Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Season Of New Begins Now

I can't believe it's almost here. Hunting season starts tomorrow.

If you hunt, you get it -- the giddy anticipation and the borderline obsession with last-minute dog training, gun cleaning, and gear gathering. If you don't hunt, then you can probably stop reading this blog and tune in again sometime in January, because between now and then, this little corner of the internet is going to be devoted to birds, dogs, buddies, and the places we all inhabit this time of year.

And what a special, special year this is going to be for me. It's the first season my ten-year-old son will be actively hunting with me. I was lucky enough to draw an opening morning public dove hunt on the Kansas River Wildlife Area, and sunrise tomorrow will find me and Jack in the middle of a sunflower field, heads pointed skyward.  It's a rite of passage -- I vividly remember my first dove hunt at the Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant with my father nearly 30 years ago. I became hooked on this whole outdoor affliction at that moment -- and I can't wait to pass on the tradition to my boy.

Jack and I have been practicing gun safety and clay target shooting for the past month or so. And after much experimentation with the various scatterguns in my safe, I opted to buy him a Remington 870 youth model.  The gun fits him well, he shoots it well, and while not as elegant as a breech gun, it is pretty much bomb-proof (and hopefully boy-proof).

The other "first" I'll experience this year is hunting behind my now-seven-month-old pointer, LuLu. I'm doing my best to temper my expectations, but I think this dog is going to be a keeper. She has the drive and birdiness that I had hoped for, and she's proven to be a dream to train and handle thus far. Just this morning I had her off lead (having just recently collar conditioned her) and I was thrilled by the graceful 250-yard casts she'd make -- and even more thrilled that she would voluntarily check in every few minutes.

The appreciation for LuLu is magnified when I am reminded of how fragile it all is. Dottie, my eldest dog, is enjoying her air-conditioned solitude indoors while recovering from surgery. While we haven't yet heard back from the veterinary pathologist, I feel pretty confident things will be alright. And if nothing else, the old girl has reminded me to appreciate every moment I'm blessed to be afield.

Happy hunting, everyone. Be safe.

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