Saturday, February 13, 2010

The cure for post-duck season malaise

For my first three seasons of hunting, duck season ended the day before the spring semester began, which meant the rush of new work replaced the drive to hunt ducks every day I could get out. It was like a flawless handoff in a relay race.

This year, though, school started a week before duck season ended, and I just feel ... disoriented.

How can I shake that feeling? I tried bourbon, but it wasn't working. So here are my new strategies:

Book binge: I don't have to get up at 2 a.m. all the time now, so I can stay up late reading in bed. The first book on my list is one that's been there for a while: The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan. The contention of this book is that we may have it wrong when we think we've domesticated plants; it may be that the plants have been using us to achieve their ends all along. The same could be said of animals - something that came up in the comment discussion on one of my recent posts, which is what made me think it was time to read this.

I also bought three more books to keep me busy: The Tender Carnivore & the Sacred Game by Paul Shepard, Hunting and the American Imagination by Daniel Justin Herman and The Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible by Norm Phelps. (I know: Which one of these is not like the other? In politics, we call this opposition research.)

Extra work binge: I suddenly find myself with several freelance projects: a photo assignment on local pastry chefs for Edible Sacramento (think I'll get to do any tasting?), a new hunting story for the Sacramento Bee (think I'll be carrying a gun?) and another major piece that promises to be positively excruciating to write - something about pressure to tell the tale well. These ought to suck the air out of the next three or four weekends.

Spending binge: No, I'm not awash in cash. What, you didn't think teaching and freelance journalism pay well, did you? Ho ho ho! But I did just file my tax return, and the chunk of change coming back to me could buy some nice new hunting toys. Or it could pay off my car a few months early. Anyone wanna lay odds on the outcome of this one?

Household repair binge: Let's see, the sagging rod in my closet has been threatening to snap ever since, oh, the start of duck season. I never did put our address number back on our house after we got it painted last September (a good five or six weeks before duck season). And I swore I was going to take up darning socks after that crazy day of hunting with Charlie and Alison put a hole in my best wool socks.

But the closest I've come to progress on these is buying a bracket for my closet rod and leaving my damaged socks out where I'll have to look at them every day. Obviously, I do not suffer from the same manic household upkeep drive that afflicts Jody's husband or this all would've been done a long time ago. (Clearly, though, Mark is not a duck hunter or he too would learn the joys of work postponed in the name of ducks. At least I'd like to think so.)

The real solution: I'm sure any shrink could tell you I need closure. I just need to put stuff away and let the season go.

I have actually performed some closure rituals already, like the annual washing of my duck jacket to get rid of that odor that says, "I hunt a lot. You might wanna back up." But I just can't bring myself to stuff my waders and all those plastic duck decoys back in the shed.

Why? Because doing that would be admitting that the best part of winter is over. That it's going to be 105 degrees again before you know it, and 3.5 mm neoprene is the last thing in the world you'd want touching your body. That instead of sloshing through a foggy marsh two hours before sunrise, I'll be hauling my kayak to the lake at noon and laughing bitterly because the Canada geese and mallards will all flock to me hoping I'll feed them, not realizing I'd be eating them if I wouldn't get arrested for it.


I know there's a lot to be said for the other 265 days of the year. Spring turkey hunting is on deck. Wild hogs? I'm ready! And I've been wanting to hunt jack rabbits since Boyfriend made this truly orgasmic Sardinian hare stew, and jacks, God bless 'em, are open year-round.

But I love ducks and the way they dart over your head so quickly sometimes that you don't even have time to think about raising your gun and all you can do is laugh at yourself.

I love the marsh and the amazing show its denizens put on for you every time you're there, rain or shine, from the wren that flits through your tules to the frog that croaks nearby to the swarms of blackbirds that swoop so low over you that it takes your breath away.

And I love all my duck hunting friends and the way we call and email and text each other about how it went that day, and what we saw on the way home, and how the weather's looking for next weekend.


Back to my book.

© Holly A. Heyser 2010


Josh said...

I'm working on an end-of-season piece, too. Glad to know I'm in good company. said...

I have yet to stow my dekes and waders. Now I know why. Bourbon has helped me with sleeping. Now if I could only figure out why I wake up at the skeet range!

gary said...

10 to 1 odds the new hunting gadgets win out over the car getting paid off early. Thats just a normal fact of life for someone smitten with the bug.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Hmmmm... waking up at the skeet range. I like it! You'd beat the crowds!

Josh, can't wait to see how you're suffering - be sure to come back here and post a link to that!

Gary: No one is going to make money off of betting on this one, are they? But really, buying toys will make for a much better blog post than paying off my car early. The other competitor for the money, though, is a new camera body...

Bpaul said...

Just wanted to give a shout out from a first-season waterfowler up in Oregon. My hunting buddy and I also hunt "farm pests" with air rifles and hopefully soon shotguns -- rabbit, pigeon and squirrel are all on the menu.

You have a new subscriber, and I wanted to say I really appreciate not only your subject matter but your writing style. Thanks so much for putting out the effort.


NorCal Cazadora said...

Bpaul, congratulations on joining the ranks of the addicted!

If you're looking for great recipes for pigeon, be sure to check out Boyfriend's site - here's a recent post he did on a really delicious way to cook them. We LOVE pigeon. I hope to get out soon to hunt pigeon myself - I want to get my friend Alison out so she can get in a little off-season wingshooting the provides yummy food.

BAGC said...

Cant wait to do my Taxes! Car is already paid off. Maybe Uncle Sam will give us enough back to go on the boar hunt my husband has been promising.
I've got an itchy trigger finger...and my freezers gettin skinny!!

Carolina Rig said...

That first gobble come spring will cure what ails you. Promise.

Thanks for all the duck stories this winter. They helped me get through our SLOW season.

Greg Damitz said...

The time between February 1st and March 20th is for projects. March 20 someting through the middle of may is for chasing gobblers. There's a yard to spruce up (got a good start today), a garden to get ready and house projects to do. I'll do my best to get as much done by 3/20. However urkey season will be interrupted by a trip to Vegas with my wife and some friends. After turkeys there'll be more home projects. One of my main goals duck hunting wise this offseason is to start making some foam working decoys. My tax return will be going to vacations, home projects, and hopefully some left for foam decoy supplies.

Josh said...

It's funny, because after I wrote it (, the Sun came out in force... raining on my parade, ironically.

SimplyOutdoors said...

I feel your pain, Holly. I do a lot of other outdoor activities when deer hunting is in session, but really I'm only doing them to hold myself over until I can hunt those pesky Whitetails again.

Good luck with keeping the addiction at bay. It's a hard thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you can't hunt them, try conditioning them into thinking that a slowly-flashing near-ultraviolet light (which bird eyes can see, though we cannot) means "FREE FOOD HERE", and keep the conditioning going all summer right up to the next duck season.

And when duck season rolls around again, let's see how good their memories are...

James said...

How about that pup? Use the refund for a companion! Less lost birds, and someone to talk ducks to all year (except Boyfriend, of course). You can dress up to go to your local park, use your mallard call, and meet new folks who train dogs (if you wish). Who knows, maybe you'll be invited to venues for training (pup's)? Great therapy to have someone wiggle with delight when you pick up that decay/dummy...they are the only people who get as excited about ducks as we do!

We talked about this during the season...go for it!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Sadly, my refund is not enough to pay for a dog, vet expenses, accommodations and most importantly training.

I really wanted to get a dog this year, but financially, it's just not in the cards. I'm a state worker in a state with a huge budget deficit, which means my job is in danger. My house is worth way less than I owe on it. Going into debt for a dog to do the job I've been doing for four seasons just doesn't seem wise.

Sorry dog lovers - I know y'all hate hearing that. But this is my reality at the moment.

Josh said...

I completely understand. In the meantime, get in the field with Ranger the pointing lab often next year. He's a good dog.

Ken and Joanne said...

Forget bourbon. Try scotch. Ken

Greg Damitz said...

Know what you're saying about the dog and finances. I've got a dog but he's pushing 10 and I shouldn't be hunting him as hard as I do. I want to get a started dog to pick up atleast half of the days but at a minimum of $2500 it's not realistic. I've got a goverment municipality job with pay cuts and instabilty as well. Hopefuly the old boy can go another year full duty. Otherwise I'll have to be my own dog. Maybe my hunting partners dogs will come on this next season. Don't want to see the old grey beard worn out like this too much.


Ghostrifle said...

Hi Holly just heard about you getting carded at the airport. Twenty one for 23 years wish I could manage that I get a year older every birthday. However if a gentleman may be so bold you do look rather nice. I'm going now, out to shoot a few deer at the weekend.