A quick look at the calendar this morning showed just a little more than three weeks until the beginning of dove season, arriving as it always does on the first day of September. It is more of a shoot than a hunt and is not my favorite…but it is the start of something bigger and in my mind better – bird hunting in a variety of forms and destinations that will come over the course of five months.
There will be the day trips to Imperial Valley along with the ranch of some friends for more doves, overnights in the cabin at our hunting club next to the Salton Sea for waterfowl and my annual trip to states better known for their hunting than surfing. It is the trip that stirs the most inside. Part of it is the planning and anticipation and yet another is the recollection of past trips, most of which I remember clearly and vividly and without much need for exaggeration.
Such trips have taken me to places in the plains of this country that have included Iowa, Nebraska, both Dakotas and Montana – adventures that in past hunting seasons have provided a boost to my spirit and general state of mind. My first trip was to Iowa in 2003 following retirement and there have been subsequent trips most years since, sometimes with a hunting partner and sometimes alone, except for the company of a springer spaniel or two who share my love for the pursuit of wild ringneck pheasants.
Along the way we have also developed an appreciation of Hungarian partridge and sharptail grouse and it is for that reason that our trip this year will be two weeks earlier than usual. Although our plans are in their earliest stages and will remain fluid throughout, the blueprint, which is really little more than a sketch on a whiskey-stained napkin looks something like this:
Get to West Yellowstone as quickly as possible and pause for a few days of fly fishing with a friend and the hope that some big “gulpers” will be cruising in the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake and that the water has cooled enough in the Firehole River for some decent dry fly action. Trade the flyrod for a shotgun and hit the road for northeastern Montana, camping and hunting along the way until arriving at the comfortable home of a generous friend who along with his father will lead or point me in the direction of some land the dogs and I can hunt. Mindful that house guests, like fish, begin to smell after a few days, and not wanting to wear out that welcome, it will be time to get back on the road with a route that includes more camping and hunting along the way. A return through Yellowstone for a visit and a little more fishing is a distinct possibility.
Those are just the “bones” of this structure and there is much more inside, including some off the beaten path camping and photography, some memorable meals and a cocktail or two beside a campfire. It all gets closer day by day and as it does, I can feel the stirring and churning inside that I struggle to explain.