Friday Classic: Tag Season

My big game hunting season is two and a half months long. For those keeping score at home, that’s ten weeks afield after pronghorn, elk and deer, and forty-two weeks not. It’s a lopsided ledger that we take for granted; a fact of life, as natural as the birds and bees. But what if we applied such cold mathematics to our other Darwinian derived endeavors? Anyone interested in adhering to a ten week mating season? Granted, we’re talking apples and oranges… but the concept gives forty-two weeks a different complexion, no? You’ll forgive me than my reliance on fantasy.

This is the heart of fantasy season; the time of year when I stay up late, alone in my dusky office, and once the house is still, spread before me a lurid collection of sportrotica. I like it graphic, the stuff that shows all the curves and creases, the mounds and the deep, dark mysteries. Let’s not be coy. We’re all adults, and we all love topo maps. Who can resist their siren song in May? Elk season is six months gone, leaving the caveman itch jonesing for a scratch. And if long enforced abstinence weren’t reason enough for a little mental self-stimulation, we’re also tormented by the annual tease-fest that is tag season. Wyoming Game and Fish’s big game license application deadlines virtually mandate an intracranial vacation. Oh man, it hurts so good.

If you’re like me you can blow hours lost in the mental adventure, reliving seasons past and imaging those to come. Unroll a sheaf of USGS quads and I’m gone to a south-facing slope. Gray predawn light suggests wary movement in broken timber. There is musk on the wind and a sound, come and gone before it’s differentiated from the noises in my head. Was that an aspen complaining to the wind, or maybe a cow elk mewing to her calf? When it comes again I’m taut, whole-body listening… a cow. She’s behind me, uphill. I’ve almost got her triangulated when the bugle erupts from below…

Fantasy’s not going to get you there though. This mid-May exercise will have real consequence come September and, hard as it may be, cooler heads must prevail. I realize that swapping maps for Game and Fish spreadsheets – draw odds, season dates, success rates etc. – is like trading the Swimsuit Issue for a month-old Christian Science Monitor, but September’s real-deal beats tonight’s fantasy every time. So, take a cold shower and get to work.

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