Hopes, Dreams, and Deer Hunting

By: Kirk Howes

deer huntingWatching the eastern sky turn from darkness to the red promise of warmth, my hopes soared that I would see a deer. The view was awesome, it always is. For a full hour and a half, I had sat next to the big white pine tree in total darkness.

I drifted back in time to last year when I saw the big bodied 8 pointer chase a doe during the Black powder deer hunting season. Perhaps he still ran the valley; perhaps he was a ten or twelve pointer this year.

While fishing for smallmouth bass in the river, I had seen fawns that most likely were his offspring. The winter was good on the deer, there were plenty this season. I had seen a few sets of twins.

The lush green food of the valley would help them grow strong; the nut trees would give the deer the fats they needed to survive the winters.

A fat Fox squirrel barked in a nearby Hickory, waking me from the dreamy thoughts I had just pondered. Another squirrel barked farther down near the river bottom. Good year for squirrels, I thought, maybe I’ll be back for the late season this year.

Once again my thoughts drifted back in time to when as a young boy we camped out and hunted squirrels from a base camp. Inspired by reading about sheep hunts in the Alaskan ranges we did what we could do as kids. Packing in the supplies and hunting the big bushy tails as well as any sheep hunter ever thought he could. Donning the best red and black plaid shirts we could find, we dressed as the hunters in Outdoor Life did.

We ate real well on those trips too. Hmmm, to be a kid again.

Just like the one I had seen this morning at 4:30 am near the road with his father. They were hunting just a ways down on the ridge from where I was. We spoke long enough to figure out where everyone would be.

The Father told his son not to travel too far to the north on the ridge as I was hunting near the big pine. He promised not to and wished me good luck. He said this was his first year hunting deer and he was tired of squirrels.

He also blurted out they had seen a big buck while scouting all summer. I covered the mistake of him telling me that fact by saying I saw the same big buck lots of times and there were plenty of deer to hunt here. As we parted I heard the young lad telling his dad “I’m sorry I was just excited”. His father replied “Check Your Safety”

A red squirrel chattered out from the pines, and then a blue jay cried out an alarm call. I readied my self, figuring a deer was coming up the trail towards me.

I could hear the foot steps. Too loud I thought, must be the kid from this morning; I’ll bet he is lost. The foot steps grew louder in the cold dry leaves. “We could use some snow to quiet thing down a bit out here”, I said to myself.

A squirrel ran up a tree some 40 yards away, I chuckled and thought “I’ll bet that kid is rock solid on his stand”. I know I was my first few seasons.

It was good light now and the wind was switching, nothing in the valley would come my way now at all. Happens every opener and yet I still sit in the same spot, I just like the way the woods look in the morning I guess.

Just as I was drifting into another episode of the past, a twig snapped behind me. Squirrel I thought. I turned my head slowly towards the trail that lead to the young hunters stand. By God there he is! Master of the woods, old ghost, iron sides!

My gun was up and moved to the boiler room of the biggest deer I had seen alive to date. My finger almost touched the safety when my mind reeled in thought. “What if that big buck was to travel down the trail to the kid?” “What if that kid shot a big buck?” “What if I shot a buck like that at his age?” “Imagine how proud his family would be.”

These thoughts raced thru my mind at light speed and it seemed like forever he stood quartered away looking down the trail. My gun held fast to him he moved down the trail. I was shocked at my self for passing up the chance to shoot, how could I not shoot? I must be stupid! Idiot! Fool! I was surprised beyond my own imagination.

What seemed like forever was more like 10 minutes. The morning silence was broken by a single shot. I thought I even heard a whoop of joy. “Atta boy” I thought,” I hope it was you, kid.”

Curious I walked down the ridge a ways. From the second bend in the trail I could see the young hunter cutting his deer, his father patted the back of a son he was so proud of this day. In the calm of the woods I heard the boy say” Can you believe it? He walked right up behind me.” “Biggest Damn deer I ever saw” said the father.

With that, I turned back up the trail and headed to the truck. I wished for that to be me some 30 years ago, but it wasn’t in my cards. I imagined the young man telling the story over and over to his buddies for yrs to come. I imagined the Father showing off the pictures at work. I thought of how their Thanksgiving table would be, would it have a side dish of Venison on it?

I made my way to the North, the skies dark with the promise of snow. As I passed the stand I was at I looked on the ground. I saw two sets of tracks behind my stand. One turned away sooner than the buck that went down the trail. Big tracks!

Well maybe it was a bigger buck and maybe there’s hope for me yet. I hope its tomorrow.

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