Practice for hunting season starts early

After years of being a night-owl, I’m training myself to be an early bird. It’s not easy, but the hard work should pay off when hunting season comes around again.

I’ve been getting up early the last few months. Real early. For most of my life, I didn’t even know there was a 4 o’clock in the morning. At least not on days when there wasn’t hunting to do.

But I’ve been setting my alarm for that ungodly hour in an effort to get outside before the sun comes up. I’ve been trying to get pictures of wild animals doing what they do in the spring. Sunup is the best time to get those photos, both for the light it brings and the activity of the animals themselves.

Once in a while, the alarm goes off, and I decide I’ll just turn it off and go back to bed. But on those mornings, my kids help me obey my early wake-up calls. I don’t know if my clunking around before daylight has turned back my boys’ internal clocks, or if they’re just naturally early risers, but if I’m not out of bed by five a.m., one or both of the little buggers are standing at my bedside, prying my eyelids open and shoving their fingers up my nostrils.

It’s almost painful getting up that early, especially after three decades of sleeping in and staying up late. But hopefully, this new schedule will make hunting season a little easier on my system. By the time fall comes around, getting up at four in the morning should seem natural. If I have to get up an hour or two earlier than that, it shouldn’t be as much of a shock to my system.

I still need to work on staying awake after I get up, though. Even though I’ve been doing pretty well at getting out of bed when the alarm goes off, about 6 or 7 o’clock, I start to fade. That’s fine when I’m sitting at my desk, but if I’m out in the duck blind or hunkered down along a deer trail, I can’t be losing consciousness at that hour. If I do, I’ll wind up missing the whole point of getting up that early. That’s about the time the big flight of mallards or that big ol’ four-point is likely to be winging in or sauntering past.

One solution is to take the kids hunting with me. They don’t lose their energy. They actually get more animated as the morning wears on. I’d stay awake, but the chances of seeing a critter would be next to nothing.

That’s a bridge I’ll have to cross this fall. Until then, I’ll keep practicing.