Season's End - A Rumination
It's the dead of winter, the last season, late goose, has been over for two weeks, the deep freeze gripping the northern tier of states is keeping the snow geese down south and spring turkeys seem like they may as well be on the moon. Standing temps in my part of the West haven't climbed past 20 degrees fahrenheit since the aforementioned goose season closed and tomorrow is March 1st. In like a frozen Lion out like a, well, we shall see.
This may seem like a rant against Seasonal Affective Disorder or the Shack Nasties as we called it growing up. It's not... we are at Season's End and it's time to look back so we can move forward. One of the things I enjoy doing this time of year is taking inventory on my equipment and making lists of what I'll need for next year. These lists will most likely be lost in the detritus of daily life between now and next October but a well thought out list helps me ruminate on the happenings of the Season.
1. Ammunition - Did I really shoot that much this year? Phew, guess I need more practice if this "Polar Vortex" ever let's up. Why is it that I'll be having a great morning on the gun and it suddenly falls apart? This usually happens after I open my mouth about how well I'm shooting... Hubris cometh before a fall! I remember one morning just thinking that I was 4/4 on big fat greenheads when I proceeded to whiff on the next three into the spread.
2. Shotgun - This old Benelli SBE II has seen heavy use but she shoots better today than she did when I first got her. Well, maybe that's not true but she certainly has knocked down a great number of birds for me. The finish is wearing away from above the trigger guard from over a 15 years of finger travel. The receiver has a nice patina of usage across its top and her barrel is the same from hands and layout blinds. All of this makes me smile as I clean her up and she once again takes up her mantle in the safe until Turkey season rolls around.
3. Calls - How does something that hangs around my neck and lives in the blind bag get so filthy? No matter... remember the morning when it seems you were the pied piper? Those birds just ate it up that day; hit em with hail, some contented quacks and chatter as they made a final swing and there they were, feet down over the dekes... what a morning! It sure doesn't work like that all the time but I guess that's why when it does, it's so memorable.
4. Puffy Vest - I can still hear the sound of ripping nylon as I ducked under that fence... well I ducked in my mind but I guess it was more of a stoop. Now there's a cold spot where insulation used to be. I patched it with some tape and moved forward. That old vest is kinda like me; worn and weathered with a few scars but still warm and useful when needed.
5. Gun Case - Talk about worn and old but still in working order... it's an old Herter's floating gun case that I bought way back in college. I remember not trusting that it would really float a gun so I put my SP-10 in it and tossed it into some shallow water... it floated just fine. That's the only time it's intended design has been tested although there have been some sketchy scenarios since that day. That case has safely transported all manner of shotguns to so many different blinds and hides on more hunts than I can count. I think it cost me a little more than $50.00 back in the 90's, I'd say I've gotten my money's worth.
6. The Lab - Okay so he's not a piece of equipment but he is an integral part of what goes with me every single time I'm afield and my time in the garage amongst my gear isn't complete if he's not there snuffling leftover feathers or sleeping on my hunting jacket. Since his first season when I killed almost 40 roosters over him to the past year when he retrieved like the veteran he now is, he is always with me. Where do the years go Mackinaw? You're turning seven and yet it seems like yesterday that you were an over eager pup. Pretty soon you'll have a little brother to show the ropes to. Here's hoping he is half the lab you are with all your strengths and none of your weaknesses. But for now there are two little girls to watch over and play with, drills to run and rest to be taken.
This list could go on and on but that's not the point, the point is that hopefully it has ignited a spark in you to go through your gear with more than the intent of examination and organization... let it speak to you, let your gear harken you back to what we all long for each year and what races past so quickly, we get to Season's End and wonder what happened. Our hunts live in our minds and our gear can hit the play button if we let it. Try it, I think you may just find a new winter pastime.