Out of Bounds

The Season of Orange

Wearing plenty of orange is smart and safe

By Rob Breeding

Fall is a giddy season for my friends at work. We have a Starbucks on campus, and it’s about the time we return for the fall semester that the ubiquitous coffeehouse starts teasing the imminent return of pumpkin spice lattes.

I’m not a fan. I like the spice part as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger play well in cookies. These cookie spices are also popular in savory dishes of southern Italy, especially the island of Sicily where my people come from. The spices were brought north by armies from northern Africa, and stayed behind even after the invaders were expelled.

In Sicily, pasta isn’t just a platform for tomato and garlic. Golden raisins find their way into pasta dishes on the Mediterranean Sea’s largest island, and those spices the Moors dropped off flavor dishes, including pasta, in surprising ways. The Arabs also left behind almonds, pistachios and the durum wheat needed to make proper noodles.

That’s all great stuff. Unexpected if your culinary knowledge of southern Italy was gleaned from watching The Sopranos, but it all weirdly makes sense when you taste it.

Bake those same Moorish spices together with large squash in a pastry shell and you get a gawd awful holiday dessert, one I wave away with one hand whilst holding my belly with the other. That’s my signal, “There just ain’t room for pie this year, Aunt Mable.”

Shoving the gag-inducing flavor of that slice of pie into a perfectly good cup of Joe is a crime against nature. Coffee is too essential to the survival of our species to treat it so cavalierly.

But here we are, with ripening pumpkins all around. That can’t be all bad as most of us have the good sense to flavor our coffee with nothing more than a touch of cream. Still, orange is the color of fall, that pinnacle of seasons.

It’s hunter orange we pine for this time of year, however. In Montana, 400 square inches of hunter orange are required for big game hunters, and strongly recommended for upland bird hunters. This requires at least a full vest above the waste, or some combo of vest, hat and shirt.

I mostly upland bird hunt these days, and like Montana, all of the states I frequent strongly recommend, but don’t require, orange for bird hunters. Since it’s not required, I’m not fastidious about making sure I’ve got 400 inches showing, but my vest is primarily orange, I always wear an orange hat and often I wear an orange long-sleeved shirt underneath.

The big game rule makes sense since rifles can kill at long range, but I’m always surprised more states don’t require it for bird hunters as well. Yes, it’s harder to kill a human with bird shot than a bullet, but it is possible.

Most hunters know the story of Greg LeMond, the American bicyclist who became the first  non-European to win the Tour de France in 1986. He didn’t get to defend his title because he was shot in the back by his brother-in-law while turkey hunting the following year.

His injuries were life threatening, but LeMond recovered and won the Tour in 1989 and 1990. He still carries shot from the incident in various parts of his torso.

Turkey hunters don’t wear orange, but in LeMond’s case it might have made a difference. The shooter heard noise in the brush, turned and fired without identifying his target. Orange might have alerted him, though safer still would be a better screening of potential hunting partners.

I have hunted the oak woodlands of Montezuma quail country and the coastal chaparral chasing California quail. I would never go near those places during hunting season without wearing plenty of orange.

It’s smart and safe and it doesn’t foul up my morning coffee.

Rob Breeding writes and blogs at www.mthookandbullet.com.