Sadly, another hunting season is rapidly coming to a close. Heavy rains that I wish would have been snow finally subsided long enough for me to get out for the last day of Maryland’s late 3-day firearms season. I have one deer in the freezer taken during the early muzzleloader season. A nice mature doe taken just before dark while she feasted on acorns with several of her friends. I still remember it like yesterday the fire and smoke erupting from the barrel creating a mad dash of alarmed whitetails bounding off in every direction. There were more deer around me than I thought! I watched my target on her death run through the smoke as she ran out of sight off to my right. I held my breath and waited for the sound of her hopefully crashing to the ground. A few seconds later I exhaled and smiled as the sound I was hoping for hit my ears. A bit of redemption after blowing my chance with a nice buck a few weeks prior. That bruiser busted me as I tried to position myself for a shot with a crossbow at 15 yards. Shaking my head, I looked down at my trusty hand me down 30-30 recounting another treasure trove of good memories from another season gone too soon. I ran my fingers along the smooth wood stock realizing that it had been several years since I had taken a deer with my favorite gun. The crossbow and muzzleloader had received most of the action the last several years and I longed to raise and fire her on an unsuspecting deer. I remember how heavy she felt as 12 years old and how light and comfortable she felt now some 40-plus years later. I loved working the lever to eject a smoking shell while loading another that I hoped I would not need.
The afternoon sun suddenly hitting my face provided a burst of warmth and brought me back to the present. Scanning the woods for the thousandth time, I noticed the perfect shadow the sun was creating below of me sitting in my tree stand some twenty feet up. I playfully verified the shadow was me by shouldering my gun and watching the black silhouette in the brown leaves below mirror my moves. Pretty cool. Just another one of the neat little things you see and appreciate when spending countless hours outdoors. The woods had been active today after the rains had wiped the slate clean. Squirrels, birds, a fox, and a few deer had wandered by me so far; their noses and beaks exploring what the rains had covered or revealed. With meat in the freezer, I was hoping to see one of the bucks I captured on my trail cam earlier in the week. I have resisted the urge to get the live-action intel provided by the fancy cellular trail cams. I preferred the anticipation of pulling the SD cards and checking the images one by one on my laptop. Crazy to think that is becoming old school now. My latest card pull revealed four mature bucks were still frequenting our woods and hopefully I had myself positioned correctly for one of these wall hangers to cruise by in range. The deer that had passed by earlier did not fit that description, but I felt confident I wasn’t detected. As the shadows grew longer and longer (I could no longer see mine) my chances to work that lever action were fading fast. Except for squirrels doing their best to sound like a deer, that final afternoon faded to dark without a buck appearing. I gathered my gear and descended the ladder with absolutely no disappointment. It had been another entertaining and relaxing day in the woods. I might still be able to get out one more time with the crossbow before the season ended in a couple of weeks, but it didn’t matter. If the season ended today, I would still be happy and appreciative of the opportunity to be out here.
Safely back on the ground, I cradled the 30-30 at the base of the tree about to head back to my truck when a deer snorted at me from maybe 50 yards away. I chuckled a little in the darkness to acknowledge the deer’s announcement of my detected presence. I stayed and listened in the dark until the snorts faded in the distance while the deer put a safe distance between it and myself. Incentive to try and get out one more time; not that it was needed. I worked the lever on the 30-30 to unload the unused bullets. That action and the sound it made always made me smile. After I gathered the ejected bullets, I patted the old girl on the stock and told her “Maybe next year, maybe next year”. With me and my other shadow now slung over my shoulder I made my way out of the woods to a cut cornfield where walking would be a bit easier. Once there I gazed up into the clear night sky at the first stars that had appeared. “Beautiful,” I said out loud and took in a few deep breaths of the cold, crisp air. Another one of my favorite parts of a day outside lay before me. A nice long walk under the stars back to my truck. I couldn’t be happier.
Happy New Year all! I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season. Feels good to be tapping away at the keyboard again. I am fresh off a very different holiday experience that involved our family driving to Bradenton Florida for Christmas! So glad we decided to break from tradition. We were not able to take a summer vacation this year, so this fun-filled, sun-filled week in Florida was just what the doctor ordered for all of us. Much to our delight, the Christmas spirit was just as fresh and alive in the warmer temps as it would have been back home in chilly Maryland.
Never thought I would be kayaking, biking or beachcombing during Christmas break but we did it all. Our lodging for the week was located three miles from the gulf beaches and within easy biking and paddling distance to several nature preserves. Our first excursion brought us to the beach where we found many families doing all the typical beach activities while wearing Santa hats. We joined right in and promptly took our Christmas card photo for next year in our beach attire. After a relaxing day of gentle waves, soothing sunshine and a beautiful sunset we decided to hop in the kayaks to explore the mangroves the next day. What a treat! Smooth clear water and wildlife at every turn. Even the animals were more relaxed here; letting us drift by within a few yards on many occasions. Observing the many species of birds navigating amongst the maze of the green mangroves had my cheeks hurting from smiling. Cruising in a kayak and being able to look down 8 feet to the bottom is an experience not found at many places in Maryland. I quickly filled up storage on my phone with pics of starfish, horseshoe crabs, herons, pelicans, and egrets. Paddling back to the house on one of the canals we were treated to playful dolphins and pelicans dive-bombing into the shallow waters for fish. Front row seats for a lesson on how to fish. After relaxing around the house and spending a day or two around town at the many delicious boat to table eateries, we decided to pedal off the extra calories the following day. Flat Florida is perfect for casual biking with well-maintained streets, bike lanes and paths allowing for an excellent day of sightseeing in the Preserves and around town. A twelve-mile ride felt like a trip around the block. At the end of the week, we all felt refreshed and recharged.
During the long 17-hour drive home I had plenty of time to reflect on our good fortune and the many benefits of spending time outdoors. Not once did we crave any of the nearby trendy tourist spots in Tampa or Orlando. Cell phone use decreased dramatically, and books were read. Sleep came easy and lasted through the nights. We planned nothing ahead of time and were not rushing to get to anywhere by any certain time. This week “off the grid” had us all reevaluating how we spend our time. Our days spent in Florida were what vacations were supposed to be. Relax and exhale. I don’t even remember feeling the dread of returning to work. All I was thinking about was how fortunate we were to have the opportunity to get away and I would soon be returning to one of my other favorite places. My mind shifted gears wondering what new pics I would discover on my trail cams back in Maryland. They hadn’t been checked in a month and I was excited to get back and see what had been stomping around our hunting lease. A brief two-day late firearms season for deer was next on my agenda. Returning to work was reduced to a minor distraction by the buzz of being outside. Hopefully, I will complete my quest with Dad this weekend to fill our freezers.
If you are the type of person that makes resolutions, I strongly suggest that one be to spend more time outdoors this year and beyond. Getting outside is truly therapeutic for the ever-present daily stresses and expectations of our society. Go ahead, just open the door. You wont be disappointed!
I don’t like to use the word tough when I describe a hunting season. When you are doing something you love there is nothing tough about it. One thing that does make it rough though is when certain events transpire to keep us from doing the things we love. So, in that sense, this season has been tough.
After enduring the recent loss of two close relatives and watching one prime weekend after the other fly by with many family commitments I now find myself hoping for some late season magic. Fortunately, Maryland provides opportunities for hunters with my dilemma. Now I am daydreaming of a day or two on stand when the late muzzleloader season kicks in the last two weeks of December. After that, we have a two day firearms season at the beginning of 2019 and then a late archery season to finish out January and the season. I will probably face some challenging weather, but I’m prepared to wear ten layers if needed. The woods are calling big time.
Although tough, this brief season for me has been quite exciting. You may recall from earlier posts that I have been trying some different tactics this year. I am now officially hooked on the use of trail cams, Buck Bombs and the Hunt Stand App. Trail cams bring a whole new level of excitement to the sport. Until this fall, I had no idea we had some many bruiser bucks cruising our lease! Unfortunately, that leads to some painful realizations that maybe I should have called tails instead of heads when deciding on which hot stand to hunt. Two occasions found me in one stand while decent bucks passed by the camera during shooting light at other stands. Still, the anticipation of checking trail cams came close to that of an opening day. The buck bomb worked as advertised. The button buck came right to the spent can and milled around by it for several confused minutes. The big guys were probably already locked down with other ladies. Lastly, the Hunt Stand App helped me log tons of good intel regarding trails, sightings and food sources that will help me zero in on deer refueling after a crazy rut.
Should have picked tails!
In a couple of weeks and throughout January I will continue my pursuit with renewed anticipation, energy and altered goals. I have a responsibility as a hunter to help keep the herd in control and to fill my empty freezer. Mature Does have now been added to the hit list and I would be happy to have either. After several weeks away I am again looking forward to treating my senses to the cold, crisp air, some snow and the heart-stopping excitement of the flash of a tail or flick of an ear. I long for the solitude and to immerse myself into another world.
I want to thank everyone for stopping by to check out my site and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Hopefully, my next post will have a selfie with a deer instead of just my view from a stand!