It was still pitch black and only the beam of our head lamps flickered through the woods as we crept slowly up the mountain side. The incline was far better than a strong cup of coffee to get the blood flowing. I stopped so the couple joining me could catch their breath and we all inhaled the crisp 28 degree morning air.
"Oh, it's going to be a good day!" I heard Wayne whisper to his wife Gina.
It's the first morning of deer season and a few moments later I had gotten our B&B guests settled into a cozy thicket where they'll almost certainly see some activity as soon as the sun rises.
"Lights, camera, action", I thought to myself as me and the woods along with all the beautiful creatures in it, slowly rolled on this earth of ours towards the sun.
Once the sun had cleared the horizon the life around me awoke too. Birds of every feather were singing. Squirrels and chipmunks began scurrying along the forest floor looking for seeds. It was like I wasn't even there and got to be that fly on the wall to witness the magnificence of morning. I turned my head in the other direction and noticed a little spike buck deer standing less than 100 ft away. He was content eating acorns and popping his head up every now and then to see if he was still alone. I was close enough that I could hear the morsels of the nuts slipping out from his lips and hitting the ground. He slowly walked on past me and faded into the woods and the morning sunrise. And just as if Nature wanted to end this beautiful morning production with a slow curtain fall and applause, the wind picked back up and hit the tops of the golden Maple trees scattered around me. The yellow and orange leaves one by one detached from their summer home and began their flight to the earth. Even though the ground was already covered with inches of fallen leaves, on this morning I felt so privileged to be the eyes that got to soak in the many different dances of a drifting Maple leaf.
We all met back at the bed and breakfast later in the day where Sharon had prepared a scrumptious meal for all the Hunter-Gatherers that came home empty-handed That afternoon we all slipped back into the woods to hunt until sunset and as I took my place on a little knoll covered with Osage and Popular trees, Nature decided it was time for Act II.... though this time she decided that the show should be a comedy.
This time things begin the same. My footsteps fade, squirrels pop out to stock pile a few goodies; I blend in with the forest and get mesmerized by it's beauty and a few hours pass by. Off to my right in the distance I hear the rustling of leaves and first think, "Man, I should have brought my squirrel gun." I turn and face in that direction, still leaning up against a Poplar tree, and I can tell that this was more than a couple of squirrels playing. I remembered the fresh scrapes and rubs that I had scouted out a few weeks earlier nearby and instantly visualized a large poppa buck chasing his doe through the woods towards me. My heart starts to beat a little harder in anticipation of what is coming steadily in my direction. A few seconds later a large Pileated Woodpecker circled directly above my head and then landed in a dead Ash tree about 50 ft away.
"Oh, this is a good sign." I whisper to myself and my smile turns into a confident smirk.
The stampede of leaves and movement is oh so close now. I raise my gun in the direction it is coming hoping to get a view through my scope, and just then I hear a crunch directly behind me. And then another crunch. "I've got a deer standing a few feet from my ass. Should I turn around?" I decide that based on the sound of the crunch vs the massive combustion coming in the other direction that I wouldn't turn and would hold for the monster about to emerge. My heart almost popped out of my camo jacket when a squirrel came out of the side of a hollowed out locust stump about five feet from my head and sat their looking straight at me.
"This is good sign." I again affirm myself.
Another crunch closer behind me and then in front of me I can see a shape moving quickly behind some brush about 200 ft away.
"Yes...Yes....show yourself Mr. Buck...." And he did!
Well, he wasn't actually a buck.... or a deer for that matter. I was swindled by a cunning flock of wild turkeys. My smirk quickly turned into a scowl of determination as I remembered the other deer that was still standing on the back side of me. Inch by inch I lowered my gun. I slowly began to turn my head, hoping that I wouldn't spook the mystery deer standing so close.... and then she comes into view. "A *&)UCKING SQUIRREL! Really?!!!"
And just then as if the director in the side wings cued them all, the Pileated Woodpecker began cackling his song over and over that sounds just like an old man laughing and the squirrel that was sitting on the stump started barking and the one that made me think she was a deer, jumps onto a rock and joins in on the chorus of nature's laughter.
I gather my wits. Laugh at myself and how God has such a great sense of humor and watch the sun begin to set. And for an encore.... my eyes quickly focuses on a movement coming from a thicket of cedar trees. I raise my scope and can see one side of what was most definitely a ten point antler.
"Oh my!" It looked like he was rubbing his antlers in the cedar tree. "Come on, just step out so I can see all of you". He rubbed the cedar tree again and my heart began its ramp up, but quickly stops when yet another squirrel hops off the limb that looked like an antler and proceeded to start the familiar bark of laughter at me again as if to say, "We got you again sucker."
Well, it was time to quit. I had really enjoyed the game nature had played with me this evening. The sun was just a shadow and I was about to make my walk back around to our guests on the other side of the hollow and did the number one "hunter mistake". I had to pee and did it right where I was standing. Deer have such an amazing sense of smell and anything that has a hint of human scent will almost always keep them far away. Lucky me.... just as I zipped and looked up.... Señor Poppa Buck stepped into my sight. Look who's laughing now Squirrels! :-)