(Photo) Earlier View


As I begin my journey a chill in the air is highlighted by the presence of soft fluffy snowflakes gently falling as if in slow motion, and in no hurry to make it to the ground. Walking in a wood line to the side of an open meadow I stall in my footsteps as I spied two dozen or more wild eastern turkeys dotted across the field. I stood and watch them for a while as they feed on seed heads of the tall grass. Several of them were quite playful as they chased each other in circles like children in a school yard. I smiled and marveled at how nature can at times display such examples of innocence. I could have watched much longer but, I had an agenda and needed to move on. As I stepped out and made my presence known it took but a split second to be spotted. A few alarm chips and the entire flock quickly trotted off into the woods and disappeared.

I spotted various signs of wildlife as I begin the 300 foot ascent to the ridge top. Fresh rubbed saplings and a few scrapes were present as well as numerous droppings. A steaming pile of scat on the cold ground laid evidence that I was not far behind a coyote. As I neared the top of the hill my attention to watching the ground was sharply disturbed by the piercing sound of a deer blowing within mere yards of me just inside the woods. There were four of them and I could not tell what all of them were as they bounded off as my eyes were momentarily fixed on a rather impressive sized large racked buck that vanished like a ghost into a thicket. I continued walking began to blame myself for bumping a good deer because I probably spent too much time bird watching.

Finally reaching my destination I attach the stand to the base of the tree and grasp its icy arms. The frigid cold aluminum cuts its way through multiple layers of clothing numbing everything it comes into contact with. Although thickly gloved, I could not feel the tips of my fingers by the end of the thirty foot climb. After several minutes of rubbing my hands together until I could re-gain some dexterity I finally got all my things organized, and then settled in for the duration. It didnít take long to let the calm settle in. I was perched in one of my favorite spots. It is a hilltop knob that overlooks a well defined saddle, an area that tends to naturally funnel activity. The post is surrounded by a mix of hardwood and cedar thickets to three sides and the fourth side offers an opening off the side of the ridge to the hollow below and continuing to beyond hilltops. It provides a beautiful panoramic view for a mile and a half or so. In this spot I have seen many awe inspiring sunrises through this southeast facing view. This site holds many memories and today will be no different.

It is quiet and barely a wisp of wind is present. From time to time the silence is broken with the rattling cadence of a wood pecker hammering against a tree. Off in the distance I can hear the lonely sound of cattle mooing, moaning, chatting, or whatever it is they do. I gaze into the snowflakes picking out individual ones and following them to the ground to their final resting place. It is so peaceful. Out of nowhere the sound of a gigantic rush of air draws my attention to the sky as by the thousands a flock of birds appears silhouetted against the grey blanket of clouds. They swirl in unison to create a black and white pattern of ever changing art abounding in the skyline. The sound of their mid flight chirps is intensely surreal causing me to smile as my mind flashes back to yester years in remembrance of an old Alfred Hitchcock movie. After a while the first deer of the evening appears. It was an immature antler-less deer making slow progression with nose to the ground while foraging for available treats. Soon another one appeared, and moments later an alpha doe comes behind them with a watchful eye. She has a long snout and neck continuing rearward down to a defined swayed back and drooping pot belly. I estimate her to be a five and a half year old. Does and immatures are not on my menu so they all get a free pass.

The temperature has dropped to 28 and I can hear more cold on the way. I can hear it rumbling as it travels over the hilltops and though the valleys heading straight for me. There is no mistaking the sound. Twenty mile and hour gusting winds cause the tree tops to bend and sway and within a few seconds the wind chill dips into the upper teens. With it comes a darkening sky, and the snow that was once a slowly drifting powder had turned sideways whiting out the hollow below me. At times the seemingly solid sheaths of white make it difficult to see past fifty yards. A chilly day has turned bone chilling cold but, I easily accept the chill for the beauty. Two does and two yearlings walk within twenty yards with me, their heads and backs turning white from the blizzard. They walk a bit, one behind the other, and then all at once freeze in their position. Their vision was locked straight ahead on something that had their complete attention. From time to time one would take a step sideways and pause, then take another step and pause. Soon revealed it was an eight point buck that held their interest. He was spread to his ear tips and with his lack of mass and height he may have held 120 inches of rack. He had a muscular yet slender body and stood tall displaying a stance of dominance. He was young and definitely not the king of the woods, but he was the dominate deer in the group. Each breath he took was followed by a heavy mist of steam bellowing from his lungs through his nostrils. After a few minutes the stare off was broken by the buck as he began chasing two of the younger deer. Almost like the turkeys just a few hours before, they bounded around the field in circles and in and out of the wood line. It did not seem to be a rutting kind of chase but, more of a playful activity resembling childhood friends re-united in the back yard with the moms looking on. This went on for a good thirty minutes while the heavy drifts of snow blew out and then back in again. A few more deer strolled in, and there was one who stood out in the crowd. It was a six month old doe with a melonistic spot in the center of her snout running almost between her eyes in the shape of some obscure ink blot. I now call her Blot for lack of a better name. It will be interesting to follow this one through the years.

The cloud filled sky early began to rob the day of its light and as each moment passed I could see the darkness falling. At last light there were ten deer in front of me, mostly antler-less with the eight pointer and a few scrub bucks. Reluctantly I decided to climb down and call it a hunt. All the activity I had been watching had made me forget about how cold it was, but I was reminded after my climb down and I began to shiver as I packed my gear. It was pitch dark at this point, and as I began my descent down the ridge I could see the display of flagging whitetails as they bounded away from my mysterious figure. Coming through the bottom and crossing the babbling creek driven by previous days rains I made my way to the cabin warm and dry. Although on this particular hunt there is no trophy buck lying on the ground awaiting my ritual of harvest I smile, and I am thankful for a successful hunt. I am happy to bear witness in absorbing the beauty of nature, to have time to reflect while clearing the mind and soul while creating a memory. I shake the mud from my boots and close the door of my cabin behind me, and find this to have been fitting day to end a seasonís hunt.
Everytime I see you....there you are.