Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
We hop out of the truck on the bright, sunny afternoon.
She’s bundled up like she’s always done during hunting season – whether it’s 50 degrees or 10 degrees.
“Do you think I’ll need my heavy coat?”, she asks while I’m standing there in a flannel shirt. I grin and tell her she’ll be fine with a few less layers of clothes. She slips into my old safety harness and we start off through the hayfield towards her hunting spot for the evening.
As we march along the edge of the field, I hear her soft footsteps behind me. Just like when she was a youngster and tagged along hunting deer. A smile crosses my face at the thought and the memory. A few minutes later and she’s perched for her wait. “Is your gun loaded? Is the safety on? Are you buckled in?”, I ask and ask again, just like I have dozens of times over the years.
“Yes Dad”, she replies with a slight tone to her voice, I’m sure brought on by the fact that she’s not a 12 year old anymore. I leave her to her watch and then strike out towards my own hunting spot.
The afternoon passes by quickly. A cool breeze in my face, the woods are alive with movement.
Two yearlings mill about, picking through the leaf litter for fallen acorns. Just out of bow range, I’m content to watch them and pass the time. A crash and beating of hooves to my left. A young six pointer is harassing a doe all over the hillside as he seeks her attention. The old doe is having none of it and eventually runs off towards the kid. I reach for my cell phone and send a text to her to be on the lookout for a love-sick buck chasing a doe. A few moments later she replies that she had heard deer running through the thick stuff, but couldn’t see the culprits making the noise.
I settle back in and continue to watch the two young does to my right.
One’s gaze is locked onto the brush in front of me. I study the young deer’s body language and know she’s nervous and for good reason. A mature buck steps from behind the tangle of grapevines and honeysuckle. A slick, clean 8 pointer, he immediately locks eyes on the doe and trots towards her. This buck too has love on his mind and proceeds to chase the two young does around me for the next 10 minutes.
“Oh, I wish she was in this treestand,” I think to myself about my daughter. The buck is a nice one, not huge, but one any hunter would be proud to hang their tag on. The buck eventually chases the does away from my spot and dashes any chance at one of my arrows finding them.
The sun has set and the light is beginning to fade. The kid and I have traded a few text messages back and forth about what we’ve seen. For me, deer activity all afternoon, nine different deer in total. For her, a couple of noisy, fat squirrels.
I fire off one more text and let her know that I’ll be heading that direction to meet up with her. As I climb down from my hiding spot, I again wish she had been sitting in my stand. I begin my walk towards her and think of all the times we’ve spent in the woods. She’s 21 years old now, soon to be 22, the young lady has to make time to do this. A senior at Hanover College and eying her grad school options, working part time and having a social life makes it tough to spend time with her dad, but she still manages too. A thought of gratitude fills me and again, an unconscious smile comes to my face as memories of past hunts with the kiddo enter my mind.
Just as I stepped over an old woven wire fence, a shotgun report rings out.
Close. It can only be the kid.
I reach her spot and that familiar grin flanked by dimples is on her face. She re-counted the story of the shot and led me to her prize. A fine, fat doe. We shared in the moment and again that rush of memories poured in.
I’ve been blessed to be able to hunt a lot and have some success in the woods and created many memories, but I’d trade all of my hunts for days like this with my girl.
– David Hewitt