Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Culture of Opening Day (and the Night Before)

Sometimes, a thing can be very familiar, and even comfortable, and yet alien. For me, the cultural ties to outdoor recreation have always been that way. Trust me, I've enjoyed fish camp, hunting camp, and even surf camps over the last 20 years, and most certainly I have enjoyed telling outright lies about my skills sharing fellowship with others in outdoor sports. However, I have never reveled in the conversations of "you wouldn't believe how drunk Bob got last year!" and "Wait 'til you see how much tequila we brought."

For me, "pre-sport" camps have always been just that - an opportunity to get local, get gear ready, and get some sleep before the big day, whether it's an incoming hurricane swell, a good moon for fishing, or the opening day of any given hunting season. Goose season opened up across the Atlantic Flyway this weekend and it was amazing to see hunters pop out of the woodwork.

A "few" people hunt geese in Maryland - ground zero of the Atlantic Population's
wintering grounds. These two hunters weren't with each other, or me.
I left work about 30 minutes early on friday to get onto Maryland's eastern shore. With the days quite short now, I was still faced with a 90 minute drive in the dark. Which, given the fact that we routinely drive 1-2 hours to hunt, fish, or surf out here, is no big deal at all. I arrived at the gun club around 630pm and found that their (which, technically, is now "our") pre-opening day ritual was in full effect. Here are the appetizers:
Fresh Chester River oysters, a variety of venison products,
and delicious nuts and cheese. And liquor. Of course..

12 of 20 members eventually joined us for an amazing dinner, and it was clear that many of us experience our "ritual" differently. I retired to the lodge (below) after about 5 beers (around 1030pm) because I wanted to sleep well to increase my odds of shooting well the next morning. A few other guys also went to bed early, primarily because they had topped out at around 15-18 drinks and simply couldn't stand anymore. Several of them have school-age children and don't get out much (never). Several other members wanted to use the opportunity (rarely do so many of us get together during the year) to air club business and proposals from "why don't we rent a different place to stay" to "we should lease more goose fields." Also a valid use of our time. Yet others enjoyed some wine, beer, or liquor and talked shop, which for many of them, is the world of financial advising.

Home sweet lodge - survived another winter and another hurricane season
Oddest of all, at least 2 members made the effort to join us for the evening, but were not hunting on opening morning (one due to kids' sports, one due to injury). Spending the night with friends is that important to them. It's interesting to me that the social aspect of outdoor recreation (beyond socializing while you are actually outdoors) is as important to so many folks as the actual "getting outdoors" part. This fact used to enrage me because I felt as if people weren't taking their outdoors time seriously enough. While I still feel that way on occasion, it's more of a disappointment and acquiescence.
The fact is, many among us have killed "enough" geese, caught "enough" fish, and ridden "enough" waves to not be too upset if we miss a "perfect" day. They are just as content to share time and stories about a hundred similar days they've had over the years. I can't help but wonder if I will ever share that attitude? When do things like that cross from "impossible" to "inevitable?"
Coats, waders, and guns hung up for the night

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think this post and your blog about Virginian (and Maryland) wildlife are awesome! I too have a proud love for nature where I live in Northern California. Those oysters look freaking delicious.

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