Thursday, January 07, 2010

close encounter

Okay, I WISH I had taken this.

After a Classic day in the woods, I wanted to find a picture that would help me remember it.

2 days ago:

The hills and woods were draped in a heavy snow. Everything was muffled. As I sat on my backpack on the ground with a book, snow flakes piled up on my clothing and caught in my eyelashes. 26 degrees. My rifle -who never complains about the weather- settled in for the long haul; the most perfect Stoic I know.

Hours passed. As I read, the pages got soggy and snow accumulated in a line between the pages.

Glancing up now and then, things were quiet, with occasional limbs dumping their load of snow.

Then I saw a blocky figure of a deer in the thick stuff across the valley. Then another. Then another. I watched as the deer made their way through piles of snow, pawing down to the brown leaves underneath.

Deer can be incredibly slow-moving. Oh, they can rip through the brush and bound across fields. But, when it's cold and darkness is falling and you must hold still, don't be surprised if they take their time.

Add to the scenario: I'm not keen on shooting any of them. Yes, I like to eat them. Yes, they get hit on the road and damage crops. Yes, we paid for licenses and gear. My head knows that. But I'm not Spock. Or my gun. I have a hair-trigger heart.

I bought myself some peace of mind with my choice of hunting spots. I set up near the posted land. So, a deer would have to meander down the hill, across the draw and over to my side of the valley before I could, by law, shoot. At that point, they'd be really close to me and probably smell me or sense that something was amiss and then show some of that speed.

Tonight, however, they did cross. I slid around and propped my gun up on my knee and watched through the scope. Through that little circle, I waited for deer to step out from behind chunks of tree trunks. And they did, time and time again.

I am getting good at coming up with excuses not to shoot- brush in the way, wrong angle, wait for a bigger one, wait for them to go up the hill so I won't have to drag them up later (gross, I know, but reality)..... the list is ever growing.

Meanwhile, they kept heading on a steady course... right. to. me.

Finally, a new and exciting excuse: how close will they come?

Hunting from a treestand is one thing- even if they are right under you, you are still 25 ft or so above them.

From the ground, you're looking up at them. And, in theory, nothing's stopping them from walking right up to you (and possibly trampling you... if they knew what you were planning).

So there I was, frozen and snow covered (best camo-job yet) and here they came.

Cresting a small dip, a puffed up yearling (like the pic above) strode right up to me. At 6 yds, she juked her head (their version of a double-take) and zeroed in on me. Then she relaxed- maybe she thought she was looking at a poor hunter who'd frozen to that spot.

The moment became too much. With a quick dart to the right, she doubled back, leading her mom and sister back across the snow-thickened woods in awesome silence.