Autumn splendor is a Pennsylvania bowhunter’s blessing
The hunter stirs from his slumber well before the early-morning wake-up call sounds its night-piercing alarm.
As he quietly disarms the bedside clock, he is taken back to all those eager, sleepless opening-day eves of his youth; he didn’t need an alarm back then either.
He finds his slippers in the dark and eases downstairs to brew a pot of coffee. His modest breakfast is two fried eggs, some toast and a leftover link of venison sausage – the last remaining morsel of a previous season’s harvest – reheated from Thursday night’s dinner.
He sits in the dim kitchen light, whispering a simple prayer of thanks to the Creator for blessing him with the meat that helped feed his family for months. He takes a bite of the sausage and gently requests another successful season. The hunt is his passion, and he is appreciative for every outdoor opportunity.
After rinsing the dishes, the hunter retreats upstairs where he showers with odorless soap to erase his scent. As the warm water removes his human trace, he reflects upon hunts of days gone by. He hopes this year’s plan of attack once again proves fruitful.
He dries himself, but does not dress in his camouflage attire here in the house; Instead, he slips on a fresh pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Experience has taught him the power of the whitetail’s nose, and he quickly exits his home before any unwanted odors accumulate on his sterile skin.
He double checks that everything he needs is packed neatly inside his truck, exactly as he prepared it the night before. He tucks his license – the most important necessity a hunter can carry – neatly inside his pack. He knows this license not only represents his right to hunt, but also the protection of all wildlife species in the state.
Just as the hunter found gratification dropping treetops for cover and browse last winter and in the food plots he cultivated this spring, he is equally proud that the funds provided through purchasing this license help support the wildlife he loves to pursue. He is content in knowing his contributions make a difference.
The hunter loads his bow into his truck and drives to his ambush destination. As he passes rolling farms and woodlots, his headlights capture a flickering gleam of deer eyes crossing the road ahead. This chance encounter intensifies his excitement for the hunt, and he presses onward just a few more miles.
After easing into park, the hunter slides a plastic tote from his truck bed, which has thus far shielded his clothing from foreign odors. He dresses in the field beneath the obscurity of darkness, accompanied only by glistening stars and a gentle breeze. He slips on rubber boots and sprays his body generously with a scent-reducing mist, not taking any chances.
Upon retrieving his bow, he illuminates his headlamp and descends upon the October woods. An outsider to all its inhabitants, the hunter feels this is where he truly belongs. It is the place in which he feels alive – in which he finds peace. It has been far too long.
In the blackness, he locates the tree he meticulously selected many months before. The sturdy white oak still remains just downwind from the well-worn deer trail he stumbled upon back when all was dreary, cold and gray.
He knew then that this tree would serve as an ideal stand site. Its branches would conceal his perch, and they’d also bear a bountiful mast crop if the conditions were right.
As the hunter nears the tree, his suspicions are confirmed by the satisfying crunch of acorns beneath his boots. He smiles at this discovery, for the odds are clearly in his favor. He carefully climbs to his stand’s summit, where he settles into a harness and anxiously awaits dawn’s grand spectacle.
It begins as a soft glimmer of light, rising far beyond the distant treetops, but intensifies with the proliferation of songbirds, rousing from roost with a ceaseless, chattering cadence. As gentle rays fall upon the earth, a magical scene is bestowed upon the hunter.
He revels in the sights, sounds and smells of this brand new morning. He admires the glistening dew clinging to the fields before him, and he becomes starkly aware of nature’s encroaching transformation upon the surrounding woodlot.
The strident vines of poison ivy, which were menacing and green just weeks before, now give way to shades of crimson and rust. A gray squirrel raids the ground beneath yellowing black walnuts along an adjacent fencerow. The hunter silently ponders when the towering oaks will succumb to autumn’s impatient command.
Suddenly, the familiar clamor of steady footprints approaching from behind snaps the hunter’s senses to full alert. A cautious glance over his right shoulder reveals a glimmer of heavy antler, and he instinctively reaches for his bow.
While deliberately poising himself for what’s to come, his weapon transforms into an extension of his own flesh – something made possible through countless summer practice sessions. He is confident he did all within his power to prepare for this crucial moment. Now is the time to put his skills to the test.
The buck continues unsuspectingly down the trail, reassuring the hunter it won’t be long until his lips are whispering yet another humble prayer of thanks. He takes a deep breath to quell his nerves and fluidly draws his bow.
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