Tuesday, December 3, 2013
truly is - as that criminally over-used and almost certainly apocryphally-attributed-to-Einstein old saw goes - doing the same thing over and over and over again and somehow expecting a different result, then I must be batshit crazy. It's the eleventh day of my state's deer gun season, and I keep going out, day after day, and expecting to see something worth shooting.
And by something worth shooting, I don't mean a nice buck. I mean something, anything, other than the few small yearling bucks, does and fawns that seem to be the only ungulate lifeforms to occupy my little slice of the prairie this year.
I knew it was going to be tough this season. My deer-hunting spot is marginal in the best of years. No crops, not much mast, no feeders, no food plots. Just a series of rugged, cedar-choked canyons and draws that give a distinct topographical advantage to the few deer that move through the area. Some years, when there's an acorn crop, it'll be enough to draw off a few deer from the surrounding forest of corn feeders, tower blinds and MegaBuck food plots, and hold them in a non-transitory pattern.
But this year there was no acorn crop. That, combined that with a drought-induced drop in overall deer numbers the past two years, a loss of about 40 acres of movement and bedding cover due to some much-needed cedar removal (good for my quail, not so good for my deer. Quail, however, always trump deer...) and an increase in alternative food sources elsewhere, has pretty much dried up deer sightings, much less deer shootings, on ye olde in-law's homestead.
Every morning I park the truck atop the same windswept knoll, finish my coffee, then trudge into the darkness of the canyon below, alone and silent. Every evening, I trudge out of the darkness; alone, silent, and empty-handed.
But I've been treated to some beautiful sunrises and even more beautiful sunsets. I've watched prairie falcons and Cooper's hawks and harriers and innumerable ducks and geese winging overhead. I've watched a covey of bobs - who knows how many generations extant of the ones hunted by my wife's grandfather and great-grandfather on this same piece of ground - slowly make its way up the draw below me. Only nine. There will be no hunting of these quail this season. I spent the whole of Black Friday as it should be; in total silence, uttering not a word, hearing not another human voice, desiring not a thing beyond that which I had before me (gotta be honest, though; A fat, broadside doe would have been nice...). I sat one day freezing, with two inches of snow and sleet covering me, then sat in that same spot three days later in shirt sleeves and 70 degrees, watching honey bees drone in the air. And yes, I've watched deer, a few, anyway. None, I tell myself, are quite old or fat enough yet for my freezer. Or maybe I just enjoy pissing away time with my ass on the good earth beneath me and the winter sun on my face, being a part of this world rather than the one I must eventually return to. And maybe I just don't want to shatter that illusion with the sound of a rifle shot just yet. There are, after all, days left to worry about things like filling a freezer. So I sit, and watch, and think, and wonder. Many things come, many things go, and many things reveal themselves to those willing to look. Sit long enough, sit silently enough, and I'll be damned if you can't actually see the land itself breathe, live, be. And that's pretty damn cool. And rewarding, even if you can't eat it.
So overall, I guess it could be worse, eh? I could be one of those imbeciles who think deer season is all about shooting deer...
Posted by Chad Love at 9:05 AM