Monday, January 08, 2007

The End

I was talking on the phone with my boss after lunch today, while looking out the window over the lake. I heard the geese first and I found myself, when I saw them, day dreaming about what they were doing, where they were going, and where I needed to be to interact meaningfully (shoot) with them. And then that bittersweet realization washed over me. I'm done...I don't need to continue the waterfowl vigil, the ever alert opportunistic catalog of the whereabouts and habits of the most wanted. A mixture of relief and sadness of the nostalgic variety gripped me momentarily, until the next thought sunk in...that I would sleep.

The second half of the waterfowl season was both frustrating and rewarding at once. Though limits were hard to come by, I took pride in rarely going home empty handed the entire second half, and I hunted all but two days of the two week season. I derived immense satisfaction in finally seeing it all come together a few times without being under the watchful eye of the teachers, the mentors. Both Eric and I shared this as an important goal, to prove to ourselves that we could do this thing, alpha to omega, soup to nuts, on our own. It was not dissimilar to, in the movie "A River Runs Through It," the point at which the young fly-fisherman played by Brad Pitt finds his own casting rhythm and style and is successful, a fact not lost on his father and brother in the movie. This season, I felt I came into my own. This is, of course, not the end.

Fiona ended up with 43 retrieves this year, almost half of which were during one amazing dozer pile duck hunt. I hoped to get her to 45, and Jim and I almost did, on the last day of ducks. Three ducks were brought to hand that day- by Rich’s dog McPhee. When it was Fiona’s turn, the wind had changed drastically, and the two ducks we managed to knock down gave us the slip in the wavy chop. Fiona is 12 years old in a couple of months. God, do I dread the end.

Today was the last day of goose hunting for me. And for Eric and Nick, who had chalked up 118 retrieves by sundown last night. Our goal was to get Nick over 120. The weather today was extraordinary...snow, sun, driving rain, wind, hail, blue skies. The geese were flying, but struggling and reluctant to put down just anywhere. We were fortunate to be hunting near the quarry, ideal shelter on a day like today. We scratched down two by eleven, and Nick was at 120. The highlight was seeing more snow geese in the sky than I ever thought possible at one time. The lowlight was missing a once in a lifetime double opportunity as birds came dumping in to the spread as we were picking up. I don’t mean two birds with two shots, I mean two birds with one shot, as two kamikaze geese hovered inches from each other over the decoys at 40 yards, and at one point overlapped perfectly. What can I say, it was windy. But that won’t be the last word, not on shooting, not on calling, not on hunting...but it was the end of the season, which of course, God willing, is not the end. Then again, if it was the end, I have few complaints.


Vicar(ious) said...

A nice entry, Keith.
Old dogs: bittersweet moments.
Finally snowing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rich. Lovely comment in haiku form. Great to see you here, and of course, over the weekend!!

And oh, by the way, you forgot a gun here at Canoga Creek Farms.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another great season of hunting and stories!

Anonymous said...

(That last comment was from Mr. Bill)

Vicar(ious) said...

Forgotten firearm??
Shame and humilation?
No problem: Pete's gun!

Anonymous said...

Very nice entry.

The season is still open here. Goose season will go on until February 8th. I'm now one of the few hunters left in the field. My son and I took a single duck last weekend, aided by the open water below the power plant. We were the only ones out, at the temperature was below 0.

I always feel a thrill, and a bit melancholy, when the geese fly over my office, which they do quite regularly, and will for the rest of the winter. They're headed for the new golf course, where the refinery once was. The golf course is an improvement over the refinery, although I tend to view all golf courses as a wasted hay field, but I wish they'd let me put a blind out on that thing.