It’s cold up here this time of year.
The late November wind rocks my favorite treestand back and forth, swaying left and right, rhythmically. The afternoon sits are short now and dusk seems to be on the Western sky far too early.
I blow warmth into the fingers of my string hand. I look at the top of my now wrinkled and scarred hand and can’t help but think of how much older I’m getting and how my body seems to be changing with each passing season. Age is turning me into my father and grandpa. The stiff breeze blows in a blast and I tuck my chin into the top of my wool coat and pull my cap a little lower on my ears as my shoulders involuntarily shiver.
I pass the time watching the naked woods. The storms, rain and wind have all combined to chase all the leaves off the trees in my secret little hunting spot. Just a month ago, the big maples, red oaks, hickories and poplars were set afire in their best colors. Crimsons, auburns, bronzes and milky yellow covered the trees. Now, they appear almost lifeless, shells of their autumn beauty, skeletons.
A handful of cardinals and some other tiny songbirds fill the branches and sing, each one trying to out do the others. The squirrels have slowed down as the temperature has dropped. A few still search the fallen leaves for an acorn or leftover hickory or walnut, but by now, most have filled their caches for the long winter ahead. No chipmunks chirping and whistling, no rustling of the leaves this afternoon.
The pale sun is falling and the woods are getting darker.
Gray is creeping in…
Tough to see in the dim light of early evening. I keep my eyes peeled down an old trail that runs along the small creek near my hiding spot. “How many times have I laid eyes on that trail” wanders through my mind as I recall all the deer I’ve seen from here. The well worn path sneaks its way from a cedar thicket, choked with briars, stick tights and multi-floral rose bushes to an open hillside covered with hardwoods and a few white oaks. 20 years of sitting on this bank has given me more than an educated guess as to where the deer will be.
Not much time left as I warm my hands again and admire the beauty of the exotic wood of my recurve bow. I look at the bow’s grip and the high shine it has from being held in the palm of my hand. The oils, salt and sweat doing their magic, polishing the bow to a glossy sheen.
The wind has laid for the night, shooting light is nearly gone.
A pair of barred owls call up and down the valley. A crunch of a huge sycamore leaf down the creek. No doubt a deer, no mistaking the foot falls for any other game. I make out the gray form of the deer’s body as it slips from the tangle of the thicket and make its way towards me. My heart rate quickens, my bow hand grips and my shoulders tense as I make ready to loose an arrow. The animal cuts the distance and I find my shooting window framed by a couple of saplings. It will be over in an instant, quick, clean, efficient. Venison will be made.
But, something doesn’t seem right, doesn’t feel right. Just as the deer enters my shooting lane, I get my first clear view in the low light. The deer’s head turns and reveals two small spikes.
“A buck!” my mind announces!
I grin and instantly, let my bow back down to my lap and relieve the tension on its string. The little buck continues to nibble his way up the trail and over the hill towards a cut corn field. I whisper to him that he’s lucky tonight, had he been a doe, the back of the truck would have been full.
I slip out of the woods and make my way across the cornfield as the sun sinks behind the horizon. I pause for a moment and look back across the field and the woods and am grateful for all the things I have, the blessings I’ve received and for the memories that these old trees have given me for more than half of my life.
It’s my hope for all of you out there that you can take a moment, think, slow down and count your blessings this time of year.
Happy Thanksgiving from ‘Along the Trail’.
– David Hewitt