Fall is the season that excites.
That's the way it is for sportsmen who rise early, dress warmly and cherish every second of daylight. The hunter prays for a lengthy autumn, all the while knowing that the inevitable winter will arrive soon enough without any compassion or understanding.
The sportsmen of fall take delight in every step of every outing, and know the importance of stopping to listen to the whistle of a mallard's wings passing overhead just prior to sunrise. The cackling of a rooster pheasant, the chuckle of the sharptail and the muffled crunch of leaves under a deer's hooves are all important sounds to the sportsman who shakes within at the thought that someday those sounds could disappear or that his body will become too old or crippled to participate.
Kim Fundingsland is a staff writer for The Minot Daily News.
There are wonderfully pleasing sights too, those that warm an outdoorsman on the coldest mornings. A hunting dog on point, a deer emerging from cover and geese drifting into golden stubble make any outdoorsman instantly forget that he was chilled a moment earlier. Nature can do that.
Although North Dakota sportsmen know better, too many still judge the hunt by the game in the bag. The experience of being outdoors with nature is everything. Game is a well-earned bonus, not the standard by which the success of the hunt should be measured. Some days are better than others, to be sure, but none are regrettable.
Autumn is a golden time. The air is often crisp and cool. Sunrises are as unmatched for beauty as their warmth is welcome. Colors splash and dance everywhere, with hues enhanced by the knowledge that nature can turn the entire landscape to white in a single swipe. For the sportsmen of North Dakota, that is more than enough incentive to spend one more day in the field.
When one hunter inquires of another if he can join an upcoming hunt, he usually knows the answer beforehand "Of course. What made you think otherwise?"
Every day in the field extends the pleasures of autumn and pushes winter further away at least, that is the thinking of avid sportsmen who tremble at the thought of having missed a chance to spend a few more hours outdoors during the most coveted time of the year.
How long autumn will last I cannot say. I know I always find myself wishing for just one more wonderful day. Others do too. Winter will arrive soon. It is then the excuses used to justify staying home a day or two during the fall hunting seasons will not seem nearly good enough.