The Offseason

by Bret “T-Bone” Amundson

I’m generally a pretty upbeat, glass half full kinda guy.   I laugh too easily, I don’t let small things get me down and I’m usually the one talking others off the proverbial ledge.

Even if they lost to the Packers, I'm still happy they made it to the playoffs.
Even if they lost to the Packers, I’m still happy they made it to the playoffs.

But today I’m tiptoeing my way towards the precipice.   Slowly tilting my head downward in a cautious gaze at the impending abyss.

When I worked in sports talk radio, there was a time of the year called “the sports abyss”.  That late winter period after the football season ends and before baseball season and March Madness begins.   There is still some NBA and (hopefully) some hockey going on, but the playoffs for either sport are still a distant speck on the horizon.

Frosty final day of pheasants
Frosty final day of pheasants

We’re one day removed from the close of the North Dakota pheasant season and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.  Soon however, I’ll feel as though I’m staring into the blackness, preparing to free-fall my way into the hunting abyss.

The offseason is here.

That's a good start
That’s a good start

Sure I could go ice fishing and there are some predator hunting opportunities that I’ll try to take advantage of, but the activities that are perched at the top of my favorite “to do” list have been checked off until next fall.

Despite the recognizable ramblings of a broken record, I’ll say it again.  I cannot wait until fall.   Today, the countdown begins.

We don’t know exactly what the opening dates for the hunting seasons are yet, but for now I’ll just target August 15th as the early Canada goose opener.

219 days, 20 hours, 36 minutes and 42 seconds from the time that I’m typing this, until we can lock and load.

Is that a bit obsessive?

Probably, but that’s for another discussion.  I’m finding out that I’d rather be flat on my back in corn stubble, surrounded by fake waterfowl, than sitting on a plush couch watching Animal House.  Even if that is a great movie.

Is the early season here yet?
Is the early season here yet?

I’d prefer to be tethered 16 feet above the ground, eyes scanning the hardwoods for whitetail, than hanging out with Alice Cooper as he is given the key to the city of Alice, ND (population 40), even if that was a once in a lifetime experience.

Hey, you're Alice Cooper.
Hey, you’re Alice Cooper.

I was able to duck hunt on the final day of the Wisconsin duck season, bow hunt on the final day of the Minnesota bow season, and pheasant hunt on the final days in MN and North Dakota.  I milked it for all it’s worth.

Not pictured: 2 guys, 6 birds
Not pictured: 2 guys, 6 birds

The last day in North Dakota was one to remember as our group of 7 limited out, surprisingly, fairly easily on a walk in southeastern North Dakota.    After a week of trudging through heavy snow inside thick cattails by Lac qui Parle, I was relieved to see a lighter snowfall keep some birds in the grass.  Enough to get the 8 dogs whipped into a frenzy amidst abundant pheasant scent.   A welcome omen greeted us as we stepped into the field and watched a dozen winged bull’s-eyes flush from their cover and take up residence further down the field where we’d encounter a majority of them again.

Not many birds escaped, save for one or two rescued by a gun jam.  Even a 60+ yard hail mary connected, much to the delight of the shooter, who couldn’t hold back an excited holler.

Mika found these guys just lying around.
Mika found these guys just lying around.

Good birds, good shooting and a good amount of hens all made for a memorable final day in the field and a promising start to 2013.  Hopefully Mother Nature keeps the nesting season in mind when she rears her ugly head this spring.

I’ll get by with that memory freshly imprinted on my brain, but soon both my dog and I will realize that we are hurtling through the off season abyss, watching for the 2013 opening dates so we can begin the countdown.

Take a better look at these pictures by clicking here. 

by Bret “T-Bone” Amundson


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