Fall is such a magical time of year: the leaves begin to change, there is a nip in the air, frost on the ground, and a hunting trip to take. In honor of cooler nights and shorter days brewers are filling our steins with delicious malty beverages reminiscent of Oktoberfest, and smoky porters and creamy stouts.
For those people who know me well they know that fall is my favorite time of the year, and not just because of the flavorful beer. It’s my favorite season because of the countless great memories I’ve made with family and friends in the woods. This year, even though I now live further from the North Maine Woods than I ever have before, was no different.
A few years ago my roommate, Nick, and I started going up to his family camp in far northern Maine to get away from the stress of the week and embrace the simpler lifestyle brought about by no electricity, plumbing, or cell phone service. While at the camp we would enjoy hunting for partridge, campfires, and good conversation with good beer unbroken by the constant interruption of checking our phones. I am thankful that this trip has turned into an annual tradition and grown to include more friends each year.
Before embarking on this year’s trip to camp I decided to bring along beers that were appropriate for my favorite season. In this case I brought to camp Jack’s Abby Copper Legend, and Shipyard Brewing’s fall sampler that was complete with their famous Pumpkinhead, Smashing Pumpkin, and Coffee Porter beers. Brews fit for enjoying in front of a smoky fire, under the stars in the crisp fall air.
This year’s hunting trip happened last weekend when my friends and I woke up early (3:45 a.m. on Friday morning early) packed up the trucks, and headed up to Ashland where we would gas up and buy any remaining items we needed before disappearing into the woods for two days. The weather was incredible on the drive and as we drove alone the interstate through Medway I was able to watch the sunrise over the Penobscot River and see the first rays of sun glinting off the frost hanging in the trees.
Once we reached our destination we quickly unpacked—when I say unpacked I mean we threw everything not needed to hunt with into the middle of the camp floor—and headed out in search of birds. The weather was beautiful and sunny, the leaves had mostly fallen from the trees at this point but the beech leaves were a vibrant orange and yellow stubbornly clinging to their branches.
My friend Nathanael, and I had excellent luck that afternoon as we bagged out—shot our limit—in roughly five hours (to put into perspective, I have been hunting each year of my adult life and have only bagged out one other time) and headed back to camp to clean the birds and get ready for dinner. When we got back to camp no one was there yet so we decided to start a campfire and have a celebratory beer in honor of our good fortunes that afternoon.
Sitting around the fire drinking a Shipyard with the sun sinking low behind the trees painting the horizon a brilliant pink and orange we reflected on our day. We swapped stories of how we had pulled off some illustrious shot, or how this day related to other hunting trips we had had in our youth. I shared how my dad would take me out of school sometimes in October to go hunting with him and how the lessons learned—respect for nature, never take more than you need, never kill for sport, and never waste what you kill—were the memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. As more members of our hunting party returned to camp similar stories were swapped; it was an incredible evening with incredible people.
Saturday dawned cold and frosty and we rose and left the camp early determined to make the most out of the short amount of time in the woods we had left. Unfortunately for Nathanael, he got a flat tire right when we got to the road we had been driving to which resulted in an hour hiatus from hunting. However, by 8 a.m. with the spare tire on the truck we continued our journey and within two hours we saw 12 birds, and had again bagged out.
We met our other friends Nick and Ben for lunch at a campsite overlooking some waterfalls where we shared our happy news (they did not seem that enthused for us). Nathanael and I had a Maine Beer Company Lunch for lunch and happily told Nick and Ben in great detail how we had gotten our limit so quickly. After lunch we went back to camp and took in the silence and smell of the woods conscious of how precious the remaining time we had there was.
Some things in life truly are better shared with friends. Beer is one, and hunting is another. No matter what you love to do always do it with friends; take it all in and make memories that will last a lifetime. Some of the best memories of my life have been made in the woods in fall, or with friends over a Maine beer, both are traditions that will last a lifetime.