For many deer hunters, Saturday is the day we’ve been waiting for since the Saturday after last Thanksgiving, when many of our hopes were officially dashed, and we left the woods without filling our tags.
In the ensuing months, we’ve planned and plotted for this day. Finally, it’s the residents-only opening day.
For some of you, that’s what it is. Alas, I’ll have to wait a few more days before hitting the woods.
That’s the way it’s been for all of my hunting buddies at certain points in our lives. Although my friends and I love to hunt together, we’re not a “hunting-is-everything” kind of group. Instead, each of us realizes that sometimes, real life — real family life — takes precedence. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Instead of hunkering down in my ground blind, waiting for a buck, I’ll be 130 miles south, watching Maine’s best high school distance runners compete in the state cross country championships. My stepson and his teammates are among the hundreds of athletes who’ll run, and I’m looking forward to watching all of the races.
Simply put, although I won’t be in the woods, I won’t be sacrificing a thing. There are plenty of other parents and scores of other athletes who’d love to have the chance to watch or to compete in Cumberland on Saturday. My wife and I are among the lucky ones, I figure.
And my opening day will wait. Maybe I’ll get out for an afternoon or two next week. Or maybe I’ll be in the woods next Saturday, or the Saturday after that. Sooner or later, I’ll be out there, in those familiar woods where my pals and I have had so much fun, hoping to finally fill my deer tag.
Until then, I’ve got a plan.
No, I may not be able to head into the woods on Saturday. And I won’t be there to huddle up with my buddies when we all come out of the woods at the end of the day. I won’t immediately hear the tales about what they saw, and what they didn’t see, on opening day.
But that won’t preclude me from eating like a hunter. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.
Early Saturday morning, I’m rolling out of bed, hopping in the truck, and heading for a hunter’s breakfast. Maybe I’ll go to Old Town. Perhaps I’ll stop in Holden. Either way, I’ll have some time to kill before I hit I-95 and head south, so I’ll load up my plate with some eggs and hash browns, grab a cup of coffee, and spend some time with the hunters who’ll be actually heading into the woods on opening day.
We’ll talk about their expectations. We’ll chat about past hunts, and about hunting buddies we’ve lost. We’ll talk about how lucky we are, and compare notes on the fantastic chow.
Then we’ll go our own ways. The hunters into the woods, me to the interstate.
Not that I’ll spend all of my time worrying about cross country on Saturday, of course. I may not be hunting, but I’ll surely spend a few idle minutes checking in with my pals.
And hopefully, on the group text that all of us share, one of those buddies will send the message that all of us will be waiting for, and which will send each of us — except me — scrambling to help out.
“Buck down,” it will say.
And then, the celebration will start. Even from 130 miles away.
Have a great season opener, everyone. Have fun. And most importantly, be safe. And if you see me at breakfast on Saturday, stop by and say “hello.”
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, has been published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.