Sunday, November 26, 2017

Year of the Deer

Hunting has taken over this small life. I am drunk on the hope of finally getting a deer and this felt like it could be the season. Every day I am spending 2 to 4 hours outside. I have not seen any deer on my land, but have on other properties I have permission to hunt on. It's been the usual roller coaster of emotions, excitement, stories and song. Hunting is primal and glorious, but also heartbreaking and (usually for me) more calories spent than gained. The season is well past the halfway mark. I am coming to terms with how low my chances are to make 2017 the year of the deer.

I have been hunting (with varying levels of tenacity) for over five seasons and have so far not taken down a single cervine. The reasons run the gamut from buck fever, to questioning shots, to missing - but the common conclusion is I am very glad I farm meat because if I had to solely hunt for it I'd be eating a lot more potatoes.

These days I wake up, do the chores for the animals, stoves, and caffeine - then I head outside to the ridge on the far piece of my own land or get in the truck to hunt at a neighbors' farm. So far I have taken two shots at does on two different afternoons and neither were true. It's frustrating. It's exciting. Most of all it's that ancient prayer that has driven omnivore primates since the stars were young - to hunt. To come home with the gift of a hundred meals. To provide, to continue, to have a story worth telling.

Take some heart that I am not always coming back empty handed. I come home with small game nearly every time I head out. When deer hopes have passed I'll take a squirrel or rabbit, which is both food for me and my hawk. There's a gray squirrel hanging by the front door now. There are more in the freezer. I am trying to get some of the rabbits in the thickest brush by the stream, but they are so fast and clever. There is a warren under this mountain so extensive I am certain it looks like that underground city in Turkey.

So I am not coming back forever empty - but I want that deer.

I want to have 50lbs or more of clean meat in the freezer for winter. I want to have a story to share around the fire. I want to be able to feed a roomful of friends venison stew or sausage while we snuggle indoors from the snowfall on a Game Night. I want these long years of trying to accumulate in something. So far all I have collected is lessons from mistakes and a less nerves when the beasts do eventually lumber on by. You think deer are silent things, but when you are alone in the woods waiting with all your senses on overdrive they come through the forest like Godzilla. I've never tried cocaine but if it does to your senses what waiting for game does it sounds like a dangerous flirtation with a heart rate that could kill.

I am writing this while taking a break from hunting - a cold, frozen, hailish rain just pummeled the farm and left a weird little coating of tiny white baubles everywhere. It isn't snow, not really, but it might make visibility better so I am heading back out to the far, cold, rocks to perch and listen.