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Sometimes a dose of turkey hunting can cure depression

| Sunday, Nov. 9, 2003

Jim is an active guy who loves hunting and fishing -- with a special lure to hunting wild turkeys.

Jim is a marathon runner, a mountain bike enthusiast, and seldom not involved in some activity that involves more energy than I seem to be able to conjure up on even my very best day.

But things had changed for Jim, and his wife was very concerned, saying "Jim just sits around, and he doesn't want to leave the house -- his depression lately is really worrying me a lot."

Jim had a good reason for his depression. Just over one month ago, his younger brother and hunting partner, Rob, suddenly died from a heart attack.

"It took the wind right out of my sails," Jim said. "I'm all cried out, but I can't beat this feeling of depression -- it's really got me down and in a rut."

Having lost my father -- my best hunting partner -- not long ago, I knew the pain Jim was feeling.

I suggested to Jim that we should go turkey hunting, and his response was quick and to the point -- "Good idea. I'll take a day off work. Just let me know when."

I told him to pick the day, since any day is good for me when it comes to a hunting wild turkeys.

I feared he would change his mind, but that was not the case. He was ready, and I knew this would be a great way for him to break away from the cage of depression.

He was at my house at 5:05 a.m. Large travel mugs were filled with coffee, and we left in my truck for a promising turkey hunting area.

The sky was coal black Wednesday morning with rain already falling, but we didn't care. "The turkeys don't care if it's raining, so why should we?" I said.

Jim agreed.

The camouflage rain suits came in handy, but we both managed to get soaking wet anyway.

We probably covered two miles searching for turkeys -- twice getting into birds, but unable to call them in because of a poor

break-up and scattering of the flocks.

Growing tried, wet to the bone, and beginning to get hungry, we happened on a large feeding flock that was just over a drop-off -- and only about 10 yards in front of us.

I turned to Jim, whispering "pick one out and shoot it" -- but he already had his shotgun pointed toward the flock.

The turkeys began to get nervous and prepared to take flight when we both shot at birds.

My turkey was down, but Jim cleanly missed twice.

I felt almost guilty -- and a little sorry -- that Jim did not get his turkey. After all, the main idea of the hunt was to get him a turkey.

He laughed, shaking his head, saying "I didn't know which one to shoot -- there were so many of them. I don't think I even got a bead on a turkey when I shot."

"Come on," I said. "Let's get the heck out of here. I'll buy you lunch down the road at that restaurant."

We spoke about the morning over hot cups of coffee and hearty sandwiches, and it was evident that despite his missing a wild turkey, he still had a great time.

The conversation led to how he was feeling and acting since he had lost his brother.

"You need to move on. That's what Rob would want you to do, Jim. Keep going and enjoy life," I said.

Jim smiled, agreed, and thanked me for the hunt.

"I think this hunt is just what I needed," Jim said. "It seemed to break me from the shell, and I know I can start feeling better and accept what happened and move on."

I guess turkey hunting can be soothing for the mind and soul -- and a great way to break someone out of seemingly locked-in depression. It's amazing how the great outdoors experience can be so therapeutic for some people.

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