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.
Some color has finally came to the woods.
The maples dressed in reds and yellows, not as vibrant as they should be, but still a sight to see. A light breeze blows as the leaves rain down to the ground below. The broad leafs of the paw paw trees along my drainage have all but fallen and the sycamore leaves litter the place.
The woods has regained that autumn, earthy smell….
I lean back against the tree I’m in and feel the weight of the day melt. Time seems to slow down out here. I get lost in my thoughts as the sights and sounds of the woods takes over. A grain dryer roars off in the distance and I hear a combine doing it’s work in a neighboring field. Out here, my senses are more alert. My vision better, my hearing more attune. From a treestand, you notice things more clearly, tiny things. The pattern of the bark on the cherry tree next to my hiding spot. The shapes and shadows. The crimson colored leaves of a poison ivy vine that creeps up the side of a dead ash tree.
A chipmunk chirps and scurries through the leaves looking for seeds for his winter stash. I watch as the hyper-active rodent goes about his business. Always vigilant, always watching, he gathers a mouthful, darts across a log and disappears from sight.
Caught up watching the little fellow, I’m snapped from my trance by the steady crunching of leaves.
I turn to my left and spy a yearling working her way up the ditch. The little deer nibbles on a sapling as she gingerly takes each step.
More foot steps catch my attention. A mature doe is bringing up the rear behind the youngster. The doe is fit and healthy. Her coat a deep gray, no ribs visible. She’s ready to go into winter unless I have something to say about it.
The two deer work closer and my left hand unconsciously tightens its grip on my longbow. My mind plays out the scenario as I ready myself. The smaller of the two passes through my field of view. My bowstring tenses and I feel my shoulder tighten, at half-draw, I let the bow string down and give the young deer a pass. She feeds on down the drainage unaware of the predator above her.
The large, old gal is cautiously picking her way along the trail. She’s tense and her head is on a swivel. The swirling breeze has carried my scent towards her. She’s close enough for a shot, but I don’t have an angle. She hangs up behind some briars and tries to sort out the situation. The deer bobs her head up and down and stomps her front foot to the ground.
I glance back at the younger deer, still nibbling leaves and then turn back towards my target. The seasoned doe has turned 180 degrees and is slowly walking away. Her tail tucked close, but the white hairs flared wide only means one thing – the jig is up. The old nanny takes a couple of stiff legged steps, coughs out a loud snort and then leaps off through the trees. The yearling reacts and sprints off towards the other deer.
My heart races and I relax my the grip on my bow. The deer stand off in the distance, unseen, snorting and alerting all the other game that there’s danger in the trees.
I smile as I listen to the deer trot further back into the woods and I’m reminded that I’m only a visitor here in the woods.
– David Hewitt