Family Planning for the Bear Hunter
by Gary Lewis
Many young persons, who have hunted and fished all their lives, mistakenly assume that the outdoor ardor must also burn bright in the bosom of their beloved. When they meet that special someone who professes to love the outdoors, it seems like a match made in heaven, or at least a match made at the Sportsman’s Show, which is almost as good.
While going through my mail one afternoon, I noticed a picture in a magazine of a happy couple posing with a bear that had recently assumed room temperature. The hunters, nattily attired in color-coordinated outfits, were looking at the bear the lady had bagged. All three of them had good teeth.
“Those aren’t hunters,” I told my daughter. “They’re highly-paid models. Or at least two of them are.”
Always eager to learn from my vast experience, Little Sassy fixed an attentive gaze on me. “What else is in the mail?”
“Well for one thing,” I told her patiently, “they’re clean and they’re wearing new clothes. Second, they’re happy and they’re together during hunting season. Third, they don’t have a dog. Happy, highly-compensated models with perfect teeth can’t shoot bears without a hound dog.”
“Maybe the dog was taking the picture.”
I was still thinking about it that night when I showed up at Charlie’s Fish & Chips for our monthly ritual of fish-fry.
O’Jambo pulled out a chair for me and poured me a glass of root beer. O’Jambo is my gunbearer. I had long admired the British hunter’s tradition of employing staff to assist on the hunt. A few years ago, when I had an opening in that department, he applied. We’ve been working together ever since. I did away with his western European-influenced moniker and applied the Irish appellation ‘O’Jambo’ lest he forget his position. Someday I hope to add a driver, a tracker and a skinner to my entourage.
“Uncle Geddy, you look like you’ve been thinking,” he said.
“Right you are, O’Jambo,” I said. “I confess that there is a soft spot beneath this old greasy hat and bewhiskered exterior. Except in late May, when the old bruins are following the sows, it’s not often that my thoughts turn to matters of the heart.”
The Bear Mountain Gang is made up of a collection of bear hunters from all walks of life. But this evening, my mind was on the plight of the unwed bear hunters in our midst – our unfortunate brothers going through the seasons without the presence of a spouse and offspring.
I noticed that the room went quiet as all turned to listen. There was a hunger for the wisdom that only the more experienced can offer to the young.
As happens so often in our monthly meetings, it was T. Roy who was the first to ask for advice. “What could a greasy old coot like you possibly know about love?” he asked.
“Well, my boy, it’s like this. A bear hunter can have a spouse to make the sandwiches and kids to do the laundry, but only if he follows four important rules.
“Rule Number One is you have to pick the right spouse. Take the prospective partner on a hunt. If she brings lunch and doesn’t mind watching a bait pile for eight hours, you might have a keeper.
O’Jambo has been following me around long enough to chime in with Rule Number Two.
“The trouble is,” he said, “there is no good time to get married. But there are really, really bad times to get married. Like May and October.”
I couldn’t help but agree.
“It should be against the law to get married in the fall. Tie the knot in October and you can count on missing a lot of good bear hunting. Miss your anniversary one too many times and you might end up with too much time for hunting and no one to pack the lunch.
“Get married in June or July. Spring bear season is over by then and you can honeymoon until the end of summer when it’s time to start resetting the baits and exercising the hounds.”
June anniversaries are nice because, as the years go by, you can turn them into scouting trips without a non-participant spouse noticing.
Another point in favor of a June wedding is that most high school graduations take place in June. A future anniversary (scouting) trip with your spouse might keep you from sitting through some nephew’s boring graduation ceremony.
I could see we had T. Roy’s attention. He’s been going out with RaeBelle since the Reagan Administration and she has been walking him by the window of the jewelry store for the last couple of years.
“I like all that talk about the honeymoon,” he said. “But what about having kids? Doesn’t that limit the amount of hunting days in a year?”
“It all depends on the arithmetic. That’s why we have rule number three. Birth your children early in the year. Procreate in July and August. Just add nine months. See how well Rule Number Three fits in with rules number one and two? If birthdays are strategically planned, there is no danger you will be absent at an important family event that just happens to coincide with the opening of bear season. And you can tell the in-laws that Junior needs new binoculars or an electronic caller for his birthday.
“I could use an electronic caller,” T. Roy said.
“As Junior gets older, you can take him scouting on extended getaways. When he’s old enough you can let him use the rifle you bought on his first birthday.
T. Roy was counting on his fingers. He had a faraway look in his eyes.
Last week Little Sassy saw T. Roy and RaeBelle headed out to T. Roy’s bait station with a gunnysack of day-old pastries. RaeBelle had a jelly doughnut in one hand and an apple fritter in the other. I guess we forgot to tell T. Roy about Rule Number Four.