In hunting and fishing, open season is a time during which it is legal to capture or kill a certain kind of animal. Typically hunting/fishing seasons are annual or semi-annual; even during the season there is typically a limit on the amount of creatures you can hunt, trap, or fish.

Open season is also an idiom used to exaggerate criticism or negative feelings toward a person. For example:

"It's open season on deer, so we went hunting for the weekend," or

"Why is everyone attacking me at once? I feel like it's open season," or

"George W. Bush has declared open season on terrorists."

So I spent the weekend of January 7-8, as well as the preceding Friday, down in a little Census Designated Place called Encino. There are a grand total of 177 people there. This is in Brooks County, Texas. Speaking in terms of counties, it's one in from the Gulf of Mexico, and one up from the border. The nearest city is Corpus Christi. The landscape is dominated by scrub, with the occasional oak tree. It's warm, even in January. I spent this interval standing in a field blasting away at little birds typically regarded as symbols of peace. Yup, that's right, dove hunting.

One doesn't hunt in a vacuum. Allow me to paint you a picture of the locale. Amusingly enough, Encino is located on the south side of an Immigration checkpoint on US Highway 281. It's only fifty miles or so from the border, and roughly the same to the Gulf. Fresh shrimp can be had if you drive into Falfurrias, which is about twenty miles north. It's pretty flat there. The area is dominated by ranching, including the famous King Ranch.

I was at a small un-named ranch which is pretty much surrounded by King Ranch. The ranch house is a small wood building, with a bunkhouse off to the right, forming a lazy reverse L. The corner of this L is formed by a kitchen and a covered eating area. The bunkhouse has two rooms, the Bud Light and Coors light rooms, which sleep ten and sixteen, respectively. These are used solely by hunters. The ranch hands live in house trailers up the road. The big feature of the main area is the oak grove. These things are huge. The youngest of them might be about two hundred years old. The oldest? At least five hundred. Across the fence, on a neighboring ranch, now unoccupied, you can see the grove in a more or less natural state. It looks like I imagine heaven would.

The hunting was basically this: get up before dawn, walk out into a pasture, and wait. After official civilian dawn, we were allowed to shoot. And boy, did we ever. I'm pretty bad, so I shot about eighty shells through my step-dad's old Remington 1100. I only got seven dove. Total. The limit for a single hunt (of which we had three) is fifteen. I still had fun. The cleaning was the worst part.

The high point of the whole trip, however, was a half-assed attempt at hog hunting. Feral hogs are a huge problem in Texas. The owners of the neighboring tiny ranch asked if we wanted to go and hunt a hog or two. I agreed, as well as my cousin Kevin and my druncle Dale. We hopped in this utility vehicle, and with Dale drunk-driving us, we hauled ass at one in the morning to the next ranch. Fog rolled in, but I still got to shoot an ancient Carcano into the night.

I got home late Sunday night, reeking of sweat, completely exhausted. I was beat, and gross. I can't wait for the opening of the next season.

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