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The Withering Off Season

Updated: May 29, 2020

I finally started stowing away all of my waterfowl hunting gear yesterday, as the abundant sunshine and nearly fifty-degree temperatures reminded me that winter in Wyoming does eventually come to end. I thought about how many more snow storms we would get before June this year, and also considered the fact that spring turkey season would be firing up in less than a month.

It's a strange thing to start reaching the age where the warnings of the preceding generation that I used to roll my eyes at are starting to come true. Generic quips, like "time will start moving a lot faster" are proving to be less of a cliched saying and more of a fact of life. Oddly enough, I notice it more during the off-season than anything else. Hunting season, and the summer fly fishing season have always flown right by, that's nothing new. But, what once felt like an endless and hopeless void in my life from the months of January through April seems to be shrinking more and more by the year.

I have the blessing and the curse of being completely enamored by all types of hunting, particularly anything that allows you to use a call. This has quickly made my top three pursuits elk, turkeys, and waterfowl hunting - in that order, most of the time. Since making the move out west, I have become slightly obsessed with the spot-and-stalk style of hunting other big game species. And, of course, I have started building points for the dream tags of sheep, moose, and goat. Being consumed by so many different disciplines of hunting is certainly exciting. There is always something new right around the corner, and every month brings some kind of fresh opportunity. It starts in April with chasing spring gobblers, while simultaneously trying to find time to get out for some early spring fly fishing. Turkey season rolls right into the peak of fishing season here in the mountains, and by early August it is already time to start really thinking about big game. Archery antelope runs into archery elk, rifle and guiding seasons take precedent in October, and by November, large numbers of migratory ducks and geese start showing up along the Platte River, and continue stacking up until the season closes in mid February. All of this equates to my "season" essentially running from April through the middle of February every year. While it's always exciting to be turning around and going on a new adventure every few weeks for such a long duration, it has shifted my perspective on the "off season" from a time to dread, to a time to look forward to catching my breath and relaxed reflection.

The more time I spend outdoors, the shorter my off season becomes, which seems to be shorter every year. A time I once twiddled my thumbs and tried to retain my sanity for months, has become a brief window to recollect and prepare myself for another long season. As a waterfowl, turkey, big game hunter, fly fisherman, and guide - there is no shortage of tasks to catch up inside this short window. There is decoys to be cleaned, maintained and stowed. There's dog training to be done, big game scouting, trail cams, making time for the archery and the rifle ranges, and, of course, trying to keep yourself in proper shape to do it all again for another year.

The off season has become less of something that I dread every year, and more of something I truly look forward to. I would hunt everything twelve months a year if I could, but over the last few seasons, I've come to somewhat cherish the time when it's all over, and the time comes to start thinking about doing it all again. Instead of pacing around the house for two months waiting for the turkey opener, I am taking advantage of the short window to make next season even better.

As I get older, time starts to move faster, and just the same way I try to value my time in the field during the season, I have come to welcome and even enjoy the withering off-season - a time to step back and be thankful for all the opportunities I have to spend time outdoors.

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