This past Monday marked the beginning of the last week of my fall archery hunting for deer. Resembling almost every morning and afternoon over the past four weeks, I was seated above ground in a portable treestand I had lugged to a hunting spot.
The afternoon was seasonably cool with little wind, allowing no hint of the cold, blowing snow squalls that would push from the northwest on Tuesday morning, when I was again tree bound.
Sitting in the calm of that afternoon, I was moved by the appearance of the woods. When I had first ventured to this mountaintop in early season, it was almost impossible to see the ground beyond a short distance as the trees and underbrush held a full supply of their colorful leaves.
However, over the course of the season the woods had changed. Bit by bit, both the mature and young trees had spent their foliage preparing for winter. On that Monday, as the day reached toward sunset, this forest that was lush and full of life only weeks ago, was now a cheerless gray wrap in all directions, a proverbial sign that soon another season would end.
For many, this season has been stunning in terms of good-sized bucks being taken. Three of my waterfowl hunting companions shot nice-racked bucks weeks ago. The season’s fifth week saw my two closest friends who hunt the same woods I do, tag big bucks harvested with primitive bows. Additionally, I personally know many others who will not be shooting bucks come gun season.
As for myself, I never took a shot. In fact, for several years now I have not released an arrow. There were opportunities, however – I just place restrictions on my bowhunting in terms of shooting distance, and passing on does and small bucks.
I am not a trophy hunter, far from it. But it seems that almost every archery season I see at least two large-racked bruisers roaming my neck of the country that I would have mounted, and hold out the hope that one of those will pass close enough, and provide a chance to hang his head on the downstairs wall, something I’ve never accomplished in my entire life.
But I also understood that, just like those recent seasons when the last week arrived, hunting under my self-imposed rules – when I knew most of the females had mated and the deer herd was returning to a normal existence – those last couple days would almost certainly leave me sitting in quiet woods, my bow untouched.
And that is how it happened.
Essentially, that did not matter, for I had happily witnessed once again, deer in a ritual that is much older than this forest where they live. I had seen firsthand their running and jumping, their smelling and searching, all of their own choosing, and not the effect of an invasion of humans that will come in short time.
And as I now recall that afternoon scene of soon sleeping woods laying before me, I knew deep inside it signaled more than another archery season’s ending. It was a façade I could relate to, with a beginning and end affording me the image of the steady retreating of my own seasons, and their ending.
These melancholy moments are difficult, and last longer as I grow older. But they eventually pass, and I come to realize that I am exceptionally lucky to still experience and comprehend a life outdoors.