Hey Mike, I WISH YOU HAD WON! I didn't even buy a ticket for that raffle, but my mind drifts off every night dreaming I am going (hunting). I spent a lot of my former career away from my family. At that time it was difficult to correspond, other than by mail, snail mail!
We made it through those times as many others had before us. I'll tell you all that living far away and being shot at is not the life any man wants. For some of us, it is/was the life we chose, however. For me, the trick was not to dwell on my family constantly, not to make them overpowering in my life, because there was no way to visit with them, except in letters (ink and paper)
I learned to go to sleep dreaming of hunting. It simply made me smile... rather than cry.
So, perhaps this is why I am such a fan of hunting and family too.
A perk of majoring in wildlife biology in college is the plethora of hunting knowledge that you collect throughout your course load. One of the most important factors in whether an area can hold large quantities of animals or produce large antlers is forage.
Most universities, state schools and even community colleges offer basic botany courses and plant ID courses. Although it might not be feasable for the average middle age hunter to pay tuition and go back to college to learn hunting...