Along The Trail 11-20-14

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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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The morning came too quickly as my alarm buzzed me from a deep sleep.

Burning the candle at both ends between work, personal life and bowhunting had been taking a toll on me. Once more, out of bed before anyone should be, drive to my hunting spot and then hike in and wait.

It’s cold and blustery, the dark purple, blue and black sky lit by a frosty moon.

I make my way across the cut beans and cast a shadow across the field in the moonlight. Last night’s rain makes for a silent approach as the normally dry, crunching of fallen hickory leaves are now like a soft carpet under foot.

I’m up and in and my routine begins.

Daybreak is on the horizon, a battle between the sun over my right shoulder and the moon to my left. The cool morning air is damp and thick as I shiver a time or two waiting on daylight. The sun finally manages to peek through the cloud cover and with it, the breeze picks up. I smile as the wind is in my favor this morning.

Not long and the woods are coming to life.

Wrens and tufted titmouse light on the branches next to me. Beneath my stand, chipmunks pop and chatter and scurry along gathering seeds and chasing each other. The scraping of claws coming down the shagbark behind can only mean that the squirrels are awake and on a hunt of their own to stock up for the winter.

An hour in and a slight “crunch” in the soft leaves – a doe sneaking across the creek below me. Too far to even hazard a shot from here, but a good sign of things to come.

A few minutes later and another sound. This time a small framed buck slipping through the cold, damp woods. He’s close enough to temp an arrow, but I know my limitations with the primitive selfbow and he passes through unharmed.

Almost 9:30 a.m. now as I check the time. Just then, movement catches my eye. Another small buck making his way through the cedars towards my white oak and the active scrape underneath. I’ve seen this young fellow before, a few weeks earlier, he caught me moving and had me dead to rights. But this time my mind is made up, if he comes, the Osage bow will be put to work.

As if on a string, the five-pointer comes in – 15 yards away, I wait for a quartering shot.

“Pick a spot” goes through my mind as it always does at the moment of truth. The string comes back effortlessly and everything stops for the moment.

Focus behind the deer’s shoulder…breathing slowed…

I hold tension for a second longer and the cedar arrow is away. The buck bolts and I immediately know that the job is done. In a matter of seconds, he is finished, just as every bowhunter wants, quick and clean.

I look across the creek bed at the deer lying there and raise my eyes above and whisper a thanks. As I make my way towards the young buck, I glance at the simple stick and string in my hand. I’m in awe of the lightness of the wooden bow, the simplicity of it, the graceful arc of its limbs.

Beautiful and deadly at the same time.

An effective weapon for certain in the right hands. I run my hands over the young buck’s shoulder and I can’t help but wonder how many primitive bowhunters have been taken deer over the centuries with a tool just like this and I’m humbled to be in their ranks and to feel a connection to a distant past.

– David Hewitt