Along The Trail 11-27-14

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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 breeze blows the thawing snow from the branches and rattles the few remaining leaves hanging on for dear life. The low 30’s paired with a stiff northwest wind will make for a cold afternoon’s sit.

The deer woods looks more like mid-January than late November thanks to our unseasonable autumn snow storm and frigid temperatures. A few song birds keep me company on my snowy watch. The crimson feathers of the male cardinals almost glowing against the white backdrop and the neon blue of a handful of jays add some much needed color to the drab woods, muted in grays and browns.

I hunker back against the tree trunk and bury my neck deeper into my coat’s collar to fight the chill. I pull my bright orange watch cap further down over my ears for some warmth. An hour into my vigil and not a creature moving other than the feathered friends.

I know a doe and her twin yearlings frequent the hillside that I’m perched above. Their heart shaped hoof prints left behind in the snow give them away. From my vantage point, I can see their trail leading out of a thicket of cedars and brambles off to my left. I have my fingers crossed that the fat, old whitetail will pass by close enough for one of my arrows to bite.

Evening is rushing in and with it, darkness.

Off in the distance, I hear the “boom” of a shotgun and my mind automatically wonders if a gun hunter was successful. As the light fades, more shots ring out, some close, but most several ridges away as the echo off in the distance.

The deer are up and moving by the sounds of things and I can only hope that the same is true at my hiding spot.

Only a few minutes of shooting light left, the sky turning pink and gray as the sun dips for the day. The crunch of frozen snow brings me to attention.

Soon, the dark, brown coat of a fine doe is visible as she slips along the path from the cedars. The old gal comes to a fork in the trail – left and she will fill my freezer; right and she’ll win tonight’s challenge.

The doe pauses as she nibbles on some boughs.

My hand tenses on the longbow’s grip, hoping she steps my way.

I can feel my heart begin to pound, my breathing quicken.

She makes her choice.

The old doe chooses wisely and alertly makes her way down the trail to the right and safe from my arrows. I relax my shoulders and exhale a sigh. I watch the deer drift off into the darkened woods and vanish like a ghost in the shadows.

Time to make for home and hike out for the evening. No venison was made this hunt, but as I look at the beautiful red sunset and feel the cold wind on my face, I am thankful for everyday, every hour I get to spent out here.

I hope that in this season of Thanksgiving that each of us can pause for a moment, slow down and find something to be grateful for and to give thanks to the Lord for all the blessings we have.

Happy Thanksgiving from ‘Along the Trail’.

– David Hewitt