Along The Trail 12-13-12


Sunday afternoon, cloudy, dreary and rainy – 65 degrees and constant drizzle make it feel more like spring than early December. A low rumble of thunder adds to the April feel in the air.

Not ideal deer hunting conditions, but I’ve been out of the game too long and I’m itching to get back out in the trees, bow in hand. I check and re-check the weather forecast as I pace back and forth from the living room to the kitchen window, my eye turned to the sky.

“Is that the sun trying to break through?”, I ask myself as a hint of blue makes its appearance through the dim, gray clouds. That was all I needed to see and we’re dressed in our hunting garb and in the truck, heading south for an evening sit in the Kentucky woods.

As I make the hour drive to Owen County, I whisper a prayer and a wish for the rain to hold off until our hunt is over. It’s been weeks since my son and I have shared an afternoon in the woods and this will be his first chance to hunt across the river.

Not long after hitting the bluegrass, the windshield is speckled with the annoying drizzle that’s plagued us the last few days. Optimistic I’m not, but recent photos from my trail camera of a big, wide 9-pointer haunting the woods is in the back of my mind. I remind myself that I can’t take him on the couch watching the Colts or the Bengals, so we press on.

We wheel onto the old county road as the off and on showers are off for the moment. The road dead ends into a muddy, two track easement that, even in the best of conditions leaves a lot to be desired. Against my better judgment, I drop the tires of my somewhat civilized SUV off the pavement and hope we don’t sink to the axles. I drive as far as I can without pushing my luck any further and we gear up for the evening’s sit.

It’s a long, muddy slog into our hiding spot. Fifteen minutes of steady hiking through the slippery muck, but saturated ground made for a silent approach. We’re finally up and settled in. We are hunting and it feels good to be back in the trees waiting for a buck to show himself.

I take a deep breath, chest rising and falling as I soak in the damp, December woods. Stark, dingy and lifeless at first glance, but not long into our watch, a pair of gray squirrels bark and chase one another through the wet leaves, up tree trunks and leaping from limb to limb providing some entertainment.

The time passes quickly as the boy and I keep our eye out for deer and for weather. He motions for me to check the sky to the west and the thick bluish, gray clouds tell the story of what’s in store. The wind picks up slightly as a few remaining leaves rattle in the breeze and rain is on the air. I think to myself that we’ll wait it out, a few minutes at a time. I wasn’t ready to give up yet. There are deer to be had and bows to be shot and time to spend with my son.

The rain can wait.

Reality gets the better of my wants and emotions and I concede it’s time to get out of the woods or risk being stuck. Before we climb down from our Ash tree stand, movement catches my attention as a small, fork-horned buck walks a “B” line to us. Less than 10 yards, he passes broadside and offers a perfect shot, but he’s not who we’re after and he safely crosses the trail and continues on his path.

We race our way back to the SUV while the rain drops are growing larger and louder as they thump the leaves and forest floor pushed by the increasing wind. We beat the storm to the relative safety of the vehicle and slip and slide the 4×4 back to the asphalt with a sigh of relief.

Mother Nature might have won this round, but you can bet I’m not done yet!

This Hoosier will be back Kentucky…