Along The Trail 10-9-14

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Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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Saturday morning and the alarm jolts me to life at a ridiculous hour.

For a moment, I contemplate pulling the blankets over my head and going back to sleep. No one with a lick of sense should be up this early on their day off, but like a siren’s song, the woods are calling and I’ve got a long drive ahead of me if I want to be on my perch before daybreak.

I follow the worn trail through the dry soybeans like I have hundreds of times before towards the dark tree line. My eyes adjust to the inky blackness and just of hint of dawn is on the horizon.

Thick clouds mean day light will be a long time coming this morning. I round the bend in the path and pause before entering the trees. I look and listen, then step into another world.

Last night’s rain showers make for a stealthy approach to my hunting spot.

The cool, damp air adds flavor to the earthy scent of the woods. I breathe deep and inhale the smell of autumn. The leaf litter, the duff and the aroma of the soil all mingled together.

I unconsciously count my steps to the tree stand near the bottom of the hill next to a dry creek bed – 170 all told.

I find my landmark in the dark, a scraggly, old cedar tree and make a hard right. My hiding spot is only a few more steps further as I quicken my pace.

At the base of the big maple, I gather my gear and tie my longbow onto the pull cord. It’s dead calm in the woods this morning, almost too calm. No robins chirping, no song birds singing. The steely gray clouds add to the eerie feeling.

I quickly climb my ladder and find my seat. My back firmly planted against the tree trunk and an almost audible sigh leaves my body.

My 45 year-old, rational mind knows that there is nothing to be afraid of in the woods, but that tiny voice of my imagination, that 12 year-old boy in me still finds a spookiness in the gloomy woods.

I sit back and shake my head at my own silliness, but secretly glad to be in the safety of my hiding spot 20-feet above the forest floor as I grip my bow’s handle.

Dawn is creeping in, the woods turning from black to gray. Shapes are emerging, shadows changing and growing…still no wind, still calm and quiet. A pair of barred owls begin to shout their lonely call to one another further down the holler adding to the solemn feel of the October woods.

I lean back, whisper a thanks Above for another season and wait for the woods to come to life.

“This is why I get out of bed on my day off,” I think to myself with a grin.

– David Hewitt