Center Focus Column

Listening: Life lessons for Deer and Dairy


By John Frey, Executive Director
December 2012

On a cold November morning, I learned another valuable lesson about life and the dairy business while kneeling over the largest buck I have ever taken. That is how important it is to listen to good advice when it is offered and build a plan to act on that advice.  Let me tell you more about the story behind the moment.

Last year in December, as you may recall, I wrote about the very special moments afield we enjoy with our children and the memories these moments create for us. I also wrote about a deer hunt which ended with a missed buck opportunity.

Earlier this year, I received some excellent advice from my son. He simply said “Dad, we’re going to do things differently this year to give us a better opportunity to have different results.” He suggested we plan ahead, visit the gun club near our home, and assure our equipment is ready.

He also recommended that perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much about the cost of “practice ammunition” and contended that the hunting cost would be far greater if we skimped on several of these important areas.

He suggested we may need to replace some equipment, and that  we leave ourselves ample time to pre-plan, scout an area, and ask more questions about current deer movement and conditions.

As a result of assessing past mistakes, identifying what success might look like, using the “best practices” available to us, and finally, of me actually listening to my son’s advice, the opportunities suddenly became far different than they were one year ago.

The evening of the second day of our hunt at 5:13 P.M., I received a text message from my son concerned about the lack of deer sightings throughout the day. My message back, trying hard to remain positive, was simply to “remember, the best 30 minutes of the day lie ahead.”  At 5:32, I heard one shot and learned within a few minutes that he had just taken his biggest buck ever.”  As you can imagine, this was exciting for both of us.

That evening, I began to prepare for day three of our hunt together. Carsen would occupy a warm hut for an hour or two and then do a slow drive hoping to push some deer to where I was located. We knew this area had deer. A member of our deer camp had seen them and the markings and trails clearly reinforced what was said.

At about 8:a.m., I spotted several deer too far away to glimpse details, but did communicate to my son via text message to go ahead and begin his slow push around that area. At 8:42, I spotted deer to my south including a big buck apparently pushed out by my son’s drive.

This year, the story ends differently from last year, as I successfully bagged a nice buck to end the hunt. I can’t help but draw comparisons to the dairy industry. There exists so much good advice from people who know what it takes to succeed in this business. While every business is unique, cows are the same in how they respond to care, comfort, and nutrition. In this case, as is the case on many dairy farms, the next generation – our children – have great ideas about what things can be done differently to improve the chances of success.

There remains a “field full” of opportunity in the dairy business, but not everyone will succeed. Success should come to those who plan and prepare in ways consistent with giving them an edge. In a growing industry like dairy where the demand for milk both here and around the world is growing, success is within reach for all of us. Thorough planning, listening well, and involving the next generation are but a few keys to increasing the chances of success. Deer and Dairy, life lessons learned again.