Back in 1999 I was promoted to an Operations Manager position within the Company and relocated back to Ohio, 30 minutes from where I grew up. One of my fellow Division Ops Managers was Michael. Michael had been in the same position as I for a couple years already and was my mentor. Michael was originally from Pittsburgh and managed the state of Pennsylvania while I managed half of Ohio and half of Michigan. I didn’t know it at the time but Michael liked to hunt. He just hadn’t gone for the past several years.
Michael was a self-taught hunter. His Dad was not a hunter and never introduced Michael to the sport. Michael decided many years ago that he wanted to hunt so he bought a gun and license and went hunting for deer in PA. He had a little success in those early years – not enough to satisfy his desire… but also not enough to keep him hunting every year. He hadn’t been back in years. Really work was mostly to blame – I know as it kept me from hunting for many years… but we were now at a level of management that we could make the time for deer hunting.
Through some after-work-hour discussions over some beers with Michael, he found that I grew up hunting with my Dad and wanted to get back into it this year. And Michael shared his past hunting experiences and present desire as well. Dad had a 151 acre farm (well described in a couple of my other stories already) and the timing was right. So with Dad’s permission to hunt during Ohio gun season and Mom’s permission to have a stranger come in and use one of the beds in the house loft, we were on our way to both of our first deer hunts in many years.
Michael and I completed hunts together in 1999, 2000, and 2001. My Dad played a major role here as he mentored Michael on the finer points each year on hunting and field dressing. I scored a huge 9 point buck the 1st year. Michael scored on what looked like my deer’s brother and also a very nice 9 pointer the second year. We both scored on smaller bucks and doe’s the 3rd year. We were hunting partners now. We now spoke more about hunting after work-hours than about work. Even though Michael was a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan and I was a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan - It was nice.
Now 2002 is how Michael became “Uncle Mike” as well as my hunting partner. 2002 is the year I took my son on his 1st deer hunt. Michael was right there with us. He spent a great deal of time with my son with me – so much so that my son Nikolas started calling him Uncle Mike. He was present for the pre-hunting stand assignments as well as the harvest celebration afterwards when Nikolas scored his first deer.
Michael and I hunted every year together along with my son Nikolas until 2007 when I took a promotion and relocated to Colorado and he was promoted to a higher position as well. We were great hunting partners enjoying our passion to hunt together . My son asks about Uncle Mike almost every time I see him. The only time I have been back to Ohio to hunt with Dad, Michael could not join us. I have since retired from the Company. Michael who now has over 40 years with the Company still works there. We speak every couple of months and talk of him taking time to hunt with me here in Colorado. It is still just talk right now. He is still Michael my hunting partner of past. He is still Uncle Mike to Nikolas. We both miss him. The picture is of Michael and his very first deer with a bow - at Dad's farm taken from the southwest field stand.