The Sons of October

I was organizing some files this weekend and came across an old tattered folder marked “Hunting.” It was stuffed with maps of refuges and deer zones, pocket guides to shooting times, hunting regulations, hand-written notes about which duck blinds were good and how to hunt them, email addresses and phone numbers for past hunting partners, and other scraps of my early hunting days. I also found a crumpled old hunting license for my younger son, Griff.

Seeing it all brought back many memories, mostly fond ones of me and Griff and the gang of  waterfowlers that had kindly taken us under their wings. Some recollections made me shudder – like when I drove over a stump hidden in the mud and tore some vital piece off the family Volvo – or shake my head in embarrassment at how little I really knew back then. A  copy of the registration for my long-gone pop-up camper had me thinking of warm buggy nights in the Wister campground. Faces lit by bonfires, dogs pissing on decoys, the echoed clink of beer bottles joining others in the trash, midnight duck call practice sessions. Short hours of sleep, waking every now and then to the stillness and  spray of stars you can’t see in the city. The sound of my boots on gravel, making my way to the lone restroom in the moonlight.


The volume of memories that came out of that one folder was amazing, as was how crystal clear every single one of them still is. Watching Griff build an arrow weed blind as I set out decoys. The guns of us fathers and our sons poking out of a blind on a different day, like cannons on a man o’ war, giving a lone snow goose a fatal broadside. Napping on the cool hard dirt on slow days, opening one eye every now and then to the sound of wings. Good days when straps held limits of ducks and geese. Reaching into a thicket on one hunt with Mike, and pulling out a snow with a collar. Pondering our options on the big Wister map at 3am, waiting for Ray to get to our number. The sting of salt cedar on my face, mosquitoes swimming in the rays of my headlamp. Giant goose spreads set out on a field with a #1 draw. Scotch doubles on a junior hunt. The smell of the sea along the 111 that always signaled we were getting close.

Those were six great seasons.

So much has changed in the seasons since. Griff is grown up and a once-a-year hunter. My refuges now are hundreds of miles away from that stinking muck I once loved so much, and I will never know them as well. The Dodge Ram that replaced the injured Volvo as my hunting vehicle still sits out the off-season beside my house, that much is the same. These days though the truck carries a lighter load; a dozen simple decoys instead of jerk-strings, wind-spinner, and the 36 I used to pack, no rolls of palm leaves for blind-making (face paint and a tule patch is good enough now), and only a morning’s worth of snacks where a full day’s food used to go.

Something else that hasn’t changed: awaiting that spin of the rezzie wheel. The results may be more polished and professional looking these days but the anxiousness, the hooting at a draw or groaning at a zero, and the mild distaste of gambling’s presence in an otherwise pure and noble sport are still there. And I don’t care if California and the HSUS want to call them wildlife. I still call those ducks and deer game.

This duck season will open without me, but that’s okay. My October is about getting ready for November and a bow tag that’s been years in the making, for Iowa on Mike’s property there. Still, I’m excited for the stories and pictures that will come out of the first weekend, especially the new hunters and the kids. I know the things I’ve seen and done will be experienced by others soon, and there’s great joy to be had in that. Other crews will conquer the ponds the way we once did. Because opening day draw or not, we’re sons of October and always will be.

~ by SpeakingZenaphorically on October 7, 2014.

One Response to “The Sons of October”

  1. Interesting photos

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