I have never, not in my whole life, been as soaked as I was at noon on Monday after sitting under a tree, under a poncho, through six hours of rain. Every single article of clothing and piece of gear was just saturated. When the wind started blowing I made the executive decision to head in, dry my clothes, and warm up. Right about 1300 things got done drying and I was content to pack it in but then the rain stopped. Now here was something I could work with. I went with a much lighter load carrying only my knife, my Blackhawk, and my standard damp weather fleece gear and off I went.
One thing I have to give to the whole 'hunt in the rain' thing... it is damned quiet. I decided it was time to stop sitting and start stalking. The place I deer hunt is covered with cedar thickets and scrubby maples with some old growth hardwood mixed in just to keep it fun. The bucks were going to be in the cedars if they were there at all. It took me nearly two hours to work my way up the 500 yards to the line where cedars stop and hardwoods begin. I paused for a knee and 10 minutes of breathing to let some of the knots in my legs ease. (That stalking walk can be rough on the muscles... :-) My hands were steaming through my gloves and my breath was visible in the air. The rain was back and pretty cold and clouds were black to grey and the dark of the cedars was black as night aside from the openings to the grey sky.
I heard him before I saw him. I am pretty sure the same was true for the deer. I swung the 44 up but I was behind and he was fast. I missed. I watched him bound away in complete awe of the size of him. I didn't get a full count of points but he was not more than 20 and probably more like 10 or 12 with a really nice beam as whitetailed deer go. As he ran off I listed for gunfire to let me know I had scored one for the neighbors but heard nothing. He got away clean. Hmmm.... I have on more day to hunt. Uhh... Wooo Hooo!
After that I decided it was time to pack it in for the day. It was nearly 4 and light was starting fade faster than usual in the rainy, cloudy, nasty looking sky. As soon as I hit the porch I called the wife all a-jitter with tales of monster bucks, riches, shaving adds, hunter of the year.... Oh to be me in the rain in November... the joy of it. Then she said, "The youngster was up until 1 AM and still has a fever. If you didn't get your deer today, get it tomorrow morning and come home." Ugh. Now here I am, two hours from home, two days to deer hunt for the whole year, and my one and only baby girl is call-the-doctor sick with Mommy's nerves clearly reaching the end. What's a Dad to do.... Two things came to mind and in this order:
First, it was with no small amount of disappointment mixed with a father's worry that I showered and packed before those who own the house were in for the evening. When they arrived, I advised of the situation, bought everyone dinner, and then drove for home leaving my buck in the trees for some other hunter to bring down. I hope the hunter was worthy and not just a lucky knucklehead out for a rack.
Second, I considered, in my hour and fifty minutes of solitary driving what a piss-poor pile of luck this had been. One week of gun season and I have a sick little one. I am not mad at or aggravated by her being sick. I am just very disappointed in my luck this year. How, I riddled, could I get to do this (deer hunting) more? And then Pandora's Box opened for me. Archery... plain and simple bow and arrow work would solve the problem for me once and for all. I have actively avoided this path in the past given my tendencies towards obsession and the kind of freedom this would allow me. Enough of that restraint nonsense then.... Archery it is. Just add it to my list of projects I guess.
To close this, the bits of follow-up good news go like this:
- The kiddo slept like a log after I got home and woke up on day two of deer season feverless and feel loads better. Mommy slept until noon. She owes me... about a bow's worth of stuff I'd say.
- About two years ago I bought a bow that has set in its case since the day it arrived... and it doesn't suck. Time to get it out I guess. I am so hopeful that I can be ready by January. It looks like things may be shifting for me. Maybe I can deer hunt in the morning and squirrel in the afternoon... or maybe just deer hunt. Either way, I need more time.