Our Outdoors: When All Else Fails

A new moon with rise and set at about the same time the sun went down and came up, temperate conditions and light winds set the stage for a weekend of hunting success.  I was more certain and more confident than I had ever been in this young season that I’d see a shooter buck as I headed out to a favorite stand site. So high was my confidence, that I had packed my DSLR camera to take high-quality pictures of my quarry in the field.  I could already see myself, posing behind the tall tines of a ghost buck that had gotten tripped up in the enjoyment of the weekend’s perfect conditions.

Approaching the large swath of rolling public land that spilled down into a sprawling cattail slough, I saw the flash of white in the ditch and reached back for my camera.  I knew it was the family of swans that lived in the nearby pond, and as I approached, they craned their necks to get a better look at me, setting up photographic perfection against the still-green cattails.

I snapped the shutter over and over again and smiled at the stock photos I was amassing of these uncommon birds.  Pausing to check the proof, I looked at the screen: “NO MEMORY CARD” read the red warning bar across the display. As if I needed to confirm the fact, I flipped open the plastic door on the side of the camera and cursed not replacing the card I had cycled out when checking images from my trail cams.

peep
Not a Peep!  The author’s peep sight (at right) popped loose from the string during a highly  anticipated early-season hunt.

Despite the photographic setback, I was still optimistic and I made my way through the grassy hills to the tree that served as a perfect vantage point between four intersecting deer trails that led from the slough to the nearby cornfields.  I pulled out my range finder to check my recollection, and noticed another gaping hole in my hunting-related technology.  The battery compartment was open and the silver cylinder that powered the unit was absent and it was nowhere to be found in my gear bag.  With a thousand or so arrows behind me throughout the summer from various ranges, I shrugged it off and scanned the area, guessing the distances of select landmarks and placing trust in my mental range finding.

Settling into the crux of the tree in a slightly dejected state, I nocked an arrow and scanned the lay of the bottom, following the main trail that wound up from the willows along the slough edge right up to the base of my tree.  As my scan came up the trunk, I noticed a slight tweak in my bow string and something seemed amiss.  The blue peep sight was turned sideways and as I pulled back on the string to check it, it turned horizontal, completely blocking the view of my sight pins.  In an attempt to right the small plastic circle, I twisted it with my thumb and index finger and in the process it popped completely out of the bow string and hung by its small tether to the side. As I assessed the shootability of the bow, I sarcastically thought that a big buck was now almost certain to walk right by me, providing a perfect shot which I’d sail over him by several feet, due to lack of aim. But the big one didn’t come on the perfect evening, and I made my way back over the grassy hills and small drains to the truck. I dropped the bow off the following evening at the local bowyer’s shop to be repaired.

Joined by my brother and brother-in-law the next day at the trap range, I was cruising through the first couple rounds, crushing clays with my seldom-shot 20-guage, which I reserve typically for the hunting season, but wanted to make sure I was sharp with before the North Dakota pheasant opener.  As I finished off a round of 21, I felt a slight wobble in the forestock of the over-under, before passing it to my brother to try as he continued his quest to find an upland gun.

He rolled through a round of 19, good for his second set of trap shooting ever, and great for picking up a new gun in a gauge he had never shot before.  As he passed the shotgun back to me, he noted that the wobble in the front grip was pretty severe and I inspected my favorite firearm.  The wood had pulled away from the silver clip that locked into the receiver and two black screws were exposed in the small gap between the stock and the connector.   Rather than twist, tweak and turn the gun and try to fix it myself (and most likely break it, as I am so prone to do), with uncharacteristic restraint, I cased the firearm and dropped it off the next day at the local gunsmith after my family had left from their visit.

16smb
Saved by Smallies! A great fishing trip with readily-biting walleyes and smallmouth bass salvaged a technically-troubled weekend

With warm sun shining and light breezes blowing, and my bow in the shop and seven boxes of unshootable 20 gauge shells in the back seat, my mind shifted to fishing in the summer-like conditions of a perfect autumn weekend.  But the creeping suspicion of motor mishaps, electronic issues, or worse – trailer troubles – attempted to derail the Sunday afternoon adventure.  Girding myself for what was an almost certainty, I locked the boat trailer on the ball, clipped on the safety chains and plugged in the trailer lights and hit the road.

The journey to the lake was flawless; the weather nearly perfect.  The fish seemed to be just where I had left them on their little water south of town, stuck in their late summer feeding pattern as dozens of walleyes came to boat, and two handfuls of feisty smallmouth bass battled their way to hand with charging runs and aerobatic flips. I burned through a dozen crawlers and a pack of bass tubes before I loaded back up and headed home, amazed at how well the evening went, thinking of a motto an old friend used to say on his worst days: “when all else fails…go fishing.”

As the sun faded behind the changing leaves of the trees in my neighborhood, I unhooked the boat and rolled it into the garage, perhaps for the last time this season, happy to have salvaged the weekend with a failsafe adventure…in our outdoors.

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