“Are you going to opening autumn hunting?”
I looked at my planner. I scanned my calendar. I scrolled through numerous text messages and double-checked the calendar on my phone. I triple checked my email, and miraculously found nothing.
Oh my word. I was finally going to have the entire morning off, and it was on the same day as opening autumn hunting. The hunting gods have smiled upon wee little Autumn and decided to throw me a bone!
This summer has been wonderful in the sense that I no longer wake up each morning with my stomach in knots from anxiety about schoolwork and I’m able to focus on building a career and lifestyle I love. However, as I’ve been getting settled into this new chapter of my life and been attempting to come up with something regarding a somewhat consistent schedule, it’s been nearly impossible to make it up to the kennels. But that would all change for a few hours on this fateful September day.
I tossed and turned the entire night. I’m not sure I ever fully fell asleep. I kept floating in and out of sleep, my mind racing the whole night as I mentally reviewed hound names, road names, important landmarks and popular crossing areas for the game. Even when I was in my deepest “sleep” that night, I seem to remember dreaming with this subtle chanting of hound names in the background. The stars were finally aligning, and I couldn’t wait to get back to hunting.
Despite a long, dreadfully hot week characteristic of Georgia weather and a fitful night’s sleep at best, I leapt out of bed when my alarm blared at 5:15 that morning. I may or may not have actually squealed a little bit when I finally turned onto the winding country road that leads to the clubhouse property. I hadn’t seen a number of these faces in far too long, but I was beyond happy to return to the familiar routine.
After conferring with my fellow road whips, I couldn’t take the wait any longer and decided to move out to my starting point a few minutes early to get settled. Okay, okay, I was about twenty minutes early. I had been standing on the side of the road and watching the sun rise over a cut hay field for about ten minutes when I started chuckling at how ridiculously excited I was. As I was kicking a small crater into the dirt on the road’s shoulder, my phone rang.
“This is Decoy, in position, waiting for the hunt to start.”
“Ha! Me too! Guess we’re both a bit early, huh?”
“I’m glad I’m not the only one!”
Needless to say, the excitement was tangible everywhere, from the hounds to the field members, and from the staff to the road whips. It was hot, breezy, and the skies were clear, but nobody could wait to begin hunting again.
The first hour or so was a bit touch and go as hounds picked along a few lines but without gaining much speed. I hopped along from landmark to landmark, and all the roadwhips stayed nicely spaced apart without being strung out. My nickname of “Radio Killer” proved to remain true as it had given out here and there, but, so far, it hadn’t caused any tragedies. I was waiting patiently in my usual spot on Sam Swindle, hoping I would see game cross over into Ramsey’s woods. Decoy had his dusty white PT Cruiser parked further down the road on the corner. Sometimes I get lucky in this position, and I was hoping that would be the case today.
Shakerag’s huntsman John Eaton informed us on the radio that hounds had picked up a line and were taking it behind the huntsman’s house. Decoy and I simultaneously got in our cars and pulled out onto the road. Just as John requested a roadwhip at Planter Gunnel, fellow roadwhip Shawn turned his truck onto the main road and headed in that direction. For some reason, without any vocal coordination, sign language, or smoke signals, Decoy and I were headed a bit in the opposite direction—we had both already begun flooring it towards Seagraves Mill. We could loop around to Planter Gunnel from here, but it would take longer. As I was in the lead, I had a moment of panic as I considered whether or not I should turn around, but I was almost to the end of Sam Swindle, and backtracking my route would take too long. And strangely enough, Decoy seemed to be having the same thoughts, because he continued to follow hot on my trail.
I whipped my car around the corner and stepped on the gas, carefully navigating the curves in the road but driving as quickly as I dared to go, the wind blowing through my windows the whole time. As I reached the county line, I took my foot off the gas and considered stopping to listen. I had no sooner thought this than Shakerag’s professional whipper in, Kelly Eaton, called in on the radio that hounds had taken the line towards Jameson’s Crossing—not far at all from the county line. Decoy and I both slammed on the brakes, leapt out, and began making noise—hounds were in full cry, just inside the tree line bordering the narrow road.
“I’ll stay here, go a little further up the hill!” Decoy hollered over the hounds’ cries and took up his position over the creek.
I made as much noise as I possibly could and moved my car a few hundred feet up the hill, looking for the slightest sign of movement in the tree line, but all I saw were blurry glimpses of hounds pushing through the dense woods. And after a couple minutes of clapping, hitting the side of my car, whooping, and hollering, the hounds’ voices shifted further away from the road.
Unfortunately, the run didn’t last all too much longer—this darn Georgia heat is just impossible to work with for long—but when the hounds were running that morning, they were working beautifully. I’m not sure how or why Decoy and I both decided to take the route to Planter Gunnel that we did that day, but it seemed to serve us rather well. It was a brief but wonderful run, a small moment to get my blood pumping again, and, I’m hoping, just a glimpse of what’s set to be yet another stellar season.