“Give it up, Peter.”
That’s what my wife, Annia, said to me, only half kidding, earlier this month after I told her I had procured the use of a muzzle-loader in order to be able to continue deer hunting.
She, like many people who haven’t hunted, just doesn’t understand.
Yes, a handful of household projects were put on hold (again). I just wasn’t ready for hunting season to end.
It appears 2013 was a great year to harvest a buck. Early numbers indicated that not only were a lot of deer shot this year, many of them field-dressed at more than 200 pounds.
I saw one buck. The crotch-horn was standing in the road as I drove to the hunting grounds. I stopped and backed up. He stood 25 feet off the road and stared me down.
It was on property that was both for sale and posted as hunting by permission only. I took a couple of shots — with my cellphone — and drove away.
It is said that it’s more important to work smart than to work hard. I hunted hard and “put in my time,” as former co-worker and deer hunting fanatic Terry Farren always said.
I didn’t go out in the pouring rain, but I didn’t allow the conditions outside to dictate whether I headed afield. No matter the weather, it was time well spent.
I sat in treestands, spent hours in ground blinds (thanks to hunting buddies John Holyoke and Chris Lander) and sat both on the ground and on some stumps. I walked, tripped, stumbled and slogged through every possible kind of terrain, convincing myself all the while that I was getting some much-needed exercise.
Ultimately, there would be no deer hanging from the maple tree in the backyard.
One thing hunters know is spending time in the woods is therapeutic. I saw three barred owls and witnessed the requisite parade of red and gray squirrels, along with sightings of grouse, crows and numerous small birds.
Something occurred to me this year about why deer hunting is so special. It forces me to some things that don’t come easily.
I’m not very good at keeping quiet, but in the woods, I don’t utter a word. For starters, there’s nobody else with whom to talk. Second, if deer hear voices, they’re gone.
Patience may be a virtue, but mine has always been lacking. As a hunter, it is essential. I’m forced to stay still as well as quiet, lest I blow my cover.
Deer hunting takes me out of my comfort zone in those ways, but provides a sense of tranquility. Sometimes, it’s almost like being deep in prayer or in a meditative state.
Perhaps the best day of the 2013 season was the last one. It came during the second week of muzzle-loader season. (Many thanks to Bhraun Parks for the use of the rifle — and the acreage).
I bundled up for the final foray into the woods. There were two or three inches of snow on the ground and it was cold (the wind chill was minus-2). Deer tracks, and those of some coyotes, criss-crossed the skidder trail that was my path to the spot of choice.
I was oblivious of the cold, because I was wearing multiple layers of clothing along with a fleece balaclava and a blaze-orange winter hat. After the walk in, I stood silently for a couple of hours.
The contrast provided by the snowcover accentuated the view into the trees. The perspective changed as the sun’s rays illuminated different sections of the forest.
Somehow, I knew the deer weren’t coming. It didn’t matter. I was alone in the woods, away from the hectic pace of everyday life, if only for a few precious hours.
Give it up? I think not.
Pete Warner is the BDN assistant sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org