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I wrote this around 5 or so years ago as I jotted down some thoughts regarding that years rifle season opener in PA. After reading Spirit Nuge's thread it reminded me of it so I thought I'd post it here.


Once Upon A Rifle Season.....

It was a frosty morning and the sun was still far from showing it’s glow and warming my cold and brittle body. It had been an hour since I made it to my prescheduled destination, and still the woods were quiet. This was no ordinary morning. This was the first day of PA’s rifle season for buck. No other season carries quite the same anticipation from so many people across this state, and other states as well.
As I waited for first light hoping for sun to warm my body, I was surprised to feel a frozen crystal hit my cheek, then another and another. Soon I realized the sun would not make an appearance today, but the snow would turn the autumn forest floor to a wintry one.
Soon the sun, hidden by clouds, made it’s daily trek across the horizon. The wind began to blow, lightly at first, then systematically shifting and blowing in what seemed like every direction.
Creatures one by one began to wake and to scurry faster than normal, looking for that last nut or berry before returning to the nest to wait on winter to pass.
Then out of the corner of my left eye I saw movement. I couldn’t tell what it was at first, then I realized it was a doe with two fawns from the spring. They seemed nervous and alert as they moved through the forest, seemingly knowing that they were not alone. How instincts are vital to their survival becomes obvious as the hours passed.
The snow continued to fall, as it does in this region of the state. The Great Lakes play an important role in winter and how much snow will eventually fall here. It had accumulated about 8” by noon, and there was no sign of letting up. I’d strained to see 12 deer through squinted eyes throughout the day as I fought to see antlers.
Suddenly from out in front from the pine thicket a huge 8-point made his way along the ridge heading to his bedding area or simply maneuvering around other hunters looking to fill their tags. Whatever his intentions he was not real comfortable. His body language spoke volumes about his desire to make it to his “safe haven” wherever that may be.
After what seemed like an eternity of watching him ponder his next move, he made an unexpected decision. He turned and headed directly towards me, with fervor and what seemed like a purpose to avoid something or someone from across the ridge. As he approached I thought to myself, this deer is mine, what cuts will I use and for what -- jerky, burger, bologna. I thought, wait till I call my wife. She’ll be so happy after watching the disappointments I faced all fall and the stories of the rutting bucks that got away.
Soon the buck was well within range of my 30-06, but had yet to offer me the killing broadside shot I was looking for. However, if he kept up the pace and closed the gap much further, that broadside shot may not be the one taken. I balanced my rifle on my tree stand and checked my safety switch “off”. I am ready. I am envisioning the mount in my living room next to the fireplace.
Out of nowhere, the buck which seemed to be near a trot, stopped abruptly behind a white oak. The only thing visible was his breath wrapping itself around every snowflake in sight. One minute turned to five minutes, which seemed like a week waiting for him to make his next move. When he did it was with the sound every hunter who has spent anytime deer hunting knows all too well. As quickly as this deer entered my life he disappeared….forever.
As I told this story by the fire at camp that night, I couldn’t help but notice the younger hunters hanging on my every word, seemingly entranced at the thought of finding themselves in the same situation as I found myself that snowy rifle opener.
Although I counted my chickens before they hatched that day, I will still remember the hunt. No mount, no venison, jerky, bologna, or burger. No phone calls to my wife, and an empty spot on my living room wall, But the memory of that hunt will forever by burned in my memory. Even the sights and sounds will go with me when I recant what happened that day. If I close my eyes I can feel the snow dance across my face, and the wind brush against my skin as if it were trying to make me uncomfortable.
As the youngsters in our group chimed in with what they had seen and heard that day, it was interesting listening to the tone of their voice change as they described what had taken place. They seemed to prescribe to the notion that bagging a deer was simply icing on the cake to what really should be used as a measuring stick to success. What did you learn? What did you see? Who did you share this experience with? What will you do differently tomorrow?
Hunting is hunting. The harvest is what we are ultimately after, but we also need to learn and teach that it’s not the only thing, and coming home with nothing on your drag rope is okay so long as you’ve taken the memories of the day and stored them in a safe place.
 

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Nice post Peppy. I agree what you leaving the woods with what is in your head and heart is what matters most.
I think if given enough time most hunters arrive at this conclusion, some are just a lot slower then most.
The day I leave the woods upset I have nothing to show for my time and effort will be the day before I post a long list of hunting equipment in the classified forum.
 

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Great stuff my man... I wish more hunters would think like this. I firmly believe the moment one dives into this way of enjoying the outdoors, is the moment they will have success every day in the field.

I am glad you shared this with us. I enjoyed it and felt like I was right there with you in that treestand.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks guys for kind words. I always liked rifle season in the snow.... nothin' like it!!


And even better is watching the young guys get excited about it all.
 

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Peppy, how did I miss this thread? Some Mod huh..


Great Story about the best day of the year.
...Luckily for my ego I am firm believer that big bucks are made to die of old age.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks again.... glad you enjoyed it.
 
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