It was early Spring and I’d paid for an April tag in a county I knew wouldn’t be worth a damn until May.
The turkeys were as thick as Jays the year pervious. You couldn’t drive by a field without seeing them flocked up, or stand to conduct your morning business without trotting them off. But I played the role of internet sheep, and swayed by the opinion of self-proclaimed turkey authorities, applied for the early season instead.
I received a bucketful of bad weather and a sore rear-end for the decision. What was once hunting became waiting with an occasional unanswered pot-call squawk. By the morning above, I was thoroughly beaten and laboring to my 10 a.m. “punch out” time. Then something funny happened. A breeze kicked up and parted the clouds just enough to disperse the gloom. The woods suddenly awoke, as if I was in a photo and God was messing with the exposure. The brownish aftermath of the previous Fall turned a vibrant orange. The once dreary, moss-covered stumps shown a vibrant green against the backdrop. Woodpeckers knocked invitingly. A red-tailed hawk screeched its “after breakfast” screech atop a red pine.
I leaned into the log behind me to stretch the morning out of my legs. It felt great to move after hours of being still and staring at nothing. Turkeys didn’t matter anymore (not that there were any around to matter). Nothing did. Not even my longbow, which had slid off my lap and was now staring at me in disdain from the forest floor.
I found that funny. It reminded me of something a friend said during a particularly uneventful stretch the year before. “Ya know we oughta just go fishin’ sometime,” the old bowhunter quipped. “To hell with all this huntin’ business. You don’t have to get up early to wet a line. We’d even have time to make a decent cup of coffee. Imagine that. No agenda.” We got a good laugh out of that one. Two bowhunters, stowing gear in the rain, describing a utopia that didn’t include hunting. I didn’t even own a rod.
“What if you were a mug of coffee?” I chuckled, rescuing the bow from the leaves. “This nonsense would all make sense then, wouldn’t it?” Coffee, after all, never crammed an experience into a season. Coffee never demanded a death for the price of a few hours in the woods. Coffee didn’t mess with your confidence if you walked out with a full quiver. A cup of coffee just was and being in the woods with one meant just that. Perfect sense, indeed.
The idea thumped around inside my head, as I slid the bow back across my leg to clear the newly accumulated dew. “Agenda,” I sighed. It sounded like work. Was that what this was? Work?
The sun ducked beneath a patch of gray and white, as if to avoid the question. The gold was gone and the brown returned. This was a reality I would not accept. A hunt, it seemed, should be worth more than the game taken. Time in the woods should never be wasted time.
I felt shamed by the internal lecture. Then resolved. My season might’ve been over, but I would get my hunt’s worth one way or another. I stood up, grabbed my bow, and headed for the timber.
It was time for a walk.
The next time you feel like giving up on a season, remind yourself why you hunt in the first place. Remember the longbow and how it brought you to the woods. Remember the woods itself. A change of perspective will make all the difference in the world.
And please feel free to leave a comment below or on my Facebook page.