Sycamores are my favorite trees. Around my way, in mid-August, they are the first trees to start changing into their fall wardrobe. When I see the sycamore leaves start to turn and drop, I get an extra bounce in my step knowing my favorite season is right around the corner! I am a Hunter and even though all seasons and anytime spent outdoors are special, fall and winter find me outside the most. Inhaling that earthy smell of dead leaves and hearing them crunch under my foot, triggers my annual transformation into Hunt Mode.
Thanks to my parents, and DNA that is fifty percent American Indian, I now look forward to Hunting Season almost as much as Christmas. I couldn’t be happier not having a choice in the matter. Hunting and the love of the Outdoors are in my blood. This past weekend the weather finally cooled enough in time for the opening of Maryland’s Archery season. Sleep did not come easy the night before. Rarely does the night before any opener. Opening morning dawned with overcast skies. A slight breeze and temps in the 60’s. Quiet enough to hear my own heartbeat. Feeling thankful, I reviewed in my mind all the preparations I was able to make since the end of last season. All allowed me to be here, relaxing in a tree stand 20 feet up, watching and listening to the woods come to life. Confident with trimmed shooting lanes and tuned equipment I was on full alert for any snap of a twig or flick of a tail. As the trees and ground cover finally started to materialize in my favorite hundred acres, the familiar sounds of birds and squirrels rummaging in the leaves made music in my ears. Fall’s full glory was still a month or so away, but scanning the yellow and green foliage above of the brown carpet of leaves beat the four walls of the inside any day.
“I could not yet see a Deer, but I could feel it.”
Shifting my gaze to the shadows and gaps between bushes and trees below, I felt a familiar sixth sense creep into my awareness (As if five were enough stimulation!). This sense is hard to describe; I assume it’s like that gut feeling many people get before something good or bad happens to them or someone they know. As strange as it may sound to some I began to feel a presence; a slight shift in the balance of the delicate atmosphere I had melted into. In the “zone” with all my senses already at full attention, the change in the air was undeniable. My heart started beating faster and felt even more alert than a minute ago. I recognized this feeling from many past hunting trips and knew it meant that a deer was close by. I could not yet see a Deer, but I could feel it. I squinted my eyes and tilted my head to pick up proof of what I sensed. After a few minutes, I finally noticed a flicker of movement about 20 yards to my right. An ear, connected to a large Doe finally appeared from behind a mature pine tree. Her nervous body movements revealed that her own sixth sense was working as well. She wasn’t yet looking my way but the quick bobbing of her head let me know that she had detected something out of place. She was now close enough for me to see the wetness of her black nose, pushed high in the air hoping to capture any unfamiliar scent in the area. At that moment I became aware of a slight breeze on the back of my neck that would reach that wet nose in a few seconds. On cue, her alarmed snort signaling danger shattered the silence of the woods. The woods erupted with three Deer bounding off through the woods. Big Momma was running point for her two offspring and had performed her duties flawlessly. As I watched their brilliant white tails and reddish gray coats fade into the mix of green and yellows, I realized I had not tried to raise my bow.
I had reaffirmed to myself that I was, in fact, a hunter and not a killer. Sometimes I get caught up in the beauty of the moment and I forget all about my responsibilities as a hunter. Trimming the population or providing meat for my family became the furthest things from my mind. I tipped my cap as the Doe led her children to safety. She didn’t provide meat for my freezer but did give me a great story to share with my family and friends.
I lingered in my tree for another hour or so and enjoyed several other close encounters. A fox, a turkey, and several more squirrels all came to visit with no clue I was there observing. A strong craving for my Dad’s scrapple got the best of me and I climbed down from my perch. I reveled in the smile on my face and the buzzing in my soul. They say laughter is the best medicine but for me, an hour two outside cures all ills. I don’t remember walking back to my truck and the short drive to my parent’s house. My head filled with anticipation of this new season. What new bucks had moved into the area since last year? Would I get to put the crosshairs on a mature whitetail or would Dad be the lucky one? Would we get to hunt in snow this year? Doesn’t matter I thought as the smell of my favorite breakfast treated my nose. Even if the season ended today I wouldn’t be disappointed.