By Jodi Stemler
I have a confession to make – I’m not much of a morning person. It’s not that I like to sleep late, (typically I can’t stay in bed later than 8 a.m. and most days I’m up by 7) but I definitely am a creature of the sun, and if it isn’t up then neither should I be. At least that’s my rationale. But the best hunting and fishing often happens just after dawn, and to get to the woods and waters by daybreak you need to be up well before the sun. As we moved into September this year, my family had a few early wakeup calls, and I was reminded of something particularly important -the best and most lasting memories are the ones forged in a day when you smile into the sun as it comes up.
Over Labor Day weekend, my husband, daughter and I headed to Astoria, Oregon, for a couple of days fishing with a colleague who had offered to have us join him during the salmon run. Jim had asked us to come out for several years and we figured that if we didn’t take him up on his offer, one of these times he was just going to stop asking. So when he told us that this year was forecasted to be one of the best runs in decades we decided the time was right.
Two “dark and early” mornings (as our 9-year old daughter put it) saw us heading out onto the mighty Columbia River just as the daylight started to push away the darkness. Our first morning, we were hooked up within less than five minutes into our first troll. As I pulled in my first ever chinook salmon, I knew we’d made the right decision to come out this year.
Within one hour the first day we had reached our limit with a box full of beautiful chinook and coho salmon. The second day it took us a few hours to reach our limit, partly because regulations changed after September 1 and we weren’t able to keep chinook but could now keep three coho. We were also catching more wild fish so there was even more catching than keeping that day, but our salmon tags were still full before 11 a.m. The grins on the faces of all of us in the boat, in particular on a little girl who caught fish that were almost as tall as her, told the story – we had all made memories that will last a lifetime!
Two weekends later, my family was up well before dawn once again. This time we were in western Colorado with our bird dog and our shotguns looking for sharptail grouse. As the sun came up, we were walking through sage brush hills, watching the orange and white flashes of our Brittany, Mesa, as she cast back and forth trying to scent the birds. We hunted through several pieces of public land, and as the sun got higher and the day got warmer we wondered if we would be successful this trip.
Just then Mesa froze into a point and several sharpies flushed to the sky. My husband quickly shot his two-bird limit as I hustled over from my place where I was flanking he and our daughter. Not sure how many birds were left we pushed forward to see Mesa once again lock up. Out came more birds and I soon had my limit as well. As we continued down the hill back to the car, Mesa would continue to get birdy and then freeze, our daughter would flush another bird or two, and on we’d go. It was truly a great day of hunting – beautiful location, lots of birds and a full game bag, it doesn’t get much better than that.
I’ll never be much of an early bird, but this month I was reminded of the benefits of a few pre-dawn wake up calls. It seems like the family memories we make are just a little more crisp when we watch the sun slowly break over the mountains or the water together. The experiences that we share are more unique and special on those days, and perhaps the early morning memories will be the ones that keep our daughter walking down the path of a future outdoorswoman.
As owner and President of Jodi Stemler Consulting, Jodi has nearly 20 years experience in the natural resource conservation field. Jodi worked for a state fish and wildlife agency as well as non-profit conservation organizations in Washington, D.C. and has a strong network of colleagues in the sportsmen and conservation community, as well as the outdoor industry. Jodi currently lives in Denver, Colorado. This is Jodi’s second guest post you can see her original post here.