There are those that are diligent about cleaning their gear at the end of the season, putting it all away properly. Truth be told, with the exception of guns, I’m not one of those.
My bird vest usually gets tossed in the closet shortly after chukar ends around the first week of February, and doesn’t emerge again ’till…well, right about now – a few days before the next season starts.
Empty purple and yellow shells clink together in the pockets as I take the vest off the hook.
A granola bar wrapper is still in there, which I ate the contents of atop Nunya Peak, as the increasing wind ushered in a black wall of storm in the distance, and the birds called each other into the safety of the cliffs below me. We proceeded to take a few stragglers from the base of that cliff; birds that didn’t heed the call to safety. It was snowing sideways on the way out, and it took a while to find the truck, even longer to regain the feeling in my hands.
There is still a smorgasbord of remnant feathers all mixed together in the back of the vest, representing a rough stratigraphic timeline from early season ruffies at the base, through the solid mid-layer of sharpies and roosters and the occasional Hun, topped off with a dusting of chuks. Dirt, dried grass and twigs hold it all together.
There is that small hole that should probably have been mended (but likely never will be), from where I took a break against a fence post that hid a rusty old square nail, somewhere in southern Montana.
A small projectile point made of chert that I almost stepped on walking the canyon country of Nevada. I stood there for a while after I picked it up, sliding the cool smoothness of it between my thumb and forefinger, taking in a view that extended far, far into the distance.
Drops of dried blood remain on the lining of the game bag, reminding me that this isn’t just a game.
In some weird way, purging my vest of all these things is almost as difficult as accepting the end of another season. I put the vest back in the closet. There are still a few more days before this really needs to be done.