By: Joel Penkala

What to do on a rainy day. As it happens this rainy day is in mid August. Not exactly the best time to be stuck indoors. There are still plenty of things yet undone around the homestead but so be it, today I will relegate myself to inside chores.

As a self proclaimed “outside kid” even the thought of being stuck inside for an entire day can make you seize up tighter than the rusty International that has been sitting on your grandpa’s lower forty for the past 50 years. Like that old relic, I too fell like I have been sacrificed to the slow degradation of time, left to fight a battle from which no victory could be won. Once I accept that it is futile to fight mother nature and the foul weather, I begin to think about what other battle I might fight (and win) today.

If “Winter is coming” is the motto of the house Stark in Game of Thrones, “hunting season is coming” would be the motto of house Woodsbum. Nearly all rainy day projects that come to mind first revolve around what I like to call “the other 85”. As a hobby, I find that the time spent in the field hunting and fishing only makes up about 15% of the time I spend on the sport. The other 85% of the time is not spent in pursuit of game, but in the preparation for that chase.

First and foremost, I will go clean guns for a few hours first. I have several that could use a quick check up and wipe down. Generally those are the ones that sit idle on the rack more often than they find themselves out in the elements. Though I can’t use them for hunting in New Jersey, I still have several rifles in my collection. They are favorites that I picked up, usually when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a deal I just could not pass up. A Savage 99 takedown in .300 Savage is one that I find needs some love. The hints of light surface rust are starting on the action and the stock sees a bit of dust. A hit with some solvent and a light wipe with some steel wool takes care of the threatening rust. I follow suit with the rest of the collection taking each from its designated spot on the racks, showing them all a bit of much needed love.

I jump from rifles and .22s over to shotguns. The more used shotguns get a good once over that includes basic cleaning of barrels and actions. The workhorses of my collection go through field stripping and cleaning. The Remington 11-96 auto, the 11-87 duck gun, and my Stevens 315 double get the full spa treatment in preparation for the coming season. There is nothing worse, and no excuse for not maintaining your firearms.

Proprietors of collections, all types of collections, can understand the need to go through on occasion all the parts which make up the whole of their pride and joy. Handling each gun reminds me why I started collecting in the first place. I owe my father for that, and for getting me into the shooting sports at a young age. Since we started collecting, the goal was always to obtain a wide variety of actions, makes, and models of sporting rifles and shotguns. We would disassemble each new gun, learning about the different nuances of the actions, comparing and contrasting them to others we were familiar with, fixing and restoring them as needed.

Feeling much better about this rainy day, and knowing that I have given attention to the collection, I turn to going over other gear with an added enthusiasm. Over that first hurdle of getting started on something this rainy day, I start to organize the man cave. Meticulous, I go over head lamps, calls, decoys, face paints, shells. Whet stones come out and all the knives get a fresh edge. The gambrel and hoist are rehung in the garage. Soon gear is spread out across all available surfaces. Broad heads and arrows are checked, boots are dusted off, new patches are sewn over the old ones to cover holes in my old upland vest.

As each item is pulled from its resting spot, the memories are perceptibly, almost tangibly attached. Open the bin containing the Carharts and bird vest and immediately the smell hits you. A Sharptail Grouse feather falls out of the game bag and instantly I am back in Montana walking the dusty prairie that I walked last fall. My minds eye is chasing English Setter tails, mile after mile, over the endless horizon. The lanyard of calls has a new band from that big, late season Canada Goose. The memories of good friends and a down right frigid February day race back. Organizing the gear is akin to remembering, then reliving, all the memories, good times and rough, that you experience in the great outdoors.

When finally I emerge from the basement I realize that I have spent the better part of this rainy day. It feels good. I have accomplished a great deal, and now am one day closer to being prepared for the coming season. I lost myself, if only for a day, in the hobbies and way of life I love. More than that though, I have reinvigorated that side of me which lives October to October. I think that I am almost looking forward to another few rainy days. Well, almost….