This night. The night. Infinitely and no more important than any other night. Rituals set in motion. Final preparations wound up and let go.
Tonight coffee was made ready so that the first bleary-eyed human need only flip a switch before they stumble to the bathroom and with the promise of caffeine brewing. Tonight (with help!) veggies were chopped and tucked into a slow cooker in the fridge, to be started in the morning. Not unlike the coffee there is a promise of hot and hearty stew to greet the hungry hungry hunters after daylight shifts to darkness on the far side of tomorrow. Tonight one after another drift from the table or a TV towards a shower and then meticulously set out clothing and gear for ease of access in the cold pre-dawn. I reverse this order because the showers are full.
Into a large plastic bin go honeycombs of plastic that smell eerily and perfectly like rich forest dirt. I shove in my backpack- already loaded with water, snacks, rain gear that I won't need and the ever expectant knife. Then in layers, my hats and neck gaiter, two pairs of gloves and hand warmers, my jacket and overalls, a lighter jacket, a down vest, a fleece, a long sleeved shirt and then a tee that both wick sweat, pants, thick socks, wool leggings...In too few hours I will methodically reverse the process of laying the items in the box and instead place them on my body. I am mocked because I wear too much...but I am not cold.
This task completed, it is my turn to get wet. I fetch the special soap that "eliminates 99% of human odor" and I scrub and scrub until I feel like have been turned inside out. Not because I believe that it is in any way effective. I don't believe this at all. But this is what you do. The sent block clothing, sprays, soaps, potions and incantations are one more ritual. One more good luck charm. One more essential in every hunter's toolbox. But even the most well scoured hunter will avoid being on the wrong side of the wind if there is ANY option.
I am the last one to head to bed. (Why am I always the last one to fall in to bed?) My final ritual comes just before I allow myself sleep. I read two of my favorite passages from Aldo Leopold's essays. I choose "The Deer Swath" and "Thinking Like a Mountain", always at least these two. If I didn't re-read them I would consider them at every turn in the morning anyway and I would rather remember the details exactly. Both feature hunters and deer, one also features mountains and wolves. I will be stepping into this world in the morning. I will be taking part in the dance that is so integral to the fabric of Idaho that it is up for a vote this year to give constitutional protection to hunting and fishing rights to citizens.
Tomorrow is opening day.
Tomorrow is opening day.