With just a few short days remaining until I get into my goose season here in Ontario and with it the unofficial “start of fall” for me, I’m just pacing around the house like a tiger in a cage. I constantly wander around thinking about the upcoming hunt, planning for different weather contingencies, practicing my calling, and prepping and re-prepping my equipment. I can’t do anything productive, and since I can’t do anything productive, I’ll just write about it.
A couple of weekends ago I went all out. Using black potting soil I mixed up a few litres of mud and smeared them all over my layout blind. Then when the mud dried, I went out and swept it all off. Then I forgot that my blind was still deployed in my backyard and it rained on my blind for three days. Now my blind isn’t shiny and new looking, but it does smell like rain and mud, and it leaves dirty stains on my clothes every time I pick it up. Which are good things. There is also a blind-shaped patch of dead grass on my back lawn.
Once my blind dried in my garage for three days, I tightened up all the screws, oiled all the previously wet hinges, and sewed a couple of seams (that’s right I can sew). This sundry tinkering and busy work was a nice distraction for about two hours. Then I sat in the blind to make sure I hadn’t made anything worse with my brainless fiddling and my hunger to get out in the field tripled.
I packed all the gear, minus my gun and shells, in my car, and then was forced to unpack it to go buy groceries. Now I’ve packed it again and if necessary, my family can go hungry…because I’m not unpacking it again until it is time to put the equipment to use.
And put it to use I shall. I spoke with some buddies today and the prognosis for the hunt is good; lots of geese milling around, a good selection of places to set up, and a whole lot of competition for the fields we want to hunt. Since I have various and sundry goose hunting acquaintances, I have also been tantalized with pictures and stories of the various early season hunts they have been enjoying success with. Even my cousin sent me a picture of a short hunt they had on their opening morning. A smoldering desire to get out in the field is now a full blown inferno and it has made me so wretchedly unproductive that my career, marriage, and financial security are all in jeopardy.
Okay, so maybe not but you get the idea.
I had long hoped that this would be something that would improve as I grew older. As a much younger person I used to be literally unable to sleep, such was the anticipation, and this really didn’t pose much of a problem when the next day held nothing other than hunting, napping, and eating. But now I am nominally an adult, and as such I have responsibilities (or so they tell me). I am accountable to a boss, several dozen clients, and perhaps most importantly a spouse and two young boys. Shirking my duties because of hunting-anticipation-related-insomnia (which should be a clinically recognized condition, even though I just made it up) frankly isn’t an option. Yet, I think I have diagnosed why this condition has not only failed to cure itself, but is actually becoming more and more debilitating. It is because the frequency and duration of my hunting trips has become finite. As child and teenager, I could (with adult accompaniment) go hunting pretty much whenever a mentor could take me, which was honestly quite often and very much encouraged (with the exception of deer camp, that rite of passage was reserved for a later, more hotly anticipated date). Now, with the demands on my time being exerted by work and family, the prospect of time in the fields and forests is even more keenly anticipated.
I’m not from a particularly demonstrative family when it comes to emotions, but I feel as though my father, uncles, and other hunting mentors must have similar emotional responses to our family tradition of hunting. It is just that none of them had a forum such as this (or perhaps the inclination at all) to speak about such childlike giddiness.
But I don’t mind, because in some respects the expectancy and desire have become part and parcel with my hunting experience. Not only are the actual times spent in the field alone or with friends special, but the ways I pass the dreary days and weeks before hunting, what with all the toying with gear, and make the best laid plans, and yes even babbling inanely about how much I enjoy the anticipation, have all become part of the fabric of my hunting experience.
It is just what I do now.
So tomorrow, when 5pm rolls around, and the interminable meetings and prioritized tasks of my day job have been put mercifully to rest for another weekend then I will roll down the highway, listen to loud music, and practice train notes and push moans on my goose call every time I stop at a red light. Because those things are part of the hunt for me.
Then I’ll arrive at the farm and I’ll lay out my clothes and equipment in a utilitarian (and ever so slightly superstitious) fashion. Because those things are part of the hunt for me.
My cousins and hunting buddies will arrive and we’ll plan the morning’s agenda. We may have a beverage or two and we’ll laugh a fair bit. Because those things are part of the hunt for me and maybe it is for them too.
Then we’ll hunt, and we’ll eat, and then we’ll wake up and hunt some more. And then, when it is all done, we’ll have the memories and we’ll have the best laid plans for the next trip in just a few short weeks. The geese will be a little smarter and a little fewer (I hope) and we’ll be a little older, a little heavier, and a lot happier. And it is because we’ll be hunting together again, and that makes the anticipation, and the puttering around, and the all the mindless distractions we use to make ourselves happy in the off-season seem like distant foggy memories.
The return of hunting season just does that, and I am more than ready for it.