Listening: Life lessons for Deer and Dairy

12/15/2012 7:00 AM

On a beautiful and cold morning in late November I learned another valuable lesson about life, and the dairy business while kneeling over the largest buck I have ever taken. The lesson I am referring to is the importance of listening to good advice when it is offered and building a plan to act on the advice. Let me tell you more about the story behind the moment.

Last year in December, you may recall, I wrote about the very special moments afield many of us enjoy with our children and the special memories these moments create for us. I also wrote about a deer hunt which ended with a missed buck opportunity.

Earlier this year, I received some excellent advice and it came from my son. He simply said “dad, we’re going to do things differently this year to give us a better opportunity to have different results.” His plan was a follows: he suggested we plan ahead, visit the gun club near our home, and assure our equipment is ready. He suggested perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much about the cost of “practice ammunition” and contended that the cost of the hunt will be far greater if we refuse to skimp on several of these important areas. He suggested we may need to replace some equipment, (including a relatively poor scope and scope mount). He suggested we leave ourselves ample time to pre-plan, scout an area, and ask more questions of others about current deer movement and conditions.

As a result of assessing past mistakes, identifying what success might look like, using the “best practices” we know of, and finally, me actually listening to my son’s advice, the possibilities and opportunities were suddenly far different. Lastly, I resolved to carefully guard my “self-talk” and would resolve to remain positive knowing we had done all we could to succeed.

The evening of the second day of our hunt at 5:13 p.m., I received a text message from my son concerned about the lack of deer sightings throughout the day. My message back, trying hard to remain positive and optimistic, was simply “remember, the best 30 minutes of the day lie ahead.” At 5:32, I heard one shot and learned within a few minutes he had just taken his biggest buck ever as a young man.” As you can imagine, this was exciting for both of us. I had to think about his advice to me to do things differently this year to enhance the prospect of a successful hunt.

That evening, I began to prepare for day three of our hunt together. Carsen would occupy a warm hut for an hour or two and would then do a slow drive through an area hoping to push some deer towards the area I was located in a first ever new stand area. We knew this area had deer. A member of our deer camp had seen them and the markings and trails clearly reinforced what was said.

At about 8 a.m., I spotted several deer too far away to glimpse details, but did communicate to my son via text message to go ahead and begin his slow push around that area. At 8:42 I spotted deer to my south including a big buck apparently pushed out by my sons drive.

This year, the story ends differently from last year, as I successfully bagged a nice buck to end the hunt. I couldn’t help drawing comparisons between the way my son and I approached this year’s hunt and how it was different from the previous year. And I can’t help but draw comparisons to the dairy industry. There exists so much good advice from people who know what it takes to succeed in this business. While every business is unique, cows are the same in that they respond to care, comfort, and nutrition. In this case, as is the case on many dairy farms, the next generation — our children — have great ideas about what things can be done differently to improve the chances of success.

There remains a “field full” of opportunity in the dairy business; but not everyone will succeed. Success should come to those who plan and prepare in ways consistent with giving them an edge. In a growing industry like dairy where the demand for milk both here and around the world is growing, success is within reach for all of us. Thorough planning, listening well, and involving the next generation are but a few keys to increasing the chances of success. Deer and Dairy; life lessons learned again.

Editor’s note: John Frey is the Pa. Center of Dairy Excellence executive director.

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