Thursday, August 9, 2012

Planning leads to Memories

In just a few weeks things will get interesting for an outdoors writer like me here in North Carolina.  Opening day of dove season is Labor Day weekend, and then bow season opens for whitetail deer the following weekend.  To add fuel to the fire, I will be in Texas the weekend after that on a bowfishing trip for one of the largest freshwater fish, the alligator gar.
So in order to help me keep everything I need to do in order without forgetting deadlines for the newspaper and magazine article submissions, as well as hunting dates, I sat down and begin making my list.
I have a few weeks in this month to iron things out.  I still have one more trip I need to make one weekend this month, but I have not decided which one would be best.  Then I came upon both my late grandfather’s birthday and my dad’s birthday.   I thought back to earlier years, when I was not so locked in to daily life.  I reminisced about the only time I was able to hunt with my grandfather and my dad together.  It was a dove hunt.  Papa had on his brown felt hat that he often wore.  Dad was wearing his baseball style cap.  I was wearing my favorite boonie hat with the drawstring looped over the top.  From what I remember the birds were not flying great, but I do remember it not being a failure of a day either.
Of course, that memory rolled into opening day of dove season, the next date I would mark on my schedule.  Over the last few years I only remember one opening day not being successful.  It was following a hurricane if my mind is not altering the memories.  It rained to the point there was standing water everywhere, and we ended up hunting Labor Day Monday instead.  I think I only saw 3 or 4 birds total.  But ever since that year, the birds flew.  My son and my dad shared a few of these years in the field.  Last year I carried my nephew and brother-in-law on their first dove hunt.
Then I thought of my nephew sitting in a tree stand about 10 yards from me last year.  We watched a doe feeding as the sun crested the horizon.  He texted me asking if I saw it, which immediately made it run.  I did not get a shot, but I had a remarkable time.
As I looked down at my paper, I marked opening day of bow season, following the dove season opener on the calendar just as it did in my thoughts.  “What did I do last year on opening day of deer season?” scrolled through my mind.
“Of course!”  I thought to myself.  I missed it!  I was in Georgia on one of my dream hunts.  Chasing alligators during the night.  I met Dane and his wife Sherri.  They put me up for the weekend hunt.  A complete stranger, other than a passion for hunting and attempting the same quest.  I guess in the outdoors there are no strangers.
I continued to turn the pages on the calendar thinking what the remainder might be in store for me this year and next.  What may I experience?  What great chapters may I be able to add to my life’s book?  Who will be there to experience the moments with me?
Then I thought about the last question a little harder and deeper.  Who will be there?  I have been on plenty of excursions by myself and enjoyed them.  Those trips have been instrumental lessons.  But I do not have the same attachment to them as I do with the flashbacks of family and friends.  They were not more than lessons.  They taught me everything from how to appreciate the wild to the tendencies of deer movement.  They were there and they have their place.  Without those moments I could never share it with others.   But they did not have the extra element needed to take the slight grin from the memory to turning the corners of the mouth and making it an outright smile.
So as I continued to work on my scheduling, I began looking for ways to involve family and friends more often.  I would much rather smile after thinking back.

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