons Illinois had, and while the camaraderie of deer camp was something I enjoyed in my youth, archery deer hunting held something all together different for me.

My earliest hunting memories are of my dad taking me on his back up a tree stand and placing me in my own stand while he sat in his own nearby. He told me that at the time I was four years old, and having a four year old of my own I cannot imagine leaving my son in a tree stand by himself. He would give me some jolly rancher candy to keep me occupied, and coincidentally anytime my dad saw or shot a deer, it was when I had a sour apple jolly rancher in my mouth.

That basis I feel is what gave me the passion for the outdoors that I have. But more along the lines of this blog, it is what instilled a drive for archery deer hunting as well. My parents got me a panda bear compound bow when I was young along with some wooden arrows and I would spend hours shooting it in my parents’ backyard.

My dad taught me what he had learned about archery and then came the day I got my own “big boy bow”. While I don’t remember what it was, I do remember two things. The first was that my dad took me to the local archery shop and had me fitted for the bow. The pro shop (which is no longer in business) took my measurements and fit the bow to me, and cut me a dozen aluminum arrows.

The second thing I remember from this bow, was the fact that I shot fingers instead of a release. I had a three finger shooting glove to protect my fingers from the string, and would once again shoot for hours in the back yard. I shot so much that I would break arrows, either with my groups hitting so tight they nicked the fletching of each other, or the one time I “Robin Hooded” two arrows, where one arrow hit another dead center and went down the length of the shaft.

My first deer I shot with my bow was a button buck I shot from the ground, he was head on and I was shooting fingers. It felt like an eternity to hold that 50 pound draw weight back by my fingers before I made that dangerous but lethal shot.

My second archery shot deer was an experience I would never want to repeat. Many lessons of what I as hunter need to improve on kept me out of the woods for a year, working on improving all those skills necessary to be an ethical and efficient archery deer hunter.

Even though I hunted deer a lot, and drew back on a few, the next deer I took with a bow would be sixteen years later, and would be a situation that shook my confidence of my abilities. Up to that point, all the shooting and practice I did gave me a false sense of confidence. But the lessons I learned from that terrible experience in October of 2016 led me on a path of gaining as much knowledge in the art of archery as I could get.

After that terrible reintroduction to archery hunting, I set upon a course to ensure that I am the most proficient at using my archery gear as I could be. I divulged in as much information as I could find. I became an avid podcast listener, and picked podcasts that centered around becoming a proficient archer

So I went into this long, drawn out blog post to lay a ground work of what the future holds for me, and the journey that I will take you on as I work toward my next archery deer. I bought a newer bow early in 2018, and shot it religiously all year, to the point that I wore out a brand new vital area on my Glendale Buck target.

I wanted to know this bow, to know what a good shot felt like. However, one thing I learned in all those hours of podcasts that was consistent no matter who hosted the podcast, was the fact that I needed to get my arrows tuned with whatever broadheads I intended to shoot. This was something I wasn’t taught and didn’t practice in my earlier years. I just screwed on three blade broadheads and went hunting. To this end, I bought an arrow spinner, and made sure that they spun true. Also, I ensured the blades of my broadheads lined up with the fletching of my arrows for a more aerodynamic flight. Once again, something I had never worried about before. I shot these arrows with these heads into the practice target, so I could have 100% confidence in their flight. Then, I sharpened them with the sharpener I bought, to ensure they were razor sharp.

I hunted one day with this set up, and never pulled the bow back. Seems like a lot of work for one day of unsuccessful hunting right? Well, that depends on how you look at it. Me? I had confidence again but this time it was because I had taken the time to understand the nuances that successful archers preach. It wasn’t because I shot field tips in the back yard and then hunted with three blade broadheads, with no idea where the broadheads hit.

So with 2019 here, and because I am who I am, I’m gonna change my arrow set up for this season. Yes, you read that right. All those hours and hours of shooting and tinkering, and I’m going to change it this year. My current arrows are Easton Carbon Aftermaths. They are 8.8 grains per inch, and with my arrows cut at 26″ that means they weigh 228.8 grains. With my 100 grain Magnus Buzzcut fixed blade broadheads that brings my total arrow weight to 328.8 grains. I plan to get a stiffer spined, heavier arrow and maybe bump the head weight up to 125 grains. So, this blog post has set the scene so to speak for the journey you will be on this year, as I delve into the endless technical rabbit hole that is archery hunting. As a returning archer, I am new to this all, so I hope I can shed some light on this for others. So follow along and see my successes and failures during the preparation for the 2019 deer season.

A Man and His Dog.

A last minute decision to make a quick jump shoot hunt proved fruitful for Lola and I, which was much welcomed given how our season had unfolded thus far.

To say the Illinois 2018-2019 season has been a challenge for us, would be an understatement. Other than our success in Wisconsin that I wrote about in Old Friends, New Friends, Birds and Dog Work, our season here in northern Illinois has been terrible. We rely on dry field hunting, and some mid-fall heavy rain kept the farmers whose property we hunt out of the fields during what would be harvest time. The season went on and on and we attempted to hunt the sod at one field, and the silage cut corn field at another to no effect. The birds were turned on to hitting corn fields with feed in them, and we could not change their plans, no matter what we threw at them.

Between me and my buddies we kept eyes on our fields, waiting for the day we see corn stubble instead of corn stalks. To say it was frustrating would not do how we felt justice. The season seemed to tick by, and always the update via text was,

“Corn still up.”

On December 4th we received a video via group text that the one of our fields had FINALLY been picked, so plans were made to hunt that coming weekend. On Thursday the 6th, it was discovered that the farmer had then proceeded to plow the field up, which is once again frustrating as it restricts our ability to hide. We still made plans to hunt Saturday afternoon, since time was ticking by and it was at least a change from what we had been dealing with.

My two buddies arrived at the field that Saturday afternoon before me, and had happened to jump four mallards out of the creek. We set up some goose decoys, Ben dug holes for our layout blinds and we hunted that afternoon. We watched a ton of geese hit the field across the street, and when we picked up that night, once again empty handed, we made plans to hunt Sunday morning. Unfortunately the temperature was going to be in the teens. Well, a few hours after we parted ways, my buddies told me they weren’t willing to sit in the cold to watch what we did that evening, and I can’t say I was too disappointed, since it would give me a chance to sleep in in a warm bed. We made tentative plans for Sunday afternoon but given it was football Sunday, I wouldn’t blame the guys if they wanted to skip that as well, given how terrible our Illinois season had been.

Sunday morning I spent with my wife and kids doing Christmas projects, and I texted back and forth with one of the guys. He wanted to deer hunt instead, and I wasn’t feeling up for that; besides my boys were delivering Christmas decorations they had made with my Aunt to other family members. So I told my buddy Ben to just go deer hunting, I didn’t know what time I would be home.

I felt a bit dejected about not going, because even though I like going, my dog Lola lives for it.

Our off season is spent like this, me and my boys taking Lola to the local park to run some retrieving drills.

We got home from our family visits a bit sooner than I had expected. Lola met me at the door, and I don’t know if it was my own self guilt or she truly was able to express her disappointment, but my mind made up that we needed to go. Going off of the fact that Ben had kicked up four mallards the afternoon before, I decided that I was going minimalist; taking my other buddy Mark’s one mojo, six floating duck decoys, and my gun and backpack. As I hurriedly loaded my small amount of gear into my truck, I came up with my plan.

The plan would be to park as far from the ditch as possible, put on my chest waders, sling the six decoys over my shoulder, put the mojo on it’s pole, grab my gun and backpack and walk to the ditch. I would then stop short of the ditch itself, drop everything (quietly), taking only my gun and a few extra shells. I would tell Lola to sit next to the gear, and stalk the ditch looking for the four mallards. If none were found, or hopefully I shoot a few, I would set up my small spread and hunt that way until the close of shooting time.

Well, that was my plan anyway. A hastily formed plan, and the clock was ticking; it was a little after two, and I had a ten minute drive plus the walk to get set up and hunt. By the time I parked the truck, it was close to 2:30. I got out and Lola followed me, her energy level bumped up, knowing what this all meant. I walked to the back of my truck, dropped the tailgate and pulled on my neoprene chest waders. I strapped my coat to my blind bag; I didn’t want to sweat on the walk out, to just sit and freeze for the rest of the night. I uncased my shotgun and laid it on the tailgate. I pulled six Texas rigged duck decoys out of my twelve slot decoy bag; the other six were set up for the jerk rig and taking the whole kit would be more work than I felt like doing, especially for possibly only four mallards. I took one of Mark’s mojos out of the container he had his two in; mine were on the fritz so I asked him if I could borrow his and of course he said yes. I put the drake mojo together and got it on it’s pole. I looked down at Lola, and she wagged her tail, as if to say,

“Come on dad let’s go!”

I walked to the cab of the truck and opened the driver’s side door. I called her to sit on the driver seat, and reached behind the seat and got her vest. I slid it on her and zipped it up. I wanted to keep her warm with how cold it was and the fact she might (hopefully) go for a swim. Walking back to the tailgate, I surveyed my gear again, and then swung my backpack on. I loaded three 3″ four shot duck loads into the Benelli, then slung it across my chest to free up my hands. Over one shoulder I slung the clunking and rattling six decoys, holding them by their rigs in one hand while I grabbed the mojo on it’s pole with the other. I clumsily shut my tailgate after a few failed attempts given how full my hands were, and began my walk.

Now given it was only a little over a 300 yard walk, with the gear plus walking in waders, it definitely wasn’t a Sunday stroll. Luckily there was a grass path that surrounded the plowed field so I didn’t have to traverse the field, but it still was a bit of work, while trying to do it quietly and control the dog, who wanted to jump in the water immediately. When I got to a spot I determined would be a good gear drop off point, I as quietly as possible dropped the gear I wouldn’t need to jump shoot the ditch.

I kept my eyes on the ditch, which was lower than the field I was on, just in case my noise kicked up some skittish ducks. First I placed the mojo on the ground, then next to it I set the six decoys, which made the most sound. When I noticed nothing flew out of the ditch, I took my shotgun off, and laid it on the ground. I quickly took my backpack off and placed it on the ground. I took my right hand glove off and threw it on top of my pack. This would keep my trigger finger free from any obstruction so I can feel both the safety of the gun and the trigger, ensuring that at the moment of truth I could manipulate both as needed. I kept my offhand glove on, because, well who wants two cold hands? I took my hand warmer muff out of my pack that had slots for shotgun shells on the front. These slots already had spare shells, just in case. I clipped it to my waders, grabbed my shotgun and turned to Lola. I told her to heel, and then sit. I took the route where the field and the grass path met; this kept me just within sight of the water in the ditch but given the steepness of the bank on my side, any birds would be below my field of view, which helped conceal me from them.

As I slowly made my way, I kept my eyes peeled on the ditch, hoping to catch any birds by surprise. Suddenly a flash of movement came up from the ditch, and my heart jumped in surprise. But instead of the fast wing beats of escaping mallards, it was the slow, seemingly awkward take off of a great blue heron. Catching my breath I followed it’s flight path as it flew ahead of me, and about 50 yards down the line I happened to make out an iridescent green head of a drake mallard on the opposite bank from me.

He was looking my way!

I dropped to the ground, and decided I wasn’t going to mess this up. I was going to do whatever it took to get that drake and whatever other ducks were hanging with him. I watched the spot to see if he took off, and when I noticed he didn’t I looked back to Lola. She had noticed I dropped to the ground and decided she was going to move up to me. I hollered at her quietly,

SIT!”

She stopped, clearly confused as to what the hell I was doing. Confident she would now stay put given my current position, I began to belly crawl forward, hoping to get to a closer spot to get a good shot. As I crawled, I had to split my attention between the spot ahead of me where the duck was, and looking behind me to ensure Lola stayed put. She sat still, ears perked up, and I’m sure she was thinking to herself,

“Well this is new.”

My gloved left hand held the forend of the shotgun while my cold and exposed right hand brushed against the cold damp grass. I was as low as I could get, and it brought me back to my infantry days, being told by instructors to stay low, use your feet and your elbows. I used my elbows to pull myself along, hoping that I was making those instructors proud. The 50 yard belly crawl seemed like an eternity, with my attention split between my last visual of the drake ahead of me, and then looking behind me to ensure Lola was staying put. She was, but she was shaking and I couldn’t decide if it was because she was cold, or excited. Honestly, it was probably both.

When I had felt I crawled far enough, I stopped. Looking down at the grass inches from my face, I told myself,

Ok, slowly rise up, the bird should be about even with you. Take your time and put the sight right on him.” Taking a deep breath, I placed my gloved hand on the ground, and bent my right leg, preparing to raise up. My non-gloved hand, no longer cold because of the excitement of the moment, was wrapped around the grip of the shotgun, trigger finger fully extended outside of the trigger guard, in true grunt discipline of the weapons safety rule,

“Keep your fingers straight and off the trigger until your are ready to fire.” Some habits are beneficial when they become second nature.

I slowly rose until I was on my knees. Still not tall enough (short jokes aside) to see into the ditch, I slowly began to stand, eyes locked on the ditch. When I was fully standing, I realized I had misjudged how far I had gone by a mere 20 yards, as the drake was sitting on the far side of the ditch, still a bit ahead of me. I raised my gun to my shoulder just as he took off, and I also noticed a hen mallard taking off flying the opposite direction he was. I put the green Truglo sight right on the drake and fired. He crumpled, feathers falling as he dropped back into the water. I swung on the hen who was making her way out over the sod field beyond the ditch. I fired once and it hit her but she kept going, and I settled in again and fired, folding her into the green sod field. I lowered my now empty gun, turned to Lola, and yelled her name to send her. She took off from her spot behind me, and headed right for where she must have seen the drake fall. I could see him beak down in the water, but I wanted Lola to get to do what she came for. She barreled off the bank and landed with a splash, given that that location was one of the deeper spots. She grabbed the drake and brought him back up the steep bank to me. I took it from her, she shook water off as I lined her up on the hen, who’s head was now up. I sent Lola again, as the duck had landed too far for a final shot, and Lola happily obliged. She sprinted off the bank again, hit the water, jumped through it, climbed the shorter bank on the other side, and beelined for the hen. The bird, seeing what was coming for her, attempted to get up to run but Lola was on her before she could make good on her escape.

“Good girl!” I hollered, proud of her and her two retrieves. Given that the last retrieves she had had was during our Wisconsin hunt, almost two months prior, I felt a sense of accomplishment that she could finally get to do what she loves.

She came to heel with the hen and I dispatched the hen quickly. I took a moment to look at both birds, and they were both fine specimens of their species. They were both in their full glory of their winter plumage, feet bright orange from their time spent in the cold waters during their travels. I snapped a few photos of me and Lola, and Lola on her own with the results of our hunt. I thought to myself after taking the pictures while I began to set out the decoys for the rest of my hunt, even if these two are the only we get tonight, it’s been a successful hunt. After the way the season had been going, a nice hunt with me and the dog was well deserved.

Lola shortly after her retrieves. Trust me she’s happy, but she doesn’t like sitting for photos.

Had to get a photo while we still had decent light for one, much to the chagrin of Lola.

Lola spent the rest of the hunt curled up, waiting for another retrieving opportunity that unfortunately didn’t materialize.

The small spread in the icy water.

Sunset on the spread.

Well the rest of the evening was uneventful, save for watching the thousand or so geese landing across the street as they had done the night before. Even though I had a spread I was proud of setting up, nothing came to check it out. I had carried this gear to just jump shoot two mallards. Most guys would think of that as a bummer of a hunt. Not me. As I packed up and hiked out, I was smiling from ear to ear. Lola and I had shared a memorable hunt, and for a last minute decision, it paid off both in game harvested and more importantly, memories made.