I love hunting. I very much enjoy hunting small game, but every year at this time, the coveted rifle season opens.
I look forward to it all year long. I get a chance to get out into the woods by myself, and relax. Simply take some ‘me’ time. For a few hours every time I go out, nothing matters but what I’m out doing.
The thing is, I’m absolutely terrible at hunting, especially deer. I lack patience, and will often move from a spot long before I should, and be moving around when I should be sitting still. I don’t like the extreme cold, so when the temperatures are right for the deer to be out moving around, I stay in bed.
As much as I enjoy the sport, I am truly, truly lousy at it.
Last Saturday’s opening day hunt is a testament to my terribleness.
It started later than I like it to. I usually like to get into the woods long before sunup, but I was working on ambulance call until 6am. If no calls came in, I was out the door at 05:59:59. None did, so I packed up my gear, and was out the door. By the time I reached the spot where I like to hunt, the sun was up.
I parked my car, and cut into a field where I immediately kicked up three or four doe. No big deal, I didn’t have a doe tag, let ’em run….except…they ran DIRECTLY into the woods where I was headed, snorting and spreading the word that I was there. My hunt, I thought, was over before it had even started. Still. In I went. I made for the tree line, and started up a path which headed to a field where I like to sit for a few hours. The leaves and undergrowth were dry, so stealth was out of the question. I slowly picked my way through the trees up the trail when I started to hear the dreaded squirrels.
You see, for those of you that don’t hunt, the squirrel is a terrible creature. Capable of sounding like the antlered king of the forest as it scampers through the woods, It is responsible each year for more spikes in blood pressure than being pulled over by the police.
The first few times I heard the leaves rustle, I stopped and listened. “It’s a buck” I thought “Sure as hell, its one hell of a……goddamn it.” Squirrel. Every time.
About an hour into my little walk through the woods, I found a place to take a small break. A downed pine tree. I sat for a while, and had a small snack. Off to my left, I hear the skittering again. I listen, and its stationary. Another freakin’ squirrel. I stood, squared away my kit, and decided to take a leak before I moved on. So I did. I dug through my layers of clothing, did my business, and prepared to set off.
The undergrowth rustled again, this time, accompanied by a stomp. WTF? Squirrels don’t stomp? Oh….shit, that’s a deer!
I knelt down and peered through a short stand of scrub pines. I see legs. Deer legs. Another stomp. There’s three or four deer, less than 40 yards away from me. An easy shot if they cleared the trees and entered the path. The sounds in the undergrowth stopped. Another stomp.
All of a sudden, a realization hit me. I was mere feet from where I had just relieved myself, and deer have a fantastic sense of….. *SNORT!* ……smell.
All of a sudden, they winded me. All of the animals in front of me bolted, never once even showing me if one of them was even a buck, much less giving me anything to shoot at.
Hunt all but over.
Still, I wasn’t sure when my next chance to get out was, so I pressed on, dejected. I found a nice rock to sit on for a while near some massive old oak trees, but nothing ever came along. Behind me, I started to hear something large moving around. I never got a visual on it, but it had to be one of the deer I had spooked. I started to stalk it, just in case it happened to be my quarry. As I did, I started hearing MORE noise, off to my right. Something else was coming up the path.
There’s a golden rule with hunting- never use your rifle scope to ‘glass’ anything. That is, its not binoculars, so don’t treat it like it is. Thankfully, with firearms safety being a massive thing in my life, I did not ‘glass’ this second noise, and its a good thing I didn’t, because it turned out to be another hunter.
Now, here’s where I take a little bit of solace.
See, as I mentioned, and have proven- I’m a lousy hunter….but there are those out there that are MUCH worse than I am. I watched the other hunter come up the path, and it was obvious that he had heard the same noise I had, we were essentially stalking the same animal. I stood still in the middle of the trail and watched him. Now, when I hunt, I dress with the blaze orange. I’m visible to other hunters…or so I thought. This guy, around fifty yards from me, was so focused on the noises ahead of him, that he never even saw me, another hunter, standing in the open wearing blaze orange. It was right there that I decided my hunt was, in fact over.
I made my way back home for a cup of coffee and a nice, long nap before I reported to work where I would largely exaggerate the details of my hunt, and leave out the embarrassing factoid that I had blown myself up with a little bit of wee when I spoke with my coworkers.
….If you see any of them, don’t say anything.
*Please do not bother to lecture me on how terrible hunting is or why I’m a savage for doing it. I don’t judge your hobbies, nor do I expect to change your mind with a scathing diatribe, please extend to me the same courtesy. Thank you.