Retired Army colonel rejoins our hunting party
Allie pointed into the thick cover of 15-year-old aspen about 25 yards off the trail. The wind was from the southeast and she faced southeast.
My faithful partner Clyde walked towards the point from the south and further east, and my other partner Matt approached from the west after walking in south a bit deeper than Allie. This process had been repeated numerous times so far that day. With only light winds available to find the bird, it had run off.
This time a woodcock flushed high into the sky, trying desperately to top the trees. I pulled up on the rising bird and pulled the trigger to hear only one report. I was dead on the bird, as were Clyde and Matt. Even at this writing, I don’t think either of them knew we all shot the bird. But some things must remain special.
In his typical graciousness towards the hunt and hunting partners, Colonel Matthew E. Mattner (retired) shouted “good shot!” to Clyde. Clyde said “thank you.” It was a perfect moment in a special day.
Thirty-five years ago, the now-retired colonel and I spent about every free moment chasing some sort of game somewhere. After fighting our way home in the fall, we would spend dawn to dusk chasing deer, grouse, ducks or geese. Around home a lot of deer. But because we were young, we had these other people in our lives called girlfriends.
Mine became my wife. But we would hunt all day and spend time with the ladies at night, living on three hours sleep a night on weekends at home. But we had fun.
Matt dated some wonderful young ladies, but the pending future many moons away from home stood in the way of them settling down together. Things changed when he found himself spending three years in South Korea, where he met his lovely wife.
After being commissioned, in a rather low key event by civilian standards, I recall feeling soproudwatchinghimand other friends become Army officers. How they labored and searched for the perfect silver dollar in the weeks preceding that day — a silver dollar for the man they had all come to respect and hold dear and never once called him anything other than Master Sergeant even when he spent the whole day riding them into oblivion. They presented him with that silver dollar because he was the first person to salute them after being commissioned. A time-honored tradition in the Army.
Of all those commissioned that evening, Matt’s career would last the longest. Thirty years before, he decided that it was time to stay close to home and family, mainly his two children, one in college and the other starting instead of accepting a command overseas. He and his family spent over half of his career overseas in places like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, South Korea and Germany. The falling of that woodcock was the first game we have taken one together since that evening of his commission. And it may not seem as exciting as piloting a Blackhawk helicopter in a nap- of-the-earth flight plan, but you would never know it by the smile on his face. It happened on a day when the grouse were running out from point, and we had several nonproductive points because to it.
It was not like a day, almost 35 years ago to the date, on a Saturday afternoon when a young German Shorthair Pointer earned her stripes and pointed enough birds for us both to kill a limit of grouse and woodcock. Several came out of a patch of red lantern, someplace south of Marshfield; it’s still there, but you have to find that little honey hole on your own.
We don’t have to hunt dawn till dusk everyday possible anymore like we did in the late archery season on Christmas break. Cold stands, long still hunts, and usually one deer in two weeks of hunting to show for it. We are older now.
I remember registering one of those deer on Dec. 31, the guy at the registration station was the father of a classmate of mine and he started feeling around the head for .22 holes. Matt, in his usual fashion, asked, “Well, if we would have shot it in the head with a gun, do you think we’d have brought it here, Bill?” He tagged the deer and walked back into the store.
It was a good hunt.
CHUCK K OLAR LOCAL OUTDOORSMAN