This appeared in the author’s Out in the Open newspaper column:
By the time you read this, I will be safely nestled somewhere under an oak tree, waiting, watching and hoping. Perhaps, if the red gods have smiled, I might have already delivered a trophy to the taxidermist as the newsprint smears under your fingertips.
Either way, I will certainly be far more relaxed than during the moments around the time this column was actually written. While trying to whip out my usual 800 words of deceit and sheer nonsense, I was unbearably distracted by a far more significant deadline looming: the opening day of the deer firearms season, less than 48 hours away.
It’s not that I dread the opening day. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Both regular readers know that I consider the first weekend of the gun season something akin to Christmas and July 4th combined, only far more special. Unfortunately, with everything else going on throughout the year, I just can’t seem to get things organized in the 50 weeks preceding the High Holy Day.
Looking back over the approximate 30 seasons I have been pursuing the wily whitetail it seems that my gun and gear were ready beforehand only twice. This is sad when you consider the only reason was that I never bothered to put things away after last year. Regardless, at least things were in order when hunting season arrived, unlike the usual situation.
I always set wild and unattainable goals to have boots, backpack, hunting clothes and gun all prepared well before opening day. Instead, a tragic little three-act play will unfold as Friday draws to a close and we follow the trials and tribulations of a hapless nimrod that resembles a shortsighted and obviously dull-witted outdoor writer. It’s almost funny, in the sense that “Macbeth” is a rollicking family comedy.
In years past, the story started with scramble from retailer to retailer in search of deer tags. That was because of an apparent a law of nature or possibly the Indiana Legislature that no license vendor is allowed to keep buck and bonus doe tags in stock at the same time.
This led into a wild chase scene as the hapless hunter flew from store to store in an increasingly frustrated effort to find the elusive $25 dollar slip of paper. After the tags were actually found, our hero scores the required licenses after standing in line behind an elderly woman who purchases $300 dollars in lottery tickets using rolled nickels.
Act Two begins as we see our hunter violating several traffic laws in his urgency to reach the firing range to check his gun. Arriving, he is pleased to find only 50 other sportsman conducting similar practice.
Waiting his turn, the hunter gathers his shooting supplies only to find that he has forgotten his range bag. This leads to more lost time while trying to paste up the target with several pieces of chewing gum and his wife’s lost earring that was found in the bottom of glove compartment.
Finally ready, the hunter fires and is immediately taken aback to see a large puff of dirt five feet left of the target. Somehow, the weapon sights had been bumped hard enough during the preceding 11 months to make the gun less accurate than a network news exit poll.
Now our hunter is sweating as the sun sprints downward toward the western horizon and the ammunition supply dwindles. He continues rapidly firing like John Wayne, eventually reduced to using trash and old compact disks from the car for targets. Only a faint grim smile crosses his lips as he shatters a Vanilla Ice CD into a thousand pieces.
Finally using the car headlights to illuminate the target, our hunter fires his last shell. He is now sure the gun is ready to make a clean one-shot kill, provided he remembers to hold his point of aim exactly six feet high and four feet northwest at a 72-degree elevation.
The third and final scene of the yearly drama finds our hunter at midnight, cursing and tearing through the attic with a small flashlight clenched in his teeth during a vain effort to find the (expletive deleted) backpack.
Eventually he collapses into bed at 3 a.m., gear and clothes neatly stacked near the door. Three minutes later, the alarm rings.
Shortly thereafter our hero stumbles out into the darkness like a caged birddog released into the field, fueled by coffee and adrenaline. It is opening morning and there is no more glorious feeling on earth!
As he and his buddies back out of the driveway, the hunter mutters those words that will ring this day from Angola to Evansville, Gary to Madison and all Hoosier points in between: “Next year, I’m gonna get ready earlier.”
Inside, still in bed, many long-suffering wives just shake their head.