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Popular as fall is among the rest of us, employers must dread the season. Absenteeism will be rampant among those who like to be where the wild things roam, and now’s the time to be out there. Truth be told, I have probably missed more work time in October and November than I have throughout the rest of the year. In fact, when I was in school, I’d routinely get high grades in September, and then run up a string of Fs in October and November that would take me all year to make up!
I am not the only one. Back in my shoe shop days, when I was foreman of the Making Room, I’d pretty much have to run the place on my own because everyone else was out “sick.” A few of my best workers actually quit their jobs to go hunting because company policy wouldn’t allow them to take a day or two off just to be in the woods. (In fact, company “policy” was no days off for any reason, but that’s all behind us now!) They’d give up their positions, seniority and benefits just to spend Thanksgiving week in the woods. Come Dec. 1 we’d hire them back as new employees. They didn’t care and I understood – if I could have done the same I would have!
It shouldn’t be difficult to understand the lure of the outdoors at this time of year. Maine is probably the most beautiful of all wild places to be in the East, with its thick woods, blue skies, clear temperatures and abundant game. Hunters from all over the world come to Maine for its legendary deer, bird and waterfowl hunting opportunities, and the bear and moose hunting here is among the best in the country.
I have looked forward to October in Maine since the early 1960s. For me, it was all about partridge hunting and, later, deer hunting. Maine is one of the few places in the world where you can still walk gravel back roads and expect to see enough birds to fill the Saturday bean pot. I remember one October back in the 1970s when I lived on the McCorrison Road in Orneville. I lived in the only house on the Milo end of the road, and another hunter I knew lived in the only house on the other end of the road. We had the weirdest of hunting relationships, too – each day in October, we’d head out from our homes and walk the road in search of birds or ducks (there were a lot of beaver flowages along the way). I’d walk, he’d walk, and occasionally we’d hear the other shoot at a departing bird or duck. We’d meet at Philpot Ridge Road about halfway between. I’d wave, he’d wave, or we’d just hold up our birds, and then we’d turn around and hunt our ways back home.
I didn’t know the man’s name and never spoke to him, but we had one thing in common – October! I’d be there every day and he knew it, and we just seemed to expect it. This went on for a few years till I moved out of the area, but I can still remember him coming down the road, often in the pouring rain, with his single-barrel shotgun over his arm and a couple of partridge hanging from his belt.
The draw of October is such that I suffered mightily through a miserable day job that didn’t turn me loose till 3:30 in the afternoon. As we all know, there’s not much time left in the day when you don’t get home till 4 p.m. In fact, by the end of November the sun sets (legally) at 3:59! Needless to say, if you’re going to work and participate in the hunting season you’re going to have to hustle! I was lucky there were no traffic cops out that way because I may have exceeded the speed limit a time or two on the way home. But, if I timed things just right and had no obstacles, I could get home, change into my hunting clothes, grab the gun and dog and be out the door in time to hoof it to the nearest alder patch or beaver bog for a few minutes of shooting. On the best of days I could bring home a limit of birds and ducks, sometimes both, but I always figured I was lucky if I even saw anything.
It’s never fun to rush things, especially when the goal is recreation, but I managed to find some good sport in a very short period of time. I was lucky enough to have several apple orchards, waterways and alder runs nearby, and at the very least I could bump around the shore of a beaver pond and kick up a woodcock or a few black ducks before dark. I actually became so heartsick at having to spend just 30 minutes or so in the woods each day that I quit the day job and took up writing for a living. That way, I figured I could hunt all day and write all night – a good plan (if not just a tad unrealistic!).
I would not recommend that you choose unemployment so you can hunt, fish or trap this fall, but surely there’s a way for you to get out there to enjoy the bounty of Maine’s autumn sporting opportunities without having to quit your job. A few hours in the morning or afternoon are all it takes to keep the angst from becoming unbearable. I know I can’t stay indoors for more than a day or so before I get the urge to wander. If I don’t get my feet wet at least a couple of times each week I feel as if I’m missing out, and sooner or later I have to make a break for it. I don’t know why I feel better out there, but I know I do, and I’m guessing you will, too. Find a way, make the move, take some time – there’s no better time to be an “absentee” than right now!
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