By Mike Bouley
We’ve heard “Oh, the places you will go” a lot this past year, as NCRA President Nativa Wood, FAPR, RDR, CMRS, has lauded all of the places our careers take us, a wide world of opportunities. And we think of courthouses, conference rooms, colleges and universities, sports venues, newsrooms, and interesting locations where we set up our writers all over the planet.
But have you ever thought about the personal aspect of “The places you will go”? What people and relationships have come into your life because of your career choice?
Relationships are all about give and take, a sharing of time, energy, and emotion. We enter an interaction as one entity and leave it ever so slightly, or sometimes greatly, influenced and changed.
A perfect example of this was the time I shared last fall with fellow reporter Mark Kislingbury, RDR, CRR, of Houston, Texas. Mark had come to our Arizona Court Reporters Association convention the year before to put on one of his writing seminars for our membership. I have found Mark has one of the most inquisitive minds I have ever encountered. He instinctively looks for the who, what, when, where, how, and why of virtually everything. There is a little kid inside of him who never stops asking questions, and a big kid who processes the answers. After the conference, he and I were talking about outside activities, and I had mentioned I enjoy hunting for deer and elk every fall. It’s my way to decompress, to commune with nature, as well as hopefully fill my freezer. He said he was quite interested in that, so I invited him to come out the following year, and I would be his guide.
The following spring, I helped Mark enter the lottery-type drawing that Arizona uses to allocate its deer tags. Mark was drawn for an early November buck tag in my favorite area, and we made plans.
He wrote his show on Thursday, then caught a flight to Tucson. I had set up camp that day, then ran back to Tucson to pick him up at the airport late Thursday night. We drove the 90 minutes to camp, talking along the way, really getting to know each other better for the first time in the kind of way that road trips naturally facilitate. We talked about our work, our families, our communities, and of course, the hunt. I explained how opening morning of deer season was like the kickoff of a football game, but the game had no clock stoppages, no time outs. It opened, it ran, and then the season closed.
When we arrived at camp, my other buddies were fast asleep. We got situated, he in my small hunt trailer and I in a tent, and caught a few hours’ sleep. Up well before dawn, he met my buddies, then we headed out for opening day.
That morning, we watched a beautiful southern Arizona sunrise. The mountains of northern Mexico rose purple just a few short miles in the distance. The foothills were our church, decorated with oak and mesquite trees, cacti, and tall grass. We moved a couple times during the late morning and mid-day, spotting a few deer too far in the distance. We stopped for lunch at the ruins of an old mining homestead so Mark could explore..
Mark and I continued to hunt and talk quietly. We talked about our fathers. Mark told me stories about his relationship with my late father, and all their good times together at speed contests over the years. He asked questions about being his son. He told me about his late father, who had been a veterinarian and experienced hunterThough Mark had hunted pheasant and quail, he had never hunted big game until now. As we drove, I learned that it was Mark’s father’s birthday that day. He would have been 80. We talked about how cool it would be to get a deer on that most special day.
We arrived at the location we were to hunt the final hours, and hiked up the ridgeline for the hilltop. Once there, we settled in.
Mark told me he wanted to find some deer before me, since I had spotted them all initially to that point. As the sun began to set, Mark did indeed spot some deer before me. The sun sank lower, and finally fell behind the mountains to the west. There was still light, but we were almost out of time.
I told him that, like a football game where you’re behind and the game is nearly over, one big play can win the game. Glassing (using binoculars) a nearby hilltop, I spotted a deer feeding, head down, in a thick mesquite bosque. When his head came up, I could see his 8-point rack. As he fed in the trees, we had to sneak a short distance to get an open lane. Mark made a perfect shot, and his tag was filled.
His first deer. On his father’s birthday. We felt it was a sign from above and shared several moments of spiritual reflection. We said a prayer of gratitude for life, for the deer, and for our place in the natural world.
Arriving back at camp, the buddies were excited for Mark, and for our success. We shared a great dinner, stories, and cigars. We had the kind of memorable enjoyment and laughter that comes around a campfire with friends, looking up at the multitude of stars and meteors, listening to coyotes, crickets, and owls. That night, we finally slept well.
Over the next couple of days, his tag filled, Mark and I were able to relax. Mark had the luxury of exploring the local flora and fauna, taking in everything, wanting to understand it all. And I had the luxury or picking Mark’s brain on reporting. His theories, both steno and intellectual. We talked a lot of shop.
At one point, I went into the trailer to retrieve some food. I saw on Mark’s bedroll a small steno keyboard and earbuds. I went outside and asked him, “Mark, are you practicing?” (When I hunt, I want to get away from reporting.) “Yes,” he answered. “I try to practice at least 10 minutes every day no matter what.”
He’s 1000 miles from home, on a rare break from his incredibly demanding job, on his first deer hunt, in a little trailer using a headlamp for light, and he’s practicing. Well, I thought to myself, that’s why he’s a champion and the world-record holder.
We broke camp on Sunday and drove back to my home in Tucson to clean up and crash. On Monday morning, we went to breakfast and visited some local sites before Mark flew home. We said good-bye at the airport, much closer friends than we had been just three days before. Later, Mark said, “I have numerous great memories from that three-day hunting experience, and it makes me eager to do it again and, if possible, share the experience with my sons one day.”
Over the next several days and weeks, I reflected on the experience. It was not just a deer hunt. Our trust had been established. Our friendship had deepened. Our entities had been changed, in subtle and significant ways. He had learned from me how to hunt deer. I had learned from him how to be a better writer. We had learned about each other’s fathers. We had learned about each other’s families and careers. We had learned about each other, and we had learned about ourselves.
Mike Bouley, RDR, is an official and firm owner based in Tucson, Ariz. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.