Cape Cod in May is my favorite. The tourists haven’t swamped it yet, rain and clouds still hang around, and sweaters are still necessary. Gin and oysters are consumed, family is seen, and beaches are trolled. I fall in love again with how old everything is and I always see the best people while I’m there. Our yearly excursion to our little haus makes me so incredibly happy.
This morning the alarm went off right at 5 am. I had already been up for a while, listening to the intense wind whip in and around the windows. It sounded invasive and also urgent, and getting up to go outside and spend hours with it didn’t seem very delightful.
Nonetheless, I pulled on my sturdy Carhartt pants and a few layers and trudged upstairs. My gun was already waiting for me. Cooper was excited, walking all over the house as soon as he saw us with our guns and the kennel in the back of the truck. He’s almost 12 years old and still healthy enough to accompany us hunting.
Pheasant hunting is fast and intimidating. I haven’t spent too much time shooting, and my father urged me to get my best Annie Oakley on. I carried a lighter .20 gauge to make it easier to swing the gun up on a bird if one presented itself.
We drove in the dark and the rain. Rain in Montana in November is tricky business- it could be freezing, it could leave icy patches, and it could also make hunting absolutely miserable. Trekking through thick, tangled brush with a loaded gun trying to keep up with an excited dog with the wind and rain in your face made me want to return to my warm bed and curl up for a few more hours.
Luckily, as we drove farther and farther North, the rain subsided. The wind, unfortunately, did not. We parked right outside a closed gate and softly shut our doors. Cooper was amped up and excited, in sharp contrast to my regret in not having coffee.
We began our march into the field when shooting light began. There were several other hunters and we kept our distance. This year we’ve encountered a few idiots who disobey the quiet but firm rules of space, space, space, and awareness. My father and I spread out, watching Cooper. When his tail gets loopy, he’s “birdy” and on some scent. Whether he flushes out grouse, hen pheasants, or roosters, we don’t know until they’re up and flying.
As we walked through several fields we flushed multiple hen pheasants, which aren’t legal to shoot. We watched them fly away. Every flush we made for the morning resulted in a hen. The hunting pressure in the area had most likely made the rooster pheasants head elsewhere for a few days. We made our way through barley fields, wheat fields, sage, and other kinds of vegetation, finally making our way to the edge of the lake. The ice was very slick and looked beautiful. I love how ice changes and moves, how the wind and water and temperature all interact. I’ve fallen in love with the ice on our lake and everywhere else for some reason.
After pulling my hip flexor, it started to get stiff and painful. We had been hunting hard all morning, making good time over multiple landscapes. Cooper was exhausted. I started to head for the truck to let my dad finish up one last field and I was making tall steps so as not to trip in all the brush. I was holding my gun up when about 3 feet in front of me a very handsome, very quick rooster pheasant made for the next field.
This is where I sheepishly admit that I was so surprised that I got my gun up but panicked and thought I wouldn’t have time to get a shot that I gave up before I even tried. He was the only rooster we flushed up that entire day and I missed! Ugh. My father thought it was hilariously tragic, and took us to breakfast in a little town to get coffee and laugh further at my poor confidence.
Overall, though, I had a great day and got to sees some beautiful country. Now, I’m writing this post and applying for jobs and researching grad schools with hot tea at my side.
Note: I know that for some, hunting is controversial. I feel that hunting is ethical when done fairly and with respect to the animals you co-exist with. I would rather eat an elk that my father shot than buy burger from a store when I have the choice. That elk lived without ingesting antibiotics, being in a cage or behind a fence, and that elk was taken in a humane, respectful manner. Hunting allows us to humanely gain access to a healthy food source.
35mm goodness from my sturdy Olympus OM-G. I only brought my f/1.8 lens for some reason, not my f/1.4 or a wide angle or even my shift lens, but I’m still pretty happy with how many of my frames from the trip turned out.
I still can’t believe it only cost $2.00 to go into the gardens. Montana doesn’t have the sort of season to encourage ferns, flowers, and lily pads everywhere, so I’ve never been anywhere like this. I wanted to settle down on one of the many benches and sketch and maybe sing to myself a little because it was the most calming place I’d been in a long, long time. There weren’t a lot of people and we had the gardens mostly to ourselves. The overcast day made parts seem eerily private and in this way perfect. I loved the curling edges of ferns and the twirling stems of so many different flowers.
I’ve got many more frames to share with you all but for now I think I’ll let these stand alone. Mother Nature has such beautiful creations.
I could have set up a tent in the bamboo forest and lived there happily ever after. Too bad we only spent a few hours there! It felt incredible to be surrounded by the hum of birds, bugs, and the sound of water while being visually enveloped with every color possible.
Chelsea and Kate and I paid for parking after doing loops trying to find a space for the car. It was definitely worth it!
Craft Pride was worth the parking hassle. It had more kinds of Texas local brews than I thought possible (I think close to 50) and deciding was the worst part. If I had the liver of a decades-older Scotsman I might have been able to try multiple brews, but I only had one!
The one I did have, a delightfully fruity IPA called the Yellow Rose from Lone Pint Brewery, was fantastic! I loved how different it was. I am by no means literate in the sort of terms that are used to describe beer, but regardless of that, I plain loved my beer. The atmosphere was fun, too, with tactile, textured wood tables and hanging lights. We went right at the golden hour and so photographing our brews was perfect. I don’t remember what Chelsea and Kate both got but every beer I tried there was fantastic!
Being from Montana, I’m lucky to be surrounded by a wealth of craft breweries that are always trying new things, but I was really excited to experience Craft Pride in Austin! What an awesome place.
My favorite part of Austin was exploring the Botanical Gardens.
For a whole $2.00 we were given the chance to see more species of flora than I’d ever before in my life! Lily pads, trees, ferns, and flowers I’d never seen before. I can’t describe how much I loved being there. I loved every moment of it. It was cloudy and humid and quiet and I smelled and touched everything.
I never wanted to leave.
The Austin Nature and Science Center was awesome- and free!
We got to see some beautiful rescued raptors. There were 3 barred owls, a great horned owl, some gorgeous turkey vultures, and an awesome, sassy raven! A pair of female ducks named Mac and Cheese shared a pool. None of these animals were releasable due to injuries or the fact that people had made them into pets.
Inside the Center there were tables overflowing with naturalia! Stones, skeletons, taxidermy, and geodes were everywhere! I loved touching the smooth stones and seeing all the critters. It was definitely a neat place to spend a cool morning!