On any given day, someone at work will ask if I’ve had much deer hunting success. I know what they are really asking, is whether I’ve filled the freezer with venison or not. When I tell them that I haven’t taken a deer yet, I frequently get one of those smiles that says, “All that time, and nothing to show for it. You’re nuts.”
Success means something different to everyone. If I hunted strictly to put meat on the table, I guess I would be a bit “nuts”. Spending a fraction of the time at some money making endeavor, instead of in a tree, would buy far more meat than a single deer could offer.
I don’t think that I’ve ever had an unsuccessful hunt. I sat in my stand a couple weeks ago and didn’t see one deer, but it was one of the most enjoyable hunts that I ever had.
I climb into my stand at 4:30 PM. I look out at a dark cloud bank that is unique to an autumn sky. The blue/gray clouds are the perfect back drop for the autumn collage of greens, yellows, reds, and browns. The sun breaks through the clouds bringing out the brilliance of their color, and I realize that what I am viewing can not be captured in any picture. God’s own masterpiece is spread out before me.
As the afternoon wears on, the temperatures begin to fall. I sit and listen to a lone frog weakly sing out the season’s last song. If not for me, there would be no one there to hear him. I close my eyes just for a moment to listen to him sing. I already anticipate his return in the spring, when the “frog song” will be nearly deafening.
From behind me, the chickadees announce their arrival with the sound of fluttering wings. How often they have entertained me within arms reach, and rescued me from the boredom that sometimes accompanies a long day in the woods.
A smile rests on my face as the chickadees and titmouse orbit my stand. They are so completely unaware of my presence, that their perch alternates from my arrow to my knee. As they migrate toward the swamp that I hunt, I give a quick word of thanks to the Creator for their brief visit.
My stand sits on the edge of Butchers Creek. The quiet babbling of the passing water is soothing. I am unencumbered by the tasks of the day, and all the noise associated with it. There is a noticeable absence of television, telephone, and hum of machinery. I bask in the stillness of nature.
Darkness begins to overtake the day, and I lower my bow to the ground. As I’m getting ready to climb out of my stand, I see two young raccoons make their way to the water’s edge. I linger there for a few moments to watch them. They bear a striking resemblance to the two bandits I’ve seen on my porch feasting on the cat’s food. For tonight, I’m just content to watch them. We can argue over porch ownership another day.
There is an undeniable chill in the air. My son must have started the wood stove, as the faint smell of chimney smoke reaches me. It causes me to think of all of the places that I’ve lived, and how thankful I am to be living out a dream here in the woods in a place we have aptly named Journey’s End.So many places I’ve called home but my dreams have always led me here. To a quiet place with room to roam among the woodcock and the deer. Where the chimney smoke reaches out to me like a welcome on the wind, with a promise of warmth and shelter at every journey’s end.
In the gathering darkness, I walk back to the house. My wife asks, “How was hunting?” I smile and say, “It was good”. “Did you see any deer?”, she asks. She just smiles and shakes her head when I answer, “Not a one”.