If I can be frank, I’m sick of writing holster reviews. I’m sick of shooting my pistols and I’m getting kind of sick of shooting rifles for five-shot groups and plugging them into OnTarget. The spring and summer here in Texas afford precious few opportunities to take to the wild, gun in hand, with hunting on my mind . . .
Late winter and early spring actually aren’t so bad. By that time, my truck is filled mostly with road trip foods, spent casings, bloody rubber gloves, and there’s a distinct smell that’s started to hover around me. My wife has also reached the end of her patience when it comes to having an absentee husband, and my boss is starting to wonder just how many times “the moon will be just right.” There’s that old saying about dog owners starting to look like their dogs. And by early January, I start to look a bit like a late season buck. I’m a little hollow in the eyes, my shop is a mess, my truck is too, and I’m doing what I can to get by.
As such, late winter and early spring are times of repair. Relationship repairs, truck repairs, and gear repairs. But by mid spring, I’m starting to feel the itch a little bit. And if the weather is right, there’s still some hunting that can be done for exotics like Axis or nuisance animals like pigs. Scratch that. Pig killing knows no season.
Through the summer, its too hot here in Texas to do much outside except swim in a pool, drink cold beers, and sweat. If it’s anything like the summer of 2011, you start to have serious and very real debates over compression underwear vs. boxers. And forget about concealment garments. Nope. I won’t put any more shirt on my body than I need to. And then it happens.
There’s a morning when you walk outside and it isn’t oppressive. It’s merely hot, and there’s 20% less humidity in the air. Around that time, the hunting gods start smiling and you’ll finally spot whitetail bucks with velvet covered antlers. And as it goes, there will be doves so thick they blot out the sky as long as you don’t have a gun in your hand. Early dove season scratches the itch a little bit. But it’s still usually too hot to move much so you sit on a bucket in shorts, a t-shirt and you hydrate and bullshit with your buddies and wait for a double or triple to fly overhead.
This year has been especially painful as one of my favorite bands, The Turnpike Troubadours, released “The Bird Hunters” to the public a few days before the dove opener. Give it a listen. Hell, give it forty listens. It opens on a day we’ll all hopefully be blessed enough to experience in our lives. An evening hunt with a chill coming in, hands wrapped around a long gun that just feels right. Maybe some casual banter about your buddy’s shooting, and the occasion for conversation to turn a bit more serious. A time for introspection. And a time for being lost in your thoughts.
For me, its a painful reminder that I spend way too much time trapped in a cubicle, sitting in traffic, and mowing my lawn. I spent last week in Blacksburg, Virginia stuck in two days of meetings without a window to the outside world. It seemed like each time we stepped outside for a break, the leaves on the trees had turned a deeper color of amber. The weather was crisp. Clear skies and mid seventies during the days with temps dropping into the low forties each night.
On the way to our second day of meetings, “The Bird Hunters” came on the radio, mostly because I was in charge of the music and I watched the fall foliage rip by while my coworkers talked excitedly about our enterprise business strategy and product development and used words like “hybrid”, and “market forces”. Hearing that song made my heart hurt. All I wanted in that moment was to be seated with my back against a young cedar tree back on my family’s land. It’s the same place that I spotted a wily old buck last year.
Lost in my thoughts as The Troubadours played on, I thought about the kiss of a gentle, dry, crisp fall breeze on my face as the sun makes its way up behind me. It’s a comfortable little spot that I found last year. The land falls away gently so sitting on the ground is about as comfortable as it gets. The sun rises off my right shoulder, so my little spot is shaded a bit longer than the area I can look over. It’s about 150 yards in every direction, and there are two big groves of oak trees that provide all the acorns a whitetail could ever want. There’s always wildlife running around, and it’s a peaceful spot to just sit and think. Or not.
Suddenly, we’re in front of the office, and everyone is bailing out of the car, jabbering about all the things we’re going to fix today. I’m a little quieter and slower getting out of the car, still not quite ready to let go of my little spot against that young cedar tree. As I swipe by badge to get in the building, I take a last long look at the trees behind me before facing the canopy of fluorescent bulbs ahead. There’s a last little gust of wind as the cool morning gives way to a warming day. The leaves look a darker shade of amber already. Fall is coming.