Andrew Vavra

Andrew Vavra is the marketing specialist at Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s national headquarters. Born and bred in Minnesota, he's a passionate sportsman who appreciates the thrills (and chills) that come with hunting, fishing and camping in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Posts about Recreation

One Dog’s Torn ACL Breaks Two Hearts

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: December 12, 2011 - 10:02 AM

This past weekend was supposed to be the easiest hunt of the year. A reward for a good dog that performed great all season long. The pup, Beau, and I had already logged plenty of miles in numerous states on essentially nothing but public land. We worked for our birds and we found our birds, but now it was time for our annual pilgrimage to a good friend’s property in South Dakota.

This was supposed to be a cakewalk; what I ended up with was a dog that can’t walk.

By mid-Saturday morning, the action was exactly what I had anticipated. Most birds were flushing wild, but there were enough  “heart attack hens” and tight-holding roosters left to keep all four dogs busy. Beau was flying back and forth and a bit hard to control with so much scent wafting through the air, but I was ok with this. After all, this was supposed to be her payday for a season’s worth of work. Her tail was wagging, feathers were stuck to her muzzle and there was a renewed jump in her step – until that jump slowly morphed into a limp.

It started off as  barely noticeable, just a small hitch in her giddy-up while walking from field to field, but It quicky  escalated to  her rear left leg being hoisted to her gut while she hopped along in front of me. As if to say “I’ll just play it off as no big deal, he’ll still let me hunt,” she tried to stay ahead of me as if nothing was wrong. Not so fast pooch.

She was crated for the rest of the trip and with that, my hunt quickly turned into a nature walk. The spark was gone, the interest fleeting. There I was, hunting with some of my best friends, laughing along the way as we got closer to our limits - but with an unsettling emptiness looming within me. An emptiness I hope will be filled by next fall.

This week Beau was diagnosed with a completely torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). She’s not even two years old, she was just beginning to come into her own and now both she and I have to start over. This past evening she looked up at me while sitting awkwardly next to the kitchen table with the easiest expression I’ve ever read on her face: “I’m sorry.” A look of remorse stared me in the eyes and neither of us knew what to do.

She knows something is wrong but not to what extent. I know what’s wrong but not what this means for our future. Both of our hearts are caught in our throats. By the time her second birthday rolls around in February, hopefully I’ll have more answers. For now all I have is an extra bag of bones and ambiguities.

To have surgery, or not to have surgery, that is the question…

 

All Beau wants for Christmas is the ability to hit the fields running next fall.

All Beau wants for Christmas is the ability to hit the fields running next fall.

 

The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever’s Marketing Specialist.

Getting Birdy for Big Bucks

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: June 23, 2011 - 3:00 PM

To be quite honest, I don’t normally think about deer hunting in June. I consider myself more of a “meat hunter” than anything else and my preseason big game preparation usually begins and ends with clearing out a few shooting lanes and checking my stands in September. This year, however, might be a bit different.

Last October a rogue buck wandered by my trail camera and I’ve had a tough time picking up my jaw ever since. Figuring he was just passing through, I didn’t think much of it when he didn’t show himself during the 2010 firearm season. In fact, by the end of the year, I assumed he had already made someone else’s day.

 

The "Big Boy" shows himself in a trail camera picture taken in fall of 2010.

The "Big Boy" shows himself in a trail camera picture taken in fall of 2010.

 

 

New evidence proves otherwise.

 

Here, the same buck from 2010 shows some new growth (photo taken in June).

Here, the same buck from 2010 shows some new growth (photo taken in June).

 

 

To my astonishment, not only did he survive the gauntlet known as the Minnesota Deer Season, he looks bigger and better than ever. Common sense would say I need to have my rear-end glued to my deer stand for a majority of this fall, but unfortunately I know that in order to keep the lady happy, I only get so many weekends afield and my true passion is hunting pheasants with my dog.

Do I fill my freezer with a healthy doe and be happy pheasant hunting more with my Lab, Beau?  Do I just hope he happens to wander by one of the times I plan on hitting the hardwoods with my bow or gun? Or do I devote every spare moment to taking what could be the buck of my lifetime? I do wish some of my favorite hobbies didn’t all take place within the same 4-month window of time…

What would you do?

The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever’s Marketing Specialist.

A Father's Day Story: Never Tell Mom

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: June 15, 2011 - 2:40 PM
A father’s gift of introducing a son or daughter to the great outdoors is perhaps the greatest gift of all.

A father’s gift of introducing a son or daughter to the great outdoors is perhaps the greatest gift of all.

The relationship between a father and son can best be described as being a complex one. Sons don’t always listen, fathers don’t always “get it” and sometimes moments can be lost between the two. The beauty in all of this is that the young boy still has a chance to grow up, and hopefully, someday, he’ll be reminded of times long ago and finally learn to understand and appreciate all that was done for him. Perhaps all is not lost with today’s youth; maybe they just need a chance to grow.
Moving at a young age from Minnesota to the Emerald City of the Pacific Northwest, I was upset about leaving my friends. My father was scared about losing his identity. Leaving behind hardwoods, prairies and potholes for saltwater and espresso wasn’t his decision to make, but he put up with it and made due until we were able to return to the place we once again call home. One of the ways he “made due” was not giving up on teaching his sons and daughter the craft and beauty of hunting, even if that meant hemorrhaging money and free time in a terrain we weren’t accustomed to.
I didn’t appreciate this at the time. But after reading a duck hunting story he recently shared with me, it brought back memories of events that didn’t matter as much when they took place as they do now. As they say, better late than never.
Remember the white knuckle boat trip to one of those duck blinds in the dark? Tiny 10 foot flat bottom brought from MN with old heavy 5.5 hp on back… 1 adult, 2 children, 1 dog, 2 bags of decoys and all the crap a duck hunter can lug around. In first week of January breaking ice (yes season went to 2nd week of January in WA) and water literally 1-2 inches below the outside of the gunwales. I was freaked out that if either of you kids moved we would take on water.  It was all I could do to remain brave and not yell or overreact if one of you kids twitched a finger. Yes we all wore life jackets and always do.  Never tell mom.
We put in some river that flowed from the Cascades towards Puget Sound. Now remember, I’m a flatlander and haven’t quite figured out this state and always wondered why they give you a book of tide tables when you buy your license. We were cruising around looking for a place to come back to hunt when your brother spotted some black lab swimming in the water. Thought that was odd because there were no boats, decoys or obvious blinds in the nearby weeds. We got closer and it started looking weird. Got really close and it dove under. It was a flippin seal and we were in the freakin ocean in a 10 foot boat with 5.5 hp.  I was dumbfounded… I literally stopped the boat and asked myself what the heck I was doing. We had boated right down the river over the flooded tidal flats right into the Pacific Ocean albeit Puget Sound. Had no clue…That’s what scouting is all about.  At least it wasn’t a Killer Whale…
After that we found a place off the main river channel and set up the boat. The tidal book was correct and we got there as the tide was going out… but the tide kept going out…and out… and eventually we were literally sitting on an 8x8 mini island of grass and dirt. We were surrounded by air. The water was gone and the decoys were sitting in the mud 8 feet BELOW the bottom of the boat.  Ok, now I was worried. Flatlander Dad had never experienced anything like that.  No way could we go anywhere. We were literally stranded.  Looked at the tidal book and saw when the high tide would be… 12 hours later (duh!). That was an adventure. Now you know why I bring everything but the kitchen sink with me…It’s an ingrained survival mentality after that prolonged excursion. By the way, we didn’t shoot anything either. Although I do remember a seal swimming around the decoys…. Never tell mom.
Don’t worry pops, your secret’s safe with me.

The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever’s Marketing Specialist.

An Idiot’s Guide to Turkey Hunting

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: April 18, 2011 - 8:53 AM

 

Do you believe in miracles?! Yes!

Do you believe in miracles?! Yes!

Do you believe in miracles?! Yes!

 

 

 

Growing up, I remember sitting 3 feet away from the television while watching an old worn-out turkey hunting VHS. The tape was scratchy and the music and dialogue constantly faded in and out like a Jimmi Hendrix wah-wah guitar pedal.  I was captivated.

The host was a scraggly-looking bearded man decked head to toe in camouflage while talking about turkeys in a lazy southern drawl that would put anyone to sleep. And heck, as fascinated as I was, maybe I did doze off a time or two, because for the number of times I’ve watched that video I don’t think I can remember a single piece of useful information. Perhaps my inattention to the details is why I’m such an amateur when it comes to bagging Butterballs.  But part of me likes it that way.

All of my hunts during the fall and winter are scripted out weeks in advance and leave little to the imagination. I know what deer stands I’m going to sit in. I know what areas I’m going to pheasant hunt and I can navigate my usual duck sloughs with my eyes closed. Not so when it comes to chasing turkeys. IF I even get picked in my area’s turkey lottery, it’s usually a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of ordeal. In fact, here’s my (idiot’s) guide to turkey hunting:

  • Spend an hour trying to find the diaphragm call you haven’t seen in a year
  • Buy a new diaphragm call because you know you won’t use your box or slate call
  • Throw your bow hunting gear in the back of your truck while hoping it still fits (been a long winter, eh?)
  • Try out your new call during the 3 hour drive to your property the night before opening day
  • Convince yourself that it’s the call that sounds bad, not you
  • Arrive just in time to roost some birds (hopefully)
  • Wake up the next morning and discover the spot where you thought you roosted said birds is under 3” of water
  • Set up on the edge of a logging road and begin repenting for your previous year’s sins (simply praying for a bird isn’t enough)
  • At around 11am pay no attention to the  Tom sneaking 30 yards to your right as you bury your face in a bag of Jack Links Jerky
  • Try wooing the big Tom back to your decoy  using your diaphragm/jerky call (patent pending)
  • Try again next year

Bagging a bird is a bonus, playing cat and mouse is exhilarating, and not having any idea of how I’m going to mess up each year is what keeps me coming back.  When it comes to turkey hunting, I may be an idiot, but that’s half the fun.

The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever’s Marketing Specialist.

A Freezer Full of Remorse

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: April 13, 2011 - 3:40 PM

 

 

"Every bird we're lucky enough to slide into our game bag is more than just some meat covered in feathers."

"Every bird we're lucky enough to slide into our game bag is more than just some meat covered in feathers."

 

 

 A lot of blood, sweat and tears go into having a “successful” hunting season. From awakening before sun-up for ducks to blazing snow drift trails in search of roosters, if you’re a hunter, you know how much work it takes to claim a relatively small piece of meat.

Leaving for the weekend might ruffle the lady’s feathers from time to time. There’s always more work to do on Mondayswhen you disappear on Fridays. I don’t hesitate to spend $60 on gas and $20 on ammunition, and I still think I’m getting a better deal than those who spend $40 on a plate of “wild game” served over a white tablecloth.

So I’m sure you can understand the depression that set in this Sunday when I returned from a weekend getaway to discover a puddle of pinkish water pooled underneath my freezer.

What was once a cold freezer full of pheasants somehow morphed into a warm container of rotting roosters.

Good bye BBQ’d pheasant poppers, adios wild game dinners, sayonara pheasant pot-pie.

 As hunters, we have a unique connection with the land we traverse and the game we pursue. In our language, the phrase “wanton waste” holds a far worse place than any four letter word. We’re continually standing up and defending our passion of the pursuit as being true and dear to our existence. For these very reasons, every bird we’re lucky enough to slide into our game bag is more than just some meat covered in feathers.

What a waste.

Do vegetarians get this upset over a wilting head of lettuce? I doubt it.

The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever’s Marketing Specialist.

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