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Matt
MATT
CHEEVER

Flatlander

5 Year Anniversary at Heartland Outdoors

Fri, January 08, 2016

A bit longer read than normal, so grab your favorite drink, get comfortable by the wood stove and digress with me………

I had always planned for a life in the outdoors, I was 9 maybe 10 years old, and my summer’s spent fishing with my family in Northern Minnesota.  My Grandpa, an Illinois farmer, often talked of retiring and buying a resort up North and I’d of course guide fishing trips and eventually have my own fishing show much the likes of Babe Winkelman, Jerry McGinnis and Billy Westmorland. 

The problem with this plan was Grandpa had Parkinson’s disease and died in his mid-sixties, never really retiring and I didn’t fish well enough to be competitive in local tournaments more less guide regularly or have a television show.  The beauty of fishing though is you don’t have to be great to enjoy it and you shouldn’t wait until retirement to do it.  A few good lessons learned there.

I continued in the outdoors through High School much to the dismay of my folks (they were not hunters). They had put their foot down about owning a gun and really weren’t fond of a compound bow or game animals in their house.  My how that has changed.  I bought my first Bear Whitetail hunter from our schools custodian and my first single shot, shot gun from the Principal. I would practice over lunch hours while mom and dad were at work.  Weekends I’d sneak my gear to the woods, only successful at seeing a few deer and taking a couple squirrel.  I really thought I was living the outdoor dream.

There was no stopping me, hunting and fishing were all I thought about, I was consumed. Mom and Dad finally gave in and allowed a few overcooked tree rats on the dinner table.  Running out of arrows and unable to afford more they finally showed some mercy giving me a .22 Marlin rifle for Christmas my junior year of High School.  I had a Ford Ranger with a topper, a shotgun, rifle and bow, what else does a guy really need?

My time in school was consumed by thoughts of hunting, fishing and football. When asked in English class to write a journal it was always about the sunrise of the deer woods or experiences revolving around that.  My High School English teacher told me those were not suitable topics, I argued, “it’s my personal journal and we have the freedom to write anything of interest”!!  Except hunting or football she told me!

I remember it like yesterday, she said “There is nothing to be gained in writing about trying to kill a deer”.  I hear this in my head every month when I cash my Heartland Outdoor check, in fact my first dollar earned with Mr. Jeff Lampe is framed in my game room near my favorite deer heads.  Writing for Heartland Outdoors is one of my proudest accomplishments. I was told from age 17 I couldn’t do it.  I was marginal in English, squeaking by with a C- most often (as you can probably tell) but getting the occasional A in college.  I told my English professor of my goals and desires.  She said “straight A students usually lack interesting topics to write of anyway, get used to proof readers and red ink, keep after it”.  Keep after it I did.

I have hunted, fished, filmed, followed many, spoke to even more and tried everything I can within and sometimes past my means and feel I’ve put together a great network or outdoorsmen and woman as friends.  I wrote article after article to several Whitetail magazines and never a reply, finally I called one and insisted on talking to someone in the editorial department.  I was told “your articles probably aren’t even getting read, you have to know someone to get noticed”.  A harsh reality in life, but sadly true.  The better half of the outdoors industry doesn’t hold a candle too many of the outdoorsman and women I’ve met along my journey.  Failing to be deterred I decided to write for myself, start my own blog, why not, it would be short stories, pictures, how to comments and just generally sharing other’s adventures.

Less than one year in to the Flatlander Outdoors Blog I met Mr. Lampe through a mutual friend and he said, “I use to organize Prairie State Outdoors (as if I didn’t know who he was; everyone knows Jeff and his work writing and reporting) and I’m starting my own venture, I’m taking over Heartland Outdoors Magazine and developing a blog, do you want in?”  Yes I want in, Sir! I said, with the upmost respect!  I asked who else was on his blog, he said Nate Herman, Tim Walmsley, and an awesome deer hunter from over my way that goes by “Back 40”- John Soehn.  I had known Nate since he was barely shaving regularly and I’d heard of Tim, who was known for starting the original Illinois Deer Classic.  Now getting to know and become friends with John also I realized I was completely outclassed, Lampe let me write anyway.  Later meeting others on staff such as Gretchen, Kevin Chapman, Kevin Hahn and many more I realized what a great well rounded team, as knowledgeable as any group of outdoor writers and photographers in the business.

It’s not the journey that I had expected as a young boy, folks don’t line up to give you new trucks, boats and shotguns.  You don’t earn enough to get rich and live a carefree life, it’s not as glamourous as one might think.  It is hard work, often writing while at family gatherings or on break at the regular 50 hour a week job.  Sometimes it’s a collection of thoughts from a treestand on the thirtieth day of being skunked. Try and muster up something encouraging to say after that stent?! Not easy at all.

You may get harassed by other hunters, maybe even the game warden, and treated as if all this hunting comes on a silver platter.  In reality it opens you and your hunting spots up for encroachment from others. You probably won’t make enough in a year’s time to pay for all you hunting permits and licenses.  You will likely spend more writing than you make doing it, why do it you ask?

Sometimes in life you find a calling, a deep down burn inside that you are to do something. No matter how hard or tough a calling is, it’s who you are.  Some folks are great hunters and you never hear their tales, some tell tales and probably couldn’t start a fire, skin a critter and survive a night in the woods.  I guess I hope to land somewhere in the middle. Sometimes you just know what you’re supposed to be doing

I Believe it was 2004 or maybe 5 I was watching an old mature dark horned buck for several weeks, he’d covered a seven mile stretch of fields, never going to the woods, keeping does pushed away from other bucks and cover. He wasn’t huge in fact on the downhill of his prime, yet he was a fighter, beaten and battered.  I had crawled out to him in a muddy field, water standing in the low spots just on the brink of freezing. 

Knowing no one else would be dumb enough or dedicated to belly crawl through this freezing slush I set out to get him. Having to get in the mind set to lay down in the water and crawl close to five football fields.  I got within 195 yards, he stood with his doe and looked my way not liking the large ball of mud coming his way, putting the first mil-dot of my Bushnell Elite scope on his high shoulder and dropped him in the mud. Upon dragging him out I crossed a knoll where a herd of does flanked me at 125 yards, I shot the big lead doe.

Having checked in and hung my deer in dad’s shed, I headed back out the next morning with one remaining tag.  Sitting the same field under a loan tree I had two gut piles with in site.  A dark coyote came trotting by shortly after sun up, putting the crosshairs of the muzzleloader on his nose I squeezed of a 250 grain bullet from the .50 cal. piling him up some 80 yards away.

I brought him back to the base of my tree, skinned him out, put him in my pack and poured a cup of black coffee.  I sipped the hot brew that frigid morning thinking what an amazing 24 hours it’d been when a lone doe came over the hill in to a 100 yards or so and turned broadside, sniffing the coyote’s odor or mine with the coffee, she wasn’t going to stick around.  One more thump of the muzzleloader and I now had three deer and one coyote skinned out in dad’s shed.  He came to look in his once wood shop, now locker plant/hide tannery and said “I guess you have a knack for this”.  I guess I do and wouldn’t have happiness doing anything else.

Thanks to the Lampe’s, fellow writers, and most of all you die hard outdoorsmen and women who also have a story to tell, thanks for reading along…….

God Bless,
Matt Cheever ~  Flatlander

Comments

Great stuff Flatlander!

Posted by Chupacabra Crappie on January 08

Have enjoyed the blogs, thanks

Posted by BIGPOND on January 08

Thanks to all you guys who put out great content - and a plug should go towards HO magazine too!  I also appreciate the family orientation and articles for my kids - keep them coming.

Posted by btb38 on January 08

I too have enoyed your blogs matt. Thank-u for the great recipes.

Posted by WhitetailFreak on January 09

AWESOME JOB GREAT STUFF

Posted by herman on January 11

Glad to be part of the Heartland team with you - boy times sure flies when we are having fun! Doesn’t seem like 5 years!

Posted by G on January 12

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