Family traditions

March 1, 2007
Noelle Creamer

James C. Loden, MD, an ophthalmologist in private practice in Nashville, learned much from his father, who also was an ophthalmologist.

"Ophthalmology was a natural choice," he said. "I grew up in the business and have been around it all my life."

But another love fostered by his father-the outdoors-gives Dr. Loden a break from ophthalmology that relieves his stress. His favorite outdoor pastime is duck hunting.

Early in his teens, the future Dr. Loden began competing in duck-calling contests. He learned this art from the expert callers with whom he hunted. "And I practiced a lot," he added.

He won the Tennessee state senior division at age 14 and became a "retired" Tennessee state champion at age 19. (He had won the championship three times by then, and they wouldn't let him compete anymore!)

In high school, the future Dr. Loden competed on the rifle team. He won the state championship for small bore rifle. "I went to the Olympic training camp," he said, "but I realized it's difficult to make any money at competition rifle shooting. Instead, I concentrated on college and medical school.

"Hunting is a stress reducer for me," said Dr. Loden. "I can spend lots of time by myself, or it can be very social: four or five guys go and watch for ducks and talk and joke until we see birds. Then, there's all the fun after shooting-sending the dogs to retrieve, splashing in the mud. ...We're all little boys at heart; we love dogs and guns."

Dr. Loden's dog, Peeler, is a professionally trained 5-year-old black Labrador retriever. Peeler spends March to September with trainers and is a qualified master hunter and an open qualified field trial dog. He just passed the Canadian National Master Hunt test.

"I joke that I have a college-educated dog," said Dr. Loden. His dog is great with the family, too, and goes to work with Dr. Loden every day.

Duck season in Nashville is all of January, which works out well for Dr. Loden, he said, because his cataract surgeries drop off significantly after the first of the year. He hunts at a convenient location a little more than an hour from his practice so he can often hunt before or after a full day of work, he said.

Dr. Loden said he belongs to several hunting clubs and has hunted with some of the same men for 30 years. He added, "A lot of my fellow hunters are my father's age. My dad always said, 'If you can still walk and see, you can duck hunt.' "

For the past several years, Dr. Loden has made a trip to Canada in the fall to hunt Canada geese and ducks for 3 or 4 days. He also has been on hunting adventures in South America and South Africa and said he enjoys an annual fishing trip to the Florida Keys.

Dr. Loden said he is interested in conservation of the wetlands and is a member of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, Delta Waterfowl, and Ducks Unlimited. He said he is concerned about urban sprawl around Nashville and development in other watershed areas eliminating habitat for wildlife and polluting waterways. He owns 500 acres on Tennessee's Buffalo River and also hunts at a leased property in Grassy Lake in Southern Illinois, he said.