It had been raining for what seemed like a week. Maybe it was only a couple of days, but regardless, it was enough to instill that deep feeling of restlessness associated with being indoors too long, the terrible malady known as cabin fever.
The illness has a tendency to go around this time of year, often precipitated by a cold, steady drizzle, and, without some serious attention, can really bring down a person. As far as I know, there is only one cure. You just have to get out there, regardless of the conditions.
I have bundled up in 20-below wind chills in Nebraska in search of pheasants, and tried some two-handed spey casts into a pretty stiff breeze (the kind that pulls up tent stakes and ruins camp) while swinging wet flies for steelhead in Oregon, all in the name of a cure.
So really, leaving the house in a steady drizzle to try to scare up a woodcock didn’t seem too daunting a task, especially if it could offer some reprieve from what ailed me.
Mabel, my dog, was as eager as I was to get out of the house.
When I came downstairs with the gun, she hopped up from her bed and stood by the front door as if to say, “There is no way you are going anywhere without me.”
I wasn’t, of course, and she didn’t move for the few minutes it took for me to rustle up everything I would need.
I pride myself on being able to head out the door to hunt or fish in a matter of minutes, regardless of the season or quarry. It goes a long way to avoiding being swayed by that little devil on your shoulder that might try to convince you maybe it’s too much trouble, maybe you should just sit back on the couch to see if they are playing any old 80s movies with Molly Ringwald or Judd Nelson or that kid who woke up with his headgear on in the back of the convertible in “The Breakfast Club,” Anthony Michael Hall.
I can have a canoe on my roof rack, a bag of decoys, my gun bag and gun in the car to head east to a tidal marsh as quickly as I can load my waders, fly fishing bag and a few rods to head west to a trout stream. I try to live in a perpetual state of readiness.
All I needed for the woodcock hunt were my boots, a 20-gauge, a handful of shells and my dog. We were out the door in less than five minutes.
My initial plan for the day had included an hour and a half drive and a chance at some quail and woodcock, but with the rain, it didn’t seem to make much sense to drive that far only to hunt for an hour or so. Fortunately, Mabel and I stumbled upon a plan B that included only a 30-minute drive and a quick hunt in some low grounds by the river with a friend and his two dogs.
Even better, he had found some woodcock on a pretty regular basis there throughout the season.
In less than an hour, we had gone from couch to carrying a gun and slopping through ankle-deep mud. The day had certainly taken a positive turn. Even better, the rain had stopped.
We walked for a little more than an hour, finding two birds between us. The rain started again and the clouds hung low overhead, but it was a glorious afternoon to be outside trudging through the mud. I was pretty soaked by the end (I left my rain jacket in the car when the rain stopped briefly), but I felt great. I was cured, at least until the next episode.