Sunday, November 16, 2008
I listened for a minute to the wind and sleety snow pummel my tent, but I was tired from the day and cozy in my bag and I didn’t stay awake long. Earlier I’d snuck into the woods in the dark and hiked, with the aid of my headlight, to the foot of my stand. The walk in took 40 minutes and I hastily pulled my heavy hunting bibs from my pack and slipped them on before climbing up and resting my back against the tree. It was 20 minutes from shooting time and after my clumsy hike I finally relaxed and felt invisible as the day dawned.
I hunt big woods for deer. It’s some kind of adventure camping and hunting in country I could get lost in. Sometimes I use my canoe to get in where deer see few people, but this time I headed for my favorite spot on top of a big hill where I placed a stand before season. My stand is sort of my comfort zone, and from there I’ll still-hunt to the north when I can sit no more. There’s nothing between my deer stand and Canada except woods and lakes. I usually see and pass on quite a few deer. I like hunting the season out and watching the woods change as snow and winter approach. I like watching the deer sign progress as the rut develops. After a busy and fast month or so of following bird dogs and swinging on grouse, I like the slow motion of deer hunting and the quiet. I like taking time to notice everything – birds flitting, squirrels rustling, pine marten that I never would have seen otherwise. I like eating a sandwich someplace I’ve never been before, and wonder if I’ll ever find again. I like the rifle in my hands and feeling like a predator. Fresh buck scrapes give me butterflies, and when I see a good buck my heart beats so loudly I’m afraid it will scare the deer away. And when the day is drawing down I’ll find my way back to the stand, where I’ll sit and watch the shadows grow to darkness. Then the hike out and back to camp.
On the second morning I lit the heater and lantern in my tent and had a quick breakfast before I knocked the snow off from the inside and entered the woods again in the dark. I’d seen only one deer on opening day and once again I climbed toward my stand in a stiff wind that had been blowing for two days. It seemed as if little game was moving -- the wind and snow had caught everything by surprise – and I wasn’t confident the second day would be any different than the first. I sat on my stand and pulled my earlaps tight to the wind. I must have dozed a bit because I was startled by the footfalls of a deer. I looked up to see a doe fast approaching. She ran by with a buck zigzagging behind. A fast and poor shot was offered and I didn’t take it but I took note of how wide the rack was as the buck disappeared into the cover. All was still when I blew two bleats on my call. Minutes later I heard the buck grunt, then spotted his legs first walking quickly my way. Then his antlers, and finally his body. He was coming back to find the doe he thought he'd heard. That sort of thing hardly ever works for me and I took it as something of a gift. I pressed the trigger and my season was over.