Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"NATTY BUMPO"



It's cold enough that I can see my breath and when I look behind me I can see my footprints in the frozen dew. I'm heading across the lower cornfield moving towards the big picnic table tree stand. It's not light yet and I can hear the others moving slowly to either side of me.
I come to a dead stop as I enter the hedgerow between the cornfield and the piny woods. I move as slowly as I can and even try to slow my breathing. I use bushes and trees to break up the sight lines from the tree that I am moving towards, although I've seen them at every time of day, deer are predominately nocturnal and go to bed just before sunrise. Not often, but often enough, I've walked up on deer beds on my way in to the woods.
At the bottom of the tree I make sure my gun is on safety, turn my sling so the barrel is facing down and climb to the tree stand. I unsling the gun and lean it against the tree stand rail, I unclip my hotseat and put it on the sitting board. Out of the back of my hunting pouch, I pull my snacks and thermos and place it on the deck of the stand. I begin my wait.
It is November and even through the layers of clothing that I wear; the long underwear, the athletic socks, the wool socks, the blue jeans, the wool shirt, the black and red wool jacket, the oversized wool pants, the insulated water proof hunting boots, the lined Carhart hunting coat, the knit hat and the woolen gloves, I still feel the crisp morning chill begin to set in as I sit motionless. I hear another hunter making alot of noise off to my right and I hope that this pushes the deer towards me.
I sit and wait. The sun is just beginning to wink above the mountains. This is prime time to see a deer. I sit as still as I can looking from right to left and then back again very slowly. I look for two things: something in the silhouette that doesn't belong there, and any kind of motion, however so slow. Within minutes I see some moving shadows coming through the woods from my right, they are just entering my peripheral vision. As they continue towards me, three doe come into focus. Two are very small and the other is medium sized. I assume it is a mother with some yearlings. My heart starts to pump a little as I notice every few steps the larger doe looks back over her shoulder, looking and listening. I haven't heart the fumbling hunter in some time, so I assume that is a buck trailing the three does. I remain as still as possible. The deer move silently and fluidly, almost as if they are underwater. They pass in front of me, through a number of openings and continue off towards the creek. I think of them as going down to get a drink before they bed down for the day and maybe eat some of the sweet grass along the banks.
As I watch them disappear, I catch a slight movement out of the corner of my eye, without moving anything buy my eyes, I stare at some bushes and the pine blowdown where I thought I saw the motion. Deer are wily, they do so many unexpected things. I couldn't believe my eyes as I saw the head and horns of a buck come out from underneath one of the bushes. Instead of coming through or around as any hunter would expect him to, he went under. When he stepped into the first opening where I could see him clearly, I realized that he was a good sized animal. His rack was very thick and very high. I never saw anything move so slowly; when he went behind the bush for sight protection, I lifted the binoculars from around my neck and focused on the bush. I leaned myself against the railing of the tree stand for support. I knew this would be a slow-moving event.
First, I saw his snout, then one eye. Gradually, his neck and chest moved into the opening. The opening was just the "Y" of a branch. It appeared as if the deer was standing on a wheeled platform, that something pulled to make him move. I watched his feet, he took the slowest steps imaginable. Without moving his head quickly, he perused the area. He lifted his nose into the air and sniffed. It seemed like forever before he got within about 20 feet of me, still moving slowly and sniffing the air. They say that deer never look up, there was something in the air that caught his attention. Still looking through the binoculars, I watched as he turned and looked directly at me. Everything after that happened so quickly, that once he was gone I replayed it over and over in my mind. Once he saw me, he quickly jumped backwards, turned to his left and was gone in a millisecond.
I picked up my thermos, poured coffee into the cap, reached into my bag, pulled out my egg sandwich which I ate quickly, more in celebration than in hunger. I took out a Montecristo Robusto, fired it up with my lighter, laid back against the tree, enjoyed my cigar, drank my coffee, kept rerunning seeing the deer and chalked up another successful hunt.

1 comment:

Nick Marino said...

Thirty years ago I would have thought differently. Now I agree. A perfect day!