Illustration © Jim McEvoy
Memories of special days start early and linger a lifetime.
Over the years, some of my fondest memories throughout my hunting and fishing adventures were of mornings, especially very early mornings when the sky was just starting to turn pink and eventually faded out the evening stars, or the cloudy times when it seemed to take forever before we could make out the surroundings.
These are some of my recollections of that most magical time of day:
In a duck marsh, concealed next to a pothole after slugging through mud and water, a slight breeze ruffling the tops of the cattails and the occasional whistling of ducks flying close overhead as they search for a resting place after an evening of cornfield feeding.
In a squirrel woods, clear, cold and crisp, sitting with my back against a tree watching as the bushytails come out of their nests or dens, yawning, stretching and grooming themselves before starting their usual busy day.
Deer hunting, either gun or bow, after climbing up into a stand in the blackness, gradually making out details around me as it gets light and all sorts of birds and mammals come to life for the day. Every leaf rustle is cause for excitement as it could be the buck of a lifetime.
Turkey hunting in a new spring woods with its sparse ground cover, after carefully preparing my ground blind, setting out the decoy, and hoping my calling will be good enough to fool one of the truly wild creatures. Then, after hearing the first ringing gobble, I'm never more alive as every nerve in my body is on instant alert.
Sitting in a line fence or cornfield next to a freshly cut field waiting for geese, hoping for a stout wind to help these gray travelers come within range. Then, hearing the first wild cries of a flock coming my way.
Fishing, when the boat slows to a stop at the spot we've chosen to start the day. The wake as we pass over the water slowly dissipates behind us as anchors are quietly lowered over the side and tied off. Rods are unloosed, slip bobbers are set for the desired depth, hooks are baited and cast out with the anticipation that the bobber will just keep going down, and wondering what makes it do so.
Trout fishing my favorite brook trout stream for one of God's most beautiful creations. Walking in to the stream, hopefully getting rewarded with the glimpse of a deer slipping off to bed, the thunderous flush underfoot of a grouse, or the loud splash and frantic wing beats of a mallard as it explodes off the stream. Of course, early swats at the inevitable mosquitoes and deer flies add to the charm of the experience as well as snacking on wild raspberries or blackberries that never taste any better.
Ice fishing at the first dim light of dawn, walking out on snow that squeaks with every step and drilling a hole in clear, rock-hard ice that shatters with every turn of the auger. Icicles form on my mustache as I position the bucket as a seat and (hopefully) keeper of the catch. After baiting up, dropping the jig into the hole and following it as all of my attention focuses on thin fishline passing through a spring bobber as it stops, then wavers ever so slightly off the tip of the rod, the telltale bump of my quarry.
I would be remiss if I did not include in my morning memories the serenity of early Sunday mornings spent with Mom in our living room, sipping our first cups of coffee, with our miniature dachshunds Max or Heidi curled up under a blanket next to her on the couch, as our noses were buried in the morning papers.
These times have made my life very special, and I am thankful for them every day.
Pat Wilmot writes from Mayville.