Doing my best to get through the work day, I couldn’t sit still…couldn’t concentrate. Everyone kept asking me if I’d “had too much sugar”…”had too much coffee”… “why are you so hyper?” At first, I really didn’t have an answer for them, but as the day drew on and I couldn’t sit still in my seat, it started to become very clear why I was so amped…today was opening day! Yep, a quick glance on the calendar followed up by letting my cursor hover over the clock on my computer monitor confirmed it: September 1st! This was no time to be stuck behind a computer and a desk!
My preparation had started months in advance with intense workouts, running to work, making gear lists, confirming plans, making scouting trips, shooting my bow…a lot, and shooting my Glock 20 pistol. And now all of the anticipation, the anxiousness and preparation collided with the hard wall of reality. It was game day!
After the minutes crawled by and I was finally free of my desk, I hurried as much as I could. I had to jet home and get my gear together, change my clothes and buy my tags…yes, somehow, I managed to leave that to the very last possible minute. By the time I had tags in hand and was heading to my area, it was getting down to the last couple hours of light. Once I arrived at the gated road marking the acres of Timber Company land that I planned to hunt, I saw that someone had beat me there. Normally this may have soured things for me, especially getting such a late start. But today, all I could think about was “this was it!” After all, the area is plenty big enough to share, and I doubted few people knew it quite like I did. I wasn’t more than 100 yards from my truck when true excitement began to set in. I was greeted by a small troop of hen turkeys uttering their odd popping noises as they moved into the brush, obviously not wanting to include me into their group. Almost simultaneously I spotted fresh elk tracks and caught a whiff of the harsh, musky scent…yes, the unmistakable smell of rutting elk urine! you would have thought it was some sort of designer perfume worn by a super model, by the effect it instantly had on me. I quickly snapped out of my elk-stupor, once the reality of elk season still being five more days away set in. Getting back to the task at hand, I was in the middle of an internal debate on what I “would and wouldn’t shoot on opening day”, when a sudden backhand of reality hit me in the form a sharp, pulling sensation. It reminded me of the sound of packing tape being ripped off a package…but inside the calf muscle of my right leg. I had just renewed an injury that I had sustained a couple of weeks prior while running.
“THIS CANNOT be happening! Not now!” I screamed inside my head as I caught my balance with a painful jolt. I couldn’t believe it! The previous year it was a major sinus infection and Vertigo that kept me from my backcountry hunt over Labor Day weekend…and now just days before elk season I go and do THIS! I quickly decided to not let this ruin my evening. And chose to change my plans by hobbling along the lower logging road, which consequently was probably the route chosen by the owner of the Jeep that was parked at the gate.
After wincing my way back down the mountain, I arrived at the old logging road I had opted to still-hunt. I slowly worked my way along, pausing often to listen, hoping that maybe I would hear the challenging, shrill bugle of a love-sick bull. That is always the cherry on top of any outdoor outing for me. It wasn’t long, when I came around a bend in the road and caught a glimpse of an older gentleman with a scoped rifle in the crook of his arm. Something else that would send me into instant irritation on a different date, didn’t affect me more than to make me a little quizzical on this day. I stopped and waited for him. When he was within hearing distance of low tones I whispered: “Bear hunting?” He nodded the affirmative. This is one little anomaly of the Washington hunting seasons; you will often encounter a blaze orange clad, rifle touting bear hunter…during archery season! The old guy turned out to be all right and he seemed content to chat about his hunting exploits and what he’d seen on his jaunt through the woods on this day. Listening to his accent I judged him to have originated somewhere near Arkansas, and he displayed the easy-going way of someone originating possibly from “down south”. After a time, I shook his hand and we parted ways. I finished the evening with a spectacular sunset and the spooking of a doe. “Well, this opening day wasn’t a total bust…” I thought to myself as I limped back to my truck. “Now, just another day of work to suffer through tomorrow…”