The Winds of Change

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Joined: 06/03/2010

The Wind Changes
          As summer fades the wind changes from the warm weather breezes and sometimes powerful gusts of a thunderstorm and begins to exert fall weather on the countryside with cold rain, or even snow, and that is when a hunter’s blood begins to pulse to the beat of an unseen drum conjured up in the brain by the ancient instinct passed down from our ancestors that compels a modern hunter to get out into the wilderness on a more primitive level. The urge to chase after wild game animals is strong in a hunter and causes the rapid beat of the heart and the quickening of breath that stems from that long ago song of the campfire foretelling of a challenging hunt and the possibility of taking a worthy animal.
          The fall winds begin to dominate the northland as early as September and signal it’s time for everything to prepare for the coming winter snowstorms by hibernating or gorging on food and for some species mating. This is evidenced by the males expending great amounts of energy trying to find and keep suitable mates sometimes at the expense of the their ultimate health as many often die from the lack of adequate fat reserves after prolonged battles for supremacy of a female or harem and end up buried by the wind driven snow that will drift into a pall covering their wasted bodies. Others perish at the hands of hunters while some young males only try to usurp the king and quickly give up when faced by a superior opponent turning instead to food and thereby surviving another year for the chance of attaining the throne in the future.
          Sometimes the ever changing wind is unusually early and cold and that can bode ill for the rest of the fall season and possibly the entire winter as well. Small game hunting season will have started but since the trees are still heavy with leaves that haven’t felt the cold wind long enough to frost out it’s a boon to the birds because they can flush in cover denying the gunner a decent shot and many shells are empty before a scant bag of a few partridge is secured so only the most ardent soul tries for “pats” this early. The woodcock have fled because of the cold and the fields are wet from the unseasonably cold rains chasing the pheasants into heavy cover so the hunter is stuck with cursing the weather and praying for a better late season.  The rabbit hunter welcomes early cold because it culls out the summer sickened rabbits early and with the season running well into spring in the northland that often means plenty of rabbit stew.
          Depending on the particular season for deer it may or may not be a bust because the early cold might inspire an early rut which will allow the big rack bucks to settle their affairs early with a few falling to the archery hunter and the rest hiding out during the later firearm season. It’s always a toss-up when the winds of change decide. The firearms hunter must rely on the old proven ways of posting on well used deer trails or silently stalking through the woods, what the old timers called still hunting, hoping to get a shot at an unwary buck. In God’s Country the muzzleloader hunter gets one final chance at a deer in early December and it sometimes is a good hunt since the deer are now returning to their more unwary winter habits.
           Finally the winds change to very cold and bring heavy snow through late fall and winter. The countryside is silent under its blanket of winter white and this season is sometimes called the “Season of Darkness” because the days are so short and the nights so long and dark. The farther north one goes the darker the night until there is no day only a few hours of a kind of twilight for a month give or take a few days. The Inuit call this season the season when there is no hunting because in the darkness it is foolish to venture out. A hardy soul that does venture out in the woods for a snowy trek can often find ample signs of life though if one looks beneath the snow to see the tunnels the moles and shrews leave as they crawl to tree or plant to gnaw away at the bark. The partridge also love to dive into a fresh snow pile to get out of the bitter night cold. If a coyote or a fox is happened upon one may see it jumping in the air as it tries to pounce on a mouse or shrew under the snow. Hunting is indeed hard in the season of darkness!
          With spring the winds begin the cycle all over again bringing in warm southwesterly winds to the northland and the warm rains which will usher in the season of rebirth for the land. The warm wind will carry the pollen across the trees and flowers of spring so summer will be vibrant and colorful with the brilliance of wildflowers and foliage and so the harvest will be good in the fall. The results of the previous falls mating season are born and a new generation will carry on; some replacing the old bones that lay exposed now as the snow melts away.