My favorite season begins in less than a week. But first I am required to dispense with Halloween.
This is one of my least favorite holidays, if you can even call it that. If conventions allowed me to attend gatherings dressed in waders and a fishing vest, or brush pants and a shell-pocketed hunting vest (orange of course), I might not be so reluctant to celebrate the holiday that inspired the movie that launched the career of Jamie Lee Curtis.
The rules say if it’s something you wear in your everyday life, however, it’s not a costume, no matter how silly you look in waders.
When I was young, Halloween was dedicated to filling as much of a pillowcase as possible with free candy. My childhood was spent in Southern California, where fall weather was more like that of mid-summer in the northern Rockies. Also, my neighborhood was one of those places families dropped off the kids for a few hours to trick or treat, such was the favorable “Snickers minis to candy corn” ratio of our plunder.
Now, I either buy too much candy for the four or five kids who show up, or I don’t buy enough, and my neighbors decide en masse to revive the candy stuffed-pillowcase tradition. You can try turning off the porch light and quieting the television, but the hordes still come.
Hunting season, or more specifically, pheasant-quail season, is the season for which I’ve waited with the greatest anticipation. I’ll miss opening weekend, however, as another tradition — the annual student media fall convention — resumes that same weekend after a two-year, COVID-19-inspired hiatus. The return of another pre-pandemic ritual makes the one-week delay for my own, personal hunting season, a reasonable price to pay.
This is when I return to the work of hunting in earnest. And when I say work I mean it in the best possible way. Hunting is one of the original jobs of our species, along with finding suitable shelter, protecting ourselves from toothy beasts, and gathering, an admittedly far more efficient method for obtaining a caloric surplus than hunting.
I spent quite a bit of my summer focused on fishing. It was a good season, albeit a challenging one. I took up fly fishing for carp and it turned out to be every bit as difficult as what the experts say. You have to study carp to fly fish for them successfully, as you’re almost always sight casting for them, and if you can see carp, they definitely see you.
So you also have to learn what a carp alerted to your presence looks like, because when they see you they may not flee, but they certainly won’t bite.
But as close as fishing connects me to my target species and the habitat it inhabits, I don’t spend much time swimming underwater. I might wade or ride upon the water in my kayak, but I am not an inhabitant of the carp’s world.
That’s not the case when I’m working for birds to roast. When I hunt grassland birds I enter that place where they live and become part of that place — and that’s assuming I ever really left. Predators are a part of the existence of game birds and most of them have developed rather remarkable techniques for foiling my rather clumsy efforts.
A person who only knows pheasants from borrow-ditch data gathered as they whiz past in their automobile, doesn’t know squat about pheasants. The birds may appear dumb, traipsing about like that alongside the highway, but those pheasants know they are safe there. It’s 100 yards out in the field where they have to worry about two-legged predators.
Soon, fortunately, as the candy frenzy ritual is set aside, my work of hunting will commence. There’s no better holiday season.
Rob Breeding’s website is www.mthookandbullet.com.
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