Do you prefer sunrises, or sunsets? Both are special times. Outdoorsmen have long known that the beginning and the end of each day are times of activity for fish and wildlife. Sunrise and sunset are like the shift change whistle at an industrial facility: The day shift is replaced by the night shift or vice versa, and the activities of nocturnal animals overlap those of creatures with a more daytime inclination.
Plus, times of low, changing light offer concealment for, ironically, both predators and prey — and both seemed inclined to try to take advantage. So the annoying rooster owned by your neighbor isn’t the only creature that stirs when that first barely discernible bit of morning lightness appears in the eastern sky. He’s joined by all sorts of critters, both aquatic and terrestrial.
Likewise, plenty of animals above and below the water get active at day’s end when the sun has left twilight in its wake. People who spend any serious amount of time in the woods or on the water accept these facts without thinking about it, as sure as grass is green and the sky is blue.
But people who live a more urban lifestyle know it too. Anyone who studies a backyard birdfeeder knows that it might be visited at just about any hour of the day, but that most of the action occurs early and late. And isn’t it cool to walk out to fetch the newspaper before the sun gets up? It’s quiet in the neighborhood, but not all quiet. Human noise is at a minimum, but birds are singing and flitting about, squirrels are chasing around trees, and shy rabbits have boldly ventured out away from cover and are feeding in the lawns while swiveling their radar ears about. If there’s fishy water on your route, you’ll see splashes, wakes, and the expanding ripple-rings made by fish dappling at the surface.
My earliest childhood memories of hunting and fishing with the adults always, always include the pre-dawn ritual of “getting there:” Being shaken awake way, way before any reasonable hour, sleepily pulling on clothing suitable for whatever that day’s outing entailed, piling into a vehicle or a boat (or maybe a vehicle first and then a boat) and driving, paddling, hiking, wading or whatever else was needed so we’d be in place well before the sun rose.
Sitting in a duck blind waiting for shooting time, sitting in a car sipping that last bit of hot chocolate before it was light enough to put the bird dogs on the ground, tarrying at the boat ramp waiting for safe light when we could hook up and run across the lake. Stumbling through the dark, scary, clothes-grabbing woods while trying to find the deer stand. All so that we’d be “there” — wherever “there” might be — at sunrise.
Oddly, I don’t have such strong childhood memories of fishing or hunting around sunset. I know that we did those things late in the day though. I can recall many an evening dove shoot that peaked just before sunset, causing us to glance repeatedly at the time so as to not shoot past legal hours. And cleaning stringers of fish after dark that were caught as the day faded away. But for sure, during my young life sunrise was a bigger deal than was sunset for our sporting ventures.
Later in life, things changed. Reality intruded and work became a thing. It’s easier logistically to hunt or fish after work than it is to do those things before work. Fur, feathers, blood, fish slime and the stains and smells that go with them aren’t really welcome at most workplaces — even when “work” involves fishing, which has been the case for much of my career. So my personal fishing and hunting was much more likely to involve sunset than sunrise for many years.
But of late, I’ve found myself circling back around to the early part of the day. As I age, I find myself settling into an evening routine which includes dinner at a reasonable, seldom-varying hour, followed by a flop onto the sofa. If I had grandkids to take hunting or fishing, I’d be inclined to do so early in the day because that would best suit my old-fart routine. I think I’ve become my grandpa.
Capt. Ralph Allen runs the King Fisher Fleet of sightseeing and fishing charter boats located at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and photographer, and is a past president of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Call him at 941-639-2628 or email Captain@KingFishFleet.com.