Opening Day Posting

A.V. Walters

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We’ve debated it. After all, we don’t want to appear unfriendly to our new neighbors. Ultimately, we decided that we needed to establish our boundaries. The land has been vacant for twenty-five years and others have come to see it as open land, or even as something to which they have a right. In just this past year we’ve had trespassing mushroom pickers, berry pickers, Christian campers (claiming a leasehold from our neighbor! Lord only knows who has boundary problems in that equation), road commission workers and a farmer who finds it more convenient to park his heavy equipment on our land whilst he works his own. Apparently building a house is not enough to telegraph the message that we are here.

On our back property line, new neighbors, who are diligent about posting their own property, are not mindful of ours. They took a page from the farmer, and planted and poisoned to the very edge of their land, using ours for their tractor access and turnaround. They are not farmers; they plant a large “feed plot” to attract deer. I hope they are better hunters than they are gardeners. They inspired our decision to post, but they weren’t the only reason that we broke down and bought “No Hunting, No Trespassing” signs. As any good psychologist will tell you, one needs to establish healthy boundaries.

Yesterday was a beautiful day and we took full advantage to traipse about the property, hiking, surveying and putting up new signs. The signs from twenty-five years ago are long gone. They were sturdy metal signs, but the words have long since faded, they’ve been shot at, torn down, or the trees on which they were posted have toppled. If we were going to do it, yesterday was the day. Today is Opening Day.

For those who are not rural, Opening Day is a big deal. This next couple of weeks marks the official and traditional hunting season. Of course, folks have been hunting now in the various “special seasons” for months. There’s bow season, and there are special permits for farmers protecting crops. There must also be some kind of special “youth” hunting—because the pictures of tykes and their “trophies” have been in the local paper for weeks. Still, the die-hard traditionalists wait for Opening Day. That’s the day they all head off to go to Deer Camp.

Hunting season is real. Just try getting your car fixed this week (or worse, if you needed a plumber!) Though not entirely divided by gender, for the most part, men disappear this time of year. You can still find them at the hardware store, or buying liquor at Bunting’s Market, but nowhere else. Even the schools have attendance problems.

Rick bought the signs last week, while I was gone. He bought “Michigan lingerie,” too—the ubiquitous orange vests that make you visible in the woods. When I was a kid, hunters wore cammo gear. I guess it’s lucky that someone finally did research and determined that the deer are color blind; now the hunters can stop shooting each other. In past years, we’ve stayed out of the woods in season. It was safer that way. Of course, it was cold and snowy, too. This year is an ENSO year (El Nino Southern Oscillation) which should bring rain to California and a warm, mild winter here. We’re unwilling to surrender our time in our woods, so we suit up for safety. One would think it was unnecessary on one’s own land, but then, one wouldn’t expect Christian campers, either. We’re wearing the vests.

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Cammo hasn’t completely gone out of hunter style, you can buy many, many deer camp accessories with the old pattern, wall paper, upholstered chairs, all-terrain vehicles, even refrigerators and freezers, come in the popular, man-cave pattern.

We wanted to be strategic about the signs. Posting the entire property would be time consuming and expensive. We concentrated our efforts on those areas of known (or suspected) incursion. The back line was easy. Our neighbors had posted numerous, bold, NO TRESPASSING signs, facing in our direction. (They’d even put hand-written additions to their signs, “no cross-country skiing, no hiking.” Sheesh!) We simply posted our orange, day-glo signs to the backs of theirs. There’s a comfortable, tit-for-tat in it, that is satisfying.

Another neighbor had joined in the no-cross-country-skiing litany. We posted there, too. We have always welcomed respectful neighborly use. What is it with this antipathy towards a sport that is so light on the land? And, from people driving ATVs and tractors, too! Go figure.

The surprise was on the Northern line. It’s low-lying, marshy with a small creek running through. We didn’t expect anything there, but it was a nice day and we were walking perimeters. Lo and behold—a neighbor on that side had set up his deer blind on the very edge of his property, facing ours! He’d amply chummed the area (his and ours) with apples. It’s a lovely spot and all—but rules are rules, and if you want to hunt on someone else’s land, you ask first. So we posted there, too. It’ll come as an unwelcome surprise, this morning, on Opening Day, when he sees our orange signs.

There was another odd thing. All around his chummed territory, there were a few apples up high, in the trees. These are not apple trees. We wondered, what possible purpose would those apples serve, up high like that? We decided to ask our friend, Fred, hunter extraordinaire. He laughed, “The hunter didn’t put them there. The thieving squirrels did.” Apparently hunters must endure boundary violations, too. The squirrels make off with the free food—decorating the area like some Christmas tableau. I guess we’re all ready now, for Opening Day.

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