By Tony Hooker
Into the woods
My Brother-in-Law Mark, whom we lost to the bastard cancer some time ago, was one of the greatest woodsmen I ever met.
He could slip through the forest like a wraith, gliding on gossamer wings of silence. He was an accomplished still-hunter, which contrary to its name is not an ambush hunt from a blind or stand like most hunting in this area is done. A still hunter actually stalks her/his prey on foot, taking such deliberate steps that they might only traverse 100 yards in an hour. The best still hunters can actually get within 20 or 30 yards of their target without being discovered. Mark was so at home in the woods that he once befriended a deer fawn that followed him to his house on the edge of the forest. The deer, free to come and go as she pleased, was a regular visitor to his place. Such was his way with nature.
And then there’s me. Apparently gossamer wings don’t come in my size. My travel into my hunting spot in the predawn darkness is more like a cross between a thundering herd of elephants and the 1985 Bears defensive line, including William “Refrigerator” Perry. To paraphrase the noted 20th century philosopher Vanilla Ice…if there’s a stick on the ground I’ll break it, fat guy’s in the woods and you can’t mistake it. I’m no Michael Waddell. Heck, I’m not even a T-Bone Turner when it comes to the art of the hunt.
To demonstrate, I’ll give you a timeline of my recent bow hunting adventure.
* 10 p.m. the night before opening day: All gear is laid out and the alarm is set for 4 a.m.
* 3:30 a.m.: Who needs an alarm, it’s opening day, baby! Coffee is brewing and I’m making my fourth nervous trip to the commode.
* 4 a.m.: begin to put on the layers of camo. It’s a chilly one this year, after last year’s opening day 90-degree heat.
* 4:30 a.m.: dressed and ready. Grab my bow case and my hunting bag and head out to the truck
* 4:31 a.m.: Realize I forgot to purchase a bow hunting license. Trudge dejectedly back into the house and lay on the couch, pouting.
* 8:01 a.m.: Head to Tuscola to get a bow permit.
* 10 p.m.: Double check gear and put the shiny new bow permit in my wallet, which I put in my hunting bag.
* 4 a.m. day two: Begin to put on layers of camo, just like day one.
* 4:01 a.m.: Realize that my hunting socks have been left in the room where my lovely bride lies in peaceful repose. Rather than disturbing her, in desperation I grab a pair of dress socks from the laundry room.
* 4:30 a.m.: after four nervous trips to the commode, I’m off for the woods.
* 5 a.m.: I begin the trek from truck to tree-stand
* 5:02 a.m.: The dew is so heavy on the pasture grass that it soaks through my boots, and you guessed it, into my dress socks.
* 5:04 a.m.: reach the forest edge and begin aforementioned noisy approach to the ladder stand.
* 5:05 a.m.: begin climbing said ladder stand, only to realize that climbing it in the dark, silent woods sounds a little bit like two Volkswagen Beetles, filled with pennies, colliding head on.
* 5:07 a.m.: Finally settled into my spot, with a safety harness connected.
* 5:10 a.m.: Sweat from my excursion to the tree quickly evaporates, making me shiver uncontrollably.
* 5:30 a.m.: Finally, warm again. The hunting woods before dawn has a quiet to it that is unlike any other place I know. I begin to visualize how I hope things will go down. Try to stifle a sneeze, unsuccessfully.
* 6:00 a.m.: Pre-dawn light begins to join the full harvest moon in illuminating the woods and fields and critters begin to stir.
* 6:05 a.m.: I realize that I’ve left my range finder in the truck.
* 6:20 a.m.: Legal Hunting time is upon us!
* 6:38 a.m.: Incredibly, two deer are traveling the well-used path, just as I visualized!
* 6:40 a.m.: I let loose of my arrow. And miss. Having misjudged the distance because, as you have probably surmised, I left my range finder in the truck.
* 8:00 a.m.: I climb down and hoping against hope, go to look for a sign and find none.
Strangely, my disappointment is brief. I have had a great morning, and once again I’m reminded that actually getting a deer is secondary to spending time in the forest, watching nature unfold around me as night turns to day. In those few hours of freedom, I feel all of the stresses of 2020 pass from my body. I am in my happy place. I might never be Fred Bear. Heck, I’m not even Fred barely, but as long as I am able, I’ll be returning to the deer woods.