Summer: What To Do When We Arenít Hunting
Besides go fishing, what is a dedicated hunter to do in these months before glorious September comes?
by Ed Mitchell
Obviously, we donít just stop thinking about hunting. Get two hunters together and the talk will quickly turn to stories of last season and prognostications for the coming season.
Some of us are calling our friends to set plans in motion for this fall. Others are waiting anxiously beside the mailbox for notification of draw hunts but that doesnít take all day either. So what can we actually do? Herewith are a couple of ideas, at least one of which involves some fun.
Shooting sporting clays is as much fun as you can have with a shotgun when feathers are not involved. Even better, the sport provides about as realistic an imitation of hunting as anyone has yet devised.
Only a decade ago, an American was a serious Anglophile if he had even heard of sporting clays. Then a few courses were opened in the U.S., usually with the help of displaced limeys. Now, you can shoot a bracing round of sporting clays at Homedale, Idaho. Few of us live too far from a course to use distance as an excuse for not shooting. The sport has come a long way in a hurry.
Sporting clays courses are usually designed by someone with an evil genius for making it hard for us to break more than half the targets offered. Shooters try to study the course, then the blighter changes everything before the next Saturday. The shooting is often more difficult than in actual hunting situations.
The only misdirection I see sporting clays taking, and this applies only to those of us using the sport as a tune-up for hunting, is that the American penchant for specialized equipment has gained a foothold already. Shotguns are being tuned to give a slight but noticeable advantage on clays courses. Nothing wrong with that but hunters need to remain intimate with their hunting guns or part of the purpose of shooting sporting clays is nullified. If that means giving up two or three targets per round, so be it.
O Lord, grant me shade and a frosty glass within easy reach.
What makes life good in summer can make it hell the first day of hunting season. Not just for us two-leggers but also for our critters. Olí Jake there at the foot of our hammock and Clementine out in the pasture have the same problems. We got to get some exercise whether we like it or not. Otherwise, all of our legs turn to jelly and our cardiovasculars to spaghetti.
Hunting is almost as safe as tiddlywinks so far as mishaps involving guns are concerned these days. On the official lists of dangerous activities, hunting is closer to the bottom than the top. The statisticians, however, do not count heart attacks and heat stroke.
Not a season goes by that we donít hear of some old boy (hardly ever a woman hunter; they tend to be better prepared) who buys the Big One while climbing a mountain or dragging a large dead beast out of a hellhole. Because no specific stats are kept, we canít quote numbers but anecdotal evidence is strong.
How many hunting dogs go afield looking like beer kegs on toothpicks after a summer in the kennel is also not recorded. They suffer, they poop out and, in many cases here in the high, dry chukar country, they keel over and die. Or are ruined by heat stroke.
The situation is just as bad for horses kept mainly for mountain hunting and exercised irregularly.
Prevention for all this is no mystery. You and your dog or your horse need serious road work, not once in a while but several times a week.
Give yourself all the excuses you want now but, if you donít get vertical and get moving, you will surely be muttering excuses next fall.