I have several such get-aways. It may sound crazy, but I enjoy being out cutting firewood, working on the pasture fence, bush hogging and such things as this. If you can see a pattern in these things, it must be something about being outside. However, my favorite pastime (in season, of course) is deer hunting.
It all starts with anticipation of the hunt, checking the weather, phase of the moon and other things for what I think might turn into a successful hunt. Harvesting a deer is the goal, but is not “make it or break it” criteria for enjoying a day in the woods. However, some degree of success every now and then is appreciated and lets me feel that I am not totally wasting my time. The memory of last season when I didn’t even get a shot is still fresh in my mind.
I had the opportunity recently to take a day off to go hunting. The weather had been a bit too warm but the temperature was falling and I anticipated the weather being good for hunting.
The night before a hunt is well spent in preparation to make sure everything is in order or packed. I have gotten to the woods before and discovered that I didn’t have my gloves, flashlight or things like that.
The first challenge of the hunt is to get out of bed. Lying in a warm bed at 3:30 A.M. and knowing that the coldest, frostiest morning of the year is waiting takes some motivation. I walked out of the house to see what appeared to be a winter wonderland. The frost was heavy and illuminated by a two-thirds moon shinning brightly and directly overhead. The warm bed was now forgotten in the beauty of this pre-dawn scene.
The drive to the hunting club was just as beautiful. The countryside had not yet waken up. Cows appeared as dark shapes lying in frosty pastures waiting for the dawn. Fog was heavy where the road ran beside the Tennessee River as I approached the sleepy river town of Waterloo. The view from the hills above Waterloo was a beautiful sight in itself. The eastern sky was beginning to lighten; the fog lay in the hollows. The location of the river was known only by the wide expanse of thick fog a couple of miles to the south. The view reminded me of the time my wife and I were in the Smokies and drove to Clingman’s Dome to watch the sunrise. That also was well worth all the effort.
Every phase of deer hunting is a challenge or a competition. Satisfaction comes from meeting each of these challenges. As a novice hunter, I can’t nearly begin to tell all the challenges to be overcome. There is the challenge to use the wind to your advantage. If ignored, the wind can ruin your hunt as soon as it starts. Deer also have a very keen sense of smell. There is the challenge to eliminate and cover offensive odors and use other odors to attract. There is the challenge to stay dry in the rain, warm in cold weather or sometimes the combination of the two.
I remember a pleasant hunting experience in which I didn’t even get a shot. I was in a little spot of summer cedars, in a cold rain, in a folding chair that was just inches away from an electric fence. Undetected, I watched a doe graze for about a half hour. I didn’t fire a shot but I beat the challenges. I stayed dry, warm, unseen, un-smelled and even un-shocked. The rain was actually pleasant, sounding similar to rain on a tin roof as it fell on my poncho.
This day was a nice day for hunting but the morning passed un-eventfully. I got back to my stand that afternoon and waited but saw nothing until the daylight was fading away. Then I saw something white, a nose, move from behind a pine tree. Something stepped from behind the tree and I could see that it was a deer, but probably a doe, I thought. When I looked at it through the scope, I could tell it was a buck and probably with the best rack that I had personally seen while hunting.
I had a shot but it was long, probably the longest possible shot on any field on our hunting club. With daylight fading, I didn’t think I could wait longer for a possible closer shot. I guess you can tell that this information is turning into an excuse. I did take the shot and was aggravated as I watched him whirl and run unharmed back into the woods. This reminds me, one of the challenges I should have mentioned before is the challenge of making a good shot when the opportunity presents itself.
Of course, I wish the results were different, but I had to be pleased at some of the challenges that I had overcome. I had used some of the scent control and attractant products (buck urine) sold by our Co-op. The buck had come out of the woods at a place that I had walked across three times and toward where I put the buck urine and was unalarmed. While driving home, I couldn’t help but think I need to make an appointment for additional therapy.
Darrell Thompson is the manager of Lawrence County Exchange in Moulton.