Even with record temperatures in the afternoon, the mornings are crisp and cool. If you look hard enough you can even find a yellow leaf or two. As if all this was not enough, my mailbox is beginning to fill with fall catalogues touting the latest and greatest equipment and must-have clothing. Regular-season football started Sunday. The BCS rankings have already been shaken up.
That's right: All these signs add up to only one thing - hunting season has arrived.
If you are like me, you have spent the last six months just waiting to get back into the woods. Archery season opened last weekend. The September goose season opens this weekend. Rifle deer season is only a couple weeks away.
Finally, my favorite time of year is here.
Congratulations to those archery hunters who have been successful already. Please send in your photos from the hunt so we can all enjoy them.
The phone rang as I was leaving Dells in Longview, Wash., with more fencing supplies. The caller ID showed my wife's number. I thought, 'What could she want?' After all, I'm finally getting to the fencing like I had promised. She quickly explained that her dad Ken had arrowed a bull on the coast and needed help packing it out. A few more phone calls and the family would meet at our house and load the coolers and pack boards in my truck and hurry down there.
We arrived at the bank of the Nehalem about 5 p.m. and quickly donned packs. Our hike to the bull started by fording the river. The river was a little deep for me. I kind of half-walked, half-swam my way across. The current was plenty strong for this time of the year. Thank goodness I wore my shorts and rafting shoes.
We hit the far bank and immediately started up through damp stream beds, mountain beaver holes thorns and deadfalls. Everything in the woods seemed to grab, poke or stab me. The shorts didn't seem like such a good idea anymore.
Ken kept saying the bull is 'just up there.' I finally realized that 'just up there' is as mythical as a jack-a-lope. He does not want to tell me how far it really is, maybe out of fear we would mutiny.
My brother in law, Luke, and I kept reminding him there are places closer to home that hold elk as well. We even promised maps as Christmas gifts.
As the light began to fade we scrambled faster trying to at least get the packs loaded before dark. Finally, 'just up there' became 'just up there' - we had reached the bull, which thankfully had already been quartered and ready to pack. We quickly bent to the task of each strapping a quarter on. For some reason I chose a hindquarter, which weighs just about as much as I do.
The last light faded as we started down the hill. In the dark we staggered trying to retrace our steps. We bumped into logs and dead ends capped with deadfalls. The trail would have been hard in the dark with no pack; with a hindquarter strapped to my pack I found the going tough. Sometimes I would just sit and slide down an old stream bed. A couple of times I slipped off fallen logs and found myself trapped on my back, much like an upside down turtle. To the amusement of the others I would lay there until they helped me up.
We tripped and slid our way the rest of the way down where we ran into more family and transferred our packs to them for the river crossing. I could only imagine myself floating down river, trapped under an elk hindquarter. That would have been some news story. We finally arrived home sometime after 1 a.m., a little scratched and tore up but, other than that, no worse for having done it.
And I do think elk tastes a little better when it's seasoned with some hard work.
In the Field
HUNTING: Last Saturday marked the opening day for September goose season. Those hunters who scouted fields early did really well. Archery season continues. Hunting has been difficult due to warm weather and timberland closures.
FISHING: Fall chinook season has been fairly good on the Columbia River. Most anglers are anchored with hardware on the outgoing tide.