The soft blue moonlight illuminated the shadowy woods around me. I stopped and took a few minutes to look at my surroundings. The mixed forest of oak and pine sloped gently toward the big hardwood swamp to my front. When I glanced to my left, I was surprised to see the ladder of my stand only a few yards away.
An old woods road looped around the bottom of this hill at the edge of the swamp. I didn't want to walk the road to the stand and had marked a path down through the woods back in January, when I placed the stand on this hillside, just above the road. I had only walked the path a few times in daylight hours, and this was my first trip in the dark.
My path was marked with orange flagging that is highly visible in daylight but very hard to see in low-light conditions. I didn't want to stumble around and make too much noise approaching the stand, so I took my time in the predawn darkness. I hadn't yet placed reflective tacks and didn't want to use a flashlight near the stand anyway. I knew the general direction and the approximate distance but was still surprised that I had found my destination so easily.
The morning was cool and crisp. It felt very good. I stepped over to the stand and tied my rifle to the pull-up cord. The metal ladder was cool to the touch. I climbed slowly and carefully, but the stand made a few squeaks on the way up. When I got to the seat with my back toward the swamp, I heard a deer blow about a hundred yards away toward the creek. The wind was flowing back up the hill, so I knew the deer didn't catch my scent. It must have heard the squeaks from the stand. I knew that particular deer was alerted, but I also knew there were other deer in the area. I wasn't too worried.
I took my pack off and hooked it on the seat, then turned around and sat down. I pulled my rifle up and laid it across my lap. The soft wind was out of the northeast. Perfect for this stand.
The sky was clear, and daylight was coming. The stand overlooks the road below and a lane that leads into the swamp. I had placed the stand here because of the buck rubs, scrapes and broken licking branches I had found along the old road after the previous deer season. There was a game trail worn into the hillside just below the stand. Maybe this cooler weather would have an old buck on his feet this morning.
As the light intensified, the squirrels got busy in the treetops, and I could hear some straight above me. I looked up and could see two of the critters scampering around the top of the big pine tree I was leaning against. Big flakes of pine bark rained down around me. I watched the squirrels for a while and glanced down occasionally to check for deer. The squirrel show eventually moved on.
There was quiet. Then I heard a yip, a bark and a crescendo of howls across the swamp. Coyotes! It was more than a few of them. They howled for a moment then got quiet. I don't like it that they are on the landscape, but I know they are here to stay. Now, it got quiet again.
In a few minutes, I could hear another sound. It was hounds in the distance. It sounded like a pack was headed my way. After a few minutes, they turned back to the east and faded away. The sun was up now, and the golden morning light illuminated patches of woods around me. Light and shadow seemed to dance through the trees with the movement of a soft breeze. It was a beautiful morning.
I lingered and sat for another hour in the canopy of the emerald green woods enjoying the cooler weather and watching the forest below me for a wandering deer.
Email Dan Geddings at email@example.com.
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