Time surely does fly by the older you get. In years past I was ready, straining at the bit, in anticipation of October.
Each cool morning in September would bring visions of falling, swirling multicolored leaves. It always reminded me of the vision you get when looking through one of the old kaleidoscopes. Each evening when I fed the dogs I could sense nervousness on their part. They don’t have a calendar but a built-in sense of coming events.
In the past few years the season seems to sneak up on me and I find myself scurrying around the last few days before the opening of the season. I squirrel hunted a morning in September but didn’t deer or bear hunt. Now, with October closing in, I was busy checking shotguns and shells for grouse, woodcock and turkey hunting. Making sure all equipment was ready is a part of the fun of waiting for the seasons of October.
There is no place in West Virginia that compares to the high country of our north-central mountains in October. There always seems to be a breeze stirring the color-splashed leaves, sending them turning and twisting toward the earth.
A light vest feels good in the morning. Winding along the Cheat River on the way to Tucker County was a beautiful drive. The fog was lifting from the cool water and formed a white ceiling shutting out the morning sun. About half way up Cheat Mountain I broke through the fog and entered a brilliantly sun lit landscape.
Part of why I hunt is just being in this country. The solitude, serenity, lack of traffic and human activity are all a big part of the hunting experience.
When I throw in the dogs, a great old classic American-made shotgun and the health to walk among God’s great outdoors, I can ask or expect nothing more. Taking a bird or two will be great for sure and add to the day’s experience, but not taking any will not detract from the day.
With the clicking off of each mile, the anticipation builds until I am finally at a familiar wide spot on the old logging road.
I am pleased to see that the hawthorn has done well and the thorn apples are hanging heavy. This particular old grown-up farm has both red and yellow haws. During the first part of the season you can bet that if there is a grouse in the country he will be close to the old hawthorn trees where he finds both food and shelter. I see that the dogwood and crab apples have also done well.
These soft mast types will take the grouse, deer and turkey well into the winter. But it is the oak, the acorns, that add the nourishment and fat they need to make it through the harsh mountain winter.
It takes me a minute to stretch and straighten up completely after stepping out of the truck and the dogs show no patience.
They know where we are and why we have come and delay is not part of the day. With the tiny sleigh bell around Snoopy’s neck and a few 20 gauge shells for the Ithaca double in my pocket, it is time to start another year’s adventure.
Each season is like a new chapter in the hunter’s book of life. Enjoy each and every outing to its fullest, for we never know how many chapters the Good Lord has written in our book! Be safe.
Frank Jezioro is the director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and a veteran outdoor writer.