A haunting we will go

For a variety of reasons, hunting with my friend Jonathon was a memorable experience each time we went and, that was nearly every day after work. Jonathon and I both worked at the same high school and after school hours we would head to his place for an evening hunt. Jonathon owned a 200-acre farm and we hunted together for nearly fifty years, until he died a few years ago.

Jonathon was a firm believer in the sensitivity of a deer’s nose and to counter this sensitivity he washed his hunting cloths daily after our evening hunt was over. “No need to wash them so often, “I frequently told him, but my advice always went unheeded, and just as the sun was sure to rise in the east, into the washer they went.

Along with this almost daily discussion about cloths washing we’d chew over which stand we were going to hunt that evening. A few years ago, throughout October, we were having marginal success in seeing deer, but tonight was Halloween and the rut would be starting any day now. “Tonight, I’m going to Hollow Beach,” Jonathon advised me. What could I say? It was his farm, so I was relegated to choosing one of several other stands. “Ok, I’ll take Yellow North and meet you at my truck later”, I told him.

Both Hollow Beech and Yellow North were in what we called the Lower Woods. Yellow North was along a small creek about a quarter mile from my truck, Hollow Beach was a few hundred yards further up the hill. The Lower Woods made up half of Jonathon’s 200 acres and were a mixture of dark hemlock, and some oak and other hardwoods. It was secluded, dark and I loved hunting there.

A few doe chased by a spike ran past me shortly before quitting time, but the rest of the hunt was uneventful. As darkness fell, I noted to myself there was no moon and the woods would be pitch dark. Not a problem because the woods were so familiar to me and I felt comfortable getting back to our meeting spot, light or no light.

All I needed to do was to follow the creek bank, go down the old logging trail past the fallen hemlock, turn right at the big rock, up the slight grade and I’d be at my truck. I was there in no time.

Sitting on the tailgate of my truck, waiting for my friend to return. I enjoyed listening to the haunting call of a barred owl. Shortly after, the howl and barking of a pack of coyotes pierced the night. Their resonance made me consider how most people who weren’t familiar with the outdoors would be frightened sitting alone in pitch dark woods and hearing these sounds so familiar to me, especially on Halloween.

If the call of an owl and a pack of coyotes wasn’t enough to unnerve some people, what sounded like a baby scream added to the spookiness. It startled me at first but, I knew it was nothing more than a grey fox on the hunt. Being scared was for sissies.

I wasn’t whistling past the graveyard, but sitting by myself in the inky darkness made me appreciate how the normal sounds of the woods at night would make some people uncomfortable by imagining the familiar noises I heard were made by surreal creatures like ghosts. After all, being alone in the woods and hearing the sounds of the of the various creatures who live there wasn’t something most people have experienced. It was then it happened.

Everything was quiet when I was jolted out of my smug self-assurance. Out of the darkness a glowing light suddenly appeared. The glimmering radiance moved slowly through the inky darkness and was coming in my direction. I wasn’t imagining things either. The shape was definitely moving, and it appeared to be an eerie blue haze. Now, for a brief moment, I’ll admit I thought that maybe there was something to the idea of spooks and goblins coming out on Halloween. I know what I heard and believed what I saw, but what was it? As the glowing luminosity approached, I was somewhat relieved to discover the surreal apparition wasn’t a haunting ghost from the past. It was Jonathon.

After putting his bow in the back seat of my truck I told him he radiated a blue glow like some surreal poltergeist. It was then it dawned on me why he was glowing. Laundry soap manufacturers include a list of ingredients in their laundry products some of which are fabric brighteners. By washing his cloths every night Jonathan inadvertently made his cloths cleaner and brighter to the point they truly glowed in the dark. I actually couldn’t stop laughing, but he was less amused.

This was just one more memorable episode in the many hunts we enjoyed together. That lesson learned, I only wash my hunting attire in soap that specifically says “contains no ultra-violet brighteners”. Oh yes, after that, Jonathon washed his cloths far less frequently and not in the household laundry detergent. Afterall, ghosts aren’t real. Are they?

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, New York – Mike Raykovicz, Whitetail Deer

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