I religiously hunt our farm's hayfields for deer (and now turkey); they never let me down, and with names like "Old Faithful" and "The Honey Hole," these stands and blinds are like money in the bank every season. Hunting and hay go hand in hand in my mind--if I lose an arrow, I worry about what tractor tire will get punctured while mowing. I debate when fields should be cut with my dad so that I have just enough cover on the edges for good concealment. My first bow hunting experience last fall was executed while wedged between two round bales in a field pinch point. In fact, my first ever hunting experience, many moons ago, was with my dad in one of our hayfields. We started with the best of intentions, but finished with an epic nap, killing only time while we slept in the fall grass.
As I get more involved in hunting, I want to be more involved in the hay production on my family farm. I have always been part of the process, stacking square bales and riding on the tractor to keep dad company. However, riding isn't enough for me anymore, and I want to be prepared to take over the business someday, if needed. Better late than never as I took over the driver's seat for the post-Memorial Day cutting.
Dad was eternally patient for my first go at mowing, even from the cramped back window "seat" of the International 986, our "newest" tractor. I felt the same fleeting panic when I took the wheel as I did the first time I picked up a bow, slightly overwhelmed at everything I had to pay attention to at once--gauges, PTO speed, contouring, cutting width, distance from the field edge, height of the mower, and most importantly, creating perfect windrows "so it looks nice and pretty if someone flies over in an airplane." We chatted about mechanics and the finer details of mower operation, as well as noting the deer beds in the tall grass and spooking a new fawn from heavy cover. I won't pretend that my first experience was perfect, but it was far from terrible, and I think I managed to get a callback from dad for a second audition.
Being behind the wheel gave me a new appreciation for what my dad does every summer, and the few hours we spent together in the tractor for my training session were fantastic. I get to move on to raking as soon as the hay dries, and hopefully it goes just as well. As we surveyed our field at the end of the day, two turkeys ambled into my neatly dropped rows and began picking over my work. Too bad they were out of range...and out of season.