It is possible to retire?
ESCANABA — My only real recreational time has been the outdoors that included learning about conservation and getting involved as a volunteer 30 years ago. Last week was a turning point for me as I try to inch my way towards total retirement. For the first time in many years, I declined to emcee the annual Wildlife Unlimited banquet. It was a conscious decision in a plan to prioritize my life, but I never thought it would be this difficult.
I’ve always worked at least two jobs. Even as a partner in a business, I spent many hours working on cars in my garage at home. We had a bigger family and needed to provide a standard of living so I did what was necessary. I finished my primary full time employment as a medic for Rampart EMS, Inc., this year marking 25 years. I still help out here and there but have been semi-retired since 2015.
U.P. Whitetails Association will, this year, turn three decades old and will celebrate it at their upcoming November banquet. It was 1988 serving as the organization’s founding board as secretary that I also took the microphone for the first time as emcee.
As time has evolved, the variety of events and conservation groups responsible in augmenting projects as partners with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has grown immensely. There have been a lot of changes since my first involvement and the positives unquestionably exceed the negatives in all these years. The overlapping efforts of a myriad of volunteers and their work in raising funds for projects has been cause to expand my involvement as a member of these clubs and events to a point it was occupying an enormous part of my personal time. To complicate matters more, my level of participation grew as parts of various boards and committees.
Twenty years ago I was asked and consented to back off some immediate club activities to start an outdoors radio show, having participated for 10 years prior as part of the annual “Deer Hunters Report” program on WDBC-AM in Escanaba. The program, Trails & Tales Outdoors Radio, took off and I am now host/producer and lightly syndicated across the Upper Peninsula. In conjunction with deer season, the WYKX-FM sister station to WDBC started and has continued the annual Deer Pole, a night of fellowship and a chance for hunters to bring in any legal harvested deer for registration, weighing and a random prize drawing for every hunter bringing in a deer with a special prize for the biggest buck. It began before the radio show and was o-hosted with radio celebrity Mike Dubord.
Within this time frame, Daily Press sports director Denny Grall also suggested I give writing a try and the weekly Trails & Tales Journal column began. Now I don’t claim to be a journalist and if not for spell check, I’d be in real trouble. What I have learned is that in any mode of media, if I state something as a fact there better be information to support it.
My personal involvement in conservation has also grown with two current gubernatorial appointments to state boards and one statewide affiliate conservation organization requiring multiple trips downstate for meetings. I’ve also attended countless meetings as media for conveyance to the public. I have and continue to teach hunter and ATV/ORV safety certification as an MDNR volunteer instructor for about 18 years.
All combined activity has reached a point where my supportive wife started questioning how much more of my time would be used. “We have nine grandchildren and perhaps it’s time to change focus.” she told me. Her concern hit home as we’ve talked about how I could redirect myself back to being a husband, father and grandfather.
As in most cases, a successful venture is only accomplished when a plan is in place. I decided that I’d start with backing off the events side of my time and this spring implemented my last wave of banquets and events as emcee. No one is indespenceable so someone else can be recruited for the job and probably do it better. I didn’t realize how letting go of something that is part of your passion would hit me. I was having second thoughts but an episode on Sept. 22 told me my new direction is appropriate.
One of my functions is as a Region 1 Policy Board representative of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC). A meeting scheduled for that day laid in direct conflict with National Hunting and Fishing Days and Youth in the Outdoors that is celebrated annually at the Great Lakes Sports and Recreation Club. The event brings in between 200 and 300 kids a year and I have emceed it for a long period. While I was able to donate and set up the sound system, the pending trip to the MUCC meeting in Newberry made time tight. In that rapid shuffle, there was still time to engage two guys and debate on issues (the youth hunt and deer herd status). I was on a dead run from 7 a.m. until I returned home at 5:30 p.m.
This week I found myself taking the better part of a whole day out in the woods without obligation to be somewhere else and it felt good. Yup, I am convinced it is time to back off and will continue my planned process until complete. Pretty soon, God willing, I’ll be sharing that time with the third generation of my family, a place I now know is meant to be.
Thanks to all the conservation clubs for your continued efforts and allowing me to participate. It’s been an absolute honor!
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday