You know, one of the tragedies of real life is that there is no background music. ~Annie Proulx
It never fails, my life is an adventure. Sometimes it brings a smile, or in the case of my dad, it causes a lot of eye rolling. This past weekend, dad and I were in Cortland, New York hunting. We left early last Friday (only after we finally remembered to pack everything and had to turn around in Derry, and right before that, Seven and Scooby took off for a jaunt in the woods). The first day of rifle season was Saturday.
As I’ve mentioned before, the New York hunting rules are slightly different from Pennsylvania’s. Example, we are allowed to fill our tags with a buck and a doe starting at sunrise on Saturday, the season includes Sundays, and lasts for three weeks.
We arrived Friday mid-afternoon and met Larry, for all intents purposes he was the orchestrator of the hunters. I was also given the honor of meeting sergeant Mike Bennett. He’s a wounded warrior from northern New York, who served in the Afghanistan conflict and was a part of our hunting group. Larry showed us our new hunting spot, and we rode the quads around a bit to get acclimated, seeing five doe on the way.
That night, all the hunters gathered around the campfire on the edge of the woods to finalize the game plans for the next day, and to enjoy idle conversation and socialization.
Dad and I got up early Saturday morning, about 4:30 am, got ready and headed for the woods, riding the quad to our tree stand. We were on the opposite end of the woods, compared to last year; a really nice spot, with rows of trees, a few trails and a logging road, near a few patches of pines and up the hill from a crab apple section. In theory, and later on in reality, a great spot! Actually, I preferred dad hunt in this area, only because getting to it was not such a roller coaster ride and less dangerous for the old man, again compared to his other tree stand. It was even closer to the truck, pretty ideal. Our Hunting Adventures … New York Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued
Waking up to about a half inch to an inch of snow was a nice surprise. Why? It makes it better to hunt. The deer pop off of the background, making them effortless to see. Plus, it’s easier to follow the deer tracks when pushing deer through the woods or tracking the wounded. Dad said this was the first opening season in years that snow laid on the ground. So far so good!
I do love being in the woods, like dad. There is something so tranquil and calm, especially sitting in a tree stand, overlooking the woods, blanketed in snow, before the darkness lets the light in. It’s really quite lovely watching the sun paint the sky with a red and yellow glow as daylight approaches. It seems at that moment, the cold is not bothersome, in fact refreshing. The anticipation of the day’s events hold your mind hostage, yet keeps you at peace. A feeling that needs to be experienced, for words do it no justice.
Hunting started out like it typically does, nothing, nothing, nothing, until that something. Dad saw a deer wondering through the trees. Actually, the conversation, which consisted in a loud whisper because dad is hard of hearing, went something like this.
Dad: There! Past the big stump. Do you see it?
Dad: There Heather! Do it see it move its head? To the right of the (some species of tree).
Dad: Heather! Look straight down past the big stump! (while there are several large stumps with blown over trees)
Me: O think I see it! (I did see its backside for a brief moment)
Dad: Do you see it? It went behind the trees.
Dad: Do you see it now?
Dad: Do you see it now?
Repeat that last part for about a half an hour. I could not see the deer to save my soul. At first, I thought I saw it briefly, but then it was behind a cluster of trees and out of my vision, or at least that’s what I’m claiming. It also took me off guard that my dad, who is in his sixties with questionable eyesight, spotted the deer that far away, at least one hundred fifty yards, through obstacles. Initially, I was looking closer to us, till I realized dad was looking at a large stump way down over the hill among the trees, through the brush.
The rest of the conversation continued with:
Dad: There, its moving to the right. Do you see it?
Me: (as I looked toward the left with my scope)
Dad: Your other right!
Me: (I chuckled a bit, for I was starting to get stressed out and flustered) O I see it! (This time I actually did!)
Hastily, I lined up the deer in my scope and shot through the brush… and missed. To make sure, dad had me get out of the tree stand and check out the scene to make sure it wasn’t wounded.
Naturally, once on the ground, I couldn’t find the location of the action. While walking around an area, I looked up to see dad waving me in the right direction. Now, I was able to really chuckle to myself, for I am always directionally challenged. Eventually, dad must have been frustrated, so he too got down from the tree stand and trekked toward me to look around. We saw no signs of the deer and most importantly no blood. Total miss. A little disappointing, but the day was still young.
By the time we got back to the tree stand, dad was stripping off his neck warmer and hat and breathing heavy. I had to wait for him to enter the stand first, since he’s so large and awkward, it makes it easier on him, and me, to use all the space to get adjusted before I plant my bottom down. Dad needed to take a minute to catch his breath at the lander, before heading up. Being a stinker and in not bad shape, I simply said, “Does someone need more cardio?” Ya, dad gave me a snarly look, but totally worth it.
The next few hours weren’t very exciting, that is until dad pointed out a few does. Picking out the largest one, I shot her at a close fifty to seventy-five yards. We went through the process of getting out of the stand again, inspecting the harvest and tagging it with my name, and getting back in the stand again. Believe it or not, that was my very first deer. Yes, I did hunt when I was younger, but I never got anything. I took a hiatus for many years before returning to my roots.
Believe it or not, in less than an hour later, even before I could get cold again, I saw a buck walking through the trees. This one I spotted on my own. I now had deer vision. At this point, my heart was pounding and I was getting nervous. Once dad spotted the graceful beast, which didn’t take him long, he coached me a bit. “Wait for it to get out of the brush, don’t try shooting through the brush.” He spoke in a whisper. After watching the buck in my sights for what seemed like an hour, it finally gave me a clear shot, with less than a minute window to react at about one hundred twenty-five yards away. I did, and the result? I harvested my very first buck! It was a nice size deer, no doubt I knew it would yield a lot of good meat. How many points? The buck had a small rack in relation to its body, but there were six points! Dad was really proud of me; for the solid shot, for providing food for the table, for my first buck, for my efforts to keep our hunting tradition alive, you name it dad was happy! He gave me a big old hug and a smile that lit up the already bright sunny blue sky. It was a good day! One I will always remember.
Now that my tags were filled, dad was next. The rest of the day was uneventful, with the exception of gutting and skinning my deer. That night everyone met at Larry’s house for some late night snacks, to show off everyone’s harvests and to share stories. We stayed for a good while before our eyelids became heavy and the anticipation of the next day was overwhelming.
Sunday was much like Saturday, only a bit colder. Early in the day, dad filled his doe tag, but not his buck. The guys made a rule to those seasoned hunters, that they were only allowed to shoot eight points or better. The only exception was me and the kids and those who have never shot a buck before. We were allowed any number of points. Did we see any bucks at all? Nope.
Funny story. During August or September, dad and I made a day trip to Cortland to bring our extra tree stand and help clean up, getting ready for deer season. On our way back, I noticed all these birds sitting on the highway signs. I mean, it seemed like thousands of them! Every time I pointed it out, dad would drive by and miss this gathering of birds. Repeating this phenomena at least twice, dad missed both. By the time we came to a third sign, dad looked up and said, “Boy look at all those birds, looks like they’re going to bend the sign!” with total sarcasm. I looked up to see about three birds sitting on the metal pole. “Not funny!” I told dad and tried to justify my observation. The entire way home and after, dad teased me about the birds that bent the sign. Whatever!
Well, as we sat there, all these geese started flying over head. Naturally, they were making all kinds of noise. There must have been a hundred, even though it seemed like a thousand. The funny part, they flew in small sections, continuously making noise. It went on for about fifteen minutes. I couldn’t help myself, I started laughing. Dad chimed in to say, “I bet they’re going to bend a pole.” I was cracking up! It was one of those silly moments, which are rare with my dad, who takes hunting very seriously.
A little later, dad pulled a Kyle. He got out his trail mix and was trying to open the plastic bag, which was SO noisy. It sounded like something Kyle would do. I gave him a look of ‘Are you done yet?’. That sparked me to say, “Ok, Kyle.” Dad and I snickered and then started telling Kyle stories to humor ourselves, but mostly because we missed our little man so much.
Where was Kyle? He wasn’t able to join us on our trip. He already missed too much school, plus he was sick from the week before, still holding onto a cold. The trip wasn’t the same without Kyle, but a good regardless. Everything is more adventurous and fun with Kyle! Maybe next year.
By Monday, it warmed up a bit, with steady rain ALL day. It was a cold, bone chilling rain that was not comfortable to sit in. Being the only ones in the woods, dad and I moved out of our wet spot to another tree stand nearby with a roof. Well, in my opinion, it was too late since I was already sopping wet. Dad and I stuck it out till about 2:00 pm or 3:00 pm before calling it a day. I even hiked through the pine trees to push some deer toward dad with no luck. We didn’t see any deer and we both knew they were hunkered down not moving, waiting out the rain too. Eventually, we retreated to the local convenience store for some soup and hot chocolate (dad got coffee).
It took our little space heater in our motel room the rest of the day and all night to dry out our gear. During our down time, which dad napped a bit, I brought my iPad to get some work done and enjoy the quiet time (with the exception of dad’s snoring).
By Tuesday morning, we decided to hunt a half day and before heading home. That night the temperatures dropped, forming ice over everything and luckily enough, snow also fell to give some traction to the slick roads. It was cold! I mean really, really cold! The temperatures were in the twenties with major wind, giving the feeling of single digits. After about two or three hours, we both buckled and went home. In that time, I walked for about an hour, trying to kick up deer and push them toward dad. No such luck. I didn’t even see fresh tracks. It was time to exit stage right.
I do enjoying hunting, but the best part is spending time with dad in the woods. God blessed us with a great harvest! Can’t wait for Pennsylvania’s hunting season to start! This time I get to hunt with Kyle!
Thank you to Larry, his family and everyone in New York for the hospitality! I had a great time and I look forward to meeting up with everyone next year.