Quack, Quack, whack, wak wa …
In the moment before I answer my phone, I contemplate the duck ringtone spitting from my vibrating phone. Initially I thought it was pretty badass. Everytime my phone rings I will think of a cold morning and whistling wings. I have heard this ringtone hundreds of times and each time it became just a little less tolerable. Until finally today, I had heard it enough, it crossed the line, and I decided that I was over it. I made a mental note to change it.
Schwump, schwump, schwump my truck's wipers bark in a failed attempt to keep the windshield clear. The mid-October rain is heavy and cold. I am watching a lecture for my graduate program while Rachelle is driving us towards a piece of public land we've nicknamed 'The Woodcock Spot'. With us are three dogs, including a young Spinone, Fiona, who is with us for a month or so for her first try at wild bird hunting
In May I was given the opportunity to attend an outreach event put on by Pheasants Forever held at the beautiful Trout Lodge YMCA of the Ozarks in Missouri. The event brought together Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation and North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association and focused on the tactics and techniques of outreach with the goal of moving conservation efforts forward.
“I have a roadkill deer,” read the early-afternoon text message from my husband. “Call around for processing.”
Without exhausting much effort, I learned the butcher shop in town was still accepting deer for processing into neatly packaged steak, roasts and hamburger. After passing the information, including the cost of services, along to Scott, my phone dinged with another message.
“Expensive,” it read.
“Rupert heel!” I barked as I brushed the hair back from my eyes. Rupert turned toward me at an angle, lowering his head below his withers and tilting his snout down toward the snow. Rupert’s golden brown eyes glowed back at me through the wiry fur partially covering his face. I immediately knew Rupert had no intention of healing or doing anything else that would resemble the behavior of a well-trained bird dog.
Rupert’s front legs were shaking with anticipation as I asked him to remain seated in the passenger seat of the pickup truck. We argued briefly about why he wasn’t allowed to sit in the driver’s seat. He didn’t seem to agree with my contention towards safety, but eventually settled into his place.
In the dead of winter I am missing the crunch on dirt under my fingernails, slapping away swarms of bloodthirsty flying vampires and, yes, even the smell of chicken-made fertilizer. The sunburn, the aching back and broken nails are all worth it when you pluck the first vine-ripened tomato from the bushes or slice into the season’s first zucchini.
Physical fitness and sports are inexorably connected and there should be no exception for the outdoorsman. Most hunters take steps to stay safe while on the hunt. Dropping a pretty penny on expensive gear to keep them in a tree or visible from miles away. It’s probably money well spent, but many hunters overlook their personal health.