Coyote Tracks and Creek Beds
I was the only truck at the game lands this morning, the only one. The entire forest was mine. Few people take up Squirrel hunting, but I find it wonderful. It's both a way to get food for Italics as it is target practice. In four weeks pheasant, rabbit, and grouse season will begin. Those are still small game, but substantially more and incredibly delicious! Four weeks of learning the forest, the trails, getting in shape by hiking 5-8 miles a morning…. If that isn't a decent preparation for whitetail season, I don't know what it. And this year I was lucky enough to score a doe tag in the state's lottery. That means I can take both a buck and a doe! Talk about upping my chances! This could be my year!
I didn't take any game, but I did get a few shots in. That aim and hope was worth the hours and miles, the dripping sweat and soaked jeans. Hunting is not killing, it is pursuing game and that is what and who I was this morning. I was bitten by bugs, stung by flies, jeans soaked by dew, body wet with sweat, and socks ruined in heavy rubber boots. At first all this bothered me, but two hours in I no longer got winded walking uphill and ignored the wet clothes. I was in it. I was right there in the present and breathing deep. When Italics is done molting and our training is up to snuff, I'll trade in my trusty little rifle for talons and hit the forest with him. But for now, it is just a girl and her gun.
Now, the highlights of the morning were not shooting at squirrels, but this amazing discovery of the animals around me. I watched does leap away and turkeys scatter with their teenage poults. I found snails and their spiral shells, making their way along the same trails as deer scat and cracked acorns. Part of me worried about the rumors of mountain lions and feral hogs, but only a small part. A little .22 rifle was no match for a hog or cat, but that slight chance of danger (and feeling part of the food chain, not just a benefactor of it) was part of the thrill. I saw a spider so large it was bigger than my hand. I saw a bird I never heard or knew of before, and it made me pause and listen. I sat above steep ridges hoping for the chucking sounds of chirping squirrels and instead found meditation on how light touches leaves when the sun grows tired. I wondered how any man or woman could not love this, love the hunt for what it was and what it could be? I stretched lazily and took a short nap among the moss and streams. When I awoke I headed down a dear path to a mudbank and found coyote tracks. I wondered who that coyote was and if she was luckier in her hunt than I had been. When I left my boot tracks were beside hers, and I knew any other hunter or tracker out in those woods would think a man and his dog had just covered some ground. The coyote and I had a secret now, and I held it close.
I think I'll be hunting every morning if I can manage it. I don't know of a better way to spend my daylight hours. Will you be hunting this fall, as well?