Advertisements

Author Archives: Author

2018 AHT Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again! Alright you procrastinating gift giver, get off of your duff and log on to the world wide web and make that purchase of something the outdoorsman in your life is going to be happy about this holiday season.

A friendly reminder to look at the former gift guides done on this site as a number of the gifts are still relevant! Click here to access all that have been on this site in recent years!

Without further ado, here is the 2018 version of the A Hunters Tales Holiday Gift Guide!

Get ‘em a Hooker – Skull Hooker

A couple of skull hookers in use (including the Kansas 11-pointer without his nose!).

This is a gift I was first introduced to by AHT contributor (who owes our readers a piece or two about his hunting success in 2018 … yes, he was successful again!) Greg Johnston. The skull hooker keeps your European mount stable and presents your trophy with artistic flare. Let me tell you what else it does: it keeps your Euro from taking a nose-first dive into a concrete floor after you “have to move it a tad.” Yes, I was the idiot that broke the sinus bones off of a pretty 11-point buck I killed in Kansas several years ago. The skull hooker wasn’t around then, but I’m thankful it is now!

I’ve Got Buck Fever!

This one comes with a story. We were sitting around deer camp last month, swapping stories about seasons gone by, when we found a bottle of doe urine that was, as best as we could recall, at least 12 years old. Of course, we had to open it and see what aroma remained. It was nasty!

The idea of synthetic scents is intriguing to me, primarily to combat that very situation. Conceivably, a synthetic scent should not change its chemical makeup over time and carry its intended scent for the long haul.

Think of it this way, have you ever pulled that bottle of Brut off the dresser from 1987 and seen if the scent remains the same? I have. And it does. But I still resist the urge to wear it the way I did when my hair was feathered and impressing teenage girls was my intent!

Image borrowed from Buck Fever Synthetics

Buck Fever has a long list of products designed for specific uses, all with expected use and shelf lives that exceed their original counterparts. There are a number of elements of the theory behind Buck Fever’s products. I recommend visiting their site to learn more about their products.

They also have scent elimination products!

I’m eager to try some of these scents on a special product I’m working on that I HOPE will make the 2019 Gift Guide (more to come, if my field research works!).

Archery Target

You’d think stopping arrows would have engineering limitations, but believe it or not, the world of layered targets, and more specifically self-healing layered targets, has come a long way in the last decade. The prices are still a little bit high,but most of the newer targets on the market will last a number of years. Essentially, you’re investing in a target that will handle hundreds of thousands of shots.

A number of great options are available from great target makers like Rinehart, Dead Bullseye and Bulldog Targets. A quick search on Google can land you in the right spot to compare sizes and prices!

Head Lamps Always Win

The hunter in your life probably already has one. It doesn’t matter. Buy them another – I promise he or she will not mind. I really like the Cabela’s brand pictured here (it’s actually a Cabela’s licensed product made by Princeton). It has adjustable brightness that allows you to control your beam based on the situation. I’ve never had to change the batteries in mine and, if needed, the brightest beam is very, very bright! It’s a tad pricey, but a great investment.

Deer Tour T-Shirt

Image borrowed from Legendary Whitetails

If your outdoorsman is cool, they know about The Hunting Public. If they’re not cool, tell them about the boys from the newly popular online hunting show (available on YouTube). They also have a “Tour T-Shirt” from Legendary Whitetails that shows the group’s main characters in caricature riding in a car that has created a persona of its own (the Smurf). Sadly, the shirts were designed before Ted became a hit on the show – I’m betting he makes the 2019 Deer Tour T-shirt!

Cooking Thermometer

Cooking wild game is part of the fun of being an outdoorsman, rounding out the whole “field to fork” cycle that hunters enjoy. There are a number of options available, but consider getting your outdoorsman a new digital cooking thermometer. Several now offer Bluetooth technology allowing you to keep track of your temperatures remotely from your mobile device. They’re very handy and make a great gift.

Capture the moment with a Tactacam

Image borrowed from Tactacam.com

Memorializing your hunts, especially the successful ones, has never been more popular. The Tactacam is a video camera that can be mounted onto your weapon, or body, in order to capture the moments that matter most. If you’re considering the camera, also consider the respective mounts your hunter will need to take the camera to the field. Several retailers now sell the Tactacam, including the ever-popular duo of Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops.

Gift Cards

A reminder for 2018!!! Wondering which gift certificates to get for your hunter? A reminder that Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s are now part of the same ownership and gift certificates at either retailer are interchangeable. That stated, a gift card also makes a great gift!

Advertisements

Dear ol’ Deer Camp: 2018 Version

I shot the biggest buck I’ve ever taken off of our family farm this year. He’s not among the largest I’ve ever taken and barely would rest inside the top-10 by looking only at his antler size. But he’s special and will go down as one of the most memorable.

But that’s not what this recap post is about.

IMG_2941

One of the most picturesque deer drags I recall!

Nope.

It’s about spending the opening week of New York’s gun season with my family and seeing the sunrise on the season from a tree on our home farm for the first time in many years.

It’s about the cadre relationship that hunting camp provides.

It’s about cold mornings where the fireplace at camp feels a whole lot better than Mother Nature’s bitter touch on your cheeks.

And it’s about the reverence for a camp diary.

Each fall, many deer publications publish stories about deer camp. I love reading them all. Stories of the brotherhood that exists when families and extended families come together in the big woods of the north country, or in Michigan’s upper peninsula, … or anywhere else … have always caught my attention.

IMG_2933

One of the spectacular views Mother Nature provided

This year was no different. I read an easily relatable story about deer camp, written in first-person by Dan Ladd (“The Joy of Deer Camp”) in New York State Conservationist magazine and got me excited before I even stepped foot into camp.

We weren’t necessarily at full capacity in our deer camp this year, but we had a bigger group than we’ve had in a long time. My brother Doug, uncle Paul, cousin Nicholas and nephew Matthew, represented three generations of family. My young son, Reid, also joined the group for a day of sharing the family woods!

Buck photo

My brother Doug and me sharing in the success!

Once a rookie of the camp himself, uncle Paul now represents the old guard. He married into our family over four decades ago. A “city guy” who married a farm girl in my late aunt, Paul had broad enough shoulders to join her brothers in camp, taking all of the ridicule that comes with being new to the sport of hunting. I’m happy to report he acclimated quite well and became a fixture at camp, to the pleasure of my late father and our family.

Uncle Paul shared stories this year about his first years in camp. Needless to say, he experienced a great deal of ridicule and good-natured hazing that would typically be reserved for a rookie joining a sports team. I’m a few years older than his son, Nicholas, who has been a mainstay at camp since he was a young teenager.

IMG_2772

From (L) to (R): Brother Doug, me, Cousin Nick, Uncle Paul

My nephew, Matthew, came into camp riding a three-year streak of punching his tag (and was able to fill it again this year)!

There were drinks. There were stories. There were fun memories of our family members no longer with us. The pool table, even with its minor off-kilter intricacies, became proving grounds one evening. The poker chips had the dust blown off of them for an evening of cards.

IMG_2936

Another beautiful view afforded by the snow.

Memories of successful hunts that culminated with shoulder mounts in the cabin were bandied about. Our camp diary, an invaluable asset that has 40 years of history documented, was utilized as a reference point a number of times. Uncle Paul has served as the primary scribe of the diary over its entire existence. Others add only when he’s not available to do so.

It’s often discussed, but there is just something cleansing for the soul when it comes to the time at deer camp. Having experienced some semblance of camp across a number of states, there are many common threads that connect the spirit of deer camps everywhere. Those who have experienced it know it and no documentation of deer camp can do it perfect justice.

IMG_2937

My son, Reid, joining in the fun on a cold, cold morning!

Perhaps that’s why I remain a sucker to the stories – to pull those parts that carry a similar look and feel to my own experiences.

I look forward to introducing my own kids to it.

There also were successes. The best part of those during deer camp is the ability for everyone to bask in that feats. In this case, everyone played an important role in the process – especially with over a foot of snow on the ground!

IMG_2780

Cousin Nick and I share a photo before taking to the woods.

Of course, the week culminates with figuring out who won camp’s big buck contest! This year, my buck was fortunate enough to take the honor.

Once the bags are packed and camp is cleaned, departure day comes with its sadness. More than 50 weeks of great anticipation and mental reps have ended with “goodbyes.” The countdown, though, to next season’s deer camp begins.


Failure in Familiarity

It simply hadn’t happened before, the path made by the old, wise doe.

Shooting Lanes

The view from old faithful. Updated travel routes kept the shooters out of archery range.

And with it, came little appreciation for the likelihood that the long-proven patterns of deer in this area of my farm had indeed changed.

It wasn’t until after I saw more deer, including a fine 8-point buck, make the same route from a common bedding area and into the hardwoods, that I realized deer aren’t behaving the same as they had for many years.

Even after briefly scouting the new, well-established trails on this new route well away from my faithful stand, it was hard to consider a change needed to be made. You see, many bucks have passed by this stand over the years, and no fewer than three bucks have been arrowed within 40 yards of this tree. Surely, this was the ideal location to be sitting.

Except it wasn’t. And it played a small role in not filling my 2018 archery tag. So too did my stubbornness to not change the stand location earlier.

Familiarity can be a detriment to an archery hunter. The reams of data that exist within a hunter’s memory from decades of hunting a familiar location can skew his or her decisions. That was reinforced enough in me this year that I’m eager to consider how I’ll change several of my stand locations for 2019.

Deer1

This young buck followed one of the familiar trails.

Upon further pondering the challenges of familiarity, it dawned on me how valuable scouting can be to a new hunting location. These are often the most valuable – and fun – elements of hunting the unfamiliar. Those minutes and hours dedicated to learning about the local deer of a location can often be the primary indicator of success.

And advanced scouting before hunting familiar ground should  be no different.

It sounds simple, and it probably is. But when you’re coming from hundreds of miles away to ground you know as well as your backyard, you try to skip the scouting update portion of the hunt and take advantage of the knowledge you already have.

It’s easy to do, right?

Things change within the terrain (felled trees, food sources, erosion, etc.) that provide enough of a reason to, at minimum, confirm your intuitions.

I should have done that. I’ve learned my lesson. And leave it to those old, wise does to teach me.


Things Change While Anticipation of the Hunt Remains

Things are different now. Some parts are better, some are … well, different.

I was able to catch up with my buddy Nick Pinizzotto today, and we spent a good deal of time talking about the evolution of our hunting passion.

the view

In a little more than a week, I’ll be enjoying the familiar view from the woods with bow in hand!

Days of worrying about how big the buck might be on the receiving end of an Easton arrow have been replaced more by the full nature of the experiences.

That’s not to say that we don’t dream of big bucks, or that the experiences of yesteryear weren’t important. It’s just that the priority is … well, different!

Nick, who also serves as the Executive Director of the National Deer Alliance, recently moved back to his home stomping grounds in Pennsylvania. He became a father a couple of year’s back. Both of those life changes have an innate ability to change perspective on the true values of hunting. We spoke at length about the eagerness of hunting with our kids – how that trumps any time we spend in the

fun in blind

Having a little fun in the blind while waiting on deer can be an acceptable practice these days!

woods on our own.

I’ll be returning to my own home land in Western New York in just a week to spend several quality days looking for the biggest, oldest and baddest buck on the farm. The likelihood of seeing a buck soaring near the minimum Boone & Crockett standards are very low. I know that going in, but my excitement to get there couldn’t be much greater.

For starters, I don’t take the hunting part quite as serious. I still work hard and put in my time, but saying that is more of an indictment on how serious I used to take deer hunting.

nap in blind

So too can taking a brief cat nap!

Additionally, my new career has me headed to the woods during the heart of the rut without the backdrop of serious end-of-season stress that my former job at NASCAR provided. I’ll be able to dedicate my energy to the daily chess match with the land, trying to execute a strategy that puts me within reach of taking a great deer.

This trip also means so much due to the fellowship with my dear friend, Kenny Roberts. We’ve made this trip together for over a decade and it serves as our opportunity to catch up on family, friends, parents and life. Over the years, there have certainly been more laughs than tears during those conversations. That said, there always is some time earmarked to get serious about life and chat through many of the important stuff in each of our lives.

greg

Greg Johnston with NYS’s No. 1 muzzleloader buck in 2017!

It’s likely I’ll be able to see another friend and frequent AHT contributor Greg Johnston, who 21 years ago joined me as the renegade who would skip out of classes at our Basilian Catholic college to chase bunnies and deer all over Western New York. Just seeing Greg is always enough to get you excited.

Just as special for this trip, though, is the land. I love it on our family farm. I took it too much for granted as a young hunter. It’s hard, as a teenager, to understand that very few have the opportunity to leave school, grab their bow and get into a tree before dark. I thoroughly cherish my time spent in those woods now. Those woods shaped me more than I can easily explain.

Here’s to the challenging week ahead that will be anchored with anticipation. I can’t wait for the journey there, the cabin upon arrival, the time together with friends while I’m there. I can’t wait to get into a stand and steal a small part of that magical time during November when the rut is in full swing.

Come to think of it, maybe not everything is different now.

 


It’s Back! 2017 AHT Holiday Gift Guide

It’s back! After a couple few year hiatus, the ever-popular AHuntersTales Holiday Gift Guide has returned.

The focus of the 2017 edition will be on value purchases! Whereas, the products selected to be in the gift guide have practical value that exceeds the asking price.

Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Ridge Hunter Windproof Vest
It’s missing the big brand name associated with hunting clothes, but this vest was a mainstay for me on a recent elk hunt in Colorado. )It’s currently on sale at Bass Pro Shops for $24.97, which is a steal for something that I would put against the Ridge Runnerbig-name hunting vests on the market. I’m not joking. I found the vest did it’s advertised job of cutting wind perfectly. Ridge Hunter also makes pants and hoodies out of the same material.

 

 

The All-in-One Processing Kit
I’ve had my Outdoor Edge Game Processor Kit (12 pc.) for many years. In fact, it was a gift my late father bought for me more than a decade ago. He had purchased one for each of us and I can assure you mine has gone to remarkable use. The difference, though, is the price 10 years later is more than 25% off the original price he paid!Outdoor Edge

You can find this kit for right at $50 from several outdoor retailers. I think my favorite part of the kit is having every piece together. When it’s time to butcher a deer, or clean ducks, it’s as simple as grabbing my green kit and getting after it! Mine still has a sentimental piece of green masking tape where my dad wrote my name on it – a fun memento for see each time I use it!

A Hunter Never Has Too Many Pairs of Boots
If you’ve never stepped foot in a Muck rubber boot, then you’re missing out on cMucksomfort. I have several pair. The Fieldblazer model, which is a great summer / early season boot for an outdoorsman, is available from a number of retailers for under $80. In fact, Cabela’s currently has it for $79.99. That’s a great price for a well-made, comfortable rubber boot.

Shoot, Reload, Repeat
RCBS had a similar rebate available all year, but if you’re looking to spend a bit more on your shooting enthusiast this holiday, the time-tested and ever-popular Rock Chucker Supreme reloading kit currently comes with a holiday rebate on top of the sale price of $269.99 (Cabela’s).

RCBSOnce complete of all rebates and sales, you can end up getting an all-in-one kit for under $250. That’s a solid value in a time when you can make that back very quickly with the prices of ammunition. Does your shooter already have a reloader? Ask if there are any die sets he or she is missing that would be a fine addition. Those oftentimes meet a lighter price range for shoppers (around $50).

What? I can’t hear you!
I’ve become a major proponent of hearing safety – then again, several ear surgeries (including a full mastoidectomy) will help instill the importance of hearing to you very quickly.

WalkerI have ear plugs everywhere! I carry the cheap foam ear plugs in my work bag and my shooting bag has two pair of fitted ear molds. I also recently picked up a pair of electronic earmuffs and think they’re worth every bit of their price. Walker’s Razor Slim ear muffs are on sale this holiday season for roughly $45. That’s a value price for a quality pair of earmuffs.

The Ol’ “Any Chance You Can Help Me Drag ‘Em” Call!
I’m getting older. Those deer drags are not as kind as they used to be. It’s time to consider a deer cart! It might be time for one for your hunting enthusiast too.

After spending four hours quartering an elk and getting the sacred quarters just to where we could get a four-wheeler, I have a new appreciation for getting game out of the woods.Deer Cart

The Sportsman’s Guide has several at very reasonable pricing (under $70 with a 500 lb. capacity. That should be plenty for helping get any midwestern whitetail out of the woods.

The boys over at The Hunting Public have joked that their cart will need new tires after this season. That’s not a bad problem to have!

Past Gift Guides HERE!!!!

Feel free to check out Gift Guides of the past by clicking here! Who knows, maybe it will spur other gift ideas.


Meaningful Journey – Quest for First Elk Complete

It took a half hour to close the 240 yards to reach the majestic beast. Euphoric adrenaline was met with the daunting task of hiking the steep slope in front of us at 11,500 feet elevation. My lungs were quick to recognize that the air is thin at these heights.

Finally, we arrived at my first elk kill.

The journey for this one, though, dates much further back.

The Gun

At the urging of his friend Len Palmatier, my dad bypassed all his own hunting rifles for his first elk hunt, and decided instead to take Len’s .300 Weatherby Magnum. In addition to being a friend of my dad’s for many years, Len also is one of the best rifle shots on the planet. A competitive distance shooter with a rifle, he’s forgotten more about ballistics than I’ll ever learn.

Len promised his rifle was a tack driver. It delivered, and dad shot his first elk on that hunt in 1996. He also fell in love with that rifle. He returned from the hunt asking Len, who helped steer many of my dad’s ballistic adventures, to find him a .300 Weatherby Magnum for his collection.

Settling on a familiar Remington Model 700 Classic that made up many in my dad’s collection, Len put a tedious level of effort customizing it into an absolute locked-in, tack-driving machine. Len still argues this .300 Weatherby Magnum throws a superior bullet to the gun he’d originally loaned my dad to take with him. This rifle was ready to serve as the big game rifle of choice for any of my dad’s future elk excursions. I dreamed of one day joining him for those hunts.

Only he never made it west again.

While several years passed where he could have made the trip back to the Rocky Mountains for elk, he put off those trips. He died in 2014 without the rifle ever making the trip.

With several rifles of my own to consider, there was no question which gun would be on the mountains with me when I made my first quest for an elk.

The Hunt

My Colorado hunt was several years in the making. Following a thorough review of locations and awaiting the non-resident draw for the first rifle season, I was on my way.

IMG_0212The five-day season leaves little time for rest. My first two days were filled with walking, listening, hiking and close calls. I was in decent shape but some of the steep elevation climbs and an accelerated heart rate impacted by elevation, adrenaline, and pace all made me wish I was readier than I was for these Rocky Mountains.

There were close calls over the first two days. Bull elk bugling within 50 or 60 yards failed to present themselves in thick terrain. Several small bulls, amidst the normal education process nature provides them, came well within range. Those young bulls clearly hadn’t graduated adolescence to learn “not all sounds in nature are in fact the animals that they’re imitating.”

It was quickly the third day of the season. We opted to trade the flatter foothill meadows for the high-elevation terrain to start this morning.

Mikey, my Sherpa on the 60,000 acres that made up the ranch I was hunting all week, navigated a nearly hour-long drive up the mountains on a Polaris. We parked, then hiked through the mountains another hour in the dark to an elevation exceeding 10,000 ft. There it became daylight.

IMG_8960

We could see elk feeding up the mountainside, taking advantage of unseasonable green grass still growing along the avalanche slides that make the mountain look like a deserted ski resort. One bull, a good looking 5×5, caught my attention. We were still too far away for a shot and decided to hike closer.Once we closed the distance to 300 yards, the elk fed his way just out of the opening and into woods that made keeping tabs on him a tall task. Another close call.

We moved to another area on the mountain where we could watch over the direction the bull was seemingly headed. Over the next two hours, small bulls and cows meandered through the openings of the mountain. The sun was continuing its trek through the sky, a welcomed sight for a guide and his underdressed hunter sitting still on the mountainside in the low 20s temperatures. Elk bugles warmed the spirt, coming from both the east and west of where we were settled.

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 8.59.53 PM

At the very top of the mountain, we could see elk moving to the east, bypassing the openings of the slides. We opted to move down the mountain where we could get a better view of the direction they were headed. We settled into another spot and continued waiting. We had just agreed that we might just stay on the mountain all day. Something felt right.

Bugling continued and seemingly was starting to get closer. I convinced myself more than once that a bull was about to step into the opening at any moment. The adrenaline rush was spectacular. Cows with calves, and one small bull hit the opening. The deep growls from other bulls continued.

While watching a buck mule deer navigating a slide to the eastern side of the mountain, Mikey saw an elk.

“I think it’s one of those cows,” he said.

I needed only my eyes to tell that it was surely no cow. I quickly shouldered the scope-topped .300 Weatherby, my dad’s gun, to realize it was the same bull from the first part of the morning. He was standing on a rock some 240 yards away.

The first two days of the hunt proved how quickly you need to decide and make a shot on these bull elk. The opportunities come quickly. They leave even quicker.

Mikey and I didn’t say a word. I settled the crosshairs onto the bull and squeezed the trigger.

IMG_0217

The bull fell immediately. The 180-grain bullet is like a sledge hammer at these speeds. The steep terrain could have easily forced him to roll down the mountain.A small deadfall caught his antlers and he settled right where he fell off the rock.

Following a moment of jubilation for Mikey and me, we started the climb to the bull elk. Already holding a great deal of respect for the animals we’d been chasing, it’s hard not to marvel at the ability of 800 lb. animals to traverse these mountains. They make it look so easy.

It’s not.

IMG_0231The trek off the mountain was grueling. It also ranks among the most exhilarating efforts in nearly 30 years of hunting.

After quartering the elk, it took nearly four hours just to get to a location we could get the Polaris.

IMG_0230Nearly six hours after I pulled the trigger, we made it back to camp!

The entire experience that day was remarkable. There was exhaustion, warmth, freezing hands, sleepiness, a heartbeat of 140 beats per minute, snow-capped mountains, laughs, cussing, back-slapping and smiles.

IMG_9217

There also were a few tears.

After getting the elk quarters cleaned and hanging in the meat cooler, I walked into my cabin to change clothes. I stopped at the nail in the corner and hung up dad’s rifle. I stepped back and took in the moment.I was tired, and the moment got me. A happy tear or two rolled down my cheek. The rifle and I both waited a long time to chase elk in these mountains and I wished my dad was there to help us both celebrate.

I look forward to returning to those Rocky Mountains again someday. This journey, though, was complete – for me and the gun.

IMG_9198


The Buildup For the Wapiti is Real!

It was in my teenage years when my dad returned from a western hunting trip with a set of elk antlers and a treasure chest full of the finest wild game I’d ever tasted. Several years before that, though, my fascination with elk hunting was well underway.

Banded Peak

The vast terrain of Banded Peak’s 50,000+ acres should lead to ideal elk hunting prospects. [image borrowed from BandPeakRanchOutfitters.com]

I love deer hunting. I’m talking that would-walk-to-Iowa-in-the-middle-of-the-rut kind of love for chasing the majestic whitetail with a bow and arrow. It’s driven me to success beyond what I ever imagined. I’ve chased deer in nine states, including many within the rich and sacred grounds of the mid west.

But I’ve always held a special place in my hunter’s imagination for pursuing the elk. Finally, after four decades on this fine Earth, I’m a week away from checking that proverbial box off of the ol’ bucket list.

As I embark on the final days of preparation, I can’t help but think that this might be the perfect time to do this hunt. While I never imagined that it would take me this long to journey west for such a hunt, I’m also somewhat thankful. I think I’m going to enjoy the experience far more today than I would have as the young hunter who once thought fulfillment was predicated by success.

To be clear, I’m traveling to Colorado next week with all of the drive to find success. However, I’m almost equally excited to fill storage cards with pictures and video of the terrain, landscape and overall experience. I’m serious!

I’ll be hunting the Banded Peak Ranches, which consist of three equally sized ranches that collectively encompass 50,600 acres of well-managed land. This ranch essentially serves to a potential elk hunter what the mid west does to a whitetail hunter.

Someday I will chase one of North America’s biggest game with a bow and arrow. For the first time, though, I opted to go through a two-year process of acquiring a non-resident bull tag to rifle hunt during Colorado’s first season. If all goes as planned, we’ll be catching the latter part of the elk rut and still have large bulls bugling to catch the attention of potential suitors.

My goal is to keep this blog updated with posts along the way.

Cat Tales: As part of getting ready for the hunt, I’ve been doing more exercise than I’ve done in years. Coupled with a work “get healthy” contest, I’ve been able to lose 17 pounds in the last 10 weeks. I feel better than I have in a long time and feel confident I’m headed to Colorado in the best shape I’ve been in since college. That all nearly crumbled earlier this week when I showed my age in experiencing a calf muscle strain during warm ups of a company softball game! Thankfully, it looks like I’ll be good to go for the trip!