Posted: Wednesday, December 05, 2007

There I was walking slowly along the outside edge of a swamp looking for a bull moose that would fit comfortably in my chest freezer at home. I was moving very slowly trying desperately not to make very much noise that would immediately alert Mr. Moose that I was out there looking for him again. Suddenly I noticed a mismatched color that didn’t quite fit in with the other surroundings. There to my left in the woods was a huge cow grazing peacefully as I walked by. She apparently had not seen me coming but neither had I seen her until I was within a few feet of her. Just one of those things in the wilderness that can be right in front of us but we fail to see it.

I have hunted all my life and couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I have walked past a rabbit, deer, pheasant, moose or other game only to have them jump up and either run off or fly off after I had walked right past them. I generally consider myself to be a pretty good spotter of game however there are times I simply have not seen game right in front of me.

In their natural surroundings a bird or animal can often times hide really well. It does not take much cover for a deer to hide and on several occasions I have been close enough to moose to see the brush in front of me move but never saw the moose! On numerous times I have had birds fly up almost under my feet and never even knew they were there.

Not seeing everything isn’t all bad because if we saw everything, there probably wouldn’t be any game left. Animals and birds need to have some hiding skills or they simply would not survive. Imagine going hunting day after day and never seeing anything. It would get really frustrating at times and possibly get you discouraged enough to simply quit hunting.

Well my friend there is something else out there right in front of us that many of us are not seeing. This week I was scanning the obituaries from my hometown area in Wisconsin where I grew up. There was a picture of a very pretty girl with eyes that sparkle and shine. A picture that just sort of jumped out at you not only because of the natural beauty that this young lady possessed but the glow of happiness that seemed to surround her. I read on about this young lady who came from a good church going family, had a boyfriend, loved the outdoors, loved her job and was a wonderful person to be around. Since she was only 21 years old, I began to wonder just what was the cause of death, especially when it said she died at home. Normally when some one young dies at home it is often times an over dose of drugs or suicide.

The next day I called the House of Beauty in Durand, Wisconsin where this young lady worked and asked what was the cause of death. I was sadly told she had taken her own life! There were no clues or information as to why she did this. I was told she was a wonderful person to work with and to know. Everyone loved her there and now people in the small town of Durand, Wisconsin are struggling desperately to try and piece this puzzle together. Just another example of something right in front of us that no one saw or knew was coming.

On December 8th my relatives in Wisconsin will endure the 3rd anniversary of the death of their son (my cousin) who took his life, too. Josh Von Haden was a mountain of a man who had a world full of friends that was evident by the unbelievable mass of mourners that filled the funeral home that day. Despite being only 24 years old, Josh had more family & friends show up for his funeral then anyone in the 50 plus years Anderson Funeral Home has been in existence. He was an active outdoorsman who loved to hunt with his father, came from a good home, had a good job, and one of the most unlikely persons that you would ever expect to take his own life. Another example of something else no one saw coming.

In my 52 years of life I have known at least 20 cases of suicide and not once have I ever heard anyone say, “I knew that was going to happen.” In most cases no one ever saw it coming!

Every 40 seconds someone commits suicide, every 3 seconds someone attempts to take his or her life. In the short time that it will take you to read this paragraph four people will have committed suicide and 50 will have tried. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the world at the present time for people between the ages of 15 to 44! It is the number one cause of death for college women! The suicide rate for males has tripled since 1970! More people die each year from suicide then by violent crimes and war combined. Furthermore the higher suicide rates are found in the wealthier countries like the United States with their abundance of luxury goods, shopping malls, cars, homes, etc. $25 billion is spent each year on direct cost involving suicide cases.

The number one method used in suicides in the United States is with a firearm, followed by suffocation (hanging) and poison. If you have any concerns about your family or friends it is another reason to keep your firearms locked up. Be alert to any cases of depression or abnormal behavior and if you have any questions about depression, suicide or anything else of this nature the internet is full of places you can go for help or advice.

I will never forget the shattered family I saw in Wisconsin following my cousin taking his own life and saw first hand the hurt and despair those poor people endured and are still enduring. To my many Alaskan friends, I can tell you this is the worst kind of hurt there is and we must all do our part in preventing anyone of us from having to endure this. Next week we will be back with a 100% outdoors story. I just felt compelled to address this situation. See you next week!

The local suicide crisis line number is (907)- 283-7511, the national suicide crisis line number is 1-800-suicide. My personal cell phone number is (907)-398-8728 and no matter who you are feel free to call me 24 hours a day.

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