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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Counting Down the Days

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., Sept. 2, 2006.)
Whether we count the days or not, it’s
important that we make the days count.
At the end of my first successful deer season in 1967, I began counting the days until the next season. Thanks to "leap year," there was an extra day in there. It was bad enough to have to wait 351 long days from the end of one season to the beginning of the next, and adding February 29 didn't help!

Back when I counted the days, the season opener seemed like it was an eternity away. But today, when we’re lucky enough to have many seasons, plenty of opportunities to get into the woods, and too many adult responsibilities, the seasons almost come along too fast and rush by even faster.

I’m thankful (most of the time) that I’ve grown up a little since 1967, and thankful that I don’t have to wait nearly so long. In fact, finding time to get ready for the coming season is a challenge. Goose and dove seasons have already opened. We have a 6-week archery season. We enjoy almost 2 months of turkey hunting opportunities, considering both fall and spring. We can pursue the elusive eastern coyote during winter months (or anytime) with no need for a furtaker’s license.

We can maintain familiarity with our favorite rifle and practice our marksmanship on woodchucks all summer. Plus, we have small game opportunities, and more access to out-of-state hunts than ever before. (And I haven’t even included fishing and camping in the list.) Who has time to count the days?

Getting ready for the season used to mean making sure my gun was sighted in, my knife was sharp, and boots didn't leak. Now it means making sure the lawn stays mowed -- more difficult as the days become so short. Now it means making sure I change oil in my truck, car and garden tractor before winter. Now it means making sure I plan for Christmas shopping with my wife. Now it means putting the garage in some semblance of cleanliness and order.

Now it means practicing with my bow, assembling my handloads, sighting in my rifle, making sure my hunting clothes are in good condition, inspecting other equipment for needed repairs, doing my preseason scouting and the myriad other preparations that are all part of the hunt. And then there are the writing deadlines. Unfortunately, what I want to do competes too often with what I have to do in the more mundane world. Who of us is ever really caught up with adult responsibilities?

Whether we count the days or not, it’s important that we make the days count. It’s too easy to allow our favorite pastime to govern our lives and tempt us into living purely for our own enjoyment. There is more to life than hunting -- and more to living than length of days.

Time is fleeting, and never speeds by more quickly than during hunting season. But don’t let that rob you of living responsibly -- or rob you of gratitude. The responsible hunter keeps hunting in perspective, and keeps his life in balance. It’s hard to do, but we’re better off for it.

He also freely expresses his gratitude for the privilege of living in a country and a state with so rich a hunting heritage. Remember to be thankful for that heritage and for all who have given it to us. And remember that it’s not merely a bequest from some long dead pilgrims. People are sacrificing right now so that we can have these gifts.

We have many people to thank -- in the present as well as the past. When you’re counting the days, planning your hunts and fitting it all into the bigger picture, be thankful for each new day, for your family, and for all those who help make it possible.


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