Monday, September 1, 2014

Coyote Tracks and Creek Beds

I spent the morning in the forest, hours upon hours. I was up to my chest in weeds and brush, leaping over creeks, and sitting above ravines. The state game lands are vast and varied and a four minute drive my from front door by dented pickup truck, and I was in them on this fine opening day! Today was the first day of hunting season (only for squirrel), but I was thrilled to be out in the dew, sweat, and sunshine. I love running when I get into my stride, and I love tae kwon do for the quick bits of violence and power—but hunting involves all of these things plus hope. The endurance, the bursts of energy, and the long strides - they make you feel powerful. That, coupled with this primal and magical part of the human animal, nothing beats it. When you are out hiking you are an intruder in nature, an observer. When you are hunting you are a part of it.

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?


Blogger mdoe37 said...

Squirrel season opens the 15th here. I probably won't make it out until the weekend though. Squirrel actually eats pretty good...I wouldn't share with Italics. :)

I will be deer hunting in the UP this year, won't be my first deer ever, but my first up there. The UP gives a whole new perspective of the word "woods". No mountain lions or hogs....just wolves. Saw several bear hunting last year and had to leave the blind in the dark with a pack of five in front of me.

September 1, 2014 at 2:31 PM  
Blogger Bex said...

I wish I could say I'll be taking my bow into the back part of my property in 2 weeks, but alas, I never managed to squeeze in practice time this summer. I did, however, buy a house. So I'm giving myself a pass this year. Plus the back of the property is so overgrown as to be inhibiting to hunting. Deer bow season starts and ends fairly early down here. I may possibly be able to get some time in at the in-law's property before it's over though. Fingers crossed.

September 1, 2014 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Where I live I am allowed to hunt squirrel and rabbit year round. Dove season however just opened.

September 2, 2014 at 12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't hunted since I was in Middle School, but you do make it sound fun. I have an urge to go reread Where the Red Fern Grows or the books by Jim Kjelgaard (all tales of dogs and hunting).

September 2, 2014 at 8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not hunting this year (never have ... yet), but I am reminded of a book I was just reading, of Haida myths ("Being in Being," told by Skayy and translated by Robert Bringhurst, if you're interested). In his introduction, Bringhurst mentioned something he called "hunterly courtesy" -- something like chivalry, but instead of male to non-male it's human hunter to nonhuman.

It made me think of fairy tales, where you are always, always, always courteous -- or else! -- and reading this post also made me think of it. (So too with the pig post above.) You have that hunterly courtesy; it's wonderful. Thanks for reminding me it is not something only for long ago and far away.


September 3, 2014 at 8:18 PM  

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