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Posts Tagged ‘hunting season’

More of this please ...

More of this please …

The traditional version comes at the wrong time of year. We are putting things away and reminiscing about past months when we are encouraged to reveal our hopes for the coming 12 months. Thanksgiving, Christmas, then poof! There they are, at the bitter end of our favorite time of year.

Instead, my resolution is to make resolutions for our “new year,” Opening Day. Record my dreams and dreads wrapped in blaze orange and dog hair in the weeks leading up to the fresh season. They started on closing day and marinated until the opener was an actual, real date on the new calendar circled in red. Then, aspirations for shooting, desires for favorite coverts and of course, miracles for our dogs are voiced over beers (or in our heads).

Mine? Trivial, some might say. Steadiness from Manny on covey flushes. Stamina from 10-year-old Buddy. New places and friends in the field. Some green among the thousands of acres of ash and soot here in the West. And hope, for a safe season, strong legs, happy dogs.

What are yours?

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Finally

See you there, Saturday.

Yep, there are plenty of earlier seasons even here. But the real deal starts Saturday with chukar and quail opening on the high desert. And finally, it felt like it.

The grass crunched underfoot as I walked the back yard this morning. Frozen stiff.

I noticed the aspen leaves were now golden.

Icicles hung from the trees, the aftermath of a late-night watering and freezing temperatures.

And I had to wear a jacket while running the dogs this morning.

If those don’t scream “fall,” I don’t know what does. Oh yes I do: the whir of wings.

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Is it time?

Soon, soon.

Did you feel it this morning?

For the first time, fall was in the air here. Maybe not literally, but at least possibly. A whiff of wood smoke, a temperature that lifts moisture from soil to nose, a stirring of all things wild including emotions, foretelling the upcoming hunting season.

The dogs were energized on their runs, moving with an urgency I hadn’t seen for a while. Cooler temperatures meant longer exercise periods for everyone, and while it was hot again by mid-afternoon, a west wind carried fall onto the prairie again before a cookout dinner that required a sweater.

Are you ready?

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Breathe deep.

I don’t remember which dog I was running, but will not forget what hit me a couple mornings ago: a faint but unmistakable whiff of fall. It wasn’t there the morning before, arriving just that dawn on silent wings.

I used to joke about it this time of year on my radio show: “I can smell fall,” I’d say with an exaggerated sniff into the microphone, psyching up myself, and I hope, my listeners. But it’s not all folly. There is hope, the anticipation of days in the field. Promise.

Our dogs, of course, detect scent a thousand times better than we do. Does that mean they know fall is coming sooner than we do? Do they smell it “better” than we do, drinking in the rich flavors with more relish than mere humans? I will watch tomorrow, searching their faces for more intense purpose and their reaction to fall’s precursor smells.

I’ve read that of them all, our sense of smell is the one that rekindles the most vivid memories – staunch points from last season, crackling leaves, poignant moments with friends. Remember Thanksgiving dinner’s aromas? I sure do. Well, the odors rising from the earth and detritus lying on it whisper “hunting season” and all the portent it engenders, even more so than pumpkin pie and drumsticks.

Here on the desert, our native grasses seed out, then turn golden in their passage from vibrant life to dust once again. Stalks become straw, leaves droop with resignation. But we hunters know better. Their departure from the world of the living is our signal to embrace life.

Scientists probably have better descriptors for it, but to me, it’s not the much-belabored “crisp” bite in the air so many lazy writers overuse. It is a magical night when the tipping point is reached and you need long sleeves when you open the gate in the morning. It may not register on a porch thermometer, but our organs are more finely tuned and detect that minute distinction.

That subtle transition prompts mundane yet soul-sustaining activities: mental inventory of ammo, checking of boot laces, a frantic search for hunting license. Long minutes are devoted to your calendar when you should be working. And your dog training takes on an urgency unlike spring’s laid-back torpor.

Here, it’s a pastel mélange of sage, juniper, bunch grasses and volcanic soil. Individual aromas blend, prompted by a subtle change in … what? Barometric pressure? Humidity? Mindset? The actual cause is immaterial, but the result is inevitable: a stirring in our souls.

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Super Bowl Sunday and time for reflection … look back at your bird season:

 

High point, literally: Buddy pointed from all four sides of this thicket before the ringneck finally panicked and flushed

What immediately comes to mind? Was it a double on pheasants? Taking a newcomer into the field? Good friends, great dog work?

 

Watching Manny “get it” on so many hunts, finding birds on his own, actually retrieving to hand, and extending his range are high on my list. The image of him honoring his Uncle Buddy’s point in the snow is indelibly etched in my mind. But so are the friends old and new, with whom I’ve shared a field.

What about you?

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