A Dandy Dozen Resolutions for 2015
With a brand spanking New Year just barely underway as I write this, many outdoors enthusiasts – myself included – are filled with eager anticipation about what the coming 12 months will bring.
If you will, permit me to look ahead at some of the outdoor sights, sounds, smells and ideas that I hope we’ll all find abundant in the year 2015. Call them outdoor resolutions, if you will, promises to get outdoors that I hope and pray I will be able to keep in the coming year.
January – Chuckles. There are few things that stir my outdoorsman’s soul more than the guttural noises of mallards as they circle over a decoy spread. Especially in January as the duck season winds down in the Central Flyway and greenhead mallards sport their gaudiest breeding plumage. Only God could make such an iridescent shade of green that makes the mallard drake one of the top attractions for venturing outdoors on a cold winter’s day.
February – Silence. In many ways, February is one of the most uninteresting times of the year for an outdoorsmen. The hunting is all but over – only leftover quail and predators remain in my neck of the woods – and the fishing is far from the frenzied pace that spring will bring. Which is just fine with me, especially when a rare North Texas snowfall is cascading down. On such days, the silence can be deafening on a walk in the snowy woods. As poet Robert Frost once wrote, the woods are lovely, dark and deep. Especially when there's a snow falling and I've got miles to go before I sleep.
March – Electricity. No, not from a bolt of lightning that may come from an early spring thunderstorm. Instead, the jolt of lightning that a graphite fishing rod telegraphs from my hand, through my arm, across my shoulder blade, up my neck, and into my cerebral cortex. A jolt of electricity that screams to my gray matter: “Set the hook!” If I can do so quickly enough, hopefully, a double-digit lunker largemouth bass will feel the sting of a steel hook on the other end. There's not a better month to catch such a bucketmouth bass near my North Texas home, especially when I'm fishing on my favorite water in the world, Lake Fork.
April – Thunder. Again, not from a spring storm. Nope, the kind of thunder I’m talking about here can still make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. But it’s because of the thunderous gobble of a lovesick Rio Grande turkey that is announcing his amorous intentions for the entire world to hear. All as I silently urge him to keep spitting, drumming, gobbling and taking that one final step into shotgun range.
(Lynn Burkhead photo)
May – Sizzle. As in the sizzle of hot peanut oil. A sound that only intensifies as the battered slabs from a mess of springtime crappie turns into one of the finest meals that the world has to offer. Even if the doctor says otherwise.
June – Music. Of a fly reel drag singing its sweet metallic tune, all the while as a double-digit Lake Texoma striped bass heads for deeper water with my hand-tied topwater popper fly hanging from the corner of his mouth. I've never fished the famed fall striper blitzes off the coast of Montauk, N.Y., but the boiling early summer surface action on 89,000-acre Texoma comes in a mighty close second in my book.
(Lynn Burkhead photo)
July – Splash. The huge explosion of water as a Labrador retriever goes airborne into a local stock tank. All the while going through the summer paces of hard-core training, getting ready for the rigors of early teal season and the real duck and goose seasons sure to come later on in the fall as the heat of summer fades. And that will be a time when all of this sweat equity is well worth it as the north wind blows during one of my favorite times of the year
August – Musk. As in the musky smell of a pronghorn antelope buck during the August archery season in eastern New Mexico. Once you tag a speed goat – especially with a bow – the curious, strong and musky odor that permeates these glorious critters is something that you’ll never forget. Ditto for the way that antelope backstrap smells – and tastes – when it is hot off the grill. Now if only I can draw a tag!
September – Gunpowder. There is nothing like the smell of spent gunpowder on the hot, dry wind of an early September day in Texas. As dozens of mourning dove whiz by overhead in a furious riot of wings. After a long, hot and dry summer of discontent, the first fall hunting season is finally at hand.
October – Twang. A sound heard best from a treestand. As a big whitetail slips in just before the cover of darkness to chow down on some green stuff keeping him on an early season food pattern. When the soft twang of my bowstring is heard, an arrow will be whistling its way towards a wallhanger. And a freezer full of some of the best eating – and leanest – meat in all of the world.
November – Frost. After a hot summer and a warm early autumn, few things stir this hunter's heart like being afield on a frosty November dawn. Especially when rutting whitetails are on the prowl, grunting their way hurriedly through the local woods as they embark on an ongoing quest for love. Migrating ducks also are finally on the wing in my part of the Central Flyway, causing me to go to bed at night not sure of the quarry I want to pursue the next morning. And not too far to the north of where I live, cackling pheasants are in the air too, offering some of the year's best wingshooting action. During the second best time of the year.
December – Joy. During what I believe is the best time of the year. It's a time for family and friends. And a time for Christmas holiday music, long held traditions and beautiful decorations. The final month of the year is the heart of duck season where I live. And it offers the fading days of deer season as the big boys get back on food patterns. As another year draws to a close, I'll brew something warm, sit by the fire and reflect on the best gifts I have been given this year, things that no amount of money can buy.