I finally had time to grab the black case by its handle. I set it down on the table and, with anxious anticipation, unlatched the clasps.
Click, click, click.
With my right hand I lifted the lid, cautiously with the same care an archaeologist would use when opening a relic for the first time. There, still tucked away, was my bow.
Overly dramatic, yes. Long overdue, most definitely.
The whitetail season had been underway for exactly 21 days and I had not spent one second in a tree stand. The excuses are many and the reasons are complicated, but the end result was the same.
Today was different. Today was the day the 2012 season was going to start for me. I didn't even care if I saw a single deer. It was a beautiful afternoon, the wind was crisp, the sun was bright and the fall colors were still clinging to the trees. I was going to enjoy my time in the woods for the next couple of hours
As I walked down the trail to my afternoon's perch, I thought about all the days when I might have had a chance to sneak away for a bit and hunt, but I hadn't. It always seems like things come up. Even with the best intentions, "stuff" bogs down our schedules.
As I rounded the top of the next little hill I could see my stand waiting for me. It was surrounded by autumn splendor. I knew that it was safe. I had taken the time to check and make sure that it was still securely fastened to the tree. The straps were all in place and the hook for my safety harness was ready. I could enjoy my afternoon and know everything was in proper condition.
I secured my bow to the tow line and grasped the ladder firmly. As I climbed up into the air, the woods around me transformed from something that was looming and overbearing to a place where observation could happen. I was king. I was now able to observe everything around me. I was ready.
I had just pulled my bow up to the stand when I heard the first tell-tale crunch. Before I was even ready, three does stepped out from their forest lair and into range. They browsed, looked and cautiously moved forward. Every second of the their lives they are on constant alert. Danger lurks around every corner. Their diligence is something to be admired.
I chose to just watch these three, even as one doe made her way within a few yards of my perch. I am always amazed how these deer, so large and imposing, can just vanish into the woods.
Another minute passed and they stepped into some brush and were gone, on their way to some destination that knows no time. They will get there when they get there.
I now could arrange my gear and position myself without fear of spooking them. Just as a placed my bag in the seat next to me, I noticed a white flick in the woods to my right.Sure enough, there were another two deer making their way down the same path. They too browsed and were always checking their surroundings. They too were in range. My heart raced as I watched them.
I let them pass as well. Five does, all going about their business. None of them seemed to notice this intruder that was mounted in the sky above them. I'm not quite sure why I didn't take a shot. I had the chance, but being my first time out for the season, I was content to watch.
As I climbed down from my little sanctuary, I played back the scenes in my mind. What an enjoyable hunt. Surrounded by nature, watching, observing, melting into the natural world around me.
I walked back home completely exhilarated by what had happened that evening. I almost forgot how deeply ingrained the woods is into my blood. This isn't something I choose to do, it's something I have to do. Enjoy your time outdoors.