Along The Trail 12-4-14

331

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.

*

Thanksgiving pre-dawn morning, cold and cloudy, a stiff wind howling as I poke my head out of the house and check the weather:

“Brrr…” goes through my mind.

“It’s gonna be a cold one this morning” I think to myself and walk back down the hallway and wrap on my daughter’s bedroom door to wake her.

“Time to get up” is met with a grumble as she stirs to life.

Bundled up to fight the chill, we trek across the bean stubble to the “buddy stand”. The old two person tree stand has stood sentry in the same hickory grove for over 10 years now, silhouetted in the gray morning light. She climbs up first, just like she has dozens of times over the years. With each rung of the ladder under foot, a different memory of our time together in the woods pops into my mind.

We’re up and settled in for a cold wait.

Daylight peeks over the horizon and brings the coldest time of the day with it. There’s no denying it, it’s just flat out cold this morning and the breeze has dropped the wind chill to around 15 degrees. I try to block the wind as best as I could to give the kid a chance to stay warm.

We chat about this and that. A little about college life and friends; the upcoming holidays and family plans; but mostly we just sit and listen and watch. The robins come to life along with a few nuthatches and other songbirds as light enters the woods. She does a good job of identifying most of them and credits it to her old high school biology teacher.

An hour into the hunt and the wind hasn’t let up. If anything, it seems to be getting stronger. My face is red and burnt from the constant breeze and I know the kid has to be chilled to the bone with not an ounce of fat on her. A trooper, she toughs it out and we continue to wait for a deer despite the falling temps and biting wind.

I sit there and think how lucky I am that my nearly 20 year-old daughter still enjoys some “dad” time in the woods. I think back to her first deer and all the hunts in between and my heart warms and my eyes well – maybe from the brisk wind, maybe from emotion. I feel her head rest between my shoulder blades and she snuggles up for warmth just like she used to as a little girl.

Just then, I glance over my right shoulder into the cut bean field and see a dark spot that looks out of place in a ditch that runs through the middle of the field.

“I think there’s a deer out there” I whisper to Liv, but in typical fashion, she thinks I’m teasing her.

“No there’s not” she responds.

I watch the dark spot 200 yards away and it lifts its head from the weeds. “It’s a deer!” I whisper louder to get her attention. We watch as the deer spooks and trots towards the tree line, in and out of our view hidden by the cedars surrounding the field.

“It’s coming our way”, she whispers and throws her shotgun to her shoulder and waits. I catch glimpses of the deer running through the field as it heads towards an opening in the hickories that should take it less than 40 yards from us. Years of hunting experience kicks in and she no longer needs my coaching.

The spike buck slows to a trot and enters the woods just where I thought he would. He passes an opening in the trees and she lets the 12 gauge bark.

The young deer is dropped in his tracks at the gun’s report. My daughter looks at me with a grin as I throw my arm around her, neither of us thinking about the cold, only about the moment, the time shared, the harvest and the memory made.

Yeah, I have a lot to be thankful for,

Thanks Liv.

– David Hewitt