Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
As I write this, I am appreciating the cooler air that graced the Carolinas recently. Sadly, as I write this I am in Miami, where the temps are bouncing along the 90-degree line.
One of the most peaceful experiences I can take for myself is sitting in a climbing stand some 20 feet high in a slightly swaying tree around 5 a.m. in a brisk, cold breeze watching the first light cast shadows across the fields.
The combination of the cool air with the snuggly warm fleece from my hunting attire is my version of a comfort weighted blanket. It seems to make all worries disappear.
The occasional raccoon checks out the corn while nothing but starlight shines. Then at daybreak, a bunny emerges from the brush along the edge of the wood line. Next, a clamoring of honks sound as a formation of Canadian geese fly their morning route.
A fox appears, sniffing where the rabbit was. Then, just as quickly as the fox appeared, the rabbit reappears from his hiding spot easily outrunning and darting from the grey cunning predator.
Movement can be seen just inside the trees. Or, maybe it was the breeze blowing the leaves. Or is that dark spot different because of the sun’s early light hitting limbs and brush differently?
No, there is definitely something there.
As hard as I try, I cannot focus in the dim light. I hear another rustle of leaves not far from where the snap sounded. Oh dang.
Two squirrels rush around the forest floor into the field, around a bush, over a downed log and around the base of a large oak like stripes on a barber’s pole. Squirrels are easily the stealthiest creatures of the forest. If stealthy had an alternate definition that meant the loudest, that is.
While sitting in the tree, relaxing with the sway of the canopy like a newborn’s rocker, focus has been keen yet peaceful. Even the squirrels playing tag didn’t cause a startle. The cool air, the warmth of the fleece, the easy morning light; they are all ingredients for a recipe of what makes a beautiful morning.
And with all that focus, all the attention to every sound and every movement and every change of shadow location, somehow, that whitetail standing 15 feet from the very tree I am in went completely unnoticed.
Not only did that deer go unnoticed, but the three others about 25 yards away also went unnoticed.
Now, the anxiety sets in. The excitement mounts. If this whole morning’s hunt was played by an orchestra with the greatest of composers, this is the part where the conductor sets the percussion section into a crescendo with so much emotion that the listener can feel it beat through their chest.
Maybe those aren’t drums with the crescendo. Can deer hear my heartbeat when it is so loud my own ears start ringing from the repetitive pounds?
The deer is there, ready for the shot. But the other three are there also, and the slightest of movement gives away your position and sets the group on a flurry with the all-too familiar of the white tail waving as it darts into the woods.
Yes, I am glad the cooler air is here. I am ready for this to play out again and again. It doesn’t matter whether a shot is taken or not. I just want to hear that symphony of the hunt play.
Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.