This is my favorite time of the year. It begins in late August when, despite warm daytime temperatures, you can feel a change in the air at night. There’s a coolness and a fresh scent in the air that wasn’t there during the summer season. If you look for them, you can see some red leaves beginning to show on maple trees. By early September you can see young popple tree leaves turning yellow. This has a profound effect on me every year as it means that partridge season is close at hand.
The cooler weather makes me feel more ambitious and I rush from one household project to another. Whether it be painting, washing windows, or replacing screen windows with storm windows, I want to do these chores well before cold weather sets in to make sure none of the chores interfere with the beautiful October days to come when I hope to be hunting.
I made sure the basement and upstairs were dusted, vacuumed, and scrubbed. Then I hung strings of artificial decorative fall-colored leaves on the living room curtain rods, just the way my mom always did.
Next comes one of my favorite pre-season activities…slowly and carefully assembling the gear I want to take on my hunting trips. First, I line up three pairs of boots by order: all-leather; rubber bottom/leather top; and lastly all rubber. I had oiled and greased all the leather at the end of last year’s hunting season, so they are all set to go.
My dad and I usually started out the morning hunts with our L. L. Bean rubber bottom/leather-top boots (often referred to as shoe pacs in the old hunting books) when the ground, grass, and brush was wet with dew or frost. Stopping for lunch around mid-day, we would change to all- Ieather boots and this simple act would make tired feet feel as good as new and we could hike long distances again in the afternoon. If the weather was rainy or if we were hunting in really wet terrain, we would wear the all-rubber boots. While not as comfortable as the above-mentioned boots, they too have their place.
I also laid out my well-broken-in soft canvas pants, shortened so that they just touch my boot tops, light flannel and wool shirts with button-down front pockets to reduce the risk of losing what I might carry in them when going through the brush, and extra cotton and wool socks. What I don’t wear is carefully packed into an old wellworn pack sack for whenever they may be needed. If you end up soaking wet during a hunt for whatever reason, a change into warm dry clothes is a real treat! Ah, the simple pleasures of life.
The contents of my hunting vest pockets are checked to make sure I have what I might need: pocket knife, compass, matches in a water proof container, small first aid kit, camera, toilet paper in a plastic bag, yellow tinted shooting glasses that really highlight contrasts in the woods as well as help to prevent eye injuries when going through the brush. All of this goes into the left-hand pocket. The righthand pocket is for shotgun shells. I carry enough to ensure that I won’t run out and I allow for plenty of missed shots…more so every year!
I have an oil cloth hunting coat that I keep in the back of the truck. I rarely wear a hunting coat as I find them to be too warm and somewhat restrictive. However, if it’s raining, and I don’t have sense enough to have stayed home where it’s nice and warm and dry, it has come in handy. In one of the pockets, I have a lined pair of deer skin gloves that have felt really good on frosty mornings. It’s harder to shoot well with gloves on, but getting lots of birds has become less important with the passing years in comparison with just being outdoors at my favorite time of the year.
The old bushel basket to carry birds in the back of the truck and the small metal box that I made in junior high shop class which, contains our bird cleaning equipment, are taken down from the garage rafters and added to the pile of gear on the garage floor.
The camp stove and extra fuel bottle, cooking kit, wannigan box stocked with easy to prepare food and snacks, and county and national forest maps pretty much complete the pile. But as I write this, there’s still a week to spare before hunting season starts so I might add more necessary stuff to the growing mound.
Just the other day, I was working around the house around mid-morning and the power went out. No big deal as I had plenty of projects to work on that did not require electricity. However, close to noon I was starting to get hungry and I had no idea when the power would be restored. So, rather than make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I put a board across two saw horses in the back yard and fired up the small camp stove we’re going to take with us hunting.
I heated up a can of vegetable beef soup into which I added some leftover macaroni and cheese I had on hand. While sitting there on a stool at my makeshift table, eating a hot lunch, a flock of honking geese flew over adding just the right touch of ambiance to an already beautiful early fall day and I thought to myself, “This really is a fabulous time of the year.” I hope all of you have as much fun this fall as we hope to.
Doug Nelson lives in Virginia. He is a frequent contributor to Hometown Focus.