Deer Hunting: The way it should be...
It's 4:30 am. Alarm off, feet flat on the floor. Think. Think through the steps. Start the coffee, shower, wool socks, long underwear, layers. Add wood to the fire. Boots go on. Pack the bag: GPS, compass, fire kit, knife, water, lunch, maps, and ammunition. Grab the gun, the bag, the dry seat, out the door. Point A to point B. Load the gun, strap the pack, headlamp on, lock the truck.
Head south, as fast and hard as you can push. Even in the dark the landmarks are old familiar faces. Through the old-growth pine and cross the creek. Beech whips for a few hundred yards. Skirt the edge of the swamp, and continue up the knoll. I descend down into the softwoods and push through, head lamp goes off. Even without the light the open space is obvious. No stars this morning, but the air feels different next to the pond. Lighter. Take a breath. Peel off a few layers, pop in some gum, get your water handy. And wait.
On a really overcast day there is no epiphany to the dawn, just imperceptible shades of gray. The Counting Crows always springs to mind..."gray is my favorite color, I felt so symbolic yesterday." Not sure why. I scan the ridge and suddenly notice movement. Left to right, a whitetail descending through the beech and maple. Antlers. Take a breath. Gun up, give it a second. He clears a balsam and I squeeze the trigger slowly just like "Outdoor Life" always instructs me to.
The gunshot is indeed a surprise. Hours, days, weeks spent in complete silence... trying to avoid that snapping twig, or those rustling leaves. All leading up to an early morning explosion that sends a small piece of lead hurtling down range at 2600-feet per second. Can't take it back now. Deer is down. Equal parts exciting and regrettable.
I take a deep breath and contemplate life and death as I slowly make my way up the ridge.
There are two sides to every story
In literary terms perspective is used to tell a story through the eyes of a certain character, and oftentimes showcases the varying reactions a single event can evoke in different personalities. However, a single character can also alter their outlook and the ensuing story depending on the audience they entertain. The initial story is the one my buddies hear, over and over again after a few beers. Below? The one my wife knows is true. Enjoy.
It's 4:30 am and the alarm clock is a foreign noise my disoriented body fails to recognize. Hit the snooze 4 or 5 times. Gently separate my head from the pillow. Yup, I'm definitely nursing a slight hangover. Molson Canadian and the damn Toronto Maple Leafs get me every time. Maybe if they won a game or two I would drink less. Then again, I only had a couple. By couple I mean 7, maybe 8. Not good. Shower and coffee. I can do this. My lunch is looking like peanuts and a couple of apples. That's fine, I need a cleanse.
Out the door, start the truck, on the road. I hit black ice on Route 30 and in the ensuing panic promptly dump my hot black coffee onto my lap. Perfect. Scent control right out the window. Arrive at my destination. Sit for a few moments and contemplate returning home to my warm bed. Don't be a baby about it. Strap everything down and head into the woods.
It is pouring rain, and I decide to celebrate the beautiful morning by taking an enthusiastic header off of a wet log. Awesome. As I pull my rifle out of the mud I begin to talk to myself. My exact words don't need to be repeated. Halfway to my watch my headlamp and exuberant cursing push an animal out of the undergrowth. In the dark the sound is incredible. I imagine it sounds much like a triceratops would sound exploding through some deeply forested area towards one of our evolutionary ancestors if their existence on earth had overlapped.
In my disoriented state I begin to wonder if a strain of mutant dinosaur has survived the last 65-million years deep in the Adirondack wilderness, and if I am about to be mowed down by the biggest news story since Kanye and Kim. Or maybe it's bigfoot? Mountain lion! Definitely some type of large predatory cat. I can hear my heart pounding and wonder if indeed this is the end. Massive coronary at age 30, all instigated most likely by the quarry I am actually hunting. Sweet irony.
I grip my 7mm08 and wish I had a Barrett .50 cal. Push on. Arrive at my watch sweating like a hog (not sure why or where that saying comes from) and completely out of sorts. My contact lens in my left eye appears to be attempting a migration north towards my brain. All attempts at retrieving it are rebuffed. As I fiddle with my cornea and stare at the coffee stain on my $250 Under Armour pants a noise draws my gaze. Deer, buck, shoot. As he goes down I scream like a 9-year-old girl and run up the hill.
Regardless of the lead character (the steely-eyed predator or coffee-stained mud master) the story ends the same way... looking down at a beautiful eight-point buck, thankful that I could provide clean unaltered meat for my family. Call my buddies to help with the two-mile drag. Enjoy an "Electric Canadian" (pretty sure it's just a White Russian) with some close friends to celebrate an early Sunday morning success in the big woods. Cheers! To the Hollywood leading men we all aspire to be, and the foil character goof troops we actually embody!
This week in related ADK news:
From taking aim to tastings, tree stands to trinkets, the Adirondacks offer a variety of hunting activities.
*Please note: some blogs contain photos of the hunters' harvest.