First day of deer season


From the highway, I noticed a light fog in the treetops when I crossed over Little Rafting Creek. The fog was banked up against the woods from the north. There had been no fog south of the creek.

At the gate, I could see stars twinkling in the sky above, and when I turned down the lane, I could see the light fog in the tops of the tall pines. I stopped at the block house, switched off the truck and sat there listening to the silence. There was no sign yet of daylight. The full moon was on the western horizon and lightly shrouded by the trees and the thin fog. But there was enough moonlight that a flashlight was not needed. I got my pack from the back seat and removed my rifle from its case.

The air was humid and still. The only sound was the swish of my footsteps through the wet grass. I knew that the stand's seat would be wet from the dew, and I had brought along an extra cushion to sit on. I walked past the shed and turned down the short path. I slowed down and made my approach through the woods to the stand as quietly as possible. I didn't want to spook any deer that might be nearby.

At the big tripod stand, I strained my eyes against the darkness but could see nothing down the lane that led toward the hardwood swamp. I climbed the ladder slowly, trying to avoid any bumps and squeaks. I leaned my rifle up in the corner of the stand, removed my pack and placed the extra cushion on the wet seat. I ducked in under the camo burlap and sat down.

The sky was a lighter gray now, the stars were gone, and some details in the surrounding woods were coming into focus. The fog seemed to be lower and thicker. Daylight was coming, but it was coming very slowly. Even though the coming day seemed somewhat gloomy and gray, my anticipation was high. It was the first day!

I've never taken off from work to hunt the first day of the deer season. I've hunted many first days that landed on a weekend but never took an opening day during the week. I've saved my vacation days for duck hunts or turkey season. But this year is different.

Daylight seemed to hang in suspension. It got no lighter. If anything, the fog got heavier. The silence of the piney woods was eventually broken by a soft bird call, then another in the distance. The rustle of wet leaves to my left put me on alert until I saw that it was a couple of squirrels chasing each other. I could turn in my seat and see the barns and the block house behind me.

A few days before, I had spread some shelled corn down the lane in front of the stand, and the deer had been there. Now I wondered "would they come this morning, or were they curled up in a thicket somewhere waiting on the morning fog to clear?"

My patience is only as good as my rewards. If I'm seeing game, I can sit for hours. If I'm not seeing anything, then my patience is thin. This morning my patience was running thin. The deer were not moving - at least not in my area. I thought I heard a couple of shots way off in the distance, toward Lee County. But I wasn't sure.

After a while I got down from the stand and walked down the lane. The deer had been eating the corn, and there were many tracks. I think I'll try this stand again in the afternoon, when the weather cools. There are other stands to hunt and many days left in the season.

The first day was good. I didn't see a deer, but I was able to spend the morning in the woods. The fog cleared later in the morning, and blue patches of sky appeared. It turned out to be a beautiful day.

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