The geese have been flying overhead, sometimes six or a dozen, other times fifty or a hundred, all honking and heading west late in the day. I’ve never figured out where it is they go. During the morning dog walk they fly east, creatures of habit, to feed in fields during the safety of daylight.
Non-hunting friends ask if I’ve been hunting, not realizing it is just a fall event. In the woods behind the house the ferns are turning golden or the color of rust. The air smells of dried grasses and hundreds of grackles sit on the power lines beside the street, contemplating their departure. In the mill pond down the road clusters of ducks feed, where a month or more ago clutches of young followed the hen mallards.
Hunting catalogs clutter my desk and I’ve printed out the “Bring to Camp” list from my computer. Additions will be penciled in and a few items crossed out. For the most important weeks of the year, nothing can be forgotten.
The dogs know what’s ahead, at least the older two. The youngest hasn’t made her first trip north during bird season, but she’s raring to hunt. This afternoon she cautiously pointed a planted pigeon from almost thirty feet away. That looks like the making of a grouse dog to me. They sleep at my feet to keep track of me.
Several times a day I bring a calendar up on the smart phone, trying to figure out who is visiting Camp Grouse when and how to line up all the opening days. Grouse season is the priority, but it’s nice to catch the opening of our two duck seasons too.
The gun safe is unlocked evenings, so the favorite gun can come out and be hoisted to the shoulder. It feels familiar and swings faithfully along the line where the wall meets the ceiling. Daily it brings back assorted memories, and then is wiped down to be put away. Usually a second or third gun comes along as a backup, and which one is a difficult decision that will wait until departure day.
Hours are spent searching Google Earth, looking for undiscovered logging roads and hidden coverts. It’s almost as much fun as being there. The hunting journal is reread, particularly the notes made at the end of each season, which remind me of what to do different in the future. Lists are made of places to hunt, both new and old favorites, and coverts to ignore because they are past their prime.
Time passes slowly, like the days before Christmas.