Realizing that the athletic agility he was born with was showing signs of age, Hank Lyons climbed carefully into his tree stand. Diligently, then, he fastened the safety harness, muffling the snap of the clasp with his gloved hands.
“Can’t be too quiet,” he thought. “I swear a deer can hear a shadow move.”
With that he eased the loaded clip into his .30-06 semi-automatic and slowly, quietly, chambered a round.
Settling into the hunter-handicapped game of hurry-up-and-wait, Hank sorted through the sounds of the woods awakening: chickadees buzzing, squirrels chirring, melting frost dripping and sounding like deer tip-toeing on the frozen carpet of leaves.
“From what I’ve seen of it,” he mused, “I’d say a deer can hear as good as it can smell, maybe even better.”
Smiling, he thought about the older hunters whose tracks he followed as a young deer stalker.
“They all smoked,” he recalled. ”But they were careful to smother the metallic clink of their aluminum Zippo lighters being opened and closed. Hard telling how many deer were spooked by that sound, which could be heard a long ways off by human ears.”
Accordingly, Hank thought about the distance at which a vehicle’s door shutting could be heard, and how the voices of hunters carried on clear still mornings.
Though the tree stand was above the scent level of deer, Hank still shied away from shaving and applying aftershave lotion before hunting. Likewise, he was judicious in the use of pungently aromatic Hoppe’s No. 9 solvent and bore cleaner. With that he was reminded of hunters urinating near their stands. Shortly thereafter, the quickness of a red squirrel scampering along a stone wall caught Hank’s eye, reminding him that, like all wildlife, deer were alarmed by movement.
“That’s no secret,” he thought. “But I don’t know about this notion that deer don’t see hunters in tree stands because, supposedly, deer don’t look upward. I just can’t believe that a deer wouldn’t see a hunter sitting up there gawking around like a crow perched on a pine stub.
“Let’s face it, the most efficient camouflage is the ability to stay still. And deer know that. A lot of them have lived to a ripe old age, if five or six years can be called that, by standing or lying statue-still while hunters walked past them.”
A shy sun was casting thin shadows when the veteran outdoorsman unloaded his rifle and left the tree stand.
“Deer are cagey critters,” he thought while walking out of the woods. “But that’s what makes hunting them such a great sport and grand tradition.”
Allowing that he’d tagged his share of deer, and would tag another soon enough, Hank concluded his incisive cogitations by admitting that not having to dress and drag one that morning really wouldn’t ruin his day.
Tom Hennessey’s columns and artwork can be viewed on the BDN Internet page at: www.bangordailynews.com. His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.