October Mornings

Phoenix copy

The alarm beeps 4:30 and I fumble for the snooze before it wakes Jess and the girls. I force open my lids, pull the phone from its charger, and check the weather. My eyes burn from the screen’s glow and notice a messenger bubble in the middle of the screen.

John is already awake and telling me to meet him at the crossroads instead of the usual rendezvous point. “I’ve got us a special spot today,” he types, “…one of my old honey holes. I haven’t hunted it in years.”

“Understood,” I thumb back, “field boots or knee-high rubbers?”

“Better bring the rubbers. It rained pretty good last night and we are hunting by a creek. It’s probably going to be wet.”

“Good,” I think to myself, “the deer won’t hear us coming”. I realize we won’t hear them either, but cast the counterpoint aside to avoid dampening the excitement.

There’s nothing like a Michigan October 1.

It is the one time of year adults happily rise before their alarms and toss their covers to the night like children on Christmas morning. Only it is the possibility of wild things and not the brightly wrapped gifts and sparkly tree that drives them into the cold, unforgiving wood at such an hour.

This rush into solitude is hard to explain to the non-hunting world. The idea of trading a perfectly warm bed and pot of coffee for a long, lonely sit in the cold, dark woods seems ludicrous at best.

But something peculiar happens on such a morning. Something that must be witnessed rather than explained, which is why the non-believers don’t get it. We don’t have the vocabulary to describe such a feeling — though many try.

While the human race is divisive on so many fronts, anyone with a touch of wild spirit would agree that few things compare to the beauty of a morning sunrise. Likewise, any sportsmen would agree this feeling is amplified ten-fold while afield. And I believe, that out of this segment of enthusiasts, it is the bowhunter who has the best seat in the house.

Ol’ Fred said it best, hunting “cleanses the soul”, and the crackle of leaves in the ears and crisp autumn air in the nostrils would leave the most obtuse of naysayers clamoring for a counterpoint.

Hunting does indeed cleanse the soul.

It brings you peace, it removes you from the worries of the world, and gifts you the precious moments of reflection that should be cherished by any human being.

My brothers and sisters: a bow in the hand is worth all the riches in the world on mornings such as this. The most hardened of warriors couldn’t pry it loose without a fight — and anyone in the know would know better. October is a precious month — rain, sleet, or snow — to rest, recharge, reflect, or seek redemption for the previous year’s failed attempts.

Truth-be-told I haven’t had a successful one in some time. Whether it be work, family, rain, or my own ineptitude, month number ten seems to be a slippery one for me. That, however, doesn’t stop me from cherishing every minute of it.

As Emerson once said…

“Live in the sunshine. Swim the sea. Drink the wild air.”

Get out of bed. Grab your bow. It’s time to go hunting.

A Hunt’s Worth

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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.

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