By Nick Simonson
I can’t help it. My mindset has already shifted toward hunting, despite only being a week removed from the summer solstice, the July Fourth holiday not here yet and there being nearly a full three months of the season remaining. It happens every year about this time. I know it shouldn’t but it does, and like the dinner bell for Pavlov’s dog, the signs that trigger thoughts of fall are everywhere. The first batch of pheasant chicks skitter with all the haste their tiny legs below their puffball bodies can muster across the blacktop road behind their mother hen, and the news that the online deer lottery process is complete sends applicants zipping to their computer screens with even more urgency. It’s impossible not to mentally salivate at the idea of a field full of birds, or that first sit on stand come September.
While I’ve strived more and more in recent years to live in the moment, trying to take each day as it comes and putting as much into it and getting as much out of it as I possibly can and the current season allows – whether that’s trolling for walleyes, casting plastics for bass, or searching for roving schools of crappies right now – I can’t deny that, as the first trail cameras go up and the initial set of photos come in on the little black memory cards after an evening trip out to the stand site, that hunting preparation and thoughts of what’s to come in fall are beginning to fill the slow spots and windshield time between water bodies. It’s a delicate balancing act between the “live in the moment” mantra, versus the adage of “well planned is well prepared.”
There’s a twinge of guilt however at this point in time when an evening is spent putting up a stand for a season three months down the road, when I feel I should probably be fishing in the idyllic conditions. In the humidity and heat of an early summer night, sweat dripping down and mosquitoes buzzing in my ears as I enter the undergrowth of that perfect funnel of trees leading up from the creek bottom to the field, I often wonder how the bite is on a favorite lake. Surely, I could do this prep work closer to the season’s start, but then I fear would almost be too late, and 90 days is more than enough time for the animals to acclimate to the metal structure’s presence on the edge of their favorite feeding grounds. Nevertheless, every day between setup to season start is another confidence booster that my perch is far enough out of sight or more like the regular backdrop for those discerning deer.
With more regularity, I’m off to the shooting sports facility as well, trying to track and trace the orange targets zipping above and in front of me on the sporting clays course. I recall how well I shot two falls ago, when I spent a lot of time attempting to catch up with the clays in the summer league, and how last season seemed like a struggle to connect at times when I didn’t have as much of an opportunity to shoot recreationally in the summer and didn’t have that weekly exposure. In the setting summer sun of recent days, my confidence is growing as the trickier targets start to come a bit easier, frustration fades and my hope for a successful fall grows with each simulated pheasant, duck and grouse that is sent from each station’s house.
While I wet a line and wonder what’s to come this fall – will there be more birds than last year or less, will I get a big buck on camera to obsess about, or how the next three months will affect the three after them – I do my best to keep my mind from wandering. Feeling for the slight bump of a walleye amidst the ticks of rock and gravel, or the subtle thump of a bass along the pull of rip-rap or other structure works in the moment to return me to my summer pursuits while my mind tugs me toward autumn. In those moments, whether in the here and now, or thinking of the future, I realize this duality is part of who I am, and who many others are who enjoy and fixate on every season, and I realize that with the turn of the calendar to July, it’s okay to think about the hunting to come this fall, even with a summer fish on the line…in our outdoors.
Nick Simonson is the lead writer, editor and managing member of Dakota Edge Outdoors.
Featured Photo: A pair of roosters rest atop a rock pile. Summer sights like these keep the author’s mind moving forward, despite the season’s great fishing. Simonson Photo.