Today was my first hunt of the 2010-2011 season, which started three weeks ago. I’m in a mood to ramble a little more than can fit in a Facebook status update, so I might as well update the long-neglected blog.
The reasons for my delayed debut are a little complicated, but basically weather-related. For those not familiar with recent Kentucky climatic conditons, it has been much hotter and drier than normal. The grass and foliage is all burnt to a crisp. Leaves are turning brown and falling off trees without becoming colorful. The ground has the consistency of concrete, which is obviously not the best environment for galloping horses.
And, as I get older, I tend to cling to my old comfortable traditions. One such tradition is that I hunt for the first time each season on a Sunday. There’s actually a legitimate reason for this, which has nothing to do with superstition. Our hunt’s schedule for hunting is 8:00 AM Weds and Sat, and 2:00 PM Sunday. As it takes me about three hours to prepare and haul to the hunt, an 8:00 AM hunt means a 5:00 AM wakeup. The early morning rising really isn’t that bad … well, okay, it is, but the fun makes it worth it. Every time, as I stumble around in the dark, I question my sanity and consider going back to bed. Then, after the first few minutes in the saddle, I remember why I torture myself.
But the first hunt always adds an extra layer of stress, trying to get back in the groove of remembering everything I need, and tending to all the little details that a more organized person would have taken care of a week earlier. I like to take it slow the first time, instead of running around in a frenzy in the dark.
But every Sunday this October, the temperature has been over 80. Combined with the hard ground, the heat just made it hard to get enthusiastic. Crossbo’s shoes needed to be reset, and probably wouldn’t have lasted through a couple of hours hunting on hard ground, and I wasn’t motivated enough to nag the farrier.
I finally got the shoes reset Thursday. The weekend forecast predicted another 80+ Sunday afternoon. I decided if I waited for a cool Sunday, I might never hunt, so I was faced with the choice of a hot Sunday afternoon, or dealing with my first-hunt jitters on an early Saturday morning. So I reluctantly opted for Saturday.
I hadn’t factored the lunar calendar into my planning, but that turned out to be a surprise bonus. The full moon was still bathing the countryside in a soft light this morning. So instead of grumping around in the dark, I was actually feeling lucky to be awake.
Apparently I’ve turned into one of those horrid geeks who can’t relax and appreciate the beauty of nature without polluting it with technology. As I was walking through the pasture in search of Crossbo, I just had to pull out my iPhone and make a Facebook status post about the beauty of moonlit mornings. When I did that, I saw a hunting buddy’s recent post of her grey horse almost invisible in the dark, with the caption “It’s 5:15 AM, do you know where your hunt horse is?” Encouraged that I wasn’t the only one digitially defiling the moonlit beauty, I replied that I hoped he was somewhere in the pasture.
I managed to find my horse, and all my tack, clothing, and other paraphernalia, and arrived at the meet early enough that I could relax and take my time tacking up. There was one moment of panic when I couldn’t find my flask case, but it was just hiding under a cap.
As usual, it turned out to be a wonderful morning, with some good running. In fact, the first uncapping of the flask was delayed, because after the first jump, we were moving too fast to drink, and actually had to wait until after the third jump to hydrate.
The only minor flaw in the day was a glitch in my GPS tracking, which replaced a large part of our meandering with a single straight line. But I still got a fairly good track of the first part of the hunt, which can be seen here.