KEVIN TATE: Listening to our mentors means a lot over the years

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

I’ve been fortunate to enjoy the company of many great mentors over the years. Most of them have been family but some have simply been people I’ve met along the way. One in the latter group will always rank among my favorites.
Mr. Fox Haas, of West Point, has been someone it’s long been my joy to know. He carries a tremendous wisdom and shares it in such a humble way, I find it impossible not to hang on every word.
“A long time ago I had an old bossman in the packing house business who always wanted us to go see somebody else’s operation,” Mr. Fox says. “He always said he didn’t care how bad of an operation it was, there was always something you could learn from it. That applies to hunting pretty well. No matter who you hunt with, there’s always something you can learn from them.
“In my own case, when I was getting started, I was always willing to listen to somebody I thought was better than I was, which was just about anybody. That’s a practice I’ve kept up over the years, even after I had some idea that I knew what I was doing, and it’s really paid off. I learn something new just about every time out, and that’s a big part of what keeps me going back.
“Keeping an open mind is always key. You don’t need to be too proud to look at what somebody else has done to be successful.
“If you’re working a turkey, for example, most all of us have something in mind we think we need to do to work that turkey. But after an hour or so of fooling with him and what you’re doing isn’t working, instead of just hammering after what you were already doing, you have to change tactics, whether it’s the silent treatment or more excited calling or whatever.
“Turkey hunting is a prime example of a discipline where different techniques and different strategies can all pay off. You just have to be willing to adapt from one to another when your first choice doesn’t work.
“I’ve been in hunting camp with folks who were going to do their thing period. There are all kinds of experts, but the best turkey hunters I’ve been around have always been jacks of all trades. They’ll take a mouth yelper, a cedar box and a slate, and when they laced up their boots they were ready to run and gun or sit and wait, depending on what the morning’s situation called for.
“Some folks are determined not to change for one reason or another, but I’m not. I like to succeed better than I like to be hard-headed. I think that holds true whether you’re hunting or farming or coaching football or whatever.
“It’s too much fun out there and the days are too precious to waste any of them doing something that you’ve proven doesn’t work.”
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.