Entry Thirty-two: Sitting in the Stand

[A story in many parts: Part Eleven]

We were awake and ready to hunt at 5:00 a.m. the next morning. We crammed seven guys (plus a driver) into the Suburban and it was a bit snug. Most of the hunters on this trip had long outgrown the small and medium racks at Walmart. Then add guns, cushions and bags to the payload and the space became cramped in short order. One thing I had begun to notice was most of the guys had been hunting so long they're all near deaf. If the highlight of your life involved loud explosions less than five inches from your ear, you had to expect some damage to your sense of hearing. They lived in a world of repeated sentences and blank stares. Or worse, the "friendly chuckle." That is the half-laugh people give when they don't understand what you said but they are too polite to ask you to repeat yourself. Or don't care. For some reason, I know that "chuckle" well and it has nothing to do with hunting or tinitis. The communication in the Suburban was rough, but, ultimately as complete as it needed to be.

The temperature had dropped a little bit, so everyone was hoping the coolness would help flush the deer out of the woods. I heard three shots early that morning, so I was thinking the weather was working its charm. I was sensing disappointment in some of the fellow hunters as each session went by and no deer were shot. Stepping back and analyzing exactly what we are doing made me feel a bit goofy. We were sitting in chairs for three to four hours at a stretch waiting for an animal to come out of it's comfort zone to eat corn that does not naturally exist in large piles in the middle of open areas in the woods. The whole time we are waiting we couldn't move, make noise or go to the bathroom (which required both moving and making noise) for fear of scaring away the unseen (and possibly nonexistent) animal. Of course, if I step back and analyze anything I do and break it down in black and white logic, it sounds ridiculous. Going to a football game. Eating. Working. Praying. So I figured what the heck, let's hunt. I sure wasn’t going to stop praying.

As the morning churned on, the wind picked up and the temperature continued to drop. The sky was still clear so it was just about perfect. For hunting? I couldn't tell. But for sitting around and relaxing? Absolutely. I hadn't seen a thing all morning, but I had heard a lot of shots both near and far.

On the ride back to the lodge I found out the morning session had produced a couple of kills. Lee shot his second deer but, unfortunately, it was a "button buck." In other words, it's horns had just started growing and they hadn't broken through the skin yet. Most hunting camps frown upon the killing of a "button" because, if allowed to live one more year, it would have a chance to get bigger and develop into a possible "trophy" deer for someone in the future. The problem was, from a distance—even through a scope—it was hard to distinguish the "button" from a doe. Lee swore that he checked it as best he could and thought it was a doe. But, as someone so colorfully pointed out, "Oops! That doe has balls!" Lee was embarrassed about killing it, but it was hard to throw the deer back.

We arrived at Daryl's stand but he wouldn't come down. He had shot a doe and it had dropped in some thick brush and he wanted to guide us to it from his stand, afraid we’d never find it without his help. We drove out into the field and when we located it we waved to him and he came down to join us. The deer was actually a spike buck, not a doe, and it was pretty big. Apparently, Daryl's eyes aren't what they used to be. Some of the veteran hunters decided to play a trick on Daryl. I witnessed for the first time the dark side of The Hunter. We switched Daryl's buck with Lee’s deer and when Daryl walked up, we led Daryl to believe he had actually shot a “button.” He was heartbroken and he took it pretty hard. If it had not been so funny, I might have felt sorry for him. We let him off the hook after 15 long minutes. My only concern was that we had just carved several months off Daryl’s already limited life expectancy.

All words and images ©2005/J. Colle

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