“It is easy to forget that in the main we die only seven times more slowly than our dogs,”
The Road Home, Jim Harrison
October is finite – not only in volume, but in reoccurrence.
In Idaho, October is the perfect month. The weather cools and the aspens start to drop their golden leaves. Brown trout move upstream to spawn, colored up like the aspens and hungry and edgy and mean. Sharp tail seasons line up with other upland species so the whole host of bird hunting is on the menu.
October is a marker for my years and sometimes it’s alarming how fast they tick past. Throwing out a pair of worn out boots I realize it’s been a dozen years since I bought them. Sorting boxes of factory pheasant loads with $9 price tags, I try to remember when you could buy Golden Pheasant loads for that price.
Fondly remembering a hunt with a good friend, I realize we haven’t spoken in years. I look at my dogs and see I no longer have one in her prime and one on the upswing, but one in her prime and one that may not have another October left in her.
For a good long time, I was certain my springer was faking deaf. As in, “I can’t hear you boss, but there’s birds!”
Turns out she is not faking, at least not anymore. Sometimes I walk past her bed and out the door without her waking. In the evening, I occasionally have to walk out and retrieve her from the yard. She’s healthy and happy, but she has lost most of her drive and she can’t hear anymore.
She’ll make a few trips this year. Judging by our walks and initial trips out, she will mostly be at heel, strolling along as the old lady of the pack.
Last fall, I took an ill-advised shot at a rooster on the last day of the season. He seemed well hit, but locked his wings and glided across a good-sized channel of the Snake River into some cattails on the far shore. My old girl was never a good water retriever and I never force fetched her, but as I stood there wondering if my waders were in the truck, she lit out into the cold and fast water. She hit the shore and worked the cattails for several minutes before wading out and swimming back. She held a totally live rooster in her mouth, his head erect as she braved the current again.
I remember thinking, “That could be the last great retrieve I see her make,” because even then she had slowed down. Mostly, the fire has gone out of her. She still wants to go, she wants to head out the door and ride in the truck, but the barely controlled bird craziness is gone. It’s nice to have her around. She’s mellowed. She can lay down at your feet instead of pacing constantly. She can ride in the car on a gravel road without howling to be let out.
She’s just older. It happens to all of them. And to all of us. For me as well there is a day coming where hunting turns into something else.
We only get so many Octobers.
13 thoughts on “We only get so many Octobers”
If we weren’t keenly aware it will all end some day we would waste the time working or puttering around the house instead of getting out with our dogs and enjoying the hunt.
Reblogged this on The Fish and Wildlife Report and commented:
Well said brother. I certainly measure my time by how many hunting seasons I have left. From that perspective, the priorities emerge. Thank you and, have a great October. I’ve started mine on the water with 4 big bull redfish from southwest and red passes in the bird foot of the Miss River Delta, a giant jack crevale and red snapper to boot (released of course). Cheers.
Greg, I likely have fewer falls ahead of me than you…..so my attitude is that if you are willing to travel there is always an october somewhere.
Nailed it. The only virtue in delusion lies in its ability to tell you that you’ll continue to have fine days like the one that just ended.
Hopefully a few more Octobers for me and my dogs, alas no more for our beloved Jim Harrison!
Well said. Brings on a melancholy feeling but then again, it brings on so many great memories. Enjoy your Octobers!
Loved it. You took me back to a time and place with one of my first. Old dogs are special. Old hunting dogs are something else…
Feeling tired in October? Read this essay and get out the door! Actually I was also relieved to hear that our young yellow Lab is not the only dog who gets all amped up as soon as the road turns to gravel.
This hits home hard right now.
Well said, sir.
You’re not the only one who measures his life in dogs.
Hunting dogs, fresh coffee cookin on the fire, crisp early mornings,
nice guns and fly rods these are the things that make all Octobers worth
while. We may move a little slower but the fire is still in the belly. Live
this October for now and the memories it will bring, you and your loving
I’ll be hunting alone this year. Someone once wrote that “God’s only mistake was making dog’s lives too short”. I can’t disagree.