Sum­mer heat leads to day­dream­ing about hunt­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - OUTDOORS - BRYAN HEN­DRICKS

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.

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