On a recent, crisp morning, I stepped outside of my front door and caught myself musing how much I loved the month of October. For years, the month of September has been my favorite time of year, and I have always figured it as the one month that I looked forward to, and prepared for, the entire year-round. But now I feel conflicted. Towards the end of September, the aspens, cottonwoods and mountain maples start to change colors and it is truly spectacular. But in my neck of the woods, the weather is prone to turning cold and dreary just shortly after this metamorphosis of color takes place. Then the leaves start falling to the ground, leaving behind naked skeletons in their wake. But then once the month of October arrives, another dazzling display of color begins, as the *Western larch have their turn at changing into their fall wardrobe. Soon swaths of gold can be seen blazing across mountainsides and through river bottoms. It would be a hard decision to attempt to determine which act was the most stunning.
Slowly making my way along the bottom of a ridge, weaving through stands of mountain willow that give way to a towering grove of red fir and hemlock; the slender grip of my Bear Kodiak plays gracefully across my palm. The soft, yet tactile feel of the doeskin wrapped around it gives off a comforting feeling, while making me feel closer to my quarry. I’m close to where I found the giant remains of a whitetail shed antler earlier this spring. Three of its six tines broken off in some battle for supremacy, that must have taken place at least two years prior. I can’t help but wonder if it was from the same “giant” buck that my neighbor missed with his rifle a couple of Novembers back. His eyes light up when he describes the giant rack being made visible through the brush, as he crept up on the buck while in his bed. His body language displaying true disgust and remorse as he tells the tale of the bumbled shot attempt. Buck fever gets the best of us, no matter how young or old the hunter may be.
The slender, doe skin-wrapped grip of the Kodiak bow adds nostalgia to the hunt.
I’m determined to at least catch a glimpse of this buck on the hoof. Even better would be to locate a suitable place to hang a stand and earn my own chance to either bumble the shot, or watch my arrow fly true. Skirting the edge of what I suspect is the buck’s main bedding area, I pause to lift my nose a bit higher, and take in a deep breath of the cool, October air. Like a two-legged bloodhound, I hope that besides the sweet smell of decaying flora, I can also catch a whiff of that mild barnyard smell that is so well known and cherished. A puff of windicator powder that I keep close to hand, reassures me that I’m still traveling crosswind. At least I have that to my advantage. Besides an encounter with a doe and her progeny, the day creeps on uneventful. But even still, I feel satisfied and nourished by the many intangible gifts bestowed upon me, by this time spent in this place.
At some point, I find my gaze lingering on my equipment and feel a bubble of nostalgia brewing to the surface. The beautiful recurve bow is a reproduction of the iconic 1959 Kodiak, often argued to be the finest that Bear Archery has ever produced. The history and mojo that lives inside this bow, even with it being just a reproduction, is still very strong. I can feel it with every shot. The arrow that sits on the string was made by me, almost a decade and a half ago for my first “real” hunting bow. It too, was also of the Bear Kodiak bloodline: an 80’s era Super Kodiak. My father carried a green Kodiak Hunter into the woods, several years before I was born. The legacy and nostalgia of this line of bows is inescapable for me. I wonder if my dad too, used shafts made from Port Orford cedar, or if aluminum shafts were the rage at that time. I guess that I’ll have to ask him when we meet again in the next chapter.
Swapping gear and changing tactics during the Mid season is another aspect of the hunt that the author enjoys.
On the walk back to my truck, my thoughts wander to the carbon shafts that I’ve been preparing to switch over to. I’ve been having difficulty getting them to tune properly and ponder over possible solutions to my conundrum. A glimpse of a tan body moving through the brush ahead of me, and across my path snaps my attention to the present. An arrow is once more upon the string. I wait to see what unfolds. Wait for more situational intel to process. Hoping that my assessment proves true, and can lead to a shot opportunity. A head lacking antlers unveils itself, which at this stage of the season yields a no-go, and the arrow is returned to my quiver. During the act, I take heed of the long, and sleek, single bevel profile of the glue-on broadhead. It looks deadly, and I yearn to put it to the test. My thoughts wander to that of the shorter, but wide profile, screw-in broadheads that will be used along with my new carbon shafts. And a smile comes to my face when I think of the screw-in adaptors that just arrived in my mailbox, the day prior. I plan to use these along with the vintage, glue-on Bear Razorhead broadheads, that my friend Jerry Gowins so graciously gifted to me several years ago. Hopefully some of his mojo still resides, and they can once again be used to put meat on the table.
Yes, October truly is a wonderful month. Even though it always paves the way for winter weather, and means that all seasonal chores need to be wrapped up before snow fall…I’ve come to love it. The pre-rut antics of the whitetail bucks, the elk taking a final stab at their chance to proliferate, the lovely kaleidoscope of color, the mid-season equipment swaps and tactics, the cool and crisp bite to the air…I love all of it. Yes, October is definitely a month to look forward to.
*Around these parts, the Western larch is referred to as “tamarack”.