Yesterday for the first time in probably 15 years or more, I went rabbit hunting with an old friend. We grew up together and did almost everything together. He got his first rabbit with my dad and I. He got his first bass with us too. He was a part of nearly everything we and I did for many years. As we got older though, we grew apart. He got married, then I did. I focused more on my job at the gun shop and all things outdoors, while he continued to drink like we did when we were 21. We both divorced and remarried, but while I was off to a new life with Lisa, he lost another wife and got his 4th DUI. He lost his house, job, and was living with his sister, making just enough money for beer and cigarettes.I got him a job where I was working, only to find out he was making me look bad by telling the owner things that never happened. He lied, stabbed an old friend in the back, and ended up getting fired himself for something simple and stupid. I cut off all ties with him, I had no choice.
He called me earlier this week out of the blue and started talking about rabbit hunting. I missed my old friend, and had heard he quit drinking some time ago. I figured I would just give him one last try. We talked for not quite an hour, and set up yesterday to go out to the area by our parents to try rabbit hunting. I was happy to go, but still reluctant to trust him.But, something told me I *had* to.
We got there around 8:30, got ready and headed out. First we tried behing his folks place, and not even as much as a single rabbit track. There were plenty of coyote and cat tracks, which explains the lack of any from rabbits. After stomping the back 5 acres of his folks, we walked across the road and set off behind my parents place.
While we walked and stomped brush, it not only reminded me how much I hate rabbit hunting without a dog, it reminded me of all the good times in those woods. Memories of him and I, our dads, my uncle Glen, certain dogs, and cther people all came back to me. I remembered certain areas where we always got rabbits. I remembered spots where I shot this one and that one. I remembered places the dogs always got into. I remembered the spot where my uncles beagle pee'd down my friends dad's boot. I remembered it all.
While everything looked the same, it all looked different. The old paths once kept clean by land owners brush hogs are gone. The spot we always stopped to shoot a few squirrels has been timbered out. The open area around the small 1/4 acre dump we used to get great open shots is now full of green briar and crabapples. It's all different, but I can see through the trees and brush that have grown, and see me and my dad 20 years ago standing and listening to the beagles run. For a while, I was that wide-eyed 12 year old boy with the 20 guage double barrel, but soon after, I was the 44 year old who hasn't walked 5 miles in 3 layers of clothes through brush and snow for 15 years or more. While my mind was racing and telling me to go here and go there, my legs were screaming at me to go home, lol.
We jumped ONE rabbit the entire time we were up there. We did see rabbit tracks here and there, but the fox, coyote, and cat tracks far outnumbered them. I plan on calling a few of the people and getting permission to hunt coyote there soon. The one we jumped was of course in the ONE area of all of that land that I always hated the most, behind my grandparents place which now belongs to my cousin. It's 2 acres of nothing but vines and green briar, making quick shots almost impossible. My friend undershot the rabbit, and of course, I over shot it. After getting tangled in green briar looking like something right out of a Steven King book, we decided to head home.
It was a good day, even if my legs are sore today. I spent the day with an old friend, doing what we did every chance we could in the winter when we were younger. I got to see the areas that hold so many memories. Even if they look totally different, I know the spot and can see back through time there. I don't know if we'll try going out again, or for that matter, if he'll call again since it's been 3 years since the last call. HAS he finally grown up? CAN we be friends again? IS my old friend and hunting buddy finally back? I don't know, I just don't know. All I can do is take the day for what it was. A great time out of the house, walking familiar woods and fields, and remembering as far back as I could....it was a great day.
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