It's been a cold, dark winter. The sun came out this week, but the rivers are still frozen. I have five new essays coming out in the next few months. I've landed nonfiction in The Sun, Gray's Sporting Journal, The Flyfish Journal, and Wyoming Wildlife. I've been in the habit of writing for several hours every morning. I'm at the local Starbucks by 7 a.m. A new short story, "Five-Bear Days" won a fiction prize with the American Literary Review and will come out in a few weeks. Now, if the river thaws, it's time to get out and wet a line.
The second set of galleys of my book Fish Like You Mean It arrived today. The book is a collection of twelve previously published essays on fishing and hunting. Should be proofed and ready to go soon. Most of the work comes from Gray's, The Flyfish Journal and The Sun.
I have to admit, I didn't put my time in this year. I lost my permission to a few duck places, and I didn't want to slog it out on the Platte River with the others. I've been spoiled by having access to great private land in the past. Those days are over. The thing about private land is that it changes hands, and people change their minds. Hunters think people are losing interest in the sport due to what kids are learning in the classroom, or they blame soccer and cell phones. But it's neither of those things. It's the lack of decent places to hunt that has made the sport dwindle. You can't build a duck marsh or an abandoned farm. Everytime you see and No Trespassing sign, view it as what it is, another kid lost to Facebook and e-cigs. Meanwhile, over in Nevada, Cliven Bundy has become a hero in his crusade against public land and public access. If it were up to him and his ilk, there would be no public lands at all. And then what would you do with your elk calls, your backpacks, your GPS? Pay attention to those extreme right-winders when they talk about Public Lands Transfer; they are serious. Below is a photo of your future.
Duck season ends today. We went out a few times this week. The ducks are around but I don't have permission to hunt the places I used to. Henry is a handful. He's very alert, but his whining is hard to take. He's very vocal. But his enthusiasm is a good sign. Rocket is stoic; doesn't say a thing, just looks at the sky and waits for ducks to appear.
This time of year is hard on us. The shotguns are cleaned and put away. The duck season never really got off the ground. Rocket doesn't think much of ski towns. Henderson chases snow machines so snow-shoeing is out. Rocket breaks free from time to time to troll for scraps: English muffins, the rinds of long-gone pumpkins, eggshells people have tossed out for compost. Yesterday he was ensnared in a web of Christmas what-nots. He didn't struggle as much as I would have. I freed him and he trotted into the alleys where the wind had knocked over trash cans. I can't wait for Tax Season.
Winter arrived. Better to stay off the Wyoming roads and practice tai chi in your living room. Better to finally finish Look Homeward Angel because you know you never truly gave it the attention it deserves. Write a poem, make a list of enemies. There's nothing to do and too much to do at the same time.
The pheasants keep coming. Likely these are birds raised by the game and fish. The wild birds have left the public walk-in areas weeks ago. I have this agreement with the Wyoming Game and Fish:you keep releasing birds and I'll keep making coq au vin. Wild pheasants are about as common here as useful politicians. But I applaud the Game and Fish's efforts to stock the landscape with pheasants. I'd rather see the skies darkened with prairie chickens, but I hear I'm 100 years too late. Still, even a state sponsored pheasant is a remarkable bird. Just this week, while walking along with The Rodfather, talking about wild bird stock as opposed to the stuff people buy in the cans, a likely penned-raised bird burst from beneath my feet. Henry leaped in the air like a fox, snapping his jaws at the bird's wake. I was so shook up by the flush that I missed the bird bigly. Very bigly. SAD! This bird flew off the public lands and onto the private property ringed with no trespassing signs. He's wild now. Or at least until the red fox finds him. .
I have a new essay, "Hanging with My Chums", in the fall issue of the Backcountry Journal. They are a non-profit that promotes public lands and tries to keep creeps from selling it to loggers. You can read my piece here.
I turned 50 this week with an Italian over-and-under in my hands, my dogs spreading out in the sage and native grasses. The little postage stamp plots of state land and BLM acres that might or might not hold wild coveys of sharp tail grouse have saved the season. As it goes with bird hunting, I was stooped over, removing a cactus thorn from Rocket's foot when the covey exploded. They set their wings and sailed into the next draw. But when I went there they were nowhere to be found. Just a big mule deer buck and his seven does. An excellent birthday.
We are in the middle of a fine bird season. A few days ago Rocket pinned a covey of huns. But I snapped off two quick shots and didn't cut a feather. We've been hunting public land near Buffalo. I think I know where the huns went and we will be back soon. Meanwhile, I'm cooking pheasants on a daily basis. (I think they are best fresh and I hardly freeze any these days.) Below is my latest attempt.