Sunday, April 4, 2010

Your first is always special.

My knife cut through the tender meat. I raised the fork to my mouth and closed my eyes as the meat melted succulently across my taste buds. It was fabulous. Cooked to a turn, but not by me, it could rival the finest steaks I've eaten anywhere. There was only one significant difference. It wasn't steak. It was venison. It was the first venison I had ever brought home but it took some doing to get. Down to the wire. The last few days of my first season. I had all but given up.

The alarm rang on the third to last day of the deer season. It was 5:00 in the morning and I quietly slipped from between the sheets. I can't say that I was feeling particularly spritely. I had repeated this groggy ritual many, many times since October first without any success. I checked the weather report for the day and my shoulders slumped a little as I realize the wind had not held its end of the bargain. My nice new Christmas pop up blind was not going to get its maiden voyage into the bush. My only option was a tree stand that had been recently placed near what looked like a deer highway but had yet to produce anything but some turkeys clucking in the field next to me. My mood didn't improve when I realized that the best I was going to see in temperature was -13 degrees Celsius.

I can't say that the bitter cold inspired me to hunt like a pro. I, for the first time, only gave a passing thought to my underwear. I filled a thermos with hot cider. Tasty and apple scented. I went through the motions as always but I must admit I no longer believed. I planned for an entire day in the tree stand and wasn't looking forward to how much I was about to suffer. This was bound to be worse than the day it rained from dawn to dusk. I was certainly doing a hunters penance this season. With a sigh I loaded the truck and headed for the farm I was going to hunt that day.

Things really weren't going very well for me. A couple of times I considered turning around and heading home. As the sun rose and shooting time started I was still at the truck changing into my rather chilly hunt clothes. For the first time this season I didn't wait until I was cold before taking measures to try and correct it. I started the morning with hot packs everywhere I could. Thank goodness for the wonders of modern science and chemical reactions.

My boots crunched sharply in the snow as I set off back the farmers lane. You can always tell how cold it is by the sound of the snow. If you can hear it crunch loudly with every step then expect to suffer. That's a sure sign that it's miserably cold. On a positive note I spotted footprints on the path that gave me some hope. I hadn't seen so much as a single footprint the past few times I had been out here. I followed their route down the tractor path until I reached the point I had to turn left to head for my tree stand. The footprints didn't follow along. I was disappointed to see them carry straight on towards the bush on the other side of the hay field I was in. I walked along a small stream and was sad to see that the new snow didn't provide a single sign of deer. When I arrived at my tree stand things didn't look much more positive. There may have been some deer prints mixed in with the rabbit prints but there wasn't anything newer than 24 hours old.

I silently cursed the fates and started to mentally prepare myself for a long, bitterly cold sit waiting for the twilight to approach. I climbed into my stand and proceeded to organize my equipment. Once everything was hung and organized I began to play with my new laser rangefinder toy. I zapped everything. If it was larger than a grain of sand I tried to get a reading on it. It was great. No more guess work for me. After A few minutes I put the rangefinder away and pulled out my blackberry to check my facebook. As you can see I was not rating my odds very high. A quick check and a whining status update later I decided I should actually act like I thought I had a chance at accomplishing something. I settled into my chair, picked up my bow and placed it across my lap. A few minutes later I heard it. The quiet crunch of squirrels crossing the snow. It only took me a few seconds to realize that there was no way squirrels could make noise in the snow. As quietly as the conditions provided two young does came around the corner of the scrubby bushes I had followed. They were faithfully and foolishly following my footprints.

Even though the experience had been described to me more than once the sound of my own heartbeat screaming in my ears was a surprise. I had trouble believing they couldn't hear the hammering pump trying to smash its way through my ribs. Holding my breath didn't help. When I remembered to breath again I think the sound might have been enough to cause them to start a little. It was probably lucky that the ice in the stream behind me was booming and cracking enough that the small sound was quickly lost.

A few moments later the first doe moved out from behind the last of the trees and brush and put her head down to sniff a small tuft of grass. A moment later I realized that, in my youthful zeal of new toy-it is, I had ranged that spot at 20 yards only a few minutes earlier. I carefully came to full draw. Paused a second to mentally confirm my anchor and site picture. With a gentle squeeze on the release 30 inches of carbon and steel hurtled away from my Hoyt Alphamax. I watched it ricochet off the icy ground and smiled as I realized it was on the opposite side of the deer in front of me.

A few seconds later it was all over in the middle of the hay field. I had knocked another arrow but without a call the confused second doe finally listened to her anxiety and decided not to come back to my corner. She wasn't sure at first and I have wondered if a couple of bleats couldn't have won her over. I suppose that would have been greedy. As the adrenalin induced tremors coursed through my body I reached for my blackberry to brag to Alissa, who is my biggest fan, and for my laser range finder. It was new, the deer in the field was bigger than a grain of sand and I am, after all, a boy with a toy. Ninety yards was the verdict.

The rest was a little anti-climactic. Fifteen minutes later I climbed out of my tree stand. It was a sum total of 45 minutes from beginning to end. Not bad in 13 below weather. I walked out to inspect my prize. Not the biggest doe to ever to be taken. It was mine though. My first one ever. I quickly field dressed her, drove my truck into the field next to her in a quite decadent fashion and tossed her into the back. A little after an hour from the time I headed into the bush I was headed home. Next year I think I need to do this before it gets so cold. I wonder if I can get them all to come quickly and maybe drop in the back of the truck to save even more effort.

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