Fall is a nasty time for avid hunters and anglers.
At first blush, such a thing seems odd to say, as fall is the time when hunters hunt. As well, autumn is one of the best times to catch trout, a season cherished by fly fishers across the Interior.
It’s in the nature of the opportunities the dilemma lives; the very bounty of the season makes it all so contemptible. With only 12 weeks (give or take a few) between the opening of hunting season and the time when ice seals up our lakes, every free weekend becomes a choice between the rod and rifle, a struggle between the desire to fish and the longing to hunt.
I envy those fortunate few who have chosen their pastimes and stick unerringly to their choice. There are some for whom fishing is only a pleasant way to kill time until the start of hunting season. And others have long ago forsaken the gun in favour of the rod and can truly commit to fishing when leaves turn yellow and take their annual plummet.
I’m not so fortunate. I still like both, although I’m starting to concede that fishing is easier than hunting as it requires fewer early mornings and less physical work. Despite that, I often find myself torn, particularly in the early fall, when the fishing days are heating up and the really good deer hunting is still a ways off.
When I’m sitting on a lake in late September and the fishing is slow, I start to second-guess my choice. I wonder what the grouse are doing and how many there might be on my favourite grouse grounds. And when I’m wandering the bush in search of birds and beasts and seeing only trees, rocks and squirrels, my mind drifts to the possibility I’m missing some excellent fishing.
It’s a no-winner all around and I see no easy solution. The obvious answer is to commit to one activity, preferring it over the other. But which one? And how does make such an awful choice?
I talked to Kamloops fly-fishing master Brian Chan about this recently and he acknowledged the terrible choice that needs to be made. He is an enthusiastic and determined bowhunter now, having picked up the sport a few years ago. He is also a lifelong passionate fly-fisher and this is one of the best times of the year to chase trout.
Bowhunting makes the choice a little easier, we both agreed, as hunting with a bow adds nine days to the start of the season. The Sept. 1 to Sept. 9 archery-only season is a beautiful time to be in the field with a bow. The days and evenings are warm and deer are abundant.
Both Brian and I were fortunate enough to take advantage of that early season and we both killed deer with arrows in the first couple of days, which freed up the possibility of fishing all through September. I know Brian has fished a ton through the past few weeks and I squeaked a couple of days on our local lakes. It was great to be able to do so without second-guessing choices or feeling conflicted.
October is here now, however, and once again choices must be made. The fishing is only getting better as the days shorten and the nights cool. Hunting is also improving as winter begins to hint at its coming. How will I choose for the rest of the year? I wish I had a clear answer.
I suppose I will, at least in part, let the weather decide. If there is any positive to be found in autumn’s hunting-versus-fishing dilemma, it’s that fishing is generally more enjoyable and productive when the days are pleasant and hunting is often best when the weather is unsettled and threatening.
I will also base decisions based on the schedules of those with whom I hunt or fish. It’s hard to align schedules with others at the best of times, so I’ll be more likely to let others’ interests decide my own.
Lastly, I think I will look for that magical paradise where it’s possible to engage in both activities more or less at the same time. I have a five-day trip planned soon with a friend and our location is still undecided. I know we will be in the backcountry somewhere and I think I will look hard for a wild place that also offers good access to great fishing.
My canoe will be on top of my Jeep and my rods behind the seat as I pack up bow and arrows in search for whitetails. When it comes to making choices, perhaps it’s best to keep as many open as possible.
Robert Koopmans is an avid angler and hunter who spends as much time as possible in B.C.’s wild places. He also hosts the Hunting & Fishing British Columbia podcast (find it on Apple Podcasts). To share a thought, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.