Summer heat leads to daydreaming about hunting
Hunting catalogs are showing up weekly in my mailbox, so retailers must know this is about the time people start thinking about fall.
You know how it goes. When the sun stuffs lead bars in its gloves and you burst into sweat merely yanking on a lawnmower rope, you naturally dream of better days ahead.
Be of good cheer. Dove season opens Sept. 2, in just 44 days. In the meantime, enjoy the bounty of your gardens. Mine is generous this year because of our wet spring. We finally made our first decent corn crop, and my grapevines are bursting with plump, delicious Niagaras. Our tomatoes are full and sweet.
My peach trees made four peaches this year. They weren’t big, but the juice ran to the elbow. I also got my first plum crop, and they are the best I’ve ever tasted.
These fruit trees have been a source of friction between Miss Laura and me. She cited Leviticus 19:23-24, which forbids eating fruit from a tree for three years.
These trees were probably already three years old when I planted them, I argued.
No, she countered, it means three years from the time you plant them.
I sought counsel from the Rev. Tom Harris, pastor of Hartford First Baptist Church in Hartford.
“In all my years of pastoring, I can honestly say I have never been asked this question!” Harris said. “I’m afraid that I really don’t know. My advice is to do what she wants.”
A pair of bluebirds raised two clutches of babies this year in a house that my daughter Hannah made for my birthday.
It’s an unconventional bluebird house. Miss Hannah’s architectural vision employs generous amounts of natural light. She routed a hole in every side and a skylight on the hinged roof for good measure. She painted, “Birdie Bed & Breakfast” on the top.
Bluebirds go more for the man-cave effect, so I covered all but one entry. The bluebirds nested within a week.
Mike Romine of Mabelvale beat the retailers to the hunting groove. About two weeks ago, he texted the dates for the Private Lands Modern Gun Antlerless Deer Hunt, Oct. 14-18.
Inspired by the 16-gaugeonly duck hunts that Jess “The Undertaker” Essex organized last season with Connie Meskimen, Jimmy Rowe, Glenn Chase and me, Romine wants to use 20-gauge shotguns with slugs for the Private Lands hunt. He has the ultimate slug gun, a Savage 220 with a camo finish.
“Count me in,” I texted. “My [Browning] BPS is already sighted in and ready to go.”
I hunt deer on a lot of places with a lot of people, but hunting with the Romine family at Old Belfast Hunting Club is special.
Over time, I’ve come to measure the quality of the hunt by the quality of the people I hunt with and their fellowship. They don’t come any better than this bunch.
Of course, it also helps to have a great place to hunt. On crisp autumn mornings and soft autumn evenings, there’s no place I’d rather be than in my stand among the Grant County pines.
It’s funny how a place grows on you. I spent my 20s and 30s hunting exclusively in the Ozark and Ouachita mountains. Over the past 12 years, I’ve bonded with the gentle hills and thickets of the Gulf Coastal Plain.
As the memories stack — of hunts with people you love, and with people you loved who have departed — a place weaves itself into the fabric of your soul.
The question I am most often asked is what kind of hunting and fishing I like the most.
The answer is, “Whatever I’m doing at the moment.”
I would have been happy to spend all of September hunting pheasants in South Dakota with Judge Bill Wilson, Monty Davenport and the rest of Wilson’s freewheeling gang of Arkies. I’d be happy hunting quail in the Ouachita National Forest every day with Warren Montague. I’d be content to spend an entire summer fishing for smallmouth bass in the mountains with Bill Eldridge, Rusty Pruitt, Ed Kubler and Alan Thomas, or to have spent the entire spring hunting turkeys in all my various haunts.
Hunting and fishing is a fabulous lifestyle. It shows us creation in a new light with every sunrise and every sunset, and the memories never fade.